How Being Open Minded Abroad Gives You the Most Opportunity

Apr 17, 2017 8:30:00 AM / by Julie Ritz

A CAPA Alumna Interview: Taylor McAllister

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Tour of the Powerscourt Estate in County Wicklow

Meet Taylor McAllister, a psychology major at Clark University who studied abroad in Dublin in fall 2016. Below, Taylor talks about taking classes in Dublin that connected her to the city and its history, how her internship led her to find the right fit for her future university studies and career, and how being abroad during a time of big change back home (for her- the 2016 election) can give you different insight on the situation.

CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi! My name is Taylor and I studied abroad with CAPA in Dublin, Ireland for the fall semester of 2016. I am currently a junior at Clark University in Massachusetts and I am studying psychology and education. After graduation, I am hoping to attend grad school and receive a degree in school psychology. My favorite thing to do outside of the classroom is dance; I have been dancing ever since I was three years old and I am one of the co-directors of Clark’s Dance Society group on campus.

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CW: Why did you choose the CAPA program and why Dublin specifically? What was important to you when making a decision about your program?
I always knew that I wanted to have the opportunity to study abroad, so I had saved up money all throughout college to fulfill my dreams of travel. When it came time to select where I wanted to go, for me it was an easy decision. I have always wanted to visit Ireland because it is where my family comes from and where some of my family still lives, a few of whom I had never met. I had always known it had to be Ireland, but I also wanted to be in a busy city when I was abroad; somewhere with lots of young people and fun things to do. Dublin became the obvious choice and the perfect fit for me. It's a surprisingly busy city that blends the old and the new in an exciting and beautiful way. In terms of which program I chose, I knew I wanted an internship component in order to get international work experience. CAPA was one of the only programs I found that fit my needs as a student in terms of academic opportunities and an internship.

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CW: Talk about academics abroad: Which classes did you take in Dublin? How were you able to connect your experience of the city itself and your academics?
TM: During my time abroad, I decided to take a step away from my major in terms of academic courses and focus on studying the country I was in order to completely immerse myself. I decided to take three CAPA courses that were: Irish Language and Culture, Exploring the Global City Dublin, and 6-credit International Internship. Additionally, I took one course provided by Griffith College entitled Irish History in Culture. Connecting my courses to life in the city was seamless- Irish language is all around the city and it was fun to learn new words and phrases.

Something interesting I learned is that only a small portion of the population can actually speak Irish so it was fun to ask around and meet people who could or couldn’t. The global cities class involved actively walking and exploring the city, which was a great way to pay attention to small historical, architectural, and cultural details that you may not have noticed on your own. My history course provided me with the background of Dublin as well as the history of Ireland itself, most of which was new to me as an American student. My internship provided me with the opportunity to work and directly immerse myself in Irish culture, which was by far the highlight of my time abroad.

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CW: Tell us a bit about your internship in Dublin, your expectations and what it was like in reality.
I had the amazing opportunity to intern at Island Key Childcare as a preschool and after-school teacher. When I first heard about it I felt it was described as a much different position, and I was a bit surprised when I arrived. I ended up enjoying it anyway; I loved working with the children. They made my day exciting and there was always something different going on. If I could give advice to anyone entering the internship program, it would be to always keep an open mind when it comes to your job and the tasks required of you because you never know how it will change or what opportunities you will get as a result. It was hard work but my experience taught me a lot about childcare and the education system.

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CW: What was a typical day in your life as an intern like? What were some of your responsibilities?
My typical day interning at Island Key began pretty early because I had to walk and take the bus to the other side of the Liffy, but I didn’t mind the ride. Once I arrived at 9:00am, we would make breakfast and prepare for the preschool and toddler children’s arrival around 9:15am. I would be in the preschool room until 1:00pm and during that time we would monitor their free play while initiating fun and educational games. Every day we would provide breakfast and have a craft based on what the children were currently learning about; the facility also had an outdoor area so on nice days we could take them outside. In the afternoons we would pick up children from the primary school down the street and we would help them complete their homework and provide a snack as well as a safe place to relax and play until 5:00pm. I was responsible for keeping the children safe and happy as well as for creating an enriching environment for learning and playing. With a small staff and facility, we all shared the work of cooking and cleaning every day. Although at times this job was stressful, I thoroughly enjoyed my experience and would love to work in a similar environment in the future.

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CW: Tell us about one accomplishment or contribution you were proud of during your internship experience. What impact did this have on the company?
Children need attention and to know that someone is there for them, and every day I provided those children with eyes and ears to hear their thoughts and stories, to help them solve problems, and to help them learn something new. If I could make someone’s day better, that was an accomplishment for me and I am really proud of the bonds I formed with the kids and my co-workers. I believe that I impacted the company in a positive way by always striving to be optimistic and helpful because those attitudes have a tendency to spread to other people, creating a better working and learning environment.

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A quiet day at the harbor

CW: What do you see yourself doing when you graduate? Did your experience abroad in any way shape your career goals and aspirations? If so, how so?
My plan after graduation is to hopefully go directly to grad school to pursue a degree in school psychology. I have always wanted a job where I could work directly with people and make a positive impact on their lives, and I know being a school psychologist would help me achieve this goal. My experience interning at Island Key only further solidified what I already knew, working with younger children is something I am good at and that I like to do. I was unsure of which age group I would prefer to work with, but after my experience in Dublin, I think that elementary school would be the best fit for me.

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View of Dublin from the Guinness Storehouse GRAVITY Bar

CW: Share your top 3 tips for other students heading to Dublin this year!
I hope that everyone who makes the journey over to Ireland has an amazing time just like I did. My first tip would be to not forget to explore the country you are living in, it seems obvious, but with cheap airfare unlike what we have in the US it can be tempting to jet off and explore and forget all about exploring other parts of Ireland. My second tip would be to walk, walk as much as you can around the city and truly learn your city – go native! I loved being able to know my way around and that is how I found new little shops and side street restaurants which became my favorites. And finally, my third and most important tip would be to keep an abroad journal. I wrote a quick blurb in a notebook every single day during my time in Dublin because it is so hard to remember every funny, frustrating, or exciting thing that happens. Now that I am home, I have found myself flipping through it every now and again recalling some fun memories. It only took me 10 minutes a day to write and it is the best decision I made while abroad.

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CW: Where were the places you carved out as "Your Dublin" - the places you found outside of the tourist sites, the places that were most meaningful for you? What was special about them?
The places I considered “my Dublin” were anywhere the locals were, whether that was a new small restaurant I found or just sitting and working in a coffee shop. I loved living in Dublin and I made the city my home, I knew my way around and thoroughly enjoyed my time. Dublin itself is a special city in that it is an amazing mix of old, traditional and new, modern architecture. I could never grow tired and walking around and exploring new things and it actually inspirited me to try and do that at home in Boston as well.

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A solo adventure to the Giant’s Causeway

CW: What changes have you seen in yourself since you began your study abroad program? What has your experience taught you about yourself and the world around you, including any larger global issues we face today?
Since studying abroad, I have seen myself become more confident and independent. Before studying abroad, I had never even flown on a plane by myself before, let alone moved to a new city because I have lived in the same town all of my life. I was proud of myself for feeling comfortable on my own and being able to go out and explore my new city. I had the unique experience of going abroad during the 2016 presidential election and it surprised me how educated everyone was of American politics, not just in Dublin, but in France and Spain as well. I learned how much of an impact American policies can potentially have on the rest of the world and how much these people were just as concerned as Americans were about the election.

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A rainbow over the Griffith College campus

Thanks, Taylor!

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Topics: Dublin, Ireland, Interviews