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Study Abroad in the Emerald Isle

Written by: Annelise Gill-Wiehl

“This is why you go abroad,” Professor Kevin Whelan says into the microphone as he leads 55 students on a Notre Dame trip to Northern Ireland. He continues on to say “you can’t beat taking the temperature and feeling the breeze yourself. You can read about political unrest. You can read about the Troubles. But, there is something different about experiencing it personally.” This mantra could not have been more true as 50 of my classmates and I explored Belfast, Giant’s Causeway, and Derry but more broadly to the entire experience of living and studying abroad. This semester I am studying at Trinity College Dublin. I have been blessed with this opportunity to experience the world through this study abroad program which has both expanded my academic and my personal development.

Academically, I am taking three engineering courses while here at Trinity. In Hydraulics, I am working on a group project with four Irish students. We are designing a water distribution network for a rural town in West Ireland. In the equivalent course to Environmental Groundwater, we are exploring water well and borehole techniques using examples from both rural Ireland where the majority of households are on private wells, to Nigeria, where my Trinity professor has worked. In my technical elective, Energy in the 21st Century, I am exploring the mechanisms behind renewables. Specifically, we are discussing wind power on the Western Coast of the Emerald Isle.This semester has been defined by growth inside and outside of the classroom. I work diligently on my open channel flow problems and in between classes I walk along the River Liffey where the open channel splits Dublin’s socio-economic classes. 

On Wednesdays, I participate in the Community Based Learning Program through the Center for Social Concerns where I work at St. Enda’s. St. Enda’s is a primary school serving an underprivileged population. I work with two classrooms of ages around 6 and 12. Dublin has a large immigrant population and many of the children come from diverse backgrounds. It provides an invaluable time to engage with students from differing areas and from another side of Dublin.

Personally, this is my first time living in the heart of the city. I live on campus in Trinity’s Front Square, which is in the heart of the Dublin City Centre. It is my first time cooking for myself, which I am learning is time-consuming and comes with a learning curve. The Notre Dame Global Gateway Center at O’Connell House has been an amazing resource and support system during my time here. I have dinner and classes Monday and Tuesday nights at the Notre Dame center. It is a great time to catch up with the other Notre Dame students who are abroad here in Dublin. In my engineering classes, I am the only American, and I live with two Irish girls. This has provided a lovely balance between spending time with new Notre Dame friends and also engaging with Irish students.

Overall, studying abroad has been profoundly impactful on both my academic and personal development. I have truly valued my time thus far in Dublin and at Trinity.

Annelise Gill-Wiehl is a junior studying Environmental Engineering and International Development at the University of Notre Dame.