Maria Keane is a Resident Direcctor for IFSA-Butler in Ireland and North Ireland. She has had the opportunity to work in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick and Maynooth. Her position allows her to work directly with international students studying in Ireland to help them make the most out of their time abroad. Read on to learn more about her experience!
What brought you to be a Resident Director?
I spent my early twenties travelling the world and working abroad. By the time I was 20 I had worked in four countries, and at twenty-four this had grown to eight including China and Australia. I always tried my best to get the most out of every minute while I was away. When I started looking for a ‘real’ job I wanted to work in an area that would enable me to use my experience to help others away from their home country. I know that living abroad is one of the most challenging but rewarding and fun things you can do, so working with IFSA and helping students to make the most out of their time abroad was a perfect fit for me. I guess I am one of the lucky ones who actually love what they do. I care about our students and want each one of them to leave Ireland having had a semester that opened their eyes to new experiences and always remind them that they are strong, capable global citizens.
What are some unique aspects of your city and country?
I live in Cork, Ireland’s second biggest city. Cork people are known for their immense pride and we are never short of reasons why Cork is in fact a far superior city to Dublin. The Dubs may think otherwise, but they are wrong!
I think the most unique thing about Ireland is our people. We’re a talkative and inquisitive nationality, who loves to know what’s going on with everyone, everywhere! You hop into a taxi for a five minute ride and come out having been asked about fifty questions ranging from political views to best value supermarkets. It’s all harmless chat and it just shows that we are interested in learning about people. This inquisitiveness also means we are great explorers – Irish people are found in every corner of the globe and are always ready for a chat and cup of tea.
What is one thing most of your students may not know about you?
I trained with the Moldovan State Circus as a clown! Okay, it was only for a day, but it was the hardest day’s work I have ever done. I couldn’t walk for about a week afterwards, but it has left me with some pretty great party tricks!
What are some of your favorite aspects of being a Resident Director?
I love that every semester is different. Although our program core is pretty constant, our incoming students always bring such a sense of anticipation and excitement with them that it’s hard not to pick it up. I really like working on our program and making slight changes to ensure that our students get off to a good start at orientation and have a great semester. It’s exciting to keep on top of what’s happening in Ireland so that we can share this knowledge with our students.
What are some of the challenges of your job?
I guess I would have to say that dealing with a major incident is always quite challenging, but luckily we get very few here. Ireland is a safe country and we don’t get natural disasters, so we are quite fortunate. That being said, things can happen. Although it is hard at the time, I believe having us here to help out does make it less stressful for the individuals involved.
It can also be challenging to get through orientations in January and September without gaining ten pounds – we feed our students a lot while they are in Dublin for orientation and I find it hard not to tuck in too!
What have you seen as the biggest challenge for incoming students?
I think that homesickness, while not affecting everyone, can be very upsetting for a small few. It’s something I have had to overcome myself so I know how hard it can be. Luckily, I think most of our students feel they can reach out to us for help if they are homesick and we can nearly always help them to feel better.
What is your advice for students planning to attend your program, or to study abroad in your country?
Go for it! You won’t regret it. Don’t worry about the small stuff – apply, get accepted, get on the plane and we’ll help you with the rest!
What is one thing you think students shouldn’t forget to pack for life in your country?
You can get everything you need right here and pretty cheaply too. I’d be more inclined to say don’t over pack as you want to leave room to bring stuff back.
Why do you think is the most important take-away for education abroad students?
A sense that they are more competent, capable people than they were when they arrived.
To learn more about the international opportunities available at Oregon State University, click here!