Student Exchange: Americans in Ireland 2022

Two exchange students from Washington State reflect on their experiences of life in Waterford, Ireland. In a very open and easy fashion, students Mindy Vu and Jennifer Dinh talk with Rob O’Connor (from Waterford) about the people they met and places they’ve visited during their time in Ireland. They also compare discuss differences in the academic approaches of the Irish and US systems.

This exchange was financed through Erasmus+ funding obtained by the Teach CoLab project. 


[NB – this transcript was automatically generated. Please excuse any spelling or grammatical errors]

You’re listening to a teach collab podcast.

Hello, and welcome to the teacher caller podcast.

My name is Rob O’Connor and with Waterford Institute of Technology very soon to be renamed the southeast Technological University.

That’s the southeast of Ireland, in case you don’t get it from my accent today.

I am speaking with two students from the University of Washington Bothell, who have been in Waterford for the last few months, as part of an Erasmus exchange, I’m going to talk to them about their experiences, their expectations.

However, those expectations were met or not met and just kind of generally picking their brains about the overall experience.

We have a Mindy Vu, and Jennifer didn’t, how are You guys.

Hi, we’re doing good this pleasure to meet you.

I hope I pronounced your name correctly today.

Yes, it’s like, okay.

And right, so let’s just kind of talk about who you are and where you’re coming from.

So you’re both students from ye call it.

YouTube is not correct.

Yes, it’s the University of Washington.

Is that correct?

Yes, we’re on the bottle campus.

So we’re in the smaller, there’s three campuses and you’d have but one the smaller one.

So okay.

Okay, actually, maybe just explained that, right?

Because I don’t know that myself, I haven’t been to the University of Washington, obviously, interacted with with many of the faculty members there.

What is the, the layout what way is it organized?


So, the biggest campus out of the three is the Seattle, one.

And that is where my sister goes actually, and there are many schools.

There we go, to the smaller campus up north, and it’s more of a commuter school.

So students most students don’t live on campus So it’s a very different vibe compared to the really big campus.

And there’s a smaller campus down south the Tacoma one.


So you talking about towed from Washington State.

So even though you might say it’s small, it’s probably quite large.

It’s the way we would think of the campus, in terms of Irish terms.



But bottle is about the same size as wi T.

So okay, it also has this kind of the same Vibe since very similar When comparing them.


And okay.

So Mindy I wash, are you studying in Bottle?

Yeah I’m studying health studies and education.

So I’m a double major and I my second year I was like I’m not sure what I want to do yet, my parents wanted me to do via doctor and nurse that is very typical but I also love teaching so I chose to do both and learned a lot about like the interdisciplinary is of both majors and yeah okay and Jennifer What are you studying?

Yes, I’m currently studying I’m majoring in health studies and I’m minoring in global Health.


And how did you end up going down that path?

Because I am I right in saying that you start when you when you go in into first Year’s freshman you kind of just pick courses as you see fit, is it?

So, how did you end up zoning in on health?

What was it about that that attracted you all during our first year?

Are you do both?

Oh, we have Discovery core classes where we can like take asses with like different majors.

And one of the classes was a nutritional class and that’s where I got interested from the professor because she was so passionate.

And I really was amazed how the information is like, what your body does when you like digest food.

And it was so interesting.

So I just want to like, learn more about it.


Okay, so you, how long have you been in Ireland now?

We’ve been another for two months, for two months.

So you relieved in February, was us March, March 5th, March 5th.


So just in time for Saint Patrick’s Day.


Which I’m sure we maybe ask you about that a few minutes or not.

The so, how did you end up over here?

Oh, we it’s all started with Jody.

So I worked with Jody in my.

I have an office job that on campus back at home and I’m sorry I just did that’s Judy early from University of Washington.


So I wasn’t showed you early on a project and I made her a few infographics and she was like Hey like I am looking for students to go to Ireland because I have this grant.

Would you like to go are you doing anything spring quarter and I said Okay, let’s go.

And she’s like, we also have an enough money to have bring over another student.

Like, is there anyone, you know who’s interested in going and then, or anyone in the program and I was like, oh, Jennifer’s in the program.

So, I asked her.

She want to go.

And she’s like, okay, and I think that the fact that our parents like knew each other and we’re like, oh, you’re not going alone?

That’s why they let us go.

Okay, okay.


So I suppose we maybe I just like to ask you, Neither of you have Irish backgrounds.



So your you both have Vietnamese backgrounds?



So traveling to Erland must have been a bit of a culture shock, perhaps or maybe not it, you know?

I mean if I if I often hear about I’ve spoken to some American students of come over here and nine times out of ten, they have some sort of an Irish family, background, whatever.

That might be, you have none at all.


Hey, so what was it about?

It that kind of made you say, should we give it a go for me?

It was just that I was dying to go study abroad.

Like I was asking my parents for years and they always said no and then covered happened and then I was really dying to go out.

So anywhere, like Ireland was my top five.

It was on my top five to go.

I just need to go anyway.


I feel like just like it was like the scenery the Movie Leap Year like, oh my God leap year.

I did not think that would be invoked.

Welfare place human dies.

Okay, yeah, and so then when Jodi mentioned Ireland, I was just like anywhere is fine.

Like I’m okay, I’m open to The Learning Experience, so definitely grateful to be here.


Right so you arrived at the start of March, 20, 22 and we’re covid is now a distant memory, not but we’re moving.


So thankfully, we’re things are changing.

And what what did you expect from The Experience?

Overall, what was coming in?

Like if I talk to you at the start of March and I said you know, Jennifer how do you think this is going to go or what are you expecting to find over the next while?

What would you have said?

Yes, I was actually was not expecting anything at all.

I was going like headfirst like I’m just going Spears, everything and drop to the culture and just see how things are and just go from there.


Okay though that’s a very mature.

You weren’t thinking about, what would you, what would your expectations have been?

I honestly didn’t know expectations to have.

Like I was anxious about things but I was really open to whatever experience.

Yeah, definitely.

You’re shocked though because it is very different in Ireland compared to at home.


So, what was the biggest difference that you noticed?

I think the Fermi energy and Jennifer.

It was the food.

And okay.

Yeah, okay, so let’s talk about that.

Then what we did the foods, not meet your expectations are changing expectations.


I again, I wasn’t really sure what I was going into.

So I didn’t know what kind of foods were in Ireland.

But before I went, everyone’s asking me, like you’re going to eat A lot of potatoes like are you going to love that 80’s?

And I like and I was like I guess I’m not sure but I guess the greatest you can add on to Jennifer.

But I think the greatest difference was that I didn’t expect like the chicken and the me and like the milk and things to be like so fresh.

And how, like I just also didn’t expect to like not have any Asian food or as much Asian food as we do at home and did did did you get it?

Each agent Foods as you would have back at home or is it a different type?

I think it’s a different type.

Yeah I think it’s a different type, yeah yeah yeah yeah it’s good.

I’d imagine.

I don’t know but I would imagine it’s I don’t see authentic, but that’s a kind of a reductive word but maybe more broad might be the way of the, the kind of rice and stuff or noodles and stuff as opposed to maybe some of the more subtleties that you might get from Vietnamese or, or Or Thai food or what have you?

That be fair.

Yeah definitely I think it’s also like a different interpretation of what I’m used to at home so that was interesting to adjust you and Jennifer.

What about yourself?


Come what similar to many said, like the rice is so different here because we have long you guys have long rides here and I’m used to like soft jasmine rice, the short gearing one.

So like once I taste the rice here, I was like, nope, I’m going to avoid this.

I’m not a big fan.

Not no more.

Yeah, but I really love the ice cream here.

It’s so creamy and soft and sweet.

I just like love it.

I gotta miss it.

Well, yeah.

It’s not really something that you can put in your bag and bring it over.

That’s what right without wanting to sound like an Irish cliche.

Did you end up using a lot of potatoes?

We had a lot of fries.

I would say.

We had a lot of fries are good fries though?

Yeah, we’re okay here.

Yeah, okay, right.

So that’s good.

That’s good.

I’m glad.

And I’m glad that the food was maybe a bit more diverse than you would have expected but maybe not as diverse as you would have liked.

But at least it fell somewhere in the middle that you’re just been served up with bacon and cabbage all the time, which doesn’t I don’t know anything, except for the way or cargo.

I believe like a rural Americans are here to talk about corned beef and cabbage.

I have never had that in my life.

Not ones.

You did say other interesting.

Thing to me, before we started recording this, he said the roads were different.

Yeah, what, what could you describe what you meant by that?

Y’all drive on the wrong side of the road?

That is just a fact?

It should be in the other side.


So again, the counter-argument to that would be a but actually, no, it’s the other way around, but yeah.

But I know I’ve noticed that myself.

Remember the first time I travelled away and, you know, You’re crossing the road and you immediately look one way for oncoming traffic, but it takes a while your bit discombobulated because the cars are actually coming in the opposite direction, it is a bit of a yeah, it’s a bit discombobulating.

All right.


Was there anything that was exactly as you thought it would be just the scenery in general I would say yeah because it’s Island in so small and surrounded by sea.

So I know like every we go there be like some type of greenery in like, C or like Egg or whatever.

Yeah, yeah.

I would agree because I feel like that’s the only Vision I had of Ireland.

So definitely like even when we were in to Maurice.

Like that was what the picture of Ireland was 0 and this hatch cottages and the ceiling in and yeah, okay.

That was my idea of why our than would be like.

But it is so much more than that.

I feel like that is such a tourist thing to believe.

So, yeah.

All right.

Well let’s say I could technically From maybe kind of culture and geography for a moment academically.

How did you get on here?

And I don’t mean like, what Marx did you get or anything like that?

I mean like you attended classes.

You were involved in a variety of different things.

What did you get up to?

Yeah, either be.

So, I just went to the mental health class with Evan, just that one class Evan Matthews.

Yeah, they’re my face.

Yeah, and it was a real Avast class, those only like 1 hour or so, but it was just a lot of things because I was was in there previously and I was like, we’re towards the end of the class to.

So I was like kind of like imposter kind of, you know, like I’m just a real American student.

Just sit in your class, just ignore me, but I was far too discussion too which is nice but I really like the small classes and just see how the things works here.


So with the classes that you retain, In Bottle would be what would typically be the class size.

I mean it also depends on what class but it could be like up to 24 or to like 48 to like just a virtual class to as well.

Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, and the classes you tend to hear probably typically kind of smaller has been roughly the same.

What if there’s also like, it was an interesting how it’s set up in Ireland.

Oh, it’s interesting how your setup and Ireland.

Where You pick a major and then your entire cohort, you go through all your courses together.

Yeah, we’re at home, you would be in a class with someone for three months and then never see them again.


So the courses are pretty here are pretty small.

And when I went to the mental health class, I went to the early Earth session.

Then Jennifer did I die?

Just like noticed?

How, like, how tight-knit the groups were even like, I didn’t talk to anyone during class but But afterwards I was walking out and the giant Groove, the of the cohort just turned around like hey like where are you going next?

And I was like, I have no idea and they like just come with us and I was like, okay.


So I followed them to class the entire day that day and it was really great like they’re just so kind so so kind okay.

Are you sure you’re not training to be a politician?

Do I sound like It could maybe a little bit more into the the kind of the things that you notice that are different or not different.

So, what would you say is one thing academically that is better in Bottle or in the system that you’re used to and there’s no right or wrong answer here and nobody’s going to be offended.

But just your observation of it.

What would you say is a better way?

You know, I think that with the college’s, the way it’s set up at home and Bothell, you have so much more flexibility in the things that you want to do.

Because in talking to the students here, they’re telling me like, oh, I have to take this course in.

This is not even interesting to me and this doesn’t even relate to what I want to do in the future.


So I think Bothell, you have a greater opportunity to explore different course.

Isis because I would in my education and health.

I also took like environmental class.

I also took like other classes outside of my major.

Yeah, yeah.

Yeah, I often think that’s a very interesting model that the kind of liberal arts model where you can take classes in a variety of different things.

So like for example I would have a computer science background but you could equally do a class in French medieval poetry or something like that, you know, and just just because maybe it interests you or What have you?

I do like the idea of that because sometimes I wonder over here for maybe a bit too vocational that it’s very, very directed.

And, you know, anything this is, irrelevant must be irrelevant to the core must be discarded and replaced by something that’s more utilitarian.

So I know where you’re coming from with that.

Yeah, it’s an interesting point that you make Jennifer.

Would you agree with that or disagree?

Yes, I would agree too.

Live in India, I had the same thing but she said but yeah the flexibility and we have a lot more freedom to pick like different courses at different times.

So we need to be don’t need to like lineup of other people and we also have a lot more electives I would say to.

Yeah, okay so here’s the inverse of that question.

Is there anything that you’ve noticed from here that you think is done perhaps a little bit better than what you see in barking.

And again, there’s no right or wrong answer and you’re not going to offend anyone either.

I would say the short period of time for classes and that it will be like throughout the week like three times a week for one hour.

But overhear you do Bothell we only have two our classes and for two days a week or so.

So I guess I like more, like, cut up time of classes compared to like longer ones and one sitting, oh, see me.

So you might have four hours in a row in Bottle.

Yeah, whereas here, you might have just like three single hours are Today and Wednesday and Thursday, or something like that.

Okay, yeah.


Yeah, okay.

That’s an interesting point.


And Mindy, I think, I honestly think that I would prefer the cohort like having your little family to, like, rely on.

We have similar, we have similar programs that allow students to connect, but not in that way, because I feel like a long-term relationship to with specific people is so valuable but But pros and cons and I think, yeah, yeah, yeah.

I can understand where you’re coming from with that as well.

That’s an interesting point.

Yeah, I suppose I even my own personally like I’ve a lot of friends lifelong friends who I made in college 20 years ago, you know.

I’m we’re still we were in the same class all the way up.

So yeah.

That’s an interesting one.


And what would you say was the best bit about your trip to Ireland for each of you Academically or in general, in general, it doesn’t matter.

Like I’m again, there’s no right or wrong answer.

So you’ve been in Ireland for two months.

Yeah, as a student footloose and fancy-free.

What’s been the best bit of your trip here and it can be as broad or as specific as you like I guess for me, OB just traveling the country.

Like, you can just take like a two-hour and 30-minute bus to Dublin then and then you can take a look at rain to go away or I can go to Belfast or whatever you want by bus or A tray and it just I love that in just a short period of time to like like a United States.

It’ll take like hours and hours just to go to different states as well.

I just like traveling in general.

So you got to see a fair bit of the country in your time here to just.


So where did you go Jennifer?


So we went to go away just call me.


And then we also meant to kill Kenny and to Cork.

And then we were at the Cliffs of Moher anywhere.

Dublin, we are in Dublin.

Did you go to bed first?

No, that’s fine.

And you went to London as well.

Yes, we went to London.


It was such a lovely trip there.


So you got to see a fair bit of the country.



So you’ve made use of your time here.

Mhm Grace.

That’s deadly, that’s great.

And Mindy.

What would you say is your best bet?

I think my best VA is honestly just Meeting the people and like, it’s a different pace of life here in Ireland.

So I think that going from a state of being constantly stressed and constantly having to do things, to being able to just enjoy and spend time with people, like, I think being able to go out with my roommates and like my favorite, my favorite class is going to purchases fitness instructor class and she just taught her students how to teach people.

How to dance or like do it.

The aerobics thing and that was such a highlight because yeah, yeah, there’s a sense of community here.

That doesn’t feel like it’s, as a parent as at home.


Okay, that’s nice.


What’s the worst bit about your trip?

Okay, I can cut the back off anyone and again, you won’t offend.

But what’s been this?

What’s been the worst part of the trip?

The bit that, you know, I wish that had been different or I was saying whatever it is such a small town, I guess it’ll be.

It’s hard to like, Get out of my room and do something because I can just walk like 20 minutes to like the city centre or like to the key and then that’s all I do and it had to go back to my dorm again and display my phone.



Yeah, I mean d for yourself.

I wish I had more energy to be involved in more things.

I think that I think that while I was here.

I was trying to get my bearings on like how to cook for myself.

When do I need a shower like all those things that I’m not used to at home.

So I wish I figure that out faster so that I have more energy to be more involved in like more organizations and things.

Yeah, so there’s two other students have done the kind of the opposite journey to you have traveled from here and are based in Washington.

I think they’re still there.

I am I correct about that.

So I’m going to do I’m going to do a similar podcast with them when they return just capture some of their thoughts.

Did you meet them at all?

We did meet them.

Yeah, they we met them to zoom and then we were here when we first got here.

Are here for a week before we left so we got they took us out to the pub.

We got our goodness all the tissues.

Yes, kinnison potatoes and Okay, and like have you have you had any contact with them while they’re in Washington?

Yeah, we do weekly calls.

So we talk to them often and they seem very busy very very busy.





Okay what we find out about how busy they have been in a little Would you recommend this exchange to other students or students coming behind you?

Or I would have it I would say, yes, I would like recommend other students who come here just for, like, the experience in general.

Just to see like the culture and how things work here compared to like America.


And what about yourself?


No Ireland, is horrible true politician’s answer.

No, I would definitely, I would definitely if anyone is, like, just willing to go out of their comfort zone, Ireland is a wonderful place to start.

I feel like you can ease into the life in the culture here.

And everyone is again, so friendly.

So you always feel welcomed.

Okay, last question, I know I said that was a score some but this is what will you take back with you and I don’t mean physical things.

Like what lesson will you take back with you to Washington and then your future academic or professional careers?

I wrote this down.

I have a list really have a list of things that I’ve noticed.

Okay go for it.

Jeffrey can go first, I look for the list I would say just like the language I’m used to A language right now, like just like the little words use during conversation like Grand or like thanks a million ye and all that.

I just, I feel like I’m used to it now.

I might just say it in my head or to other people.

When I come back, we really did.

I know this again is another cliche, but like crack.

Yeah, Richard was database.

Was that a bit frightening at the stars and people start talking to you about the crack?

Yeah, little yeah.

Like oh okay.

What are they talking about?

Us all these crack I don’t want to take crack.


Yeah, yeah, Mindy I think for me the greatest thing that I would take away is that to keep things light hearted and that all the love and the labor and the energy that go into like a project or like to building something needs to be done together as a community.

And I feel like I really value that because it’s something that Not valued in America.

So I want to bring that back back home.

Oh, yeah.

Well, that’s a lovely way to end this.

I think I know where he does.

Well, that’s lovely, and to Mindy and Jennifer.

Thank you so much for speaking with me today.

I genuinely hope you have enjoyed your time in Ireland and it’s almost working with you’ve been great and I applaud you for getting involved in so many things.

Even though you said you, wish you got involved in a lot more Mindy.

I stole your get involved and do all sorts of stuff.

So fair play to you.

And I hope you found memories of Ireland, and she might even come back someday.

And you can, you can go to Belfast.

You might even go to further west in Ireland.

Developers are really beautiful out there.

If you’re into scenery, you couldn’t go wrong, guys.

Thank you so much.

I wish you safe travels on your way back to Washington and you never know who might even see you over there someday soon.

Thank you.

Thank you so much.

Student Exchange: Americans in Ireland 2022

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