GoAbroad Interview

Francis Kelly - Center Director Dublin

Francis Kelly - Center Director Dublin

Francis holds a bachelor's in French and Irish language and literature from University College Cork, a master’s in Irish studies from the University of Lille (France), and a master’s in international marketing from University College Dublin. He has founded two business schools specializing in study abroad for European students and is currently Director of the International School of Business and CEA Dublin.

You’re from Ireland, how did you get connected to CEA Study Abroad and their programming in Dublin?

I was setting up my own business school (International School of Business, or ISB) in 2009 and wanted to have an American dimension which would allow European and American students to share their study abroad experience. I approached CEA with the idea, and since then we have been strategic partners!

CEA Study Abroad International Food Night

International Food Evening

You oversee all of CEA’s programs in Dublin, what does an average day look like?

Oh my goodness, there are no two days alike, which is why I love my job! I am responsible for all aspects of CEA’s operations in Dublin and most importantly the students’ welfare. I make a point of being available as much as possible to students and staff. For this reason, we have an open door policy. I also teach, which means I get to know students in their classroom environment. And of course I travel around Europe and the U.S. to promote both CEA Dublin and the International School of Business.

You have a strong academic background in marketing, what should every prospective student understand about CEA Study Abroad’s programs in Ireland?

Our programs are dynamic, interactive, multi-dimensional, and relevant. Our professors are inspiring and passionate about their courses, and use Dublin as an extension to the classroom; but, the learning doesn’t stop at the end of class. We see the entire student experience as an opportunity to learn, about themselves, about Ireland and Irish culture, and about other cultures (our U.S. students are mixed with their European counterparts in spring and fall each year). And of course, the programs should be fun. We make sure our students get to see some of the beautiful landscapes of Ireland, engage in cultural activities, and explore new places in Ireland and indeed across Europe (Dublin is only a one to two hour flight to many exciting places in Europe!).

CEA Study Abroad staff preparing a presentation

End of semester farewell photo presentation

What are the typical characteristics of successful CEA Study Abroad students in Ireland?

Curiosity and openness are two key components required for a great semester abroad experience. If students are not curious and open they will miss out on the myriad opportunities that living and studying in Dublin offers.

What advice would you give to CEA students headed to Dublin for the first time?

Keep an open mind about the differences you will inevitably encounter, seek out opportunities to grow as a person, engage in the life of the program, and have fun!

What makes Ireland such an incredible place to study abroad?

The people! We are famous for our warmth and welcome. We love to chat and get to know others. We go out of our way to make foreigners feel at home, so don’t be surprised if someone asks to help you if you have a map in your hand in Dublin!

You speak English, French, and Irish, what opportunities are there for CEA students to learn Gaelic while in Dublin?

I could teach them! But, there are many other opportunities to learn in state sponsored organizations, such as Gael Linn and Conradh na Gaeilge.

You lived and taught in France for several years, how does this help you in your role as Center Director in Dublin?

I have experienced first hand what it’s like to be the foreigner, the other. This gives me great empathy and insight into what our students experience when they first arrive in Dublin. Although students don’t encounter the language barrier I did, they may well feel disoriented, disconnected, lonely, and confused. Of course we at CEA Study Abroad and the Irish people will ensure these feelings don’t last too long!

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Firstly, managing cultural differences; we have many different nationalities between CEA and ISB. This is often fascinating, but also challenging. Secondly, ensuring that we offer students a meaningful and enjoyable experience but also one that challenges them and pushes them out of their comfort zone. Not always an easy balance!

Students dressed for paintball


You’ve been with CEA Study Abroad since 2010, what has been your biggest achievement in the last five years?

Seeing the amazing personal changes that occur in students over the course of their semester with us, and knowing that we have contributed to that, even in some small way.

You founded a study abroad program for European students and a business school, what are your goals for 2015?

I hope to increase the number of U.S. students sharing the study abroad experience in Dublin, and increase the number of new nationalities coming from Europe. We also have a new internship program which will hopefully grow in the next academic year.

What is the most fulfilling part of your role as CEA Center Director in Dublin?

Knowing that what we do means so much to our students and makes a real contribution to their personal and professional development.