Irish Embassy visit for Study Abroad Student

Wednesday, November 2, 2016
  • Emily DeMaio Irish Embassy
    Emily DeMaio Irish Embassy

Emily DeMaio was a Fall 2015 SNMHS Study Abroad student from Georgetown University.  Recently Emily represented UCD in the Irish Embassy in Washington DC. The Generation Study Abroad Summit took place in Washington DC between the 23rd and 25th of October.  The Irish Embassy and Education in Ireland hosted an evening reception for conference participants. 

Emily DeMaio, Irish Embassy, 24th October 2016 

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. My name is Emily DeMaio, and I am a senior at Georgetown University studying nursing and completing the pre-med requirements. I am honoured to be here tonight to share my experiences of studying abroad in Ireland with you all. But before I jump into my Ireland experience, let me give you a bit of background. 

I am from Woodstock, GA a small town in the Appalachian foothills. While many of my neighbours have never even left the South, I always had the aspiration of studying abroad during my college career. Given that many nursing programs in the United States do not allow students to study abroad during the academic year, I specifically selected Georgetown given that it allowed students to apply to study in Ireland during the Fall of Junior Year. 

Words cannot adequately describe the emotions that rushed through my mind when I opened the email stating that I had been selected to study abroad at University College Dublin. I was quite literally jumping for joy. Almost instantaneously, my desire to learn more about Ireland expanded exponentially. Though I still would not be leaving for another 6 months, I took every opportunity to learn about Irish history and culture as well as speak to anyone who had ever travelled to Ireland. I even started packing my suitcase months before it was time to leave…I just could not contain my excitement for this new chapter in my life.

Despite my excitement, when the day came to board my flight, I was feeling a bit of nervousness. I was arriving 3 days before any of my roommates and would be alone in a city 6,310 kilometres from my hometown where I didn’t know a single person. (And yes, I did in fact research the exact distance!) On the plane, I sat next to a wonderful Irish woman who taught me my first Irish words… “Cead Mile Faite” which translates to a hundred thousand welcomes. With these three words, my nervousness melted away. I soon learned that this hospitality and friendliness was the norm, rather than the exception. The Irish truly are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. As I rode in the taxicab to my house that first day, I eagerly looked out the windows trying to take in every sight that I was seeing. To my surprise, a beautiful rainbow extended over Baggot Street. In that moment, I was filled with a rush of joy and knew Ireland would become my home. 

I put much thought into whether to live on or off campus, and ultimately chose to live off campus. My house was on Stephen’s Lane, just a few blocks away from Merrion Square. By living downtown Dublin, I was in the heart of it all, a short walk to Grafton Street or Aviva stadium and at the centre of all the major bus routes. Given my propensity for exploration, this truly was a perfect fit for me! Since I commuted out of the city to reach UCD, I became quite familiar with Dublin Bus, especially the 39a and 46a routes, though I will admit that I didn’t realize you have to wave down the buses so I stood at the same stop for 30 minutes that first day wondering why it never stopped! 

I immediately got involved in student life at UCD, signing up for orientation events which included touring the Guinness storehouse and a day trip to Kilkenny Castle. After so much anticipation, all of this seemed surreal.  Every morning I woke up in awe, wondering what the day would hold. 

The start of classes was an exciting time. The faculty and staff of the School of Nursing, Midwifery, and Health Systems went above and beyond to ensure that I felt at home. I met with advisors throughout the process, and my professors were always willing to lend me support and assistance. The format of the classes greatly differed from what I was used to back at Georgetown. Whereas I may have four tests a semester in a single class at Georgetown, my UCD courses, or “modules,” heavily depended on the final exam. This difference helped me expand and grow, allowing me to further identify my own unique learning needs in order to adapt and achieve success.

What defined my experience academically, though, was the opportunity to complete clinical rotations in Irish hospitals. I spent 60 hours each at St. John of God Hospital and St. Vincent’s University Hospital. This opportunity forced me to think critically as I compared and contrasted the health care delivery systems of the U.S. and Ireland. Though differences may have existed in the delivery of care, the foundational principles of nursing were identical. The Irish nurses embodied empathy, care, and compassion while providing safe, high quality care to their patients. I greatly enjoyed learning and worked alongside these inspirational nurses!

Outside the classroom, I got involved in UCD’s many extracurricular opportunities. I made the Division I basketball team and had the opportunity to form close connections with my teammates as well as travel for games throughout the Dublin metro area. At the recommendation of a friend who had also studied abroad, I joined the Christian Union. This added another layer of depth and meaning to my study abroad experience. In the Christian Union, I found a group of friends that helped me to reflect, not only on my present study abroad experience, but how it fit into the greater context of my life and my vocational call. I even had the chance to meet students from universities throughout Ireland when I went on our fall retreat to Castledaly Manor in Athlone. I also joined the International Student Society, which gave me the opportunity to go on trips to Glendalough and Causey Farm as well as the opportunity to learn to play camogie! 

Not only did I take advantage of travelling within Ireland, but I also frequented continental Europe many thanks to Ryanair! While some may complain about Ryanair’s service, I found it taught me many life lessons. 1.) Always read the fine print… you surely don’t want to incur those hidden fees! 2.) To reduce the weight of your suitcase, wear as many layers as possible. 3.) Ryanair facilitates the learning of geography: it was always an adventure to pull out a map and decide how we would get from the airport into the heart of the city we were travelling to! Jokes aside, Ireland truly served as a launch pad for the res t of Europe. During my semester abroad, I was able to visit 12 other countries including the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, and France. Being an avid sports fan, many of my weekend trips revolved around athletic competitions. I went to the USA vs Scotland Rugby World Cup Match (I wanted to go watch Ireland play but tickets were much too expensive!), I saw my first Barcelona game at Camp Nou, and I even ran my first marathon along the original marathon route in Greece! 

Though my study abroad experience certainly included moments of immense joy such as going to the U2 Innocence and Experience Tour in Dublin and watching Ireland defeat Germany in the Euro 2016 Qualifier, there were difficulties as well. I attended debates discerning Europe’s role in the Syrian refuge crisis. I mourned with friends as we watched the tragedies in Paris unfold. I attended prayer services at UCD where students came together regardless of faith tradition to stand in solidarity with the people of Paris. With each of these experiences, I was challenged to think more deeply, contemplating my own beliefs and morals and how they fit into the context of the world. In the times defined by anguish and sadness, I learned to still maintain hope for the future.  

My time abroad also taught me to be step outside of my comfort zone and be more independent. I became more resourceful as I devised new ways to problem solve when faced with obstacles such as difficulties with travel logistics. However, the most important lesson I learned is the importance of engaging in dialogue in order to learn the prospective of others and expand my worldview.

I certainly would not be the individual I am today had it not been for my experience of studying abroad in Ireland. I greatly appreciate every individual who made this experience possible for me. I take every opportunity to encourage my peers to do likewise and study abroad in Ireland, inviting them over for Barry’s tea and digestives (yes you can find them in the U.S.) and sharing my experiences with them. Through the hard work and dedication of all of you present today, I hope we will be able to make the dreams of many more students a reality and enable them to study abroad in Ireland.  I look forward to speaking to you all individually as the evening progresses. My photo book from study abroad is on display in the back for those of you that would like to take a look.

Thank you and enjoy the rest of your evening.