Sarah Dilworth - 2009 & 2010 Program Participant

Visiting a friend's family's home in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary
Visiting a friend's family's home in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary.

Why did you choose to pursue postgraduate education abroad in Dublin?

My very first time abroad was a junior year abroad program at University of Limerick in Limerick, Ireland. I loved my first experience living abroad so much that when I was researching and applying to graduate school, I looked for schools in other countries and found a really interesting program based in Dublin. I actually had not spent much time in Dublin prior to moving there in 2009 (probably 4 days in total!) and didn't know anyone there either, as at that point, most of my Irish friends were based 3 hours away on Ireland's west coast.

What made you choose Dublin City University in particular?

My decision was based on the academic program. I initially wanted to study intercultural communication and/or international education, and the School of Applied Languages & Intercultural Studies had just what I was looking for; a theory based, interdisciplinary program. Looking to further my studies in the intercultural field, doing so abroad made sense. My program was small, with about 15 full-time students and a few part-timers, but had about 10 nationalities and unique cultural backgrounds represented. Not bad for such a small group!

Were there any especially unusual or unique experiences you had during your program?

The most unusual or unique experience during my program would have to be the orientation weekend. All the incoming postgrad international students went on an excursion to a real live working Irish farm. We herded sheep, milked a cow, baked Irish brown bread, learned the ins and outs of the gaelic sport hurling, and even had a traditional sing-song session at the end of the evening. This isn't necessarily how most Dubliners live, but nonetheless, was a great introduction to traditional (old school) Irish culture.

When you are home, what are the things you miss the most from Dublin or Ireland in general?

I have been lucky enough to have a second home in Ireland (my soon to be in-laws and my fiancé are multiple generations of Dubliners), and have been back to live and/or visit several times since finishing my grad program in 2010. However, when I'm gone, I really miss Dublin's foodie culture; the artisan and gourmet products filling the indoor and outdoor markets, fresh caught seafood, cool cafes, and the craft beer scene. When I am outside of Ireland, I miss the banter, the Irish sense of humor, and--believe it or not--cozy rainy days sitting by the fire with tea and toast!

What lessons did you learn while interacting with locals that could be used as advice for future participants?

The Irish love to chat, are inquisitive, and quite friendly whether in a classroom setting, in the shops, or in a pub. So respond to them when they strike up a conversation. Sarcasm is a major component in Irish humor. Try not to be the gullible foreigner! Also, the Irish sense of time and lack of urgency is something that could drive a Type A personality bonkers, but, honestly, so many of us could learn from it.

Coming home, did you experience any sort of reverse culture shock? 

Absolutely! I was away for a year and so much had changed; not just within myself, but with my family and friends back home too. It was difficult to get back into the swing of my life in the US and took almost the entire next year to feel like I wanted to be back in the states. I was working a part time job that I wasn't passionate about, so that definitely did not help matters.

In what ways has studying abroad changed you?

Besides the obvious answers and the fact that it steered my career path to working in Cultural Exchange and International Education, it changed the way I view the world and how I view myself. I used to consider myself a "homebody" and someone who is quite attached to where I came from. And I still do. But, after living abroad, I realized that "home" can be an abstract concept for me, and not necessarily just one geographic location. This is both invigorating and scary at the same time!