Author: Maria Gonzales
I arrived in Dublin for my secondment experience on the 23rd of September. Thankfully Alessia was there to guide me through life basically. Not only she helped me with lab stuff but also made me feel like I belonged. Discovering the city with her was so fun. Especially that first weekend, in which we walked around 21k steps a day (as if I wasn’t going to be there the next 3 months) and I drank my first Guinness (Thanks Em, it was on you).
On monday I spent my first day in the lab, and I met the crew. LON lab. From Emily to Juliana that were next to me in the reading room to Hauke and his heater (personal and non-transferable). Tristram, Christian, Maureen, Cristina, Laura, Sean, Kathy, Eva, Yukun, Fiona, Anne Luke… All of them were lovely to me and really offered to help me during this period of time. Lab work was amazing, the atmosphere at trinity college was just right and they also had time for free-time activities like… Karaoke night! Such a nice group of people.
September flew by and October arrived with beautiful fall colors. I deeply explored Dublin, visiting Trinity College Library with Ale and got to see the amazing Book of Kells, went into St. Patrick's cathedral and attended the afternoon service (they sing it all the way through which was new to me), went to St. Stephen’s Green park, St. Annes park, Phoenix park and fed the deer (not recommended but they really liked the carrots)...
I also visited Malahide, Howth… I tried to make the best of it while there were still some sunny days around. Experienced Halloween in the country that was originated, which was amazingly cool and even attended a cake competition in the lab. Post-docs aimed to make a halloween-themed cake or dessert and then people voted for the best one. There were some incredible designs!
As I was already there for a month, I got to get a sense of what Irish people were like and they are nothing like I expected. They have a Mediterranean soul. Very very very happy people and always wanting to help. They are extremely kind, to the point that they will make sure you get the right train if you seem lost.
It’s true that I could not keep up with their drinking schedule, but I guess that’s just part of the culture. I loved their music, and their pubs! Such an incredible way of spending the afternoon; food, music and drinks.
November was a blast, weeks in the lab were very successful and the weekends were super fun. I walked around the temple bar a thousand times, had lots of dinners in Sano Pizza, drank loads of pints, tried a gazillion burger restaurants and learned that Dublin’s squirrels were so hilarious. My partner came to visit for around 20 days and it was just incredible. Being able to show him my life there was so important to me, I basically re-explored Dublin and went to visit the famous Cliffs of Moher and Galway! So cool. I will always cherish these memories from those days, they were very important to me.
When December came, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed because I knew that the experience was going to come to an end, but I was happy that everything turned out so well in the end. I knew I was going to miss Alessia, because since day 1 there wasn’t a day that we did not spend together, even on the weekends, we loved to hang out just for coffee. I enjoyed the Christmas spirit around Dublin (It was HUGE) and I really loved walking down Grafton street and hearing all those street-musicians singing xmas carols while everything was so sparkly decorated… Sun set time in Dublin was close to 4 pm so It was nice to see all the xmas lights in the afternoon. My mom came to visit at the end of the experience, which was also super nice, because I also got to show her everything I knew about Dublin. We went together for a day trip to the Giant causeway and Belfast (northern Ireland) and it was beautiful, especially because Belfast was fully dressed with its christmas gown.
At the very end of the experience, the week before Christmas, Ale and I went for a congress in Alicante, which was super nice because we had had two weeks of -1ºC temperatures with damp weather in Dublin and we were a little fed up, so the 20ºC and sunny skies in the mediterranean seashore were very welcomed.
Goodbyes were hard, but I knew I could always come visit. Overall, this adventure was just a 10/10 and I would live it all over again just the way it was. Everytime I have lived abroad I have always come back with a full spirit and feeling very grateful, because getting out of your comfort zone, even though it's uncomfortable, makes you grow exponentially.