The days are long, but the time is short. That’s how I would summarize my first two weeks here in Dublin. Right now, it’s the beginning of the third week of my program and I have a heightened awareness of how little time I really have to explore. To put it into perspective, there are about 88 days left in my program. Fewer days than when I started my countdown for arrival.

Sitting with this realization, I’ve realized every moment has a weight. Every moment is an opportunity to get out and explore, to go to museums or sit in parks and observe locals following their routines in places that are extraordinary. And, of course, there is still a “study” in studying abroad. I’m still learning to balance homework and adventure. Perhaps more importantly, every day I learn more about myself.

Classes Three Days A Week…

Last week was the first week of class here in Dublin. Starting that week was an exciting mystery. Yes, we had schedules and had chosen classes before the start of term, but we were also allowed to shop classes or sit in on classes just for fun. We are only in class three days a week, Tuesday through Thursday. Each class is two and a half hours long although our instructors tend to give us a break midway through to stretch our legs. I say ‘instructor’ because, here in Ireland, the term ‘professor’ is only used for the top tier of a university. We are invited to call our instructors by their first names, adding a layer of intimacy and connection into the classroom although we are still held to a high academic standard.

Although I sat in on the first session of Irish Playwriting, I ultimately chose to stick to my original schedule. On Tuesday, I take History of Ireland: 1798-1922 in the afternoon. So far, I’ve spent the morning studying, meal planning, and wandering the many public parks. Even in January, the grass is shockingly green and there are bright yellow clusters of flowers. I’ve yet to find a four-leafed clover, but, then, I’ve only ever found one in my life.

On Wednesday, my day begins bright and early with a 9am short story class called The Shadows We Cast. So far, unsurprisingly, it’s been one of my favorites. In the States, where I can walk across the street, 9am isn’t particularly early. In Dublin, I have a thirty-minute walk from my accommodations to the IES Abroad center. It’s a beautiful walk though, past coffee shops, pubs, the canal. Stepping onto the streets, I join the rush of the morning commute as faint streaks of color paint the sky, fading into a cloudy blue with the wind. After eating a sandwich and relaxing for an hour, I’m ready for my poetry class called The Finest Music. The class is a mixture of lectures and workshops, exploring who we are and the world around us.

And that brings me to Thursday. In the morning, I have an Immersion Writing class called Write Here, Write Now. I’ve never taken a nonfiction class before and I am excited for what this opportunity will bring. The course is a combination of memoir, travel writing, journalism, etc. Finally, in the afternoon, most of my programme congregates in the upstairs classroom for Celtic Myth and Legend. From what I’ve read so far, Irish mythology is fantastic and there are little to no rules when it comes to the magic system which perfectly suits me. It’s made up anyway, after all.

Four Day Weekends Means Travel…

When it comes to travel, so far I’ve only taken a few day trips although I’ve got some really cool plans coming up. Our first weekend here, IES took us to a coastal town called Howth which was absolutely darling and easily accessible by taking the DART from Dublin. While exploring, we came across an old church, just the walls left, standing in the center of a graveyard. Many of the graves were relatively recent, but there was one that particularly struck me. Resting against the ancient, abandoned church, was a cross, split in two. There was something deeply poetic about it, carrying both sadness and hope. Because it’s still there, a testament to the passage of time and the eternal. No matter where I look, I see God, be it in a graveyard or in a rainbow from St. Patrick’s Green.

This weekend, some of my more exciting travel plans begin. I’m going to London with some of my roommates for the weekend. I’ll be checking at least two things off my bucket list– London itself and seeing a show on the West End. We’ve got tickets to see Les Miserables at the Sondheim Theatre, a show I’ve been obsessed with since I was a little girl. The week after that, IES is taking us on a weekend trip to Cork which is about a 3.5-hour drive from Dublin which I’m excited about as well.

Learning, Growing, Becoming

To close out this blog post, I’ve decided to list some of the ways I’ve already grown or experienced that rest outside my comfort zone at home. They’re small things, but they’re important to me, especially as I look to move out of the dorms next year and learn how to live more independently.

  • Slowly, but surely, I’m learning how to cook! My two biggest successes so far are: the French Toast I made Sunday morning–drizzled with honey and dusted with cinnamon– and the Baked Feta with Hasselback Potatoes I made earlier this week. When I tell you I’ve never made anything better, I’m not kidding. Y’all need to try it.
  • I’m learning how to explore on my own! My dependence on Google Maps lessens by the day as I learn to turn by the twinkle lights or the blue building or the random palm trees. Unfortunately, street signs still make no sense to me.
  • I went to the National Museum of Ireland–Archeology after class. This may seem like a natural thing to do while exploring a new city and country, but the key is after class. I’m the kind of person that prioritises academics, so learning for my own pleasure is always impactful. The exhibits were fascinating and the building was incredibly atmospheric. I particularly found the exhibit about the peat bogs fascinating. In the collection, the museum exhibited four bog bodies, something I have wanted to see and learn more about since I read Karen Russell’s The Bog Girl in a creative writing class at Hope.

That’s all for now, friends! Thanks for sticking ’round till the end–I know this was a long one!

Published by Anna Stowe

Class of 2026 IES Abroad - Writer's Program in Dublin, Ireland

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