As a French/American national and an avid student of international affairs, my time studying abroad in Ireland was a hugely rewarding experience. It gave me a chance to learn more about the European Union and labor issues from a European perspective. Joining student clubs like the Law Society (i.e. debate team) at UCD allowed me to make friends with students from Ireland, as well as others from the Netherlands, Sudan, Australia, China, India, and Palestine, who I still keep in touch with to this day. I can now see myself pursuing further education in the European Union, and potentially making a career for myself there.
While at UCD I decided to find housing on-campus, where I chose an apartment with people that I did not know. I was lucky enough to end up living in the nicest dorm I’ve ever lived in, with two girls from Australia and one from the U.S. Not having a dining hall on campus forced me to learn how to cook a much larger variety of meals for myself, and my flatmates were great in helping me learn new recipes and cooking techniques.
The courses I took had a different grading format than those at Cornell, with most of the work scheduled for the very end of the semester with finals worth 50-90% of your overall grade. While this was undoubtedly stressful towards the end of the semester, this meant relatively little assignments due during most of the semester – and thus more opportunities to explore Dublin’s historical sights and nightlife, in addition to exploring the rest of Ireland and Europe (with 10 euro tickets to Scotland from Dublin being an excellent incentive for a weekend trip).
Travelling to Brussels as part of our required course in European Industrial Relations and HRM gave a unique inside look into the governance structure of the European Union, with small group conversations with representatives of the EU Parliament, the EU Commission, and the social partners. Without this study abroad program, I don’t think I would have had this level of access, even as an EU citizen.
Overall, my time in Ireland was an opportunity for me to reflect on my time at Cornell. Arriving at UCD with no friends and no knowledge of the country, I felt like a freshman at Cornell all over again. It forced me to re-evaluate what choices I was making at Cornell in terms of what I wanted to get out of my education, as well as to join new clubs and make new friends. After two years at Cornell, I felt I had gotten into a rut where I would keep doing the same things because I was already doing them – my time at UCD encouraged me to take command of my choices and led me to emerge with a new perspective on my next two years at Cornell.