Buildings in Dublin seen along a waterfront. A beam of sun shines on the river.

Anchors Away: Lakers return to learning overseas

Dispatches from Ireland, which is home this summer for some GVSU students

Picture of Kelley Sommers, GVSU senior, making an "Anchor Up" hand sign in Ireland.
Picture of GVSU senior Kelley Sommers at a streetside cafe in Galway, Ireland.
Picture of GVSUs senior Kelley Sommers on a bridge in Galway, Ireland.
GVSU senior Kelley Sommers is studying Irish literature at National University of Ireland Galway this summer, about 2.5 hours west of Dublin.

Noon, Friday, July 1

GALWAY — The gentle mist falling on Galway this early afternoon has become a downpour as senior Kelley Sommers briskly walks up Abbeygate Street toward her favorite cafe in the city, Little Lane Coffee Shop. 

The cafe’s name is apropos. It’s squeezed amongst the businesses along more of an open alley perfect for foot traffic rather than a street bustling with vehicles.

Sommers finds a table underneath the cafe’s awning to enjoy her coffee and book, “Making Shapely Fiction,” by Jerome Stern, as families, students and people on their lunch break scurry past. 

Sommers is midway through her study abroad program at the National University of Ireland Galway, finishing up her time with the Irish Studies program. About 80,000 people reside in Galway, which is about 2.5 hours west from Dublin on the isle’s northwest coast. 

The Galway trip is her second time studying abroad with Grand Valley. While completing her bachelor’s degree in marketing, she spent a semester abroad at the University of Brighton in England.

Her time during the COVID quarantine and lockdown invigorated her love for literature and writing, prompting her to pursue a second bachelor’s degree in English literature and language. Sommers said connecting with Ashley Shannon, chair of the English department, and English professor Kurt Bullock helped to set her trip in motion.

“I’ve been to Ireland before as a tourist, but this is the first time that I’ve been able to stay in one place for a few weeks and take classes,” said Sommers. “I just wrote my capstone thesis on northern Irish women’s literature.

“The opportunity to live here and experience the community and the culture was big for me. It’s grassroots here, and I wanted to take advantage of it.”

History permeates the island and her program’s day trips showcase the rich literary culture. Recently, her and her group visited Coole Park, just south of Galway, where many of the nation’s literary giants at the turn of the 20th century visited and inspired one another.

Under the hospitality of Lady Gregory of Coole, the scene flourished, leading her, W.B. Yeats and others to found the Abbey Theatre, the National Theatre of Ireland in Dublin.

Sommers said she’s enjoyed the program so much that she’s considering graduate school at National University of Ireland Galway.

“Coming back to school as an adult gives me a different perspective in navigating, and I think I’m exploring more,” said Sommers. “One of the biggest culture shocks is how diverse everything is here. You learn to think quickly on your feet and that diversity is really important to whatever you go into.”

For more information about study abroad or international internship opportunities, visit the Padnos International Center website. To learn more about scholarships available for international travel, visit the Office of Fellowships website or contact Brenda Tooley, associate director for the Center for Undergraduate Scholar Engagement. 

5:30 p.m., Thursday, June 30

DUBLIN — Grand Valley senior Sam Antenucci admits when he first arrived in Ireland for his internship with the accounting firm, Devaney & Durkin, it took him a few days to get acclimated to his home away from home. 

Adjusting to the currency and the European version of calendar dates — day, month, year — is one thing. But crossing the street can be a hazardous situation for a college student on his first trip to Europe.

“You have to get used to the traffic coming from the other way, and the Irish driving on the left,” said Antenucci. “And public transit too. I hopped on the wrong bus a few times.”

But the Irish people’s graciousness and friendly demeanor have shone throughout his time here. At one point, Antenucci said, he couldn’t find a mailbox near his housing on the University of Dublin campus. 

“This random guy in a supermarket showed me to the nearest mailbox and walked with me a quarter-mile down the street,” said Antenucci.

He said his class work at Grand Valley has helped him acclimate quickly to the international financial system and make his time at Devaney & Durkin more productive. The firm handles bookkeeping, auditing, taxation advice and forensic accounting.

The accounting industry in Ireland has been booming since the economy became a model for the European Union in the mid-1990s. The Irish economy roared to life, earning the nation the nickname “Celtic Tiger.” 

Black and white photo of GVSU Senior Sam Antenucci in Dublin.
GVSU senior Sam Antenucci in Dublin, where he is interning this summer as part of GVSU's study abroad program.
Photo of Sam Antenucci, a GVSU senior interning in Ireland this summer.
Photo of Sam Antenucci, a GVSU senior interning in Ireland this summer.
Photo of Sam Antenucci, a GVSU senior interning in Ireland this summer.
GVSU senior Sam Antenucci is interning with the accounting firm Devaney & Durkin in Dublin this summer.

Firms PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte and KPMG are thriving here, generating more than $1.4 billion in 2020. Antenucci said if he was going to do an accounting internship abroad, there’s no better place to live and work.

“For accounting, Dublin is the center of all business,” he said. “I thought it would be a great city to work in.”

Since it’s his first time in Europe, he is embracing every opportunity he can. He said he visited Iceland the previous week and marveled at the Nordic island’s beauty. 

“I really wanted to come to Europe and try it out,” he said. “I feel a lot more independent, and I feel that I can travel by myself, figuring anything out in Europe now.”

For more information about study abroad or international internship opportunities, visit the Padnos International Center website. To learn more about scholarships available for international travel, visit the Office of Fellowships website or contact Brenda Tooley.

1:30 p.m., Wednesday, June 29

DUBLIN — Trinity College, one of the most prestigious universities in Europe, sits in the heart of the city, just a few blocks south of the River Liffey, which cuts longitudinally through the urban landscape.

Founded by Queen Elizabeth I in 1592, Trinity is encircled by Dublin’s meandering streets almost as if the city itself is embracing the campus. 

Grand Valley senior Erin Mangan briskly walks back to her lab, crossing Trinity’s cobblestone courtyard and walking past its Old Library, home to a piece of Ireland’s historical and cultural identity, the Book of Kells.

Mangan, a senior studying psychology with a minor in statistics, will spend her internship working alongside interns from around the world, helping with research at the Gillan Lab at Trinity College.

The lab utilizes cognitive neuroscience to understand mental health issues and provide better diagnosis and treatment. Mangan said she’s been working on several projects directed by the lab. 

“I’m looking to get my PhD in clinical psychology and research is huge,” said Mangan. “To get experience like this is definitely beneficial. It also looks good to a lot of PhD programs. It’s been very beneficial and very rewarding.”

photos of Erin Mangan, a senior who is studying in Ireland this summer.
Picture of GVSU Senior Erin Mangan
Erin Mangen, a senior studying in Dublin, Ireland this summer.
Erin Mangan, a GVSU senior, is working in a lab that utilizes cognitive neuroscience to understand mental health issues and provide better diagnosis and treatment as part of GVSU's study abroad program.

She is the only American intern in the lab, but her fellow interns come from the United Kingdom, Germany, France and China. She said one of the reasons she wanted to intern in Europe was the exposure to a variety of cultures and viewpoints.

“It’s very interesting to see their perspectives on issues, and that itself has been very eye-opening, especially in the psychology field,” said Mangan. “I wanted to open myself up to new experiences and perspectives, and that’s why I wanted to do this here instead of in the United States.”

Trinity will be her research home for eight weeks this summer. It’s a trip she said she has been eager to experience for herself since her brother and sister-in-law studied in Ireland years ago.

“Working in Dublin has been on my mind ever since their trip,” she said. “I’ve fallen in love with Trinity.

“Going abroad on your own forces you to grow. You have to adapt and learn and be an adult. For me, I’ve always liked being independent, but this trip has taken being independent another step for me.”

For more information about study abroad or international internship opportunities, visit the Padnos International Center website. To learn more about scholarships available for international travel, visit the Office of Fellowships website or contact Brenda Tooley.

Nighttime in Dublin along the River Liffey

Buildings on either side of a river are illuminated against the night sky.
A bridge crossing a river and buildings are illuminated at night in a city.

5:30 p.m., Tuesday, June 28

DUBLIN — Situated in The Liberties neighborhood, one of Dublin’s oldest and most culturally vibrant, you’ll find a student housing center which features all the modern amenities a college student could want.

Heyday Carman’s Hall hosts students from around the world, but for this summer, two from GVSU are roommates – Isabel Wychuyse and Erin Mangan.

Wychuyse, a senior studying clinical exercise science, is taking classes here in Dublin and working at a Saint John of God clinic in the suburb of Bray, helping people improve their mobility and assisting with other communicative needs.

"For me the internship has really opened my eyes to being independent, the cultural experience and learning how to live in a different country,” Wychuyse said. “It teaches you to be adaptable. Doing an internship hands-on, you get to work in a cross-cultural experience. It helps with networking and building your professional development."

Wychuyse said she has been looking forward to this opportunity since her freshman days on campus.

“My freshman year I was going to all the events that they were hosting on campus on how to get involved,” she said. “I stopped at the study abroad table and ever since then, I was super interested. All the way through junior year I decided, yep I’m going to do this.”

Isabel Wychuyse, a GVSU senior, walking the streets of Dublin, Ireland
Double exposed, black-and-white photo showing GVSU Senior Isabel Wychuyse and St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland.
GVSU Senior Isabel Wychuyse in Dublin Ireland, where she is working and studying this summer.
Isabel Wychuyse, a senior majoring in exercise science, is taking classes in Dublin and working at a clinic where she helps developmentally challenged people with their mobility and other issues.

As a first-generation college student, she did face one hurdle to realizing her dream of studying and interning overseas. 

“For me, study abroad wasn’t something that would be really easy, so I applied to a lot of scholarships and tried to find different resources on how I could get here,” she said.

Working with Alissa Lane, international programs coordinator in the Padnos International Center, Wychuyse said she identified which internship experience best suited her academic and professional growth.

With the guidance of Brenda Tooley, associate director for the Center for Undergraduate Scholar Engagement, Wychuyse said she applied for scholarships to help with the financial cost.

She was one of three GVSU students this year to receive the U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. Just 3,000 U.S. college students are selected each year for a Gilman Scholarship.

“I’m looking forward to working with many more GVSU Gilman applicants as study-abroad opportunities expand,” said Tooley. “I hope Isabel’s good news provides encouragement for students now considering study abroad but concerned about costs. There are many forms of support for international engagement.” 

For more information about study abroad or international internship opportunities, visit the Padnos International Center website. To learn more about scholarships available for international travel, visit the Office of Fellowships website or contact Brenda Tooley.

Some sights and moments from Dublin

The top of a building with three statues with the Irish flag flying behind the middle statue
The windows of a green bus reflect people in the city and signs, reading backward, "Irish burgers" and "breakfast."
A person plays the violin while leading against a brick wall with a city sidewalk in the background.
People walk on a sidewalk next to a mural showing someone's face. A mural with stacked letters spelling out "love" is behind them.
A church steeple is seen in the background. Colorful flowers are in the foreground in a shot taken from ground level.
People bike and walk at a busy street corner, in front of a large building that has the word "Spar" on the outside.

11 a.m., Tuesday, June 28

DUBLIN — The Poppintree Community Sports Centre is quiet this late morning as Grand Valley senior Alayna Peterson joins her fellow interns in preparing the center for their daily guests. 

The Aisling (Irish for “Dream”) Project is a nonprofit organization that helps and mentors children ages 7-12 in Ballymun, a socioeconomic disadvantaged section of Dublin about 35 minutes north from the city center. 

In the middle of her nine-week internship with the Aisling Project, Peterson said she can’t imagine not taking the opportunity to travel to Ireland and work with the at-risk children.

Her social work classes at GVSU played a large part in preparing her for the internship. 

“It’s been amazing, making connections with the students who come in, and having them open up to see the things that they go through,” said Peterson. 

“This experience is really showing me how much I love working with people who are in need. It’s definitely showing me what a social work job will look like.”

In one of the activity rooms, Peterson and her fellow interns, Martina Gazzurelli from Italy and Michelle McWeeney from Ireland, are preparing the day’s schedule. 

A person smiles while doing the "Anchor Up" sign.
Three people smile while sitting around a table and talking.
A person smiles while learning against a wall holding a sign with a rainbow and flowers.
Alayna Peterson is furthering her social work studies with an internship in Ireland.

By the afternoon, the center will be abuzz with children, keeping Peterson busy helping children with their homework, playing board games, serving meals and supervising the afternoon activity the three interns coordinated.

Once her week-long orientation was completed, Peterson said she felt at home contributing to the Aisling Project.

“I have definitely felt comfortable since I got here,” said Peterson. “There was an interview class where we were talking with people, who were pretending to be clients, so the class and this have really helped me prepare to be a social worker because I will be working with similar populations.”

Sunday, June 26

With the easing of COVID restrictions for international travel, Grand Valley’s study abroad and international internship programs are ramping back up. Students are embracing the opportunity to see the world. 

This week we’ll be visiting with GVSU students in Ireland either working in internships or studying abroad to learn more about their experiences. For some, it’s their first trip to Europe or outside of the United States. 

Four students -- Alayna Peterson, Erin Mangan, Sam Antenucci and Isabel Wychuyse -- are interns working in their respective majors in Dublin while a fifth (Kelley Sommers) is studying at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

The students will offer their perspectives on what it’s like to travel abroad on the Emerald Isle, particularly in a city as culturally diverse as Dublin. 

“It’s been great to finally be able to travel,” said Peterson, who’s a senior studying social work and spending nine weeks living and working in Dublin. “Seeing that this opportunity was something that I could do now that COVID is over, it just seemed perfect.”

While the Emerald Isle is our focus this week, GVSU offers a diverse mix of opportunities for students to study abroad. Find out more by visiting the Study Abroad website.


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