Bubble or Hub

When I first arrived at Trinity, one of the first features of the school I noticed was its location.  Trinity sits at the convergence of three of Dublin’s busiest thoroughfares.  The first is Dame Street, where greasy chip shops frame stern entrances to Dublin City Hall and Dublin Castle, and pubs come classy (lampshades, decorative jazz pianos, maroon upholstery—the works).  The second is Grafton Street, cobblestone jungle where dreams are made (oh), where busking musicians vie for volume as they try to pull a Glen Hansard and make it big one tourist at a time.  Trinity’s third artery is O’Connell Street, passageway to the north side, its buildings shrinking from megaplexes to miniscule Malaysian buffets as you walk farther along.  Standing at Trinity’s wrought-iron front gates as a new student, I tried to take in all of this, and couldn’t wait to step into the confusion.

Yet, the more time I spent at Trinity, the more the campus became a small world.  On numerous occasions, my classmates mentioned feeling insulated as the year progressed and we burrowed deeper into our schoolwork. Despite its centrality to the city, there were moments when Trinity felt as remote as a small liberal arts school in the Berkshires.  I quickly realized that my mere location would not bring Dublin to me.  How I chose to live the city would determine how I experienced the campus: as a hub or as a bubble.

One way I ventured beyond Trinity’s walls was by beginning an internship in Maynooth, in County Kildare. Early last year, I began working for Trócaire, an Irish nonprofit that leads numerous environmental and agricultural livelihoods projects in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Specifically, I decided to assist Trócaire’s advocacy for tax transparency in oil, gas, and mining industries.  While I entered the project based on my interest in water issues surrounding mines and pipelines, I quickly became fascinated by the politics of financial transparency and tax issues.

Trocaire’s transparency advocacy addresses a complicated challenge: the unrealized potential of rich natural resources—magnets for multinational investment—to benefit domestic communities.  According to Action Aid, illegal capital flows, endemic in mining and oil projects, leak as much as seven times the value of inward official aid from developing countries every year. In order to stem this flow, Trócaire is an active lobbyist in Brussels for EU Accounting and Transparency Directives, new legislation that requires multinationals to publically disclose their payments to state actors. Contributing to Trócaire’s efforts to support revenue monitoring has been a rewarding and inspiring way to link my academic learning to Irish and EU policymaking.

In addition to my internship, my peers have helped me experience the broader social context of my year here. My Mitchell family, classmates, and I have traveled to Galway, Cork, Belfast, Derry/Londonderry, London, and Paris together, with potential trips to Spain, Portugal, and Morocco in the near future.  Talking and traveling with these lifelong friends refreshes my perspective on my academic year, and helps me appreciate coursework as pleasurable instead of stressful.

Bike ride along Dublin Bay with Ben and Mona

After 11 months in Ireland, I will leave Dublin with a renewed sense of place.  Certainly, I’ve relished the culture and conveniences accessible at the heart of Dublin.  Ultimately, however, it has been my outreach experiences and relationships that have enlivened my surroundings.  After all, actions and not coordinates will determine my place in my society, country, and world.

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