Exploring Human Development and Family Sciences in Ireland

Kent State Psychology student Madison Oberacker returned just a few days ago from her summer study abroad program, Human Development and Family Sciences in Ireland

Madison and the other HDF Ireland students in a group photo in Dublin.

An Enriching Academic Experience

The program was a 9-day exploration of Ireland with the opportunity for students to explore community services and societal influences on interpersonal relationships and families, such as education, religion, traditions, and immigration.

The students visited local centers like SCCUL Sanctuary (an organization focused on alleviating poverty and distress in Galway), a women’s empowerment organization, and Burrenbeo Trust (a charity that focuses on conserving the natural and cultural heritage of the Burren).

One of Madison’s favorite visits was to the Dolmen Centre, a local community center focused on helping people with intellectual disabilities live independent lives. Madison enjoyed speaking with the staff and learning about the Centre’s fun activities (coding classes) and art projects (puppet making!).

“It was really awesome getting to see the work they do and seeing the people there thrive. It was cool to see their Centre and they showed us the puppets they make and the art projects. It was just really, really inspiring.”

Madison and the students on the HDF Ireland program also had the chance to volunteer with another local organization, Kinvara Tidy Towns, for some cleanup and village beautification work. This volunteer opportunity allowed the students to work side-by-side, talking one-on-one with locals to get a perspective they wouldn’t have gotten through a traditional tour of Ireland.

Madison’s takeaway from all these visits?

“It was really inspiring to see the field in action in a way that I haven't before, like seeing how people use HDFS to better their communities.”

HDF Ireland students at the Cliffs of Moher.

Cultural Visits and Scenic Exploration

Madison and the other HDF Ireland students were also able to experience some of Ireland’s best cultural and scenic highlights. They visited places like Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, the Ring of Kerry, and EPIC (a museum focused on Irish history).

And of course, the group also visited Ireland’s most well-known and stunning natural wonder: the Cliffs of Moher.

“It was just really breathtakingly beautiful, and it was just, it was amazing.”

Confirming She’s on the Right Path

For Madison, a future marriage counselor, the HDF Ireland program further confirmed her career plans and desire to dig deeper into the field of Human Development and Family Sciences.

“I was already planning on doing graduate study in the field of HDFS, but now it's really cemented this is something I want to do. Just seeing how it impacts lives, it's really cemented what my future plans are.”

Madison in Ireland sitting on a rock in the countryside.

Trying New Things, Seeing New Places

Going into the program, Madison had initially been nervous. This was her first time traveling abroad, and she didn’t know anyone else that would be going on the program with her. However, those fears were quickly set aside, and Madison quickly made friends!

“Everyone was super sweet and friendly, and I feel like we all got really close, so that was great!”

Madison also took the leap to try new cuisine in Ireland.

“I'm not a seafood person, like I've never really liked seafood, but I figured since I was in Ireland, I had to get the fish and chips. And it was really good! And it came with this coleslaw, and I don't know what was in it, but it was purple and it puts ours to shame!”

Overall, the program inspired Madison for the future:

“It’s definitely inspired me to want to travel more. This is my first experience outside of the United States, so now I just really want to see the world because it was really cool to learn about Irish culture and history. And I kind of want to do that with a bunch of different countries now.”

When asked where’s next, Madison said visiting Japan is at the top of her list!

Madison’s Advice for Future Study Abroad Students

“Always keep an open mind and try to get as many different perspectives as you can. Because part of the program was getting out of your comfort zone and talking to people, strangers. And it was really hard at first, but also very rewarding to just learn about others and their different perspectives.”

Madison also has some great advice for applying for scholarships: “Just go for it. Even if you don’t think you’ll get it, just apply anyway because you might be surprised!”

Interested in the Human Development and Family Sciences in Ireland program? Head to the program brochure to learn more or reach out to edabroad@kent.edu

Madison outside of Blarney Castle
POSTED: Monday, June 10, 2024 09:49 AM
Updated: Monday, July 8, 2024 01:02 PM
Desiree Dube, Sr. Education Abroad Advisor