My first two months in Ireland have been amazing. The Equality Studies program has really given me the opportunity to explore the international development issues that interest me in addition to opening my eyes to a new conception of equality that is more comprehensive and interdisciplinary. There are many mature students in the course, which brings an experimental element to the discussions, and the nature of the program facilitates opportunities for students to form relationships and friendships outside of class (in fact, tonight I am going to an Equality Studies reception). Many of the friends I have found here in Dublin are from my courses and the classroom environment is very open to discussion and the equal exchange of ideas. In addition, Kathleen Lynch, who is one of the leaders at the Equality Studies Centre, has really helped me find ways to combine what I am learning inside the classroom with opportunities for activism outside the classroom. Through her contacts, I have just begun an internship with an organization in City Centre called Banulacht: Women in Ireland for Development. This organization works at both the grassroots and policy level to encourage analysis and dialogue of local and global development issues among women with a focus on human rights, trade, economic literacy and capacity building. In addition to doing some administrative work, I will have the opportunity to plan their conference for International Women’s Day and attend workshops and meetings about lobbying to the Parliament and economic literacy.
I have also gotten involved with a student development organization called Suas, which focuses on development education and in-country projects in India and Kenya. I have enrolled in their weekly development course which focuses on such issues as trade, environment, women and health. I am working with their office in City Centre to plan a weekend workshop for students returning from Kenya and India and to help plan their “Make Poverty History” campaign in collaboration with Oxfam. The people I am working with are all around my age and the organization is very dynamic and a lot of fun.
Lest you think I am all work and no play, I must state that the past two months have also been some of the most relaxing of my life. I find that the pace of life in Ireland is much less hectic than in the US, and I’ve taken advantage of this newfound free time to read, go salsa dancing, go to weekly Irish music sessions, and go on hikes outside of Dublin. And oh yes… sleep late. I’ve also discovered the joys of afternoon tea and biscuits. My roommates (two of which are Irish and three of which are other international students) and I have decided to implement weekly co-op dinners so I’ve gotten to taste food and try recipes from all over the world. We Dublin Mitchells have just instituted our own co-op dinner, which is a great way to keep in touch and get a good meal once a week!
I think that one of the most amazing parts of the Mitchell program has been getting to know the other Scholars. The opening weekend in Dublin with Trina was amazing. We went hiking in Wicklow, saw a play, toured some of the most interesting places in Dublin and got briefed about Ireland from experts in politics, economics and culture. But one of the best parts of the weekend was just getting the chance to get to know everyone a bit better and hear about the diverse backgrounds of everyone in the class over a Guinness, or in my case, Bailey’s Irish cream. Just last weekend, Lily, Ben and I went to visit Aaron in Galway and we all took a trip to the Aran Islands where we rented bikes for a few hours. It was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen and miraculously the weather was perfect. Britt and I are also taking a trip to Spain and Morocco for our reading week next week, so that should be a lot of fun.
I have also found that the Jewish community here in Dublin makes up for its small size by being extremely warm and welcoming. The Rabbi and his wife invited me over for Shabbat dinner as soon as I contacted them upon arrival, and I have spent a lot of time during the Jewish holidays this fall at their house, getting to know their family, and sharing meals with them. The Rabbi hosted a huge party for Sukkot, complete with Middle Eastern food and a musician and storyteller with stories from all over the Jewish Diaspora. When I was in synagogue for Yom Kippur, two different families invited me to their house to break the fast after having known me for only half an hour. I am glad to have found such a welcoming community and I look forward to getting to know them better as the year progresses. The Equality Studies program has also been extremely understanding of the fact that I had to miss so much class for the holidays. I went to Israel for a week for Rosh Hashana to visit my family and my professors emailed me any readings I missed and offered to sit down with me individually to help me catch up on the missed class discussions. This Master’s program is really unique and special and creates a type of community between and among its students and professors that I have not experienced in other academic environments.
In conclusion, these first two months have exposed me to the hospitality of the Irish people, new and challenging ideas in my Master’s program, new friendships and many opportunities for growth. I would like to sincerely thank the US-Ireland Alliance and for giving me this opportunity