After about 110 times breezing past the poster advertising the study abroad program in Dublin, it was the 111th time that for some reason made me pause. I go to class each day in a building that houses my area of study in Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR), a small part of a much larger institution called Cornell University in upstate New York. The ILR School at Cornell has operated a program in tandem with University College Dublin for over ten years now, that gives students from my major a chance to study in UCD for the fall semester and take courses in European industrial relations, employment relations in multinational companies, human resource management and other topical courses through the Lochlann Quinn School of Business.
The Dublin program is, for us, unique in that it is a carefully-designed program to enhance our education within our major while simultaneously allowing us a chance to live in Europe for a semester. While I hadn’t planned on studying abroad before, the program in UCD, in a country where the main language is the only one I speak, convinced me. Indeed, nothing throughout my time in UCD and Ireland disappointed.
“One of the most exciting things for me was the relative metropolis that is Dublin compared to the small town where my university’s main campus is”
One of the most exciting things for me was the relative metropolis that is Dublin compared to the small town where my university’s main campus is situated. At home, there’s no bustling downtown with museums, pubs, historical sites and parks. While a concert in November by Vance Joy at the Olympia Theatre was a highlight, a more common activity for me was to head into town on the 39A bus to stroll the streets and find a coffee shop to work in. Bear Market in Blackrock, 3fe on Grand Canal St. and Five Points in Harold’s Cross were some of my favorite haunts.
I love to cook, so an ideal Sunday would be to hop around food shops, such as Fallon & Byrne (posh), Avoca (posh) and Lotts and Co. (posh) then return home to Merville and spend the afternoon cooking. I was also blown away by the scenery and sights outside of Dublin; with each visitor that came to town, we trekked up to Howth for the cliff walk and perhaps a reprieve at The Doghouse or Beshoff’s. I loved the farmer’s market at Dun Laoghaire, the coast in Malahide and the views from Dalkey, too. Several times, I took the train down to Cork and Cobh for multiple visits to Blarney Castle and the English Market with eager out-of-towners. I never got tired of those trips.
“It’s a dangerous but thrilling sport”
On campus, UCD offered unforgettable experiences. Disappointed in myself for the lack of sporting equipment I packed in my single duffle bag when I left for Dublin, I couldn’t easily join the tennis, triathlon or lacrosse teams. I was about to leave the sports expo on the last day when I took a final lap around the tables and found the UCD Canoe Club. The name of the club is misleading, which almost made me keep walking, but the photos on display were exactly what I was looking for. UCDCC is a kayaking club, whitewater kayaking to be more specific. It’s a dangerous but thrilling sport that I’d just started to learn the previous year at my home university, and luckily the club is more than happy to teach inexperienced paddlers. Lured by the promise of “great craic” and the wide grin of the new member liaison, I handed over a €20 note and signed myself up. The club proved to be the biggest highlight of my time in UCD, and through it I made great friends and had tons of laughs. It was also a way to see parts of Ireland, such as Donegal and Sligo, that I would never have made it to on my own. I recommend any student who studies abroad to join an on-campus society to really immerse in the local campus culture and meet full-time students.
“The debates were a wonderful way to learn about current events and Irish politics, and the pizza afterwards didn’t hurt either”
Besides the Canoe Club, I also found a huge appreciation for the debating societies. In the first week, I attended the Colours debate between Trinity and UCD, which got me hooked. It was a raucous and hilarious way to learn the distinctions between and personalities of the colleges beyond what the websites will say. While some of the debates were meant for comedy, I probably liked the ones that approached more serious topics even more. The debates were a wonderful way to learn about current events and Irish politics, and the pizza afterwards didn’t hurt either. In fact, the environment and turnout at routine debates fully engaged a substantial student crowd, which left such an impression that we are currently trying to transpose the format at my home university in New York.
Ultimately, a semester in Dublin was a joy, day in and day out. It was a lively campus with a welcoming student body, interesting classes and dynamic student societies that, all together, provided such a refreshing break from my school in the United States. Who could ask for more?