How answering “How’s Ireland?” changed my priorities for 2024

I recently flew back to my suburban New Jersey hometown for the holidays. There was much to do (among the top of the list: indulge recklessly in Jersey bagels, revisit every diner in a 3 mile radius, and binge watch Disney Plus on my family’s subscription), and many longtime friends to visit. We’d often chat over food, or sometimes while driving in circles around town, or while watching an NBA game. I hadn’t considered how nice it would be to exist in the same time zone as my friends again—I’m grateful to have people in my life with whom I can reconnect without skipping a beat. 

And of course, as an ambassador for post-baccalaureate life beyond America, I get asked just about everything you’d expect. What’s the weather like? What’s the food like? Is it true that it always rains? Are the people kind? How’s Ireland? Answering the same questions repeatedly was tiring at first, but the more I was allowed to gush about Dublin, the more I missed the quirks of my life in Ireland.

I’ve lived in more than a few places these last few years, and something I recently realized is that more than a particular adventure or a fun night, I fondly reminisce about the lifestyles—the minutiae, the inconveniences, the quirks—I had in each place. And while I was home in New Jersey, I fondly reminisced about my lifestyle in Dublin. I missed picking up my candle of the week from Tesco in the Dundrum Shopping Centre, and I missed the double decker TFI bus (175) that took me there (though I always seemed to get motion sick). I was eager to resume my daily chats with Santiago, the barista at Pulse Cafe, while picking up my 20 oz cappuccino for €3.90. Stuck on a treadmill during Jersey snowstorms, I longed for my 7-mile loop to Blackrock, which was incentivized with a beautiful view of sunset over Dublin Bay. I missed the familiar faces and dependable banter in the recording studio at BelfieldFM.

With an influx of new responsibilities and resolutions, these next few months will undoubtedly look very different from my past 5 months. But two things I want to prioritize are connecting with more strangers and indulging in the moments between the moments, because those are the people and the memories that stay with me. And a lot of my goals for 2024 are built around these values; I’ve registered for new races, proposed new community projects, and committed to new hobbies. And maybe the next time I’m home, and the lads ask me “How’s Ireland?” I can give them a completely different answer, sharing anecdotes and moments that let me relive my Spring in Dublin once again.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Seeing Dublin through new eyes

These past few months in Dublin have been an incredible time to deepen my involvement on Trinity’s campus and see the city around me as an academic, tourist, and Dubliner myself. I joined the TCD Philosophical Society, one of the oldest student societies in the world, and had the opportunity to compete at the 2023 Oxford IV debate tournament. I partnered with a well-known Irish debater, Dylan McCarthy; I’m proud to say that Dylan and I broke fourth and made it to the semi-finals, before losing on an unfortunate split panel.

Members of the TCD Phil at the Oxford IV 2023 debate tournament

I’m especially grateful for this opportunity because it allowed me to make close Irish friends and really feel immersed in where I am. I also performed in the Trinity Orchestra along with fellow Mitchell Scholar Teresa Gao. We played one of my favorite symphonies of all time, Dvorak’s New World Symphony.

Trinity Orchestra’s Fall 2023 Concert

One of my favorite things about this past semester has been the opportunity to study Heidegger with Professor Lillian Alweiss, a specialist on the topic. I’ve been thinking about being, the 1/2 titular topic of Being and Time, especially in conjunction with recent political events in Dublin.

There is a passage in St. Augustine’s Confessions where he faithfully asks God about the nature of Being: “I am a creature who remembers… What is closer to me than myself?,” he asks, inviting us to think about the role of identity and the past in forming one’s being. These beings for whom Being is an issue are called Dasein. I started thinking about this, something I had learned in class, when, on November 23, the same day as American Thanksgiving, anti-immigrant riots broke out in Dublin city center, close to Trinity’s campus.

In Heidegger, there is a central place for the role of history, and historicity, in forming one’s Being. Without a recognition of one’s history, we get subsumed into a sort of everyday, averageness, and forget to confront the question of Being. In the context of the riots, the Irish, historically, are not anti-immigrant people. The Irish people, in a sense, have forgotten parts of history and failed to confront the question of Being.

On another note, I had a chance encounter with a former teacher of mine that reminded me that the world is truly a small place. I studied Mandarin for many years and one of my favorite things about learning a second language are those words that are untranslatable. In reality, they have a translation, but the translation loses something essential to the meaning (for any philosophers out there, similar to Kuhn loss!). The word yuanfen means a connection that is both serendipitous and coincidental–something that was bound to happen but faced incredible odds. The mixing of two opposites is a feature of Daoist philosophy, like yin yang. A few months ago, I bumped into and got coffee with my former 7th grade English teacher. Her daughter, a college student, was studying abroad in Dublin and she was visiting. It was heartwarming to see and thank an influential mentor in my life, someone who inspired my love of reading, and be able to thank them and tell them the impact they made on my life. I was recently accepted into Cambridge’s History and Philosophy of Science PhD program, and to be able to thank someone who has nurtured my academic journey from middle school meant a lot to me.

With my former middle school teacher, Mrs. Batza.

To the new year!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

in much the way that bricks don’t

A very thorough and no doubt scientifically rigorous Google search persuades me that rainbows are particularly common in locales with fickle showers and sunbeams with urgent appointments. That is to say, it’s not just your average rain that sprays the sky with sliced up sunshine, but rain you won’t see coming and don’t catch leaving. As you can imagine, Ireland is rainbow Costco.  

Even my thorough pre-departure literature review of the back of a Lucky Charms box didn’t prepare me for how often rainbows would punctuate my time in Ireland. I’ve seen them when  I’m exploring new towns like Killarney and Derry, when I’m lost and soaked through at the Gap of Dunloe, and even when I’m picking up packages from the UCD mailroom. When the first Dublin flurries fell on a casual stroll, a rainbow framed Christ Church Cathedral. They’ve even welcomed me to class on mornings when it hasn’t rained in days. In fact, I’m now quite convinced that I have no idea how rainbows really work, and that they keep popping up simply because they feel like it. 

Zoha and Teresa are also rainbow fans.

Perhaps the most frustrating part about these cheeky fellows is that they have no interest in being photographed. They fade away just before I can snatch them with my camera or otherwise prove too dim to make good pictures. It makes me wonder how many of the elusive illusions are waiting just out of sight, too faint for human eyes to detect against freshly blued skies. Maybe that’s also why I’ve seen so many in the few months since arriving in Ireland: I’ve just started looking for them more. 

Nothing wraps up a full day of hiking like a rainbow.

Of course, I’m sure rainbows couldn’t care less about how much I enjoy encountering them. This is certainly another reason why they bring me so much happiness: you have to soak them up while they’re around, because you never know when they’ll disappear again.  They last just long enough for you to wish they were there a little longer, and then you’re left wondering how many hours, weeks, or months it will be until the next one. 

Even a UCD car park doesn’t look half bad when framed by a rainbow.

The best part of all these rainbows is that, even after nearly twenty sightings in my first semester, seeing one is still just as awesome. Each marks a new adventure, a new memory, and a new reason to slow down and enjoy things. When I’m walking to class on a schedule that’s beginning to solidify into a repetitive routine, a few seconds of smiling at the sky are a reminder of the daily surprises waiting for breaks in the clouds. Of course a year in Ireland would be fantastic; I knew that since before I flew over. What I didn’t expect were the tiny treasures, from original constitutions to rambunctious twelve year-olds to beachside drama to bread and honey to record-setting crossword times to kitchen table cards and on and on and on. It’s the sneaky and spontaneous moments you won’t see coming and don’t catch leaving — the rainbow moments — that have made this experience truly exceptional. 

Waking up to a double rainbow outside my window.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

2024 Resolutions for Belfast

The last few months of 2023 were full of travel: I visited fourteen different cities and towns across Northern Ireland and the Republic, including visiting other Mitchell Scholars in Dublin and Galway. I went caving in Fermanagh; hiking in Letterkenny; and searched for the best beef and Guinness pie in so many local pubs. The Mitchell Scholar girls went on a trip to Berlin; I saw one of my favorite artists perform in Amsterdam; and I visited a dear friend in Estonia in December while the streets were still buried under piles of snow.

As the year came to its end, though, I realized I was homesick. But not for Washington, DC, where my family lives, or Williamsburg, VA, where I went to college. I was missing Belfast, my new home.

I love this city so unbelievably much. The softly-lit pubs crowded with trad musicians; the slow coffee shops with their deep couches; walks along the water at Titanic quarter; getting fresh vegetables on the weekend at St. George’s market; morning jogs through the Botanic Gardens. I wasn’t really anticipating this much affection so soon, for a place I had never visited before I moved. This 2024, my resolution is to explore more of Belfast. My pins are dropped and labeled on Google Maps; my running shoes are tied; and my suitcases are nestled in the storage compartment under my mattress, where they’ll rest until June. I’m not ready to leave this place for a weekend trip anytime soon. Instead, my weekends will be filled with walking tours (see some political street art below); new releases at Queen’s Film Theatre (I saw a 35 mm Scottish film there earlier today, about a Pakistani immigrant family in Glasgow); weekend potlucks with new local friends (they taught me a Céilí Irish dance, the Siege of Ennis, in a small kitchen/dining room/living room, and I made them Pakistani dessert); book club meetings on Thursdays (I finally joined one!); and a regular (hopefully) morning routine as classes begin for the semester.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Blessing on the Cold

Bendacht for anmmain ferguso. amen. mar uar dom…

“A blessing on the soul of Fergus. Amen. Because I am cold…”

This little musing in Irish is written at the top of an early medieval Latin manuscript composed by an unfortunate scribe forced to continue his work in the stone-walled scriptorium of some remote monastery despite the cold Irish weather. As I find myself stuck in the library, forced to write a term paper as the relentless Irish rain floods the streets of Cork, I empathize with poor Fergus. I’m cold, too.

But—and this may be a controversial statement—it’s the cloudy weather that’s the most beautiful.

Don’t get me wrong, the sun makes for a much more pleasant day, but looking out across the countryside shielded by clouds, you can’t help but envision the great Irish stories taking place here. The armies of Connacht standing under the grey clouds, wind ripping in their ears, as they face Cú Chulainn in his vicious warp-spasmed form. This is the weather of epics, this is the landscape of sagas. Cloudy, fierce, cold perhaps, but awe-inspiring.

I had about a week after my exams ended last semester before my flight back to the states for winter break. My girlfriend came to visit, and we travelled around the south and west of the island to see some of the places we had been wanting to see for months. Number one on the list was the Cliffs of Moher.

As soon as we exited the bus at the Cliffs, we were hit by a powerful wind. I kid you not, it was strong enough to push each of us back a couple feet (our fault for visiting the Cliffs during a level yellow wind warning). It was cloudy, cold, and—I really cannot emphasize this enough—it was windy.

We were still a little drowsy from the Dramamine we took for the 2.5-hour bus ride, and we were freezing and miserable as we fought the wind to make it into the heated visitor center. We barely wanted to leave the building, let alone hike along the edge of a cliff! But once we forced ourselves to brave the wind and push ourselves onto the trail, it was all worth it. It was still cold, still cloudy, but that only made the scene more dramatic.

Shayna and I at the Cliffs. It wasn’t raining—that’s seawater lifted by an updraft.

What must the first Irish settlers have thought thousands of years ago when they came upon this landscape, as they looked out over the brutal cliff faces towards the distant Aran islands with roaring wind pushing them back and cold seawater raining down on them. I wonder if they thought the same thing I did: there is such stark beauty here, this is such a breathtakingly powerful place.

Perhaps it would have been more pleasant in the sun, but no other conditions could have made it any more beautiful.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Everyone on Aer Lingus Complimented my Lidl Jumper

Welcome back! I sincerely hope you enjoyed my last post. This one doesn’t have as cool of an intro, but I promise it’ll be a rollercoaster of emotions throughout. Enjoy!

  1. I’m employed

Through my involvement with the Mitchell Scholarship program, I’ve met some truly amazing people. All of the Mitchell scholarship alumni that I’ve talked to have been welcoming, receptive, and eager to support me in my career endeavors. Along the way, I was introduced to Meghan Hind, a fellow Galway Mitchell alumni and current analyst at SOSV. From the moment I met Meghan, I knew we’d be excellent friends, and it turns out her company was in the midst of a Tableau transformation, a tool I taught extensively in undergrad. Before long, I received the amazing opportunity to join the SOSV team, and Meghan became my manager. SOSV is a venture capital fund that focuses on climate and human health start-ups, and I’ve had the privilege of working with the investment and data analytics teams. Also, I was honored to attend the annual SOSV Christmas party.

It was unlike any other Christmas party I’ve attended.

We went to the zoo! In Cork! In our Christmas jumpers!

There was a large celebration at the office, then naturally a night out at the pubs. This was my first experience in Irish work-social life, and it enabled me to connect with everyone I work with and learn their stories. We even did a secret Santa exchange. This was challenge for me, as I’d never met my giftee, who was a millennial woman. After consulting the foremost expert on millennial women, my roommate Ali (who is, in fact, a millennial woman), I purchased the Britany Spears autobiography, and I think it went over well.

Left: Meghan, an Ostrich, and I; Right: My amazing Lidl christmas sweater

The video below depicts me getting hit with a cork in Cork (no charged were pressed)

2. More travel tattoos

Speaking of Britney Spears, isn’t there that one song about a failure to learn from mistakes?


I did it again.

Well twice actually. My trip to Berlin was exceptional, I had a donor kebab (per the recommendation of my German classmate), and I saw Brandenburg gate as well as the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

I commissioned a ram at the world-renowned Der Grimm tattoo studio in Berlin from a Portuguese artist named Bruno. It just so happened that famous Russian artist Stanislav Gromov, who is now based in Berlin, had an opening the following day. I capitalized on this and sat for over 12 hours of tattooing across two consecutive days. Sandwiched between these sessions, I was invited to go out to the clubs with the tattoo artists, which enlightened me with a uniquely German experience. I drove the shop owners new AMG Mercedes (as DD) to a billiards hall, where we played until I ventured to the world-famous techno club, Berghain later in the night. At this club, they put a sticker over my phone camera, which was deeply concerning, but I survived.

Left: An abstract interpretation of life and death, or if you as my grandfather, “rubbish.”

Right: Moments before I learned that Berlin doesn’t have stop signs

3. Household update: shower renovation and Alexa & I’s child, Faye aka Meesh Meesh

In addition to decorating the house for Christmas, major renovations have been made to my place of residence. We have a new and improve showerhead!

Also, Alexa and I have been looking after a family of street cats. The daughter of the family, named Faye by Alexa and Meesh Meesh by a neighbor, was sick one day, so we attempted to provide her with medical care. It turns out she was just after more food.

Left: “Maximum water yield” -Sam; Right: Meesh Meesh!!

4. The best program in the world

For this section I’m just going to let the pictures speak for themselves, my classmates are amazing and I’ve grown so much personally and professionally with them as my colleagues.

Farm visit!!

My first time in a lab (please hold all backwards hat in the lab comments)

My friends surprised me for my birthday!

Exploring the holiday market with my classmates

5. I miss my family

Finally, I had the opportunity to travel home to the U.S. twice since the last blog post. I’m reminded of all the American delicacies and uniquely American experiences I’ve missed, but I’m grateful for the new experiences that I’ve obtain through this program. Also, I miss my family. The past two years have been challenging for my family due to various health complications, so to bring some happiness I coordinated a surprise visit home with my brothers. As evidenced by the video below, it was a tremendous success.

A uniquely American experience: Driving my Trackhawk to Waffle House with my brothers


Thanks for reading 🙂

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

On Unconventional Motherhood

Since my last blog post, I have become a mother. I am happy to report that my children are much cuter than I could have imagined and everyone in the neighborhood agrees. I’m also happy to report that my children are wildly self-sufficient, charismatic, resourceful, and intelligent, despite their physical limitation of being 1 foot tall. Their names are Meesh-Meesh and Meow-Meow and they are my world.

I first met my children on the way home from Tesco on an abnormally warm day in late October. They were loitering around an older apartment complex adjacent to the Tesco parking lot, meowing at a half-open window two stories up. Chicken bones were scattered around them, presumably hailed down from the resident with the open window. I didn’t catch a glimpse of the person dropping the chicken bones, but their generosity inspired me to return to the Tesco and purchase two cans of chicken liver pâté. I opened both cans and left them by the curb. I figured this was the first and last time I’d buy proper cat food in Ireland. How foolish.

My first encounter with Meesh-Meesh
and Meow-Meow.

I wasn’t planning on informally adopting two neighborhood cats, nor did I think I had the financial resources to support such an endeavor, but as my trips to the neighborhood Tesco increased, so did my run-ins with my 1-foot-tall children. They quickly realized that they had not one, but two fools in the neighborhood who were willing to feed them, and I became a target of their seduction. By mid-November, my Tesco receipts reflected the shift in my new status as a mother: lettuce, carrots, eggs, coconut yogurt, tomato paste, dark chocolate, 8 cans of chicken liver paté, 8 cans of salmon paté, 12 cans of whitefish pâté (they prefer the whitefish). My night routine consisted of walking to and from the apartment complex to feed them dinner after I had finished my own.

One night, toward the end of November, an unfamiliar man approached me outside of the apartment complex. It was around 10:30 PM. I was fully aware of how off-putting my presence was, given that I was perched outside of a residence that was not my own, mumbling falsetto gibberish to two stray cats. The man was mildly intimidating and spoke to me in a language that I couldn’t understand, motioning rapidly to the cats and myself. Without any idea of what he was saying or whether the tone of his message was a positive one, I decided to leave the premises as fast as possible.

Before I could make a swift exit, the man began speaking in broken English, pointing at each cat and saying “Meesh-Meesh”, “Meow-Meow”, names I instantly adopted. He then pointed up to the window two-stories up. I was in shock. After weeks of co-parenting with an anonymous stranger, I was face-to-face with the mystery window man. He managed to explain to me that my children—whom I assumed were siblings—were actually father and daughter. Meesh-Meesh was Meow-Meow’s father and the mother had abandoned them in August, when Window Man started to feed them. I thanked him for his continued generosity and felt a strong sense of relief that I was not a single mother.

I recently learned about the phenomenon of “matrescence”. Psychologically, matrescence refers to the transitional period that new moms experience as they come to terms with their entry into motherhood. With the birth of a child comes the birth of a mother, and this identity shift often follows the naming of the child. After learning of my children’s official names from the Window Man, I experienced a shift akin to matrescence. In the span of one conversation, Meesh-Meesh and Meow-Meow had metamorphosed from being my informal neighborhood children to becoming a part of my bloodline, and suddenly, I felt complete.

My journey as a new mother in Ireland has taught me several things. For one, it has taught me that being a parent is much more fun when you don’t have to worry about typical parenting stressors, like putting your child through college or ensuring that they don’t do drugs. It has also taught me that quality parenting requires a quality support system, to which I thank my housemates and the Window Man for stepping up and feeding my kids when I was absent and/or unable to brave the cold. Finally, being a mother in Ireland has taught me that, no matter where I end up, I will find family in the most unexpected ways and unpredictable places, be them human or not.

My Galway children.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

on building community

“People ask me how Kenya was. How am I supposed to describe a whole year?” Nadja says. We’re sitting in what feels like the infrared light of a bar on the Lower East Side. Christmas lights twinkle along the mirror over the bar counter, which reflects the leather jackets of shaggy twenty-somethings playing pool. Nadja has been living in New York since returning from her Fulbright in October. I’m visiting her and other friends at the end of my winter holidays. I’ve sat in friends’ living rooms, revisiting couches I had once splayed on with the luxury of endless time. I revel in the joy of being with people who, after years of friendship, know me inside out. I’d forgotten how much I missed that. 

I get the same question, I tell her. How am I supposed to describe everything that’s going on? I felt the same difficulty when sitting down to write this post. So I think I’ll focus on a topic that’s been on my mind, both in terms of how I want to live this year and how I want to plan my future.

A lot of my thoughts during postgraduate life have been about community – both what I left at home and what I’m building abroad. How do I maintain my relationships from home? How do I balance my desire to travel with my desire to live near my friends? Dublin has provided both a unique opportunity and challenge in that I am building a new community from scratch. If I’d lived in New York, I would have certainly inherited my undergraduate community, along with that of my high school friends. And while moving has been challenging, getting to know new people has been heartening – I’m realising I still have yet to meet some of my best friends. We often valorise college as the main source of lifelong friendships. I think if I’d stayed in America, I would’ve certainly subscribed to this logic. But living in Dublin has forced me to ask what I want from a community and, once I’ve decided what I want, how I go about building that. What do I need to feel happy, to feel loved, to feel like I belong? 

My hometown, where I went at the start of my holidays, offers some useful lessons. Bethesda is a suburb of Washington DC, a mile from the city but also the kind of place where you run into preschool friends at the mall. Part of why I like visiting home is the cast of characters who reside in our neighbourhood. When we walk our dog, we inevitably run into one of his friends (or, more likely, enemies). Some of these dogs’ owners have become fully fleshed people who come over for tea; others remain friendly faces with whom we share the same jokes each time. On the street behind us, our neighbours host a block-wide happy hour. During the pandemic, they began meeting every Saturday at 7 pm, bringing their own wine and camping chairs in the middle of the street. While we lived on the next street, my parents were invited to join. Now, it’s every month or so. Longtime neighbours have become friends again, and my mom updates me with gossip whenever we call. And of course, there are our close family friends — people who I’ve known since I was a baby. The Chatterji-Lens live two blocks away, and we count each other as cousins. Of course, I don’t mean to imply that home is perfect. Creating communities in the American suburbs, which are built with a pro-car/anti-social architecture, is difficult. There are many elements my parents wish to change. But home provides a useful lesson: a successful community requires varying levels of relationships— neighbours, outer circle acquaintances, friends, and close friends. 

My undergraduate community had a similar tiered element. Outside of my closest friends, I knew people through my college (a randomly selected dormitory you have all four years), my society, friends-of-friends, clubs. I had varying levels of closeness with these periphery people. Some I would take a walk with once a semester, or chat with when I’d visit my friend at their apartment. One girl and I always complemented and danced with each other when we’d inevitably run into each other at parties; other than that, we had completely different circles. Some of these relationships I wish I’d deepened, or that our friends overlapped more. But it’s the mixture of relationships that is important. During Covid-19, I saw my closest friends who were living in New Haven. But we all missed the larger community we were a part of – our apartment neighbours, our once-a-month coffee dates, our class friends. 

Thus far, I’ve spent my time in Dublin making some close friends through the Mitchells, as well as with Freya and Hilary. We’ve traveled together, from a girls’ trip to Berlin to exploring Bath with Zach and Teresa. And while I know I can’t replicate my home community in one year, I want tiers in Dublin, too. My writers’ group – the Inkslingers – has been one way to expand my periphery community. Having weekly meetings means we can get to know each other’s personalities without the pressure of individually organising meetups. I’ve had some lovely coffee chats. One week, a man recalled stories of his brother growing mushrooms in rural Ireland when they were teenagers. Another week, a new member passionately spoke about returning to school to learn television production. I learned about the documentary she’s hoping to make, studying the history of Dublin’s musical street names. Shea, whom I mentioned in my last blog post, lent me his book of poetry that he wrote and designed. Outside of the Inkslingers, Hilary introduced me to the Phil at Trinity. I haven’t competed in debate since my sophomore year of college, but I think she’s onto something about using the team to meet friends. I’ve been attending practices and a formal; just enough to meet some debaters individually and get to know faces. 

Building these tiers has pushed me out of my comfort zone in rewarding and scary ways (usually overlapping!). More often than not, though, I’ve learned that reaching out is worth it. I’m planning for my friend Dyrleif, whom I met when I lived in Iceland, to come visit Dublin this term. And I recently got in touch with my childhood friend Emmy, who moved to Italy when I was in fifth grade. She lives in Stockholm now, and it’s extraordinary to me that the prospect of meeting her again after so many years is more realistic now. When Liz and I were in Barcelona, I decided to text some backpackers I’d met last year in Laos. All three of them warmly responded, and we hung out multiple times over our week-long trip.

I don’t really have a neat conclusion or pithy lessons just yet. All I can say is that I’m slowly but surely building a new home on this island. Dublin has now become the kind of place where I have run into people – a far cry from when I first came (and perhaps a reminder that it is really just a town masquerading as a city :)).

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Day 111—14 Jan 2024

Me in San Felipe, with the beginning of a tan/sunburn.

“Don’t count yourself out this early, Daisy. You’re all sorts of things you don’t even know yet.” –Camila Dunne, in Taylor Jenkins Reid (2019), Daisy Jones & The Six.

New year, new me, same great island! The holiday break for my course began just after Thanksgiving and stretches to next Monday, 23 Jan. Since that time has been mostly free of coursework, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on my early Irish experiences, dig into new subjects for the fun of it, and reconnect with old friends. That’s a privilege for which I’m incredibly grateful, especially when I consider how busy I’ll be with new adventures in the coming months. I returned to Belfast yesterday, so I’m quite jet-lagged right now, but I’m feeling recharged, ever-more curious, and eager to hit the ground running this week.

Book Browsing and Fondue Slurping

I spent the first several weeks of my break in Northern Ireland, where I caught up on my curiosities. McClay Library at Queen’s University Belfast quickly became my second home, but not just because it’s open 24 hours on weekdays. It’s both spacious and brimming with great books, with reading nooks set against views of the university’s Botanic Gardens and the Belfast’s skyline. I mainly explored the European Union, political philosophy, and Latin American transitional justice—some of what I learned might come in handy this semester, some of it might not, but it was all fascinating and inspirational. I already got to apply some of that new knowledge to a podcast I recorded for my Transitional Justice module, in which I explored the pursuit of democracy in 21st century Mexico. I loved diving into these subjects because every hour I spent perusing further confirmed my strong interest in international affairs. Our world is hyper-connected, but tangled, and I feel a calling to apply myself towards smoothing and strengthening those bonds that bring us all together.

I only left Ulster for two adventures: to plunder the Trinity College Dublin gift shop for my family’s Christmas presents, and then to make my first ever trip to the European mainland. One of my lovely friends from Michigan State, Erin Mahan, is a postgraduate student at the University of Geneva in Switzerland. They invited me to the city in December so we could reconnect and participate in a local cultural festival called l’Escalade. I might not have understood the French-speaking reenactors, but certain parts of the experience easily overcame that language barrier. I felt my heart beat along with the sounding fifes and thundering drums, and everywhere I looked, Genevans took in the events with a certain, palpable wonder in their eyes. Other highlights of my trip included meeting Erin’s friends, visiting a couple of great museums, and trying authentic Swiss fondue. As far as first impressions of Europe go, Erin pretty much hit a grand slam—my raison d’être is certainly Northern Ireland, but I now feel very excited to explore other regions of Europe in the future… and, to stop dragging my feet when it comes to foreign language immersion. Spartans rule the world!

Beer in Mexico

I visited my hometown (Lake Arrowhead, California) just before Christmas to see my family and childhood friends. It’s always a pleasure to celebrate the year with them because we value the family, both blood and chosen, as our greatest support network. We applaud each other when we thrive, and when one of us trips up, the others are right there to help and dust them off. That never gets old, and having that kind of support is a privilege that I can’t see myself living without. I’m so happy that I can continue working to make my family proud here in Belfast, just as I’m proud of them.

My parents and I have a tradition of celebrating New Year’s Day in San Felipe, Baja California, Mexico, where they own a small house on the beach. If there were any words I could use to capture the way it feels to sit in the sand with nothing to do but share stories, sip on Coronas, and tan (or, more accurately, sunburn), I would. But that’s secondary to what I’ve long found most enchanting about San Felipe: the poetic tranquility of its shores. Outside the small houses along the beach, there’s nothing around us for dozens of miles. The house faces east, so we wake up every morning when the Sun’s warmth breaks over the ocean and fills our rooms. The only signs of life are the squadrons of pelicans who patrol the sky, and the pods of dolphins you might see in the water if you look closely enough. Almost like Killarney, it’s a “thin place” for me. I always come away from there with the sense that my problems are smaller and more mortal than often convince myself.

One Foot After the Next

The march goes on. It’s weird to think I’m technically halfway through my Mitchell year when I have so many new things to look forward to this semester. I begin my next set of modules next week, focusing on the Dynamics of Reconciliation and Mediation and Peacebuilding Skills, along with an internship placement at Shared Future News. I also get to start planning my dissertation project, for which I hope to research the political participation of migrant communities in Northern Ireland (subject to change!). I’m sure other exciting opportunities will pop up, and when they do, I’ll embrace them warmly. Between the good and the bad, the peaks and the valleys, I’m still happy to be on this path, no matter where it leads. And I won’t let anybody shake that.

If you’re on Instagram and wish to follow along with my Belfast adventures more closely, please connect with me here. If you’re an avid reader like me, and want to exchange book recommendations, add me on Goodreads here. If not, no harm and no foul!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


It’s January 15th, 2024. The following two months since we last spoke have been filled with even more experiences and lasting friendships. Veni and vidi. I came and I saw. I explored more, I travelled, and I made friendships and connections, often when I least expected it. As time goes on, I feel both the gratitude I have for the past and the anticipation/presence of the looming future. I have so many pictures, lessons, moments, memories, and stories to share with you, but right now, I must be brief.

Experiencing the universality of humans and how connected we are in the world has been inspiring. Our backgrounds and upbringings are diverse, but there is an undeniable thread that ties us together. Maybe I’ll share some of these lessons and tales one day, but for now, I’m living in the present moment, taking it slow in the fast lane.

I’m looking forward to more growth, to more moments. The uncertainty of the future can be scary, but it can also be empowering. We can find hope and support in the world and community around us, even if it may not always seem like it. Everyone has a story, and everyone’s story matters. My story continues.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


I’m in Germany after midnight on New Year’s Day, walking alone through darkness. An hour ago, I was in the city center, admiring fireworks among cheering strangers; now, my footsteps echo on a rural road. It has started to snow.

For the first time, I’m spending the holidays away from home. As I shiver in a foreign land, America has never seemed farther. From the opposite side of the Atlantic, I imagine my loved ones’ celebrations without me. The snowfall thickens; my vision blurs.

I think about my time abroad, the experiences I’ve shared with Zach, Rabhya, and other new friends. But the memories of my travels have already begun to fade. How many places have I seen that I might never again see? How many people have I met whom I might never again meet? I watch the snowflakes fill my footprints behind me.

My steps falter: I’ve reached the end of the path, and only a snowy field lies ahead — I am on my own, I realize suddenly. The silence feels overwhelming.

I place one foot into the snow, then another. I chose the Mitchell not for the destination but for the journey, I remind myself, and my difficulties and discomforts define the process of growth. Only through solitude can one develop independence; only through ambiguity can one attain purpose. Though I recognize no landmarks in the shadows, I press forward, embracing the liberty of finding my own direction.

Posted in Technology, Travels in Europe, Trinity College Dublin | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Irish Winds

“My only son was shot in Dublin,” I heard as I stepped onto Saint Patrick’s Street. I turned and followed the melodic strains drifting through the air, and as I got closer, I saw an elderly bearded man strumming his guitar with captivating precision. This then led to a 25-minute conversation as he spoke to me about his journey and how he had remixed the 1967 Irish Rebel song to be fast-paced, breathing new life into the original melody.

These past two months have been a whirlwind of adventures and experiences. Through conversation and exploration, I’ve been learning more about the world. Grasping the rules of rugby from my new Irish friends, I saw and felt their sadness and nostalgia after Jonathan Sexton retired, and Ireland was knocked out the quarter-finals of the 2023 Rugby World Cup. My new friends from Germany taught me about how different their schooling and upbringing was. As my flatmates and I played billiards or pool late into the night, we shared our perspectives and talked about the similarities and differences between our countries, our emotions and fears, the current state of the world, what our position in it was, and what we hoped for the future. I’ve also begun saying new words/phrases such as ‘What’s the craic,’ ‘It’s grand/class,’ ‘Sláinte,’ and ‘ye (meaning you).’

In class, I learn the programs, initiatives, and organizations, the government of Ireland has funded in the hope of a better healthcare future, including “Healthy Ireland.” I learn how comprehensive data collection is in Ireland and the census that takes place every 5-years. I learn about Direct Provision, migrant health, and what Ireland is doing to support refugees. I learn more about health economics and philosophy along with thinking of public health through the lens of population vs. high-risk, low-agency vs. high-agency, and upstream vs. downstream strategies. I learn that Estonia has one of the best electronic-health-record (EHR) systems in the world and the EU’s unique efforts to implement a system that enables accessibility and sharing of health information across borders. From my classmates and friends from Mexico, Switzerland, Italy, Korea, Singapore, Zimbabwe, Angola, Nigeria, South Africa, and DR Congo, I learn different people’s stories, culture, language, music, and also how their health systems differ. These perspectives have not only further emphasized that there’s more that can and should be done, but also how we can improve our own system by learning from what other countries are doing.

My hunger for change has thus only grown, and it necessitates further action. Being away has also at times naturally brought about a sort of longing for home. But hearing the howling and prevailing southern-westerly winds from the Atlantic, I’m feeling grateful for the wonderful new friendships, moments, and experiences I’ve had so far across the ocean:

My fellow Mitchells are so much fun, and getting to know each one of these incredible individuals has been amazing as we’ve bonded and become a tight group of friends:

Reception at the Irish Royal Academy:

We visited Kilmainhaim Gaol jail and heard the stories of Irish revolutionaries along with a remarkable story of love (Joseph Plunkett and Grace Gifford):

Alex and Vivek imprisoned in a cell at Kilmainhaim Gaol jail:

Somewhere Out There You Debuts at the Abbey Theatre:

Jazz Night with new friends from Germany, Ireland (Kilkenny), and Zimbabwe:

Meeting Senator George J. Mitchell in the same room where the Irish constitution was drafted and becoming inspired by his journey and impact:

My flatmate teaching me how to trampoline and do a back-flip (I fell on my face a lot):

My classmates and I grabbing a bite to eat:

Strolling the streets of Dublin and Cork:

Cute Huskies:

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment