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Olivia Porter

About My Study Abroad Program

Major/Minor: Global Studies/ Public Policy
Program: University College Dublin
Location: Dublin, Ireland
Term: Spring 2019


Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you select your program?
Being a Global Studies Major, I felt as if I would be doing myself an injustice by choosing to stay in North Carolina and study my area of concentration from the comfort of UNC. I knew that to get the most out of my major and the resources it had to offer, I had to push myself out of my comfort zone and begin exploring options for being able to study abroad. I chose my study abroad program by narrowing it down to Western Europe since this is the area I had been studying since my first year at UNC. From there, I began researching programs that would give me access to a big city while still feeling like I had my own bubble of a college campus. After meeting with Ben Briggs, a UNC study abroad advisor, I knew that University College Dublin would be a good fit for me since it checked off everything I wanted in a study abroad experience.


What did you learn about yourself?
I learned that I am my own person capable of figuring things out for myself. While this may sound obvious, being an identical twin has offered me a crutch I leaned on heavily here during my first two years at Carolina. While I love always having someone I can turn to for support, living in the same building with my sister and having the same friend group didn’t necessarily offer me an opportunity to really be my own person. Going abroad and essentially starting over with a whole new friend group provided me an outlet to be my own person and not have people call me “twin” simply because they can’t tell the difference between me and my sister. Furthermore, when I faced challenges like only having 20 minutes to get through the Milan airport for example, I couldn’t “divide and conquer” as I was so used to doing in the past. The only person getting myself on my flight back home was myself and I did just that. After accomplishing these challenges on my own, I became much more confident in my travels and much more confident in my ability to connect with and befriend new people.


What is one of your favorite memories from your program?
One of the first weeks in Dublin, I was roped into joining a Game of Thrones tour that took place in Northern Ireland. While I was not finished with the season, I had seen enough to know the main characters and the general plot of the first few seasons. This ended up being one of the best tours I would go on during my time abroad. We were able to walk through the forest (Tollymore forest) where many of the nature scenes in the first season were filmed, and we also toured several castle ruins which were used as Winterfell. Our tour guide had even been an extra in the show, and was able to tell us what it was like to shoot such a major TV series. According to him, the best decision he could have made for himself was to grow a beard. At the end of the tour, we were all given cloaks and swords and were able to pose for pictures at old church ruins which was where Inch Abbey was filmed. While this was the nerdiest thing I’ve probably done, I had so much fun running around in those musty cloaks with other fans of the show. Once we came back from the tour, my friends and I watched the episodes that were filmed where we had visited and we were even able to spot our tour guide in some of the scenes. Even if you haven’t seen the show, I would absolutely recommend doing this tour just to see the real dogs that were used as Direwolves in the series.


What advice do you have for future study abroad students?
Get out of your room! In places like Ireland where it does rain a good amount, it’s easy to want to stay in your room. Even if it’s not raining, there may be times where you feel like you’re hitting a wall and you start secluding yourself. If you can just try get out of your room and throw on a rain jacket, go explore! Even if it’s just going to the city and seeing some museums or going to a coffee shop and doing some journaling, you’ll hopefully be able to get out of your funk and see some really cool things you wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Joining clubs is also a good way to participate in more organized events that can give you an opportunity to meet more people. I was talked into joining an ultimate Frisbee team by some very persistent Irish players despite never having thrown a Frisbee in my life. By joining, I was able to meet some of the most genuine people I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting and I even played in a few tournaments.


Would you do it again?
Absolutely. My international roommates and I were already planning a reunion trip before we had even left Ireland.


How were your classes abroad different than if you would have taken them at UNC?
The classes at UCD were designed to be much more hands off compared to classes at UNC. Most professors lecture and do not provide instructions for homework, thus leaving you to review the material on your own time at your own speed. Most classes also were weighted much more heavily towards final exams. For me, this meant that the entire semester seemed like a breeze up until the last few weeks which is when students begin packing themselves into the on campus coffee shops and filling up every nook and cranny in the library to study. If you’re more proactive and like to review the material as you learn it then, this set up should not be a problem for you. Many of my classes were also set up in a way in which it favored guest lecturers with first hand experience. For one of my classes, the actual professor for a Sustainable Development Goals class did not lecture once and instead brought in a new lecturer every week from different organizations such as the UN to provide real life insight into what it would be like to provide humanitarian relief in countries such as Greece. With Ireland being in Europe, these professors had many connections to major organizations based there which was something I felt was lacking in some of my classes at UNC. Additionally, one of my favorite parts of my classes were all the coffee breaks that were provided which was something I greatly appreciated (the Irish really love their coffee).