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Weekly Blogs

Due to COVID19, my study abroad program was suspended & all students are returned back to the US. As a result, I will be updating this blog on a bi-weekly basis.

April 20, 2020

Program Suspension

It has been a little over two weeks since I left Griffith College. On March 12, the CAPA Dublin staff had a meeting with all of the CAPA students. They informed us that our program was being suspended and that we are to return home to the US as soon as possible. What this meant was that the in-country portion of our program was over and we were to finish up classes online. Thankfully, Griffith College was already in the process of transitioning students to online classes because across Ireland, all colleges and universities were required by the Irish government to move to remote learning.  As such, going back to the US and finishing up our semester online was made a bit easier and there was less of a disruption. Luckily, Griffith College has a large population of international students so they had asked all the instructors to record their lectures so students who can’t attend classes live due to time zone differences can watch the recorded lectures. This has been helpful because some of my classes would’ve started at 5 am EST! 

Looking back on March 12, even though all of us were sad and heartbroken that our time abroad was cut short, I am glad that all of us are safely back home. With the situation only escalating and there are more travel restrictions put into place by both the US and Ireland, I am relieved CAPA acted quickly and prioritized our safety. Thankfully, I was able to make it back home before Ireland was added to the list of European countries with travel advisories. I am glad to have avoided the chaos the travel ban caused because I saw people being held up at customs for hours because they were coming from countries that were a part of that ban. 

Despite this abrupt parting from Ireland, I am happy to have gotten to learn about and explore Dublin and meet a wide range of people. I was able to build relationships that I know will continue after this semester. 

April 6, 2020

 Thoughts on the Current Events  

We are going through a transformative period. Things feel scary and the future is uncertain. Two weeks ago I was waking up at 7 am to get ready for my 9 am classes at Griffith College. Today, I am entering my 10th day of quarantine. Life has changed in the blink of the eye. I want to use this platform that I have been given as a CAPA Vlogger & Blogger to give space to the feelings we all are experiencing right now. It is okay to feel frustrated, angry and uncertain. However, don’t let these negative emotions control you. It is also important to remember the things we can be grateful for. Here are three things I am grateful for. I am grateful for the fact that I will still be able to get credit for all my classes. I am grateful that Griffith College is asking all professors to film their lectures to accommodate students like myself, who have returned home- thank goodness because I did not want to wake up at 5 am EST to attend 9 am classes in Ireland. I am also grateful that I have a home to quarantine in and food to eat. As individuals, we can do our part to shift the way we feel about this situation and work to be a part of the solution, be it through self quarantining, supporting local businesses or donating when possible. All our feelings are valid. We can’t control what has already happened but we can change the trajectory of the future. 

COVID19 is also asking us to examine the American system. Coming back to the US and to the reality of a country that does not have universal healthcare (like Ireland does) makes me reflect, as a political science student, of the brokenness of our system. COVID19 is highlighting the issues that have always existed but we have ignored, year by year. COVID19 is highlighting the needs of our most vulnerable populations in ways that I hope we won’t ignore once this passes. It is asking us to think about what it means when hourly workers are forced to work without paid sick leave and how our medical system is only accessible to those who can pay. It is asking us to hold our government accountable for the wellbeing of all its people rather than the wealthiest.  

And frankly, COVID19 is also highlighting how deeply rooted racism is in our country. As an Asian American, it is deeply heartbreaking and scary to see the increase in xenophobia and violence against the Asian/Asian American community. The sinophobic rhetoric results in hate crimes being committed against innocent Americans. Scapegoating an entire community of innocent people is not the solution to a public health crisis. Fear-mongering is also not a solution. There is much kindness being shown for each other as a result of COVID19- examples of people leaving out food and supplies for delivery people and communities starting food drives- and I hope that people begin standing up with the Asian American community in calling out these racist incidents and condemn this violence. This is the time to be an ally for the most marginalized in our communities and to remember each other’s humanity.

March 30, 2020

What I Learned at My Internship

I greatly enjoyed my time at One in Four and learned a lot about the way a small nonprofit is run in Ireland. Although I never got the chance to write down my goals for Dublin since I arrived at the program late, I nevertheless got a lot out of this internship. One of my goals for interning abroad was to be able to network with professionals from a different country to learn more about workplace culture in a non-US context. I also hope to connect with diverse groups of people. In both aspects, I think One in Four fulfilled that for me. I had the opportunity to research different fundraising opportunities for the organization. I learned about what “bag packs” were and compiled a list of grocery stores in Ireland (the M&S and Dunnes) and their contacts so One in
Four can reach out to them later to schedule the bag packing events. I also called local businesses to ask for donations for events like the Pub Quiz. As such, I got the opportunity to also talk to different community members about the work One in Four does and there have been multiple times in which I was able to have a genuine conversation with people on the phone. This internship also taught me to value a positive work environment and to focus on the importance of human connections. Because in the US, the work oftentimes is prioritized over the workers, hence it was a huge mental shift for me to remember to check in on my coworkers and to ask
about how they are. This is a cultural change that I enjoyed because it made the office feel more like a team. Unfortunately, the suspension of the Dublin program results in the internship part being suspended as well. Despite that, I know I would’ve learned a lot more had I stayed for the whole time. I appreciate the opportunity to get to know everyone at One in Four and I know the skills I gained will transfer to my future career goals.

March 20, 2020

Internship Class Reflection

A common theme presented in the internship class is the importance of cultural understanding and adaptability and incorporating these aspects into the way we, as American students, understand the world and present ourselves both professionally and personally. In the internship orientation class, Darren (our professor) presents us the idea of cultural landmines. He reminds us that in Ireland, “there is a particular work culture” and that because of these invisible landmines, it is “easy to, without meaning to, to cause slight offense”. To help us understand what cultural differences mean, Darren guides students in an exercise to explore how societal influences impact the way we view norms. He asked us to draw what we think a high school classroom should look like and then to draw a  corporate boardroom. In the depiction of a high school classroom, students drew a row of desks and with a teacher at the front. In the case of the boardroom, students drew a round table with chairs around it. As such, we begin a conversation regarding how the way we position ourselves in a hierarchical order, or not, indicates the values of a culture. It is a reminder that actions are only the tip of the iceberg and it is important to examine what it signifies and how we culturally got to this point that these actions become norms. This ties to our internships because it is important for us as Americans, to go into the Irish workplace and pay attention to these cultural differences so we can better adapt to situations and avoid causing offense. It is important as global citizens for us to check ourselves when we are experiencing cognitive dissonance and to not assume our world view is the norm. This is highlighted by the exercise we did in class in which Darren showed us a world map that was flipped “upside down”. As Darren pointed out, there is actually no correct way that the world, as a globe, is supposed to go in, but because of the heightened influence of the west, we normalized the eurocentric view of the world. 

March 9, 2020

Studying Abroad During COVID19

This semester has been very hectic due to the COVID19. Each day we hear more and more updates regarding the virus and with the situation rapidly changing, it is putting many study abroad programs in jeopardy. Although it has been a wonderful experience so far being abroad and I have learned so much in Ireland, it’s been very frustrating and confusing navigating travel decision during this time. My study abroad program, CAPA, sent us all an email this past week recommending that we do not travel because if we happen to contract the virus while we are traveling we would have to self quarantine outside of the dorms and we would need to pay for it ourselves. As such, it feels like we are very limited on what we can do and there is this underlying fear that controls our decisions. It is also worrisome because being far from home, I am also concerned about how my family is doing and not being able to be there to support them especially since I come from an immigrant family. Being Asian American, I am glad that I am away from the US since I have also been hearing reports about different racist incidents arising due to the fear over the virus. Thankfully, I had not encountered anything in Ireland so far. Unexpected things happen while you are abroad, but the last thing I expected was having to navigate a public health crisis. Nevertheless, I am taking things as they come because this situation is teaching me how important it is to be flexible.

March 2, 2020

International Students at Griffith College

At the Rock of Cashel

Last weekend I went on a field trip that was organized by Griffith College. They took us to see things like the Blarney Castle, Rock of Cashel and places like Cork and Killarney. On the trip, I got a chance to talk to some of the staff and learn more about the way Griffith College was run. Educationally, I had found Griffith to be less structured than what I was used to in the US. For example, there were a lot fewer assignments and we did not even have a midterm. Also, I was surprised by the fact that there were not a lot of Irish students on campus, rather it was mostly foreign students. The staff told me that this was the result of the recession because, in Ireland, the government did not offer things like financial aid and scholarships. So even though most colleges are public universities, people still can’t afford it. Griffith is also different in the sense that it is a private college. Because of the recession, Griffith began to target the foreign market for students. As a result, Griffith has a really large population of students from around Europe, Asia and Africa. As such, the college puts a lot of emphasis on supporting foreign students and organizing events and trips for them.

February 24, 2020

Cultural Differences in Ireland

One in Four, the nonprofit org that I am interning at

Something fascinating to me is learning about the cultural differences that exist between the US and Ireland. Since Ireland is a western nation, I had thought that the culture would be very similar to the US especially since there is a large population of Irish Americans in the US. I learned through my internship class that in Ireland, the way people operate here is very indirect. For example, a supervisor might ask if you might be able to do a task for them. In America, we would take that as the task being not urgent and can be done whenever we have free time. In Ireland, they mean that they would like the task completed ASAP. Additionally, people here are very polite and always asking if something “suits you” as in, if you are okay with it. Additionally, the culture here is very much relationship-centered so things like email etiquette and office etiquette focus on asking how people are doing and checking in on a personal level. This is very different in the US where everything is much more task and goal-oriented. I learned that the reason why the Irish culture emphasizes indirectness and politeness is that they were ruled by the British for so long as a colony that the people despised how rude and demanding the English were to them. As such, it became a cultural norm to be the opposite of how the English rulers were. Rudeness here is seen as something way worse than how Americans see rudeness. As such, being in Ireland changed the way I saw professionalism and I had to learn how to be more people-centered. It taught me to be more aware of how I email my Irish colleagues because I want to make sure that I always start my email with proper greetings and ask about how they are. In the office, I make sure that before I ask what work they have for me, I always ask about how their weekend was or how their day is going. There must be a small talk before diving directly into the work.

February 17, 2020

Streets of Dublin

Interning in Dublin

This Wednesday I met my internship supervisors and ran through the work I will be doing this semester. I will be interning at a nonprofit (or “charity” as they call it here in Ireland) called One in Four. One in Four is an organization that helps survivors of childhood sexual violence. The organization was founded by someone who had been sexually abused by a clergyman. The history of the organization’s founding points to an interesting point in Ireland’s history. Because of how Catholic this country is and how much control the Church used to have on the State, clergymen and other religious figures can abuse their power and position. It also reflects the greater conversation the religious world is having right now regarding how to hold religious leaders accountable for their transgressions and abuse of children. The staff also told there is a shift in the organization’s work because more of their clients now are dealing with sexual abuse within their homes. The organization provides a wide array of services including counseling, advocacy support and they also help people take legal actions against their perpetrators. I will be working in the finance department and help with fundraising and planning of a summer fundraiser they are hosting. I think I will get a lot from this internship because it will allow me to learn about the best practices in running nonprofits as well as experience the work culture of a different country. Additionally, I know that I will be supporting an important cause.

February 10, 2020

Sun Rising on Plane to Ireland

Dealing With Unexpected Changes

Going abroad teaches you to be adaptable and to always expect the unexpected. Originally, I was supposed to go to the CAPA Shanghai program. We already had our program calls with the CAPA staff and I already started planning out what to bring to China. That all changed when news broke Chinese New Year’s day that there was an outbreak of a virus known as a novel coronavirus (nCoV). According to the World Health Organization, “Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV)” (WHO). Because of this, the US had initially issued a level 2 travel advisory warning. We were initially told that the program date will just be pushed back. However, a few days later, the US changed the travel advisory to level 2 to level 3 and then by Jan 30, they changed it to level 4, which is the highest level and warned against all travel to China. My school, UMass Amherst, also canceled all programs going into China. As such, CAPA also canceled the Shanghai program. The staff worked with us to find different alternatives. We were given the choice to defer, return to school or to go on a different program. That is how I ended up going to Dublin, Ireland.

In the chaos of figuring out what to do with my semester (which ended up working out), I am reminded of my reasons for wanting to go abroad in the first place. Traveling and meeting different people is suppose to teach us about accepting each other for our differences. However, the outbreak of the coronavirus in China caused an outbreak of xenophobia and racism in the US, a disease that truly has no medical cure. It breaks my heart as an Asian American, to see the horrible things people are saying about the Chinese and blaming the virus on them. Instead of showing compassion to a country in need, people are reacting with anger and fear- which translates to violence against anyone that looks Asian in the US. Ironically, the flu is more of a threat to Americans than the coronavirus will ever be. This flu season already has killed over 10,000 people in the US. In a time like this, we should be rallying around to find a cure and provide help, rather than succumbing to primitive finger-pointing. I am reminded of the exhaustion of being a person of color in the US and having to constantly educate people on why they should not be racist. When we meet different people and see them and hear them, that is how stereotypes can be broken down and we can be kinder as people. Although I never thought I would end up in Ireland, here I am now. And I am excited about the opportunity to expand my knowledge of the world and to see the world from a different perspective.

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