Bennett Schmitt Ireland

September 2023

Hello from the very rainy (but very green) island country of Ireland! My name is Bennett Schmitt, and I am a junior studying environmental sciences and ACMS. This semester, I am studying at University College Dublin in Dublin, Ireland.

This is my first time traveling outside the U.S. for more than approximately six hours (I stopped in Victoria, BC on an Alaskan cruise over the summer), so it has taken me a few weeks to feel settled. The education system in Ireland is quite different from that of the United States, so I have had to adjust to the different class and assessment structure. For the most part, my classes here have significantly fewer assignments, and the vast majority of my grade will be determined by final exams. In all of my classes, the final will count for over 50% of my overall grade. There is definitely a strong emphasis on independent study here. It is predominantly up to you to hold yourself accountable on keeping up with material since there are fewer hard deadlines and submitted assignments. Another interesting aspect of university here in Ireland is that life outside of the classroom is somewhat reversed from that of the United States. Many Irish students commute to classes, so they live at home on the weekends. As a result, social gatherings predominantly occur during the week, and campus is much quieter on the weekends.

 This month, I had the opportunity to explore Ireland both inside and outside of Dublin since classes did not start until the middle of September. In addition to exploring a number of museums and parks here in Dublin, I also took an independent weekend trip to the Aran Islands–a beautiful group of islands off the west coast of Ireland. Notre Dame has also facilitated a number of hikes and excursions this month, which has been a great way to see different parts of the country. We spent a weekend in County Clare and got to hike along the famous Cliffs of Moher. The rural Irish countryside is so breathtaking and serene.

 We had one independent travel weekend this month, so I and a few fellow students studying in Dublin took a trip to Munich to attend Oktoberfest. We spent part of the weekend at the festival (the famous Bavarian pretzels did not disappoint) and took the rest of the time to explore the city itself. The architecture in Munich was stunning, and it seemed like there was another beautiful church or historical building around every corner.

 Overall, this first month in Dublin has been a whirlwind in the best way possible. It has been a bit of a challenge trying to juggle classwork while also wanting to take advantage of my time abroad. I have quickly learned that it is important to take a step back and breathe from time to time. With more trips on the horizon and the semester just getting underway, I am certainly looking forward to the rest of my time here. Stay tuned for more in October…

October 2023

Happy October! After what somehow feels like both ages and the blink of an eye, I am starting to feel settled into life here in Ireland. I am really enjoying all of my classes so far. I am taking a mix of core requirements and major classes, so my schedule is a bit all over the place, but I like the change of pace. I had my first (and only) midterm exams this month. They were a bit stressful just because they were worth such a large portion of my grade. I am still waiting to get my results back, so fingers crossed they went well. The weather is also starting to grow on me too. It’s like we’re stuck in a permanent (but slightly more damp) fall.

October was quite an eventful month of traveling. I used my free weekends to go to London, Amsterdam, and Interlaken! All three destinations were very different and very fun, but I would have to say that Switzerland was my favorite. We spent the weekend hiking and exploring the small villages in the Alps. The highlight of the weekend was definitely paragliding over Interlaken. It might have hurt my budget a little bit, but it was absolutely worth it. Along with these independent trips, we also took a field trip with the whole program to Northern Ireland. We had been discussing the history of Northern Ireland in our Introduction to Ireland class, so it was intriguing to see and learn more about everything in real life.

October also meant Halloween, which I learned is a very big deal in Ireland. Halloween actually stems from an ancient festival that originated in Ireland as a celebration of the harvest. Dublin was very lively throughout Halloween weekend, so that was fun to experience.

I think throughout the month I have gotten better at balancing school and travel. It is definitely very busy and a bit exhausting sometimes–especially when you throw in the process of applying for internships too–but it’s a good type of busy to be. For better or worse, it’s not looking like November will be any less relaxing. I already have a few trips planned and an impending visit from my parents as well. I’m sure you’ll be on the edge of your seat waiting to hear about it! Until then…