Michaela Wentz - 2015 Program Participant

Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland

Waves pounding on Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland

Why did you decide to study abroad?

I decided to study abroad because I wanted to force myself to reevaluate my basic assumptions about the world and about myself.

Why did you choose IES Abroad’s program in Dublin?

IES Abroad appealed to me because they gave me the basic information I needed to get myself ready to go abroad and make the most of my time there. From providing an overview of how application processes worked to a description of what to expect when I got to Dublin, IES Abroad gave me the stepping stones I needed to find the courage to leave the U.S.

What was your favorite part about Dublin?

The housing IES Abroad provided was just a short walk from city centre Dublin. This proximity meant that I lived in what others see in a day as part of a tour. The entire country was easily accessible from the bus and train stations within walking distance, and I could save my money for special trips by not having to pay a daily commuter fare.

What made your program experience unique?

The IES Abroad Direct Enrollment program at Trinity College allowed me to enjoy the benefits both of being a full time student at the top university in Ireland and also of studying abroad through IES Abroad.

At Trinity College I was taught by professors who were the top in their fields, I joined clubs and societies with fellow students, and I enjoyed a wide range of student discounts.

As a student of IES Abroad, I did not face the uncertainty in housing that other international students faced, I had ready access to the friendly staff who were eager to help me learn the oddities of Irish culture and cities, and I could go on trips that I would not have been able to arrange otherwise.

Lough Ouler in the Wicklow Mountains

Lough Ouler in the Wicklow Mountains

In what ways did the local staff support you throughout your program?

The local staff checked in on me every week, so that I did not have to go out of my way to seek emotional support. The weekly check ins were very useful in learning little things about how to get by in Dublin, such as that the washing machine was actually in the kitchen, how a convection oven works, and that craic is not a drug but actually an Irish word for fun. When visiting the staff at the IES Abroad center, I was always greeted with inquiries of my health and activities and with cookies or other treats. If I was having a bad day, the IES Abroad staff were there to listen to all my problems. If I was having a good day, they were there to celebrate with me.

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

I wish I had realized earlier that the staff was there to help me. When I was applying to the program, I found the general information very useful, but thought that any email I sent with questions would be lost in an impersonal bureaucracy. Actual people connected to the program actually answer the emails though, and are incredibly helpful.

Describe a day in your life in Dublin.

After waking up and eating breakfast in my apartment, I would walk through Georgian Dublin, past the office of the Taoiseach, to Trinity college. After a couple of lectures in the morning, I would wander through the tourists in the front square of the college and eat lunch in one of the nearby parks. In the afternoon, I would climb the steps to the top (and best) floor of the library and study between smaller recitation classes, until going to a club meeting in the evening. After the meeting, I would walk home, stop by Tesco for groceries, and cook supper in the apartment. At night I would finish up a paper, watch a some Netflix, or work on planning a trip for a free weekend.

What did you like doing in your free time?

I loved going on hikes with the Trinity Hiking Society on Sundays. The hikes were affordable and allowed me to see and explore parts of Ireland that I otherwise would not have been able to visit. The Wicklow mountains are beautiful, but inaccessible if you don't have a car or map. The hiking society was a group of friendly students who love getting out of the city.

The Custom House on the River Liffey at night in Ireland

The Custom House on the River Liffey all lit up for the St. Patrick's Day celebrations

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

I lived in an apartment provided by IES Abroad. It was spacious and well kept (much better than any dorm), but the best part about it was its nearness to the city centre. I went to many more cultural events than I normally would have because they were just a short walk away from my front door, and I consequently saw and learned more about Dublin than I have of any other city.

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

Now that I am home, I am much more conscious of what I actually need and more likely to grab opportunities. Since my entire life abroad had to fit inside a single suitcase, I am surprised at how many superfluous items I have bought in the past. Shopping is strange now because I don't feel inclined to buy anything and am surprised at how large packages are. After months of saving my money for trips and experiences, I still keep an eye out for exciting things happening in my area and consequently keep much more up to date on local news.