Moving Forward

I have officially completed the Dublin International Internship Program at Pitt.

After months of preparation, and two months of participation, it feels surreal to have finished my study abroad program. After being away for two months, it’s difficult to conceptualize the entire experience; I feel like I can only reflect on it parts at a time.

My internship was with a County Councillor in Dún Laoghaire, a suburb of Dublin, which meant I got an inside look into local politics in the area. I went door-to-door dropping pamphlets on voting in the county, edited and wrote sections of pamphlets on housing, local infrastructure, and current events, corresponded with constituents via digital communications, and more. My internship was anything but routine; I did something different almost every day.  

Of all the lessons I learned on this program, the most impactful was that in the professional world, they aren’t always “right” answers, as indicated in my previous blog posts. To recap with an example, my supervisor once asked me how a constituent’s proposal for an affordable housing program was different from the one already in place, and even when we agreed on an answer, we still weren’t sure it was correct. At the time, I wondered how I was supposed to proceed if I wasn’t certain I had the right answer. But as time went on, I realized that if I had thoroughly researched a topic and discovered an answer because of it, I had to be confident in the work I had done. There was no one ready to tell me I had the right answer, no answer key I could check. Instead, I had to commit myself to finding the right answer and then be confident in my abilities in order to accept that answer as correct. This was the best lesson I could have learned through this program, because it taught me not only the skills I need to be successful professionally, but the mentality I must have to use those skills.

On the topic of research producing opinions, I have realized after returning home that the research I completed during this internship, mostly regarding housing, has set me up to be a much more thorough student. I will admit that when I am working on academic assignments, I sometimes fall short of being a rigorous researcher, and instead research only as far as I deem necessary to complete the assignment and get the grade. However, during my internship, my work and research had greater ramifications than my GPA. Whereas normally the goal of my research is to complete the assignment, in my internship, the goal of my research was to inform my supervisor of a topic she needed to know about. It wasn’t just an academic exercise; this research had the potential to affect my supervisor’s political decisions. This realization pushed me to research thoroughly with the goal of understanding the material instead of just producing it. This more complete and purposeful research ethos that I developed through my internship has prepared me to efficiently process information in my future career and finish my degree with more academic focus than I had before. It has reminded me that academics is not just about getting the answer but understanding it.

Looking back on my experience, something I believe I did right was go see places I wanted to even when my friends weren’t available. Taking independent day trips allowed me to visit much more of Dublin that I would have been able to had I always worked around others’ schedules. It also encouraged me to be more independent; I navigated the city on my own and made decisions about how to do so. The time I spent alone on this program reminded me that the person’s company who I must enjoy the most is my own, because that’s who I will ultimately have to spend the most time with. That might sound grim, but I don’t mean it to be. What I’ve learned throughout college, and further during this program, is that growing up is partly a process of learning how to be alone happily.

As I return home, I am still in the process of reflecting on my experiences abroad. It wasn’t always simple, but even the challenges I experienced made me grow as a person, and it is for that reason that I believe they are as valuable as the times I will look back on fondly.

I grew immensely as a professional and an individual as a result of my Pitt Abroad program. I am grateful to the Frederick Honors College and the individuals who allowed me to participate in this program.

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