After I made the decision to study abroad, my college required that I attend an orientation session detailing what to expect going forward. As part of this orientation, the study abroad staff invited ambassadors, students who formerly studied abroad and returned gushing about their experience, to speak to us about the many ups and downs of spending a semester in another country. One of these ambassadors, a history major who studied in Rome, managed to open my eyes to all that I had to look forward to. “My favorite part of studying abroad,” he said, “was watching the things I had read about in my textbooks come to life.”
As an English major, you might be able to guess that I read a lot, and before even coming to Ireland, I fell in love with the works of James Joyce, who is perhaps the most famous Irish author of all time. Thankfully, Ireland is every Joyce fanatic’s dream. Just in the past week, I’ve traced the steps of Leopold Bloom of Joyce’s novel Ulysses, and I’ve stood in the exact spot where the novel begins: a Martello tower in Dalkey, now a museum with artifacts from the author’s life and first editions of his novels. I’ve lingered outside the building where Joyce met his wife, Nora Barnacle, a relationship that I once wrote a term paper on. I’ve visited Sweny’s Pharmacy, a location also visited in Ulysses, and purchased the same lemon soap that Leopold Bloom buys in the novel. While there, a man invited me to return for group readings of Joyce’s works, to be with people like myself who relish in the city’s deep literary history.
The literary opportunities in this city stretch beyond just Joyce, as well. The Dublin Writers Museum proves that Ireland has produced many renowned authors: Samuel Beckett, W. B. Yeats, Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift, and Bram Stoker, among others. You can walk the grounds of Trinity College, where many of these authors studied. I’ve done so several times, hoping that walking in their footsteps will bring me some surge of inspiration. You can attend events like readings of famous works, productions of plays, or even literary pub crawls that bring you to locations frequented by these authors. Dublin also has no shortage of grand libraries and quaint bookshops, for those like me who prefer to study or write in the comforting presence of walls and walls of books. My point is, like the ambassador from my school, Dublin has provided me with the opportunity to see what I read and study come to life.
These examples pertain specifically to me; through the Writer’s Program here in Dublin, I have the unique opportunity to not only live through the literary history of the city but also pursue my passion at the same time. But this opportunity is not exclusive to the Writer’s Program. IES Abroad offers several programs like mine that pertain to specific fields, programs for business, health, engineering, languages, theater, and beyond. Studying abroad provides the opportunity to not only learn but practice. Through these programs, you get to see the way your work can impact the world around you and immerse yourself in your passion. Placing yourself into a new environment somehow breeds a sense of focus and drive that is unparalleled. After all, everywhere you step has a history, created by people who are passionate about the same things as you. Inspiration is everywhere.