Name: Janet Lee
Major: Integrative Biology
Minor: Computer Science
Location: Ireland – University College Dublin
Program: Berkeley Global Internships
Why did you study abroad?
I love experiencing new cultures, visiting different places, and meeting people from around the world! All my life I have grown up with an international background and an appreciation for foreign cultures since my parents are immigrants from China. In addition to learning more about my homeland, my family's culture, and how to integrate that into my "All-American" life, I discovered a passion to learn more about other places and people around the world. Over time, I also found that I love to share these experiences with others and now have friends all over the world who share my passion of travel and culture. I have a particular interest in the British/UK and Irish cultures and am an "anglophile," a lover of British culture. I have spent time studying at both Oxford, England and Dublin, Ireland during my experiences abroad.
What impact did studying abroad have on you?
My study abroad program was the Global Internship Program, which meant that I was not only studying abroad with an Irish culture class, but I was also working full-time as an intern almost every day. For me, the biggest impact of my experience was that I was getting an international working experience and was experiencing my workplace as an Irish medical student would. My internship was at the Wellington Eye Clinic in Dublin, Ireland, where I learned how the Irish health care system works, how a medical clinic is run, and how to actually test and scan patients' eyes when they came in for their appointments. In addition to being immersed in and educated about a completely different culture and lifestyle, I was learning about my future profession from an international point of view. It was great and important for me to understand how a universal profession, medicine, is treated differently outside of my own country.
What was the most memorable/meaningful aspect of your time abroad?
The most memorable and meaningful aspect of my experience was the friends and connections I made abroad. I met so many new Irish friends and aquaintances that I will never forget or lose touch with. I also grew close with my colleagues at work and have made not only friends, but also professional connections with them that I can use as future references. In addition, I made even more friends from Cal because we all did the program together, and the best part is that we never had to say goodbye to each other! We still see each other all the time and are closer than ever. The other part I thought was most meaningful for me was that my internship at the eye clinic was my first actual experience in the career field I was working in. As a result of my work experience, I am more determined than ever to become a doctor and am very interested in continuing in ophthalmology (eye medicine).
Describe a typical day for you abroad.
Through my program, I would go to work from 9am-4pm every Monday through Thursday. The Dublin Bus and public transportation system is very accessible and easy to navigate once you situate yourself. On Friday mornings I would take an Irish history, culture, and literature course with local professors at the University College Dublin and my fellow Berkeley program mates. Then on Friday afternoons our professors and program leader would take us on excursions and trips around the city. Weekends were free for us to travel and sightsee around Dublin or Ireland or Europe. Throughout the entire week we would also work on a companion online course (ISF 187) that is designed for students working with an internship in the Global Internship Program.
Describe your academic experience abroad.
For my academic portion of my program, I was required to take an Irish culture class and a companion online course designed for my internship experience. Our Irish culture class was a seminar course taught by two University College Dublin (UCD) professors with PhD's in Irish history and literature. We covered basic Irish history that dated from before the Viking invasions to the current effects of Irish independence. We also focused on prominent Irish texts and writers, such as Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, Dubliners by James Joyce, and poems by Willam Butler Yeats, which then culminated in a final paper. Overall, it was a fantastic course that gives you a basic understanding of Ireland, its past, and its people. It definitely helps you understand and comprehend the Irish culture and traditions that are everywhere in Dublin today. The online course focused on your (first) experience in an internship with a company or organization and taught you how to view and understand your workplace from different points of view. It also gave us great tips, advice, and practice in preparing for future job applications and networking. It was graded by weekly assignments, journal responses, discussion posts, and a final summary and project.
What was the most interesting cultural experience you had abroad?
The Irish have a huge background and a rich history that is very complex and interesting. The most interesting cultural experience I had in Ireland was when I met some local Irish students who were studying and majoring in the Irish language and history itself. I was able to learn first hand about the Irish languange, how it was spoken in different parts of the country, and about Irish pride amongst native Irish people. Instead of just learning about the culture in the classroom, I was able to go out and experience and see what that culture really meant and how it worked amongst the local people my own age. During my time spent with my new friends, I visited traditional Irish music shows where they actually got up and sang with the local artists in Gaeilge (Irish). Everyone sang along and knew the traditional songs and ballads and danced with each other. It was a fantastic experience and I felt like I was truly Irish for the night!
What financial advice would you give to future study abroad students?
For the Global Internship Program there is a scholarship available to students who apply. If you have Financial Aid through Berkeley, it also transfers over to this summer program. If you are really ambitious, you can on your own try simple ways to fundraise, such as asking relatives or selling homemade goods.
What was the biggest challenge/concern of your study abroad experience? How did you respond?
The biggest challenge for me was that I had no idea what to expect from Dublin or from my Internship. I knew the Irish culture was completely different from any that I had experienced before and was curious about the culture shock I would get when I arrived. I was also apprehensive about my internship because I had never worked in health care before and was worried that it would prove that I was not cut out for a medical profession. What I ended up doing was treating this lack of expectation and knowledge with an open attitude and with excitement rather than fear or nervousness. I learned what I could about Dublin and Ireland from my pre-departure orientations and my peers and researched the eye clinic I was supposed to work at in advance. I also contacted other participants from my program through Facebook and was able to make travel plans with them so that we could arrive together and meet up in Ireland. Eventually, as I adjusted to the time zone and location, I began to pick up very quickly on the local culture and began learning about my internship from my coworkers, who trained me from scratch.
What would you recommend to students considering studying abroad, especially to your country and program?
I recommend… Good winter and rain clothes!!! Even in the summer, Ireland is very rainy and can be chilly, so much so that it is a topic the locals love to joke about. But when it comes to studying in Ireland and having an internship there, the best thing to do is to go in without too many expectations or mindsets because everything you think you know about Ireland and the Irish is very basic and stereotypical, so get ready for some culture shock and re-education! For your internship, you are placed as best as you can into your field of choice, but be prepared to work somewhere you were not expecting. But Ireland really is an amazing country with so much to share.
Anything else you would like to share about your international experience?
Even if you do not end up studying in Ireland, I would definitely recommend visiting it at least once in your life. Ireland is such a beautiful, magical, and green (literally and figuratively) country with so many treasures and experiences. I spent my weekends touring Ireland and it has more beautiful places (in one, tiny country!) than I have ever seen before in my life. The local life is also amazing and Dublin is a great place to have fun or "craic" as it's said there.