Our first week in Ireland has been jam-packed with exploration, experiences, and repeatedly asking the front desk for pots and pans (we finally got them and we’re really excited about it). We toured the University College Dublin campus and had orientation in our first two days here. Orientation was a bit helpful, but ultimately I feel like I have answered most of my own questions by getting out in the city and challenging myself. On Tuesday we did just that, exploring center city and Trinity College campus, stopping at stores along the way to pick up items we may have forgotten to bring. Between jet-lag and being busy I had not yet eaten a real meal, so dinner across the street from the Temple Bar was perhaps the highlight of the night (a close second however was navigating me and my friends back to campus on the bus, victory over public transportation tasted so sweet). Wednesday was for our welcome ceremony. We played Gaelic Games including Gaelic Handball, Football, and Hurling! Hurling was my favorite, I had an assist and a goal but was really just playing field hockey. On Thursday EUSA provided us with a hop-on, hop-off bus tour path and we saw Christ Church Cathedral, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin Castle, the Books of Kell, Trinity College Library, James Joyce Bridge, and the Oscar Wilde Statue. It was a great way to orient ourselves in the city and cross a lot of Dublin must-sees off my list! Friday EUSA took us on a trip to Wicklow County to see the Irish countryside. We visited Powerscourt Gardens and a reservoir in the mountains, then went to Glendalough. The views in the mountains were spectacular. I truly have never seen anything as beautiful as what we saw there. The lush green pastures with fluffy white sheep grazing under blue skies were picturesque. Yesterday Tegan, Valerie, Lucy B, Lucy W, and I visited Belfast. We wandered the streets visiting St. George’s Market, local pubs and restaurants, and the Titanic Museum. The week has me completely worn out, and I am excited to start getting into a routine with the start of my internship next week.
I am working for the local government in South Dublin County as an intern for South Dublin County Councilwoman Emma Murphy. Local government differs from larger government organizations because they often have closer contact with the constituents that they serve. At least in the United States, local governments provide local goods and services to residents in the form of events, ordinances, and direct interaction. Having less people to serve means that the organization can be more targeted in their approach to service. They are typically the first line of the government to hear of a need, and have the ability to act quicker than larger government organizations and implement change faster without the same bureaucratic hoops to jump through. Working in local government requires spending lots of time talking to constituents about their concerns, and trying to solve their problems.
Local government work requires interpersonal communication skills, problem solving skills, and critical thinking skills. Government work for elected officials often involves long hours engaging in constituent relations, or spending time speaking with the people who elected the politician you work for on the phone, via email, or in person. These communications are often personally strenuous. Constituents are regularly facing extremely difficult times, and are coming to the government as the last resort for help. In my experience, they often ramble about their problems, can be irritable, defensive, and lash out. To successfully work with them, I need to be extremely patient. I cannot get defensive or angry in response to their emotions, and have to maintain thick skin so as not to get offended or upset by anything they may say or do.
One element of government work I do not yet have much practical experience in is policy research. The role of the government is to solve problems for the good of the community. Most of this problem solving begins with research into past solutions either within the jurisdiction or abroad. I hope to use my creativity and research abilities to help solve the problems facing South Dublin County.
Along with problem solving skills, critical thinking is required to address and update existing policies. Often, this requires public servants to demonstrate a critical approach to assessing their own work, something that is severely lacking in the United States. While my internship is short, I hope I am given the opportunity to receive feedback on my efforts and make necessary improvements to better the community I am serving.