Grainne Daly - 2015 Program Participant

Why did you decide to study abroad?

I wished to explore other cultures as well as learn about Irish history, especially since my family is largely of Irish descent.

Why did you choose your specific IES Abroad program?

I chose a direct enrollment program because it was a way to experience more of the everyday life in Ireland for a student and meet Irish students instead of being constantly surrounded by other Americans.

Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, Ireland

It's 5 o’clock somewhere...

What surprised you most about Dublin?

I think I was most surprised by the size of the city and modernity of the area. I had only been to the extremely rural parts of Ireland before and so had only experienced less modern parts of Ireland. I have also lived extremely close to New York City my entire life, so I am very used to the intimidating atmosphere of a large city. I was extremely surprised by Dublin’s walkability and smallness, but also the amount of things there were to do in the city and the variety of culture.

What was your favorite part about Dublin? How about Ireland as whole?

There are so many incredible aspects of Dublin and Ireland. The food, the culture, the people, the history, is all just so fascinating. My favorite part was really being able to do all of these things with the wonderful people I met.

What aspects of your program made it unique?

The program was unique because it directly enrolled the student in a university, rather than just a center in the city, allowing for a more immersive experience.

Canon on the grounds of Trim Castle in County Meath, Ireland

Trim Castle

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

They facilitated field trips as well as small programs, like movie nights and coffee mornings, that brought everyone in the program together. They were also exceedingly kind and always willing to help in any way they could.

What was a typical day like for you as an international student in Dublin?

I would wake up in the morning and have some Barry's tea (which is 3 Euro in Ireland instead of 12 dollars like in the States). I would get dressed and ready, after sipping my tea while reading through emails and the like. Typically I would head off to one of my classes, sometimes walking and sometimes taking the bus. After class every other day, me and a few friends would head to our favorite pub and have some food and drinks while chatting about the day, English, or other things.

I then would head back to the flat, possibly stopping along the way to pick up some groceries from Tesco. Me and my roommates would chat while cooking dinner and lounging around the flat. After dinner, a decent amount of the time we would all get dressed and meet up with some other friends to chat and have a pint or two until we were all quite ready for bed.

What was your favorite thing to do on your free time?

Travel. It was just incredible to see so many awe-inspiring places.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

I wish I had gone even more places!

Do you have any packing tips for students headed to Dublin?

Get and bring a really good rain jacket, because you will absolutely need it. Also, pack some incredibly sturdy and long-lasting boots because it is a walking city and, trust me, you will be walking a good deal, especially if you don’t want to waste money on transportation. I wore out my brand new boots in half a semester and had to buy new ones in the middle of a trip to Paris because they literally fell apart. My feet were not at all happy.

Other than that, try to pack light and not bring huge toiletries or things you really won’t need. It is a nightmare to try to carry two big suitcases, a duffel bag, and a large purse all the way through the airport. You will be able to buy a lot of stuff once you’re there and it’ll probably be a lot cheaper.

Troll cut out in Bergen, Norway

Norway Baes

What type of accommodation did you have? What did you like best about it?

I lived in a flat in a gated community. The community was the nicest part of it. We were in a really quaint, nice area in walking distance of a Tesco and everything else.

What was the hardest part about studying abroad?

The hardest part about studying abroad for me was partly adapting to a different way of life, but also budgeting my money. I made the mistake of spending a lot during my first week on things that I truly did not need, and not taking advantage of deals while shopping. That being said, most of it was worthwhile in the end.

The culture was somewhat harder to get used to. The Irish try to be very green and conserve resources and energy. Therefore, it was extremely important to turn lights off and switch off electrical outlets. This is something I am not quite used to doing in the States. I also had to get used to being without a dryer and using a water heater for any hot water needs. The heating unit we had was a bit tricky and broke several times. The pipes in the flat were also quite old, so me and my roommates really got to know the handyman who came to fix all our stuff.

What is one thing you wish you would have known before studying abroad in Ireland?

It would have been nice to know exactly how much I would spend and budget accordingly. Also, it would have been great to automatically know all the train, bus, and flight schedules and know my way around the cities, just so I wouldn’t have to put in so much effort to learn them, but obviously that is not possible. Plus, I actually had fun trying to figure out how to get places.

Now that you're home, how has your time abroad impacted your life?

I think I learned a lot from the people I met abroad. I learned how to look at train schedules and maps, how to figure out entire cities over a weekend, and bits and pieces of different languages. I could really go on and on about everything that I learned.

What do you feel the biggest benefit of studying abroad is?

For me personally, I think it was a combination of the confidence boost it gave me as well as learning, especially that the way things are in America are not always typical for the rest of the world. It was so eye-opening to see what I had been taking for granted and how things could be different, both politically and socially. It was refreshing to gain some new perspectives.

I also came back to America with a newfound confidence. I figure that if I can survive and flourish in so many foreign countries and foreign cultures, then I can do just about anything.

Marie Antoinette's Chateau in Versailles, France

Marie Antoinette's Chateau

Would you recommend IES Abroad to other students?

Yes, yes, yes! Absolutely! This was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I would specifically recommend Dublin, because it is simply a wonderful city and the staff are fantastic.

If you could study abroad again, where would you go?

I have actually been thinking a lot about this and I honestly think I would return to Dublin. It was just one of my favorite cities and such a perfect size for me. I would also love to study abroad in Amsterdam, as that was also one of my favorite cities to visit. Personally, I think anywhere that there is not too much of a language barrier and is a smaller city would be perfect for me.