Kate Conquest - 2015 Program Participant

Guinness factory in Dublin, Ireland

At the Guinness factory

Why did you decide to apply for a study abroad program?

In 2013 and 2014 I did a week-long service trip to the Dominican Republic, during which we built houses for needy families. Although the trips were only a week long, they opened my eyes so much to poverty, the world, and traveling. Since then, I knew I wanted to study abroad.

I chose Ireland because of the beautiful countryside, the English language (much as I wish I was bilingual, it is not a gift I have been blessed with), and the CAPA program, which sets students up with internships while abroad. I wanted to be able to travel and explore other countries, and being in Europe definitely opened that door for me.

Another big motivator for me to study abroad was various friends and family members that had done so and loved it; not one person I have ever met has regretted going abroad. I wanted to go abroad to prove that I could do it. I knew I would miss my friends from college, but I had such strong foundations back home that I felt confident enough to do something like live in a foreign city for three months.

It was a challenge for myself, a huge opportunity for self-growth, and an amazing chance to travel to many different places, built right into my schooling.

Girls visiting the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland

At the Cliffs of Moher

Why did you choose CAPA International Education?

I chose CAPA because of the internship element. I have a summer job that I love dearly, but it is not related to my major or able to be used as internship credit, so the chance to get a guaranteed internship (especially in a foreign city!) was a chance too good to pass up.

A huge learning experience for me was that my internship, which was at Dublin City FM, turned out to not be as stimulating as I had hoped. While most other people in my program had great experiences in their placements, I felt underworked at mine. However, I learned so much about Irish culture just by being in that environment, more than I ever would have if I had only been taking classes. I got to talk with locals as coworkers, rather than the student-teacher relationship you get in a classroom.

So, while my internship may not have been perfect, I would still recommend CAPA to other people because the chance to learn cultural competence through being in a foreign work setting is incredible.

What did you like most about Dublin?

I LOVED Dublin. I had originally thought I was going to go to London, but looking back I'm so happy I changed my mind. Dublin is smaller (and cheaper!) than London, and I felt comfortable knowing my way around the city within the first month. Dublin has a great music and theater scene, there was a free comedy club we went to that was a riot, there are many museums where you can learn more about the history of the great city, CAPA set us up with bus passes which made it easy to travel around the city, and the Irish people are by far the nicest people I have ever met.

My favorite place in Dublin was a town just north of the city, that you can get to on one of the bus routes, called Howth. It is a small town right on the coast, with cute restaurants, a whole harbor full of sailboats, and a cliff walk along the ocean.

Is there anything you’d recommend students do during their time in Ireland?

If anyone goes to Dublin, I would recommend doing as many day trips around Ireland itself instead of trying to fly to a new city every weekend. While international travel is amazing and I did quite a bit of it, I loved exploring my host country more deeply and learning the history of it. I'm from a small town and love the outdoors, and Ireland offers a great balance between the urban setting of Dublin and the access to green hills and mind-blowingly beautiful coasts.

What aspect of your program made it unique?

As I said before, the opportunity to intern abroad is outstanding and looks great on a resume. CAPA was really good with communication leading up to my departure, sending me all the information I needed and making sure I was prepared for the journey. They have also offered me the chance to stay a part of their program by being an ambassador, which is a great opportunity for me career-wise, as well as enabling me to keep my abroad experience alive by talking about it and reaching out to potential applicants.

Also, CAPA Dublin is a much, much smaller program than any of their other locations, so I had a close relationship with the other members and the advisers. It was great to feel part of that group so quickly, and know that I wasn't just a face in the crowd.

Howth Cliff Path, Ireland

Howth Cliff Path

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

The advisers that we had on campus were so accessible and truly engaged with all of us. They sent us weekly emails with reminders, suggestions for outings, and even a few Gaelic words for us to learn! If we ever wanted to travel somewhere, they would provide us with tips, places to stay and eat, and then ask us next time they saw us how the trip was. We were a small group so they were able to know us each personally and they genuinely cared about how we were doing and what our experiences were like.

We were on our midterm break when the Paris bombings happened, and some of the people in our group were in Paris at that time. Their response to the news-checking in with all of us and making sure were were okay, yet not panicking or making anyone worry, was just what we all needed during that time to get in contact with each other efficiently and easily without any hysteria.

For people that may be nervous to go abroad, having people like our advisers right there on campus and easy to talk to is an element that not many other programs have.

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

My biggest regret about my time abroad was that I didn't get to know more locals and internationals. I met a lot and had some interesting conversations with them, but never solidified those friendships before I left, and I wish I had.

On the college campus there is a Students Union, which puts on events and organizes clubs for the students. For future students, I would recommend taking more advantage of that than I did. It can be easy to make relationships with your fellow Americans (especially because we live with them too!) but make sure you take the time to explore friendships with people from all different backgrounds.

Describe a day in the life of your program.

Most weekdays, I went to either my internship or classes. At my internship at the radio station, I assisted the sound technician during the live show, wrote the Entertainment News section on the website, and did some research for program presenters on potential stories. I took the bus to and from my internship, which got me out into the city and off campus which was really nice. The classes were less work than I was used to at home, but still had lots of interesting content, and the professors were clearly passionate about their subjects. I took an Irish history class and sociology of the media course.

During free mornings, there was a coffee shop across from campus that my friends and I would go to. During afternoons, we often went into city center. Some days we didn't have anything specific to do, but we would find souvenirs for friends at home, watch street performers on Grafton street, or try a new cafe we hadn't been to before.

What did you enjoy doing most on your free time?

One of my most treasured memories outside of the program is the pub my two friends and I went to every Thursday night. These weren't wild nights, just us going to a pub where we ended up getting to know the bartenders and the two guys that played live music. The chance to become "regulars" at a bar in a foreign city is something that I don't think people really get to do unless they study or live abroad. If you just travel, you aren't likely to be in one place long enough to call it home or get to know a local scene the way we did at this one pub.

On our last Thursday, we took a selfie with the bartender, the band dedicated a song to us, and I got to sing on stage with them for the whole bar. For me, it wasn't the drinking aspect of Thursday nights that made them special; it was the guarantee of a relaxing night out with friends, listening to good music, in a pub where people knew our name.

Ferry from to the Aran Islands in Ireland

On the boat to the Aran Islands, which used to be fishing villages, off the west coast of Ireland

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

We lived in on-campus apartments. There were two bedrooms with two people in each one, two bathrooms, and a combined living room and kitchen. We lived with other Americans in our program, and we all had to do our own cooking. I liked being on the campus, just to have a kind of home base to come back to each night. The dorm-style was close to what I had had back home, so it was comforting to have that familiarity.

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

I feel like a stronger person after studying abroad. Maybe I didn't find my specific future career, but I stimulated my love of travel; I know that whatever I end up doing, I want to be able to travel to do it. I had to learn to budget for myself, feed myself, and travel independently. I found some amazing friends, and sharing an experience like studying abroad is such a strong and unique foundation for a friendship. I learned how to navigate a new culture, while at the same time learning so much about American culture through the culture shock that I experienced.

There is so much in the world, so much to see, and what better place to start than during college, when we're supposed to be finding ourselves anyway?

I feel so much more confident and capable, and I would encourage anyone who is curious about studying abroad to look further into it! I am so happy that I decided to go; even when things went wrong, and they will, you learn from those experiences and you grow through them. Plus, it's usually a good story afterwards!