Going to Dublin, Ireland to do my global internship was my first time studying abroad, so of course, I was nervous. I was moving to a brand-new city for nearly 3 months and I am not someone who likes to push myself out of my comfort zone. Despite all this, the experience only inspired me to consider more study abroad programs in the future! It was tough adapting to live in a different city, and I faced many challenges. Nevertheless, out of it, I gained this newfound independence and resilience. Eventually, Dublin became a second home, to the extent that leaving the city was extremely difficult. I still can’t wait to go back!
I interned as a marketing and communications assistant at a fundraising NGO called Ethiopiaid Ireland. During my internship, I spent most of my time operating the organization’s social media pages but also helped generate new ideas that aimed at involving the youth. My professional experience, however, is just one aspect of my chapter in Ireland; the other is my cultural experience. By this, I am referring to the process of living in and adapting to a new city. Initially, I faced many challenges, which made me think that I would never truly feel at home in Dublin, but eventually, I learned to adapt.
At the outset, my main challenge was getting myself around. This involved familiarizing myself with the public transport systems but also with the city, so I could walk around and recognize certain key streets and landmarks. Getting to work on time was the first task that required me to come face-to-face with this challenge. On my first day, I ended up being 20 minutes late. I had to learn the hard way that Google Maps isn’t always accurate. The app gives the bus schedule but the timing it gives isn’t always correct. On top of that, the fact that I was unfamiliar with the city and its landmarks meant that I ended up walking around in circles looking for the exact building the office was located in.
It was also tricky whenever I tried to go somewhere new for the first time. My main problem was that I was not used to traveling independently, but eventually, I became comfortable with it. I familiarized myself with the buses, recognized all the major streets and landmarks, and even went on solo trips out of Dublin to explore more of Ireland. For the first time ever, I was comfortable traveling alone. I especially enjoyed these solo trips (which included trips to the beach, the mall, and quaint cafes) because I experienced new people and places in a more engaging way than I would if I had traveled with friends or family.
The weather in Dublin also took some getting used to. I went in the summer, so I expected to spend the weekends at the beach or having picnics in the park, which I still did, but whilst wrapped up in multiple layers of clothing. Summers in Ireland are rainy and cold, so I was very unprepared. We were indeed warned by the program’s staff ahead of time, but I tried to be optimistic and packed light-weight jackets, thinking that would suffice. I was very wrong. At first, I would wait for the weather to get better before I went anywhere non-work related. Yet, in no time, I went from having that mindset to always carrying a thick coat, and having an emergency umbrella in my bag. The last thing I wanted was for the weather to stop me from living my best life.
These are just two of many examples of me adjusting to living in Dublin. For example, I also went from shopping at the closest, but somewhat expensive grocery store, to exploring and finding a cheaper, better-quality one not too far from my apartment building; and from being sad about not getting access to my favorite TV shows to becoming obsessed with Love Island, a U.K. reality show, and spending hours discussing it with co-workers.
The biggest lesson I learned was that to make the most of my experience, I had to be able to adapt. I had to be more open-minded and to try and adopt the typical way of life in Dublin. This involved using public transport systems and adapting to the bad weather, but also making friends with locals and eating their traditional food. Doing this allowed me to feel more comfortable in Dublin which, in turn, allowed me to thrive.