Exploring Global Experiences in Dublin

Elena Kalodner-Martin is an English major with a Health Sciences minor here at Towson University and will be graduating in Spring 2017. She is originally from Columbia, Maryland. She studied abroad through the Global Experiences Internship Program in Dublin, Ireland during Summer 2016.


Q: What (or who) got you started and how did you choose your program? What would you consider to be the benefits of interning abroad?

This is a funny story: I was dead-set on going to London and the Global Experiences staff told me that they thought Dublin would be a better fit. I had no idea what that meant and had never considered going to Ireland, but I accepted! Through the support of the Study Abroad Office at Towson and GE, I was able to find an internship that combined both my interests in editing and health and ended up in what is now my favorite city in the world. Interning abroad gives you all the experience of having an internship, but adds on the professional development of working in another country. Being immersed in a foreign place’s work culture is a challenging experience that helped me to grow, both personally and in terms of my career experience.

Q: Have your experiences abroad met your expectations? Exceeded them?

FAR exceeded. I’ve always liked to travel and considered myself adventurous, but this experience showed me just how much I really love seeing new places and getting out of my comfort zone. My internship taught me so much and I believe that having a global mindset is one of the most important things to have (especially in our increasingly globalized society). It was a scary, fun, and wonderful summer – I’d do it all over again if I could.

Q: Have your experiences affected your academic and/or career path?

Absolutely. Being able to say that I interned abroad helped me to get accepted into my doctoral program for English. The experiences that I had while abroad, both professionally and personally, have helped me to mature and given me a stronger sense of what it is that I want to study in graduate school and pursue as my career. It’s also helped me decide what  I don’t want to study, and that’s okay, too! It’s all part of the learning.

Q: Many study abroad alumni speak about an “ah ha” moment or a particularly powerful memory. What’s yours?

I was lost, jet-lagged, homesick, and wandering around a new city with no phone and no sense of direction. My friend and I were trying to find a grocery story and nearly in tears from frustration. We asked a random person on the street if he could point us towards one, and not only was he happy to show us the way, he walked us there and then took us out to a pub for dinner! The Irish are known for their friendliness and their love of a good conversation over a Guinness, and this was one of the first times that I felt comfortable in my new city. By the end, I was navigating like a pro – my biggest accomplishment was when a tourist asked me for directions and was shocked by my American accent!

Q: What would you say to students worried / concerned / afraid of studying/interning abroad?

I would say that it’s okay to be worried or scared! I was, too. It’s a big change and it can be stressful, but the payoff is so great. I would encourage people to take the leap, challenge themselves, and get out of their comfort zones. Having the opportunity to see the world and study or intern in a new city is not one to be missed and it will provide so much growth. The world is a wild and beautiful place – go see what it has to offer (and earn some college credit on your way!)

Kalodner-Dublin 4.jpg

Q&A Spotlight: Kelly Coffey

Name: Kelly Coffey
Graduation Year: 2017
Major: Mathematics Major with a concentration in Actuarial Science and Risk Management
Location: Dublin, Ireland
Program: TU Dublin Summer Internship Program

Q: You decided to pursue an internship abroad, how did you choose between studying and interning?

The main reason why I chose to intern abroad rather than study abroad was that I could gain firsthand experience in my intended profession while also gaining a global perspective.  Interning in Dublin would allow me to see what Actuaries do in Ireland compared to the United States.  Also, the professional and educational experiences that I would gain from interning abroad would be beneficial to both my future career and my current education.  I felt that interning would give me a more well-rounded study abroad experience through the professional, educational, and social aspects.

Q: Did your internship meet your expectations in terms of work and office experience?

My internship exceeded my expectations in terms of work and office experience.  I was able to accurately complete tasks that I did not think I would be able to do without sufficient knowledge in the actuarial field.  The employees took time to explain the task and provide me with the knowledge I needed.  I gained an immense amount of knowledge about the actuarial field, business world, and social aspects of Ireland.  This was my first internship and I feel that I learned so much about my intended profession and the country of Ireland at the same time.

Trim Castle

Trim Castle

Q: Did you have any unique, challenging or surprising days on the job?

Some of my most unique, challenging, or surprising days on the job occurred during my first week at my internship.  Most of the difficulties came from trying to adjust to the culture, learning the new words/ phrases, and adapting to the high speed talking. Due to the fast paced talking speed, I had a huge challenge in decoding what the Irish were saying to me.  There were times when I would be in a group of people and they would talk so fast to one another that I was convinced they were speaking another language.  Also, when I was asked to do certain tasks, some of the words that were used were words I had never heard or seen before, so I had to consistently for clarification.

Q: You obviously got to play and travel a bit, too! What was the best part about being based in Dublin?

The best part about being placed in Dublin was that I could easily spend hours wandering around the city always finding a new place or travel anywhere within the country in about 4 to 5 hours max.  There were certain days that my sister and I would go into to Dublin on a weekend afternoon to just explore, wander aimlessly, and somehow always find our way back to an area we recognized.  I also really enjoyed that I could travel so easily from Dublin.  There were airports, train stations, bus stops, and the tram that could take you all around Dublin and throughout the country of Ireland.

Gaelic Football Game

Gaelic Football Game

Q: Will this internship experience contribute to your future career goals? How?

I strongly believe that my internship abroad experience will contribute to my future career goals.  In Dublin, I was an actuarial intern for an insurance company and as a Mathematics major with a concentration in Actuarial Science and Risk Management, my future career goal is to become an actuary.  My internship displayed what actuaries do on a daily basis.  Being able to experience another country’s mathematics industry helped to build my knowledge both professionally and academically which benefits both my future career and current education.  I also made international connections within my intended profession that can help me to further my future career goals.

Q: Feel to add any parting words about your experience as an intern!

Take the opportunity to intern abroad!  You not only learn about the country, but you also learn about your profession in another country.  Being able to intern abroad will give you the benefits of studying abroad while also allowing you to globally broaden your professional connections.


Towson Native Publishes Travel Book on the Rocky Road to Dublin

Name: Anna Snyder
Major: Creative Writing, Susquehanna University, PA
Hometown: Towson, Maryland
Destination: Dublin, Ireland
Institutions: University College Dublin (Undergrad Study Abroad)
National University of Ireland, Galway (Masters)

1. What brought you to Ireland?

Originally it was my dad’s suggestion that I study abroad in Ireland.  He has some Irish heritage and had traveled there before, and I just wanted to study someplace where everybody spoke English.

2. What do you want travelers to learn from your experience in Ireland?

I think the best thing I learned from my experience in Ireland is that traveling can help you open up to new things and express yourself in a way your normal routines don’t allow you to.  When you put yourself in a totally new environment and get out of your comfort zone, it forces you to learn things about yourself that you didn’t know were there.  Ireland has a very spontaneous, outgoing, musical culture, so I was able to develop those aspects of myself in a way that I wouldn’t have if I’d stayed in one place.

4. Did Ireland meet your expectations?

I wasn’t too sure what to expect when I first went to Ireland, so in a way it was all new to me.  One thing that did surprise me was how different the culture was from what I was used to growing up in the United States.  It’s easy to assume that, because they speak English over there, it won’t be too different from living in America.  But that couldn’t be farther from the truth – I traveled in Russia for the summer before I studied in Ireland, and I’d say Ireland is as different from the US as Russia is.  So be prepared for some culture shock when you first arrive.

5. Name one traveler’s mistake that made you laugh. 

There are plenty of differences between American English and Irish English.  They use a lot of the same slang words as the UK does, one of which is the term “fancy dress,” which is their way of describing a costume party.  I found this out on Halloween, when a friend of mine invited me out and told me to “come in fancy dress.”  So of course I came in the fanciest dress I owned, thinking it was going to a formal event, and I showed up to a house filled with people dressed up like Superman, hockey players, and dinosaurs.

6. What advice would you offer to student travelers planning to write about their experience for personal or professional purposes?

The best advice I can give students hoping to write about their travel experiences is to keep a journal as often as you can.  It will come in handy when you’re trying to remember what happened and where you went, and it can serve as a rough draft.  It also helps to collect as many pamphlets, flyers, etc as you can from local landmarks or events, which can be used as resources in your writing later on.  One more thing that comes in handy is to befriend locals – while it can be easier just to fall in with other American exchange students you meet, meeting kids who grew up in the area is the best way to get an insider’s look at what Ireland is really like.  ( And of course, this goes for any other country you want to study in as well.)

Thanks, Anna!

Want to hear more about Anna Snyder’s adventures and her book 24 Hours Dublin?  Interested in doing some of your own travel writing, but have a couple questions first?  Stop by the Towson Ukazoo book store on Dulaney Valley Road.  The date of the Q&A session will be Saturday, April 12, 2014 at 1 PM, and there should be tea and cookies for the event!

Q&A Spotlight: Jonathan Bryson

Name: Jonathan Bryson
Major: Business Administration, ‘13
Hometown: Baltimore, MD
Destination: Dublin, Ireland
Institution: TU Dublin Summer Internship

Q1. How did you decide that Dublin was the right place for you to complete an internship?

I guess you can say Dublin chose me. The Study Abroad office sent an email regarding the Dublin internship and it fit my schedule PERFECTLY. The program fulfilled my remaining undergraduate credits. So I applied. Since I was accepted into the program I did not give much consideration to the other study abroad programs.

Q2. What was your daily workload like as an intern in Dublin? (commute, office hours, etc.)

My typical work week was Monday – Friday from 10 am – 5 pm. There were occasions where I would attend an evening event. This was a chance for me to meet more locals and see other parts of Ireland and England.

My internship was located in city centre. For my hour long lunch break I would often spend it walking around or eating out with coworkers.

I had a 35 minutes bus ride to/from work. It gave me a chance to look out the window and see different parts of Dublin.

As for work, I had one main project and a few side ones. Throughout the week I’d work on them by myself. At the end of each week I reviewed my progress with my supervisor to get feedback and make sure I was on the right track.

Q3. What has been the most rewarding part of interning abroad?

The most rewarding part of interning abroad was being able to help the company where I worked as they plan on expanding their reach in the community. Leading a project provided me the chance to make application of concepts taught at Towson and previous work experience. Since I was in a different cultural environment I remembered that I had to walk easy and try not to make too many assumptions, for things I thought may have been “right” may not have been the best fit in this Irish context.

Q4. And the most challenging part?

I was eager to accomplish as much as possible within my 6 weeks. The challenge that came up was having the occasional speed bump from having to wait for the approval from a supervisor or someone in a different committee. Even though it would have been preferable for this to not happen it was understandable to ensure disseminated information was consistent with the company’s strategy and image.

Q5. Were you able to travel? What are some of the highlights?

Many weekdays after work, I would either hang out with my coworkers or spend time with other Americans students participating in the program. The former showed me more of what people living in Dublin did, while the latter let me do more of the touristy things.

About half of the weekends a few friends traveled outside of the Dublin to places including Belfast, Galway, and London. My five day stay in London was one of the highlights. While there, I rented a bike and rode around so I could see as much as possible.

Another highlight was hearing the personal stories of people living in Ireland. Prior to going to Dublin and while there I learned about the conflicts between Ireland, Northern Ireland, and the U.K. When I spoke to someone with a connection to this history it made the experience so much more meaningful.

Q6. Did your time abroad meet your expectations? Did you feel well prepared from your time at TU?

This was my first time out of the country so I did not set too many expectations. However, I can say I enjoyed my time and I am glad to have participated. My college courses and previous internships prepared me. This was an excellent way to see make application of many of the concepts I learned.

Q7. Any advice for others considering a term abroad?

Do not be overwhelmed in the leading up to your returning home. My last week abroad I was ready to return to America.  I did not want to drag out having to wait to be home. It was that I no longer liked Dublin, but it was a subconscious way of mentally preparing  to leave what had become home for the summer.

Simultaneously, I was worried there might be important things I would miss seeing or doing. As a result I tried to cram as much as possible into my last week.

Not everyone makes the transition the same. Some students, a few weeks prior, were already anticipating their return home. But whatever you do, do not allow the thought of returning home shock you to the extent you do nothing with your remaining time.