Within an hour of arriving in Dublin, I walked through the gated archway to Trinity’s campus and stood beneath the Campanile. It was a scene directly out of the tourist brochures – I was awed that this was to be my home for the next 12 months. It is now six weeks later and there are still moments when I’ll stroll across campus and feel so fortunate to be walking on well- worn cobblestone paths, studying and living in gorgeous and historic buildings, and simply being a member of such a prestigious place. In a lot of ways it feels similar to how I felt walking across the campus of my alma mater, Dickinson College, an ancient school by American standards. The history is palpable. But just like my undergraduate years, my time at Trinity is about more than the place – it is the sum of the people and the moments that I will experience here. And thus far, my time at Trinity has been very memorable and rewarding indeed.
My expectations about Dublin centered on a vague knowledge of the buzzwords surrounding Ireland’s economic and cultural trends – the Celtic Tiger, entrepreneurialism, immigration. Dublin was, to my knowledge, a city on the move. What I have found, however, is a culture of paradox. An impromptu live music session at a Joyce-era pub next door to a trendy, cosmopolitan wine bar. An elegant storefront with a homeless mother and baby begging outside. Businesswomen in power suits darting around the other locals and tourists who mosey down the sidewalk. A city on the move where everyone still has time to sit and shoot the breeze over a cup of tea.
My own daily life seems to be at the intersection of old and new. Last Sunday, for instance, I attended mass at the 800-year-old St. Patrick’s Cathedral then enjoyed a leisurely brunch at one of the Mitchell Scholars’ favorite spots – a trendy crepe house called Lemon. The presence of French crepes in Dublin no longer surprises me. After all, right now I am sitting at a picnic table outside Trinity’s campus bar. I see the mens’ rugby team taking on its rival University College Dublin, the cricket club practicing, and ultimate Frisbee team playing a scrimmage. On my walk here a young Spanish couple asked me for directions to the library and I used my broken Spanish to direct them.
Speaking of the library – I am simply in awe every time I step foot inside. The Old Library is one of the most magnificent buildings I have ever seen. Every several weeks I endure the polite elbows of visitors attempting to get a look at the Book of Kells and ascend the steps to this magnificent room. I inevitably find myself whispering to no one in particular, “look at this place!” I’ll admit that I had been hoping I’d be permitted to study in the aisles but even my grad student ID doesn’t allow that kind of privilege! So despite my strongest desires to reach across the ropes and gently open an antique book, I keep my arms clinched tightly at my sides. Trinity’s publicity material includes photos of scholars studying at wooden desks amongst these books – perhaps I can snag a gig as a model at some point during the year!
In addition to the tourist attractions I have visited, the traveling I have done, and the socializing I engage in, I do find time to study! I am finding my peers in the Applied Social Research program to have passions and interests that are very similar to my own. My two primary classes are on qualitative and quantitative research methods, courses that will develop my ability to not only perform original research, but also to understand strong and weak arguments and to make more informed policy decisions. I am certain that the ability to intelligently look at data will help in my future pursuits. My coursework continues through March and then I will spend 10 weeks working full-time for a nonprofit agency in Dublin. This experience will help me to clarify my own policy interests, while also assisting an under-funded organization to better deliver its services to those in need. Just like at home in the United States, a booming economy here in Ireland has left many people behind, and I am passionate about helping to expand opportunities and to broaden access to critical services. My entire education has been driven towards applying my knowledge towards this end and I am looking forward to engaging in this work during my time in Dublin. These goals drive my academic pursuit and I am truly grateful to have the opportunity to develop my skills and understanding at Trinity and in this wonderful community that is my home for the next ten months.