University of Iowa

Devon McNamara on her global internship in Dublin

August 13th, 2019

Devon McNamara recently interned at a communications firm in Dublin, Ireland, where she gained exposure to event planning and management—her intended career field. McNamara recently shared information about her experience in Dublin, as well as advice for other UI students considering an internship abroad.


Hometown: Maple Plain, Minnesota

Field of study: music

What did you want to gain from an international internship?

I wanted to gain high quality work experience, where I'm not just an intern that grabs coffee, but I am actually utilized as part of the company's team. I decided to do an international internship because I've always wanted to live abroad, but not for too long, and a two-month summer internship seemed like the perfect opportunity. It also gives me the opportunity to expand my perspective and experience a new culture that has different living and working practices than we do in the United States. 

Based on your experience, have you achieved what you intended?

I have definitely achieved what I intended. I have been assigned a LOT more than I ever expected I would as an intern, but it is great experience because I have opportunities to learn things that I wouldn't be able to learn just in a classroom. I also am enjoying living abroad, and learning a lot about Irish culture, and how it differs from culture in the U.S. I even get to experience other European cultures as the office I work in has other interns from all over the world!

What are some of your favorite things, places, or experiences about living in Dublin?

I've loved getting out in nature in Ireland, which is strange for me because I usually don't like hiking or things like that. Here though, the weather is always perfect for exploring the beautiful landscape around Dublin and Ireland, such as Howth which has the Howth cliff walk, right on the coast of Ireland, the Wicklow Mountains National Park, and I really loved the northern coast in Northern Ireland. I also love live music—any musician you find in Dublin is guaranteed to be amazing! This city is full of so much talent, and sometimes it's just right out on the street. Another favorite is just walking around the River Liffey area. There are lots of cute shops and cafes, and I love that most of the bridges across are different. My favorite bridges in Dublin are the Ha'Penny Bridge and the Samuel Beckett Bridge, which is shaped like a harp. 

A photo of Howth, Ireland, taken by University of Iowa student Devon McNamara

View from the Howth cliff walk

How has this experience changed you?

I think that this experience has increased my confidence and independence. I don't have family or close friends nearby. Sure, I can call or FaceTime them, but here—even more than at college—I have to take the initiative to go out and explore or travel. It was scary at first, but I'm definitely starting to feel comfortable in this new environment. I think also, work-wise, I have never worked in a position in the field I want (event management/planning), and here I was thrown right in and asked to do much more than I expected. Which was awesome! I'm learning so much at my company and from my supervisor. 

How will this experience shape your future?

I hope that this experience will inform my career search process, and will also help me to land my first job. I've learned a ton of transferable skills as well as skills pertinent to my industry. Personally, I hope I can take the things I've learned from Dublin city culture and infuse them into my life back home. Academically, I'm excited to implement some of my new skills in classes in the fall because I think some will be useful even to my classes.

What advice would you give to students to help them get the most out of an international internship?

SAVE MONEY! I saved a good amount of money, but if you want to be traveling around Europe and Ireland, or enjoying local attractions and activities, AND buy cute souvenirs for your friends back home, it's a lot more expensive here than you might think.

Come in with an open mind. You're not going to be happy if you are completely set in your expectations, and things don't end up the way you thought they would be. If your expectations are flexible, if YOU are flexible, you will enjoy your internship experience so much more.

Book flights before you get over here! This was hard because IES offers field trips around Ireland (which are awesome and worth it!), but they didn't release the dates until we got here. I hope they change this so that students can get the best possible deal on flights because, yes, some weekends you might be able to catch a flight to Nice, France for as low as $50 round trip!

In addition to exploring Europe, don't forget to explore Ireland! I think a person could spend a few months just traveling around Ireland and seeing all there is to see. Get out west, see the Cliffs of Moher and Galway city, go south to Cork and Killarney, there's Waterford just a little south of Dublin, and it's like the oldest city in Ireland I think, and then there are just so many cute towns in between, not to mention Northern Ireland!

Be a YES person in your office (barring anything illegal). Do whatever you are asked. If you are willing to work hard and do your best—even on menial tasks—the more likely it is that your supervisor(s) will hand you more and more responsibility, which means you get to learn more!

 

Internships abroad are coordinated by the Study Abroad office with placements coordinated with IES Internships, a unit of the Institute for the International Education of Students (IES Abroad).

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