My Second Home…in case Donald Trump deports all Muslims

It is hard to believe that my time in Ireland is coming to an end. I began my journey with frustration due to lost luggage, weather delays, and other airport issues. Ultimately, I arrived two days late with a massive headache to show for it. Looking back on my year in Ireland, I would take that trip a million times over without any regret.

Over this past year, I’ve come to appreciate why Maynooth is Ireland’s fastest growing university with over 8,500 students. In particular, there is a major commitment towards international students both academically and personally. In recognition of this commitment, Maynooth students reported the highest satisfaction with their international study experience based on the 2015 StudyPortals International Student Satisfaction Awards. Indeed, my Irish experience would not have been complete without the Irish and international friends I’ve made in Maynooth and across Ireland.

As I highlighted in my past blog entry, I’ve traveled to many destinations with different groups of friends exploring historic sites, tourist destinations, restaurant and even the lovely scenery.

A recent photo of beautiful Irish scenery!

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One of my most recent trips was to the Dublin Zoo. I waited until the weather was perfect, optimizing the type of animals and exhibits.

The zoo boast being one of the world’s oldest and most popular zoos, stretching 69 acres of Phoenix Park. The zoo is further divided into areas and provides a very enjoyable trail filled with animals from around the world.

My favorite exhibit by far was the red panda! This endangered species found a spot in my heart!

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Beyond traveling to places, I’ve also made it my mission to try a different restaurant everyday. Although my wallet has seen better days, I don’t regret this goal. Dublin is filled with cuisine from around the world, and I’m constantly surprised by the flavors and service. I also enjoy the variety of styles, from fancy sit-down restaurants to food on the go. Last weekend I visited El Bahia, a Moroccan food restaurant and the award winning HopHouse Kimchi, a Korean/Japanese fusion restaurant. At El Bahia, I experienced cow tongue for the first time, among other delicacies. At HopHouse Kimchi, I tried their famous salmon bibimbap. I originally was hesitant to try new foods, but my exploration of Dublin has exposed me to different cultures and allowed me to develop my palate!

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My time in Ireland is not all fun and games. My mornings and nights are typically consumed working on projects both academic and personal. For example, it has been an exciting time for Symmetry Therapeutics, a company I co-founded developing novel antiobesity therapeutics. We were recently awarded $300,000 and are looking to continue to raise more money to take our drug to market. I also spend a lot of time meeting other entrepreneurs in the Dublin area. One of the most inspirational has been a Mary Moloney, CEO of CoderDojo, advocate for women, and a mentor to my younger sisters and their organization CoderDojoAnvil.

Beyond my entrepreneurial activities, I’m keeping up with my academic program. The Immunology and Global Health program is a unique combination of science and humanities. I’ve enjoyed my courses, instructors, and topics. However, I’m a little disappointed with the Irish grading system. At Maynooth, we have 40% as the cut-off for passing, as opposed to the traditional 70% passing in America. While theoretically sounding easier, it actually makes it hard to receive high grades in classes because instructors are trying to use the 40% as the baseline for the curve. In addition, all our exams are essay based. The philosophy taught in my department is to write as much as you know about a topic to receive points, as opposed to what I’ve learned in America which is to focus on answering the question and keeping the answer concise. Regardless, I’m trying to make the best out of the situation and scoring well in my courses compared to my peers. Speaking of peers, I had a fellow student make this wonderful artistic representation of me! I’m not sure what to make of it, but I believe she captured my wardrobe quite well, as I typically run off to the gym after a day of classes in my track suit.

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The majority of my academic life is now being consumed with my thesis research. This involves many hours of literature review, work in the lab, and close communication with my principal investigator. My goal is to complete my research by the end of the summer and fly back to America by August. Fingers crossed my trip back is not as eventful as the journey to get here. I’m already getting a little sad, but I know this wont be the last time I’m in Ireland. In fact, I’m already looking for opportunities that will bring me back. This year has been an amazing experience, and I’m comfortable with calling Ireland my second home. Most importantly, I hope I’ve convinced at least a few people that not all Americans are like Donald Trump.

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