GoAbroad Interview

Karl Dowling - Dublin Resident Director

Karl Dowling - Dublin Resident Director

A Dublin native, Karl lived, studied, worked, and traveled abroad before returning to Ireland and joining the Foundation of International Education (FIE) team in 2012. His travels through Southeast Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and South and Central America, as well as several years living and working in Europe, have shaped his passion for study abroad. Alongside his role as FIE’s Dublin Resident Director, Karl also co-founded and chaired the Association for Study Abroad Providers in Ireland.

How long have you been with the Foundation for International Education (FIE)?

I joined the organisation in the summer of 2012. It was a slight change of career as I had spent the previous few years editing, producing, and presenting a radio show as part of a fantastic team at Radio Netherlands!

Students enjoying the outdoors in Ireland
Enjoying the views and some rare Irish sunshine

What do you like most about working for FIE?

As an organisation FIE practises what we preach. There is a huge emphasis and follow through when it comes to our core values of sustainability, inclusivity, diversity, and social justice. I appreciate working for an organisation that is value driven. I also love playing a role in shaping our student’s education abroad experience!

What is a typical day like for FIE participants?

A typical day usually includes classes, several informal interactions with students and staff, a co-curricular or extracurricular event, possibly a volunteering, service learning, or interning commitment, and quite possibly some rain...it is Ireland after all!

Students playing Hurling in Ireland
Introducing students to the Irish sport of Hurling

What makes FIE’s locations ideal places to study abroad?

Our locations are quite unique from one another. Obviously studying in London is a lot different than studying in Dublin or Amman. As the Dublin Resident Director, I will say that the FIE Dublin experience is an extremely immersive one. Students can study at one of our three Irish partner institutions, while living 15 minutes walk from the heart of the city centre. Our internship students are placed in small to medium sized local companies, where they get a real taste of Irish culture.

Dublin’s relatively small size allows us great access to the cities sites and sounds were we regularly take learning out of the classroom through our co-curricular, volunteering, and extracurricular programming. Dublin is one of the friendliest and most welcoming places in the world; it acts as a gateway to the rest of Europe; it never gets too hot or too cold; and it has a thriving educational centre.

What can you tell aspiring program participants about FIE?

You’ll get out of the experience what you put into the experience! FIE will give you all the tools and opportunities for success but ultimately the onus of a successful study abroad experience is down to the student. Whether you’re studying in London, Dublin, or Amman, this statement rings true. FIE will provide tons of opportunities to learn, travel, and grow through your study abroad experience. No matter what your tastes, FIE caters to students of all different majors and interests through an incredible amount of cultural opportunities at each site.

What does a typical Foundation for International Education orientation include?

The FIE Dublin orientation includes a housing and neighbourhood tour, welcome to Dublin session, student services orientation, academic orientation, health and safety orientation, city bus tour, three-course welcome reception, day trip to the beautiful seaside town Howth, and a day trip to a working Irish farm where students milk cows, bake bread, herd sheep, and jump in a bog!

Students jumping in an Irish bog
Jumping in an Irish bog

How do you assist FIE participants in adjusting to the new culture and environment in their host country?

Our office and residential staff give students 24/7 support, so there’s always someone to talk to no matter the day or time. We spend a huge amount of time through pre-departure orientation and on-site orientation talking about culture shock, and how to combat the symptoms of culture shock. Our orientation is designed specifically to get students out and about, and involved in their new community. The process doesn’t end at orientation: we regularly hold seminars and reflective sessions on cultural adjustment, the study abroad experience, and becoming a global citizen.

What types of activities and excursions are included in programs?

Too many to mention really! We have a weekend study tour to Northern Ireland, a weekend study tour to the west of Ireland, a weekend retreat to a rural eco-lodge in County Sligo, a rugby game, a night at the theatre in the famous Abbey Theatre, a haunted tour up the Dublin mountains, and several co-curriculars that include Kilmainham Gaol, Croke Park, the national museum, and Glasnevin Cemetery. Each programme includes different activities but these are just some of the options offered.

What plans do you have for FIE student life in the next year?

We’re constantly thinking of new, weird, and wonderful ways of showcasing our beautiful city to the students. This next year we’re hoping to add to and evolve our vast range of extracurricular and co-curricular opportunities, including our Liffey rafting experience, our seasonal holiday parties, our annual FIE football (soccer!) tournament, and much more.

Students learning about working on an Irish farm
Day trip to a working Irish farm

If you could participate in one FIE program, which one would you choose and why?

Given both my BA and MSc are in political science it would have to be our Peace and Conflict program. The program takes students to Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Jordan, where they study peace and conflict in these uniquely different settings. Students get incredible access to politicians, meet former political combatants from an array of different backgrounds, see and hear firsthand accounts of how conflict has affected each location, and spend time with some of the field’s leading academics. I can’t help but feel a little bit jealous of the students lucky enough to go on this programme!