An American, a Czech, two Germans, and a Kosovan walk into a bar… This isn’t the start to a joke; it’s a Friday night in Dublin. Though the Irish are said to have left the island in droves since the end of the Celtic Tiger, international students continue to cross the Irish Sea to study in Irish universities. Three-fourths of my M.Sc. program is comprised of international students. Granted, it is a global health program and more of an international than Irish issue; however, of all the universities in all the towns in all the world, the students came to Dublin to study. Consequently, the pub frequently resembles a miniature model UN on Friday night. I have a group of friends that includes Americans and Germans, people from France, the Czech Republic and Kosovo, with the occasional Irish, Welsh, and Canadian mixed in. Our conversations cover topics ranging from Neo-Nazis in Germany and Spain’s objections to Kosovo to U.S.-Israel relations and bizarre English words. This is why I am here. Above all, the Mitchell Scholarship is intended build U.S.-Irish relations, but the intersection at Trinity in Dublin City Centre is one of the proverbial crossroads of the world.
Having the opportunity to study global health in that environment has been incredible. Not only am I taught by experts from across Ireland and Europe, but also I work with classmates with firsthand experience improving health in countries around the world. Together we attended the Irish Forum for Global Health’s biannual conference in Maynooth, exploring “Partnerships to Address Health and Diseases of Poverty.” I spent a summer in Washington, D.C. working with Congress to address diseases of poverty, and adding European perspective to my previous work is an invaluable experience.
After months of stressful thought, my international experience has finally given way to a topic for my dissertation: exploring the role of health within U.S. foreign policy. Since working in Washington, I have developed a strong desire to work in health policy. This new experience of living in Europe has given way to a new desire: to work in foreign health policy. The past fifty years has seen unprecedented improvements in global health. In the past decade alone, the emergence of new players such as the Gates Foundation, the Gavi Alliance, and the Global Fund have transformed the way that international aid is allocated and directed toward the improvement of health. There is nothing but opportunity and potential in the global health arena, and so much to be done. My Mitchell experience has definitely honed my idea of what I want to do with my career.
While my time in Ireland has been wonderful, there are a few bones I have to pick. The Irish really do not know how to make a proper cup of coffee. They mix espresso with water, call it an “Americano,” and think it is lovely. I disagree. It was 70 degrees at home in Atlanta the other day, but I don’t know what that feels like anymore. One other thing – the King of Beers should not cost 7 euro. Ever.
Overall, these past few months have been incredible. Aside from new friends and career path, I have had amazing experiences. I have seen more snow while living in Dublin than in my entire life. On Thursday nights, I frequent Casa Sifuentes out in Maynooth for a variety of international cuisine. Heather and Steven are great friends and hosts. One evening sitting around their faux fire, we made the impulsive decision to hire a car and trek out west to visit the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren, and Kylemore Abbey. I liked it so much – and my girlfriend was so jealous – that two weeks later I made the trip again with her. That week, we visited the Aras an Uachtarain (Irish White House), Guinness, and had a very Mitchell Thanksgiving in Dublin with friends. This past week I visited Bray and the Powerscourt Estate, and next week I will attend a Super Bowl party at the American Embassy.
I have only a few months left in Ireland. In just a couple of weeks, I will tell my global health classmates goodbye and begin working diligently on my dissertation. It is truly remarkable how quickly time has flown by. Here’s to making the most of the time we have left together. Cheers.