Student Spotlight. Keira and Irish dancing in Cork

UCI English literature student Keira Whitaker is on exchange at UC Cork. Her adventure abroad has so far been enriching and inspiring. Keira has joined the UCC dance club, and performed at the cork jazz festival. She is currently learning traditional Irish step dancing, which she finds really exciting. Keira also won our 50th Anniversary Scotland/Ireland student competition with the following sentence: ‘UCEAP has provided me with the opportunity to reach distant places, where my mind is limitless and my courage borderless’.

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Keira in Ireland

Why did you choose Ireland and Cork in particular?

I chose Ireland for many reasons, but it wasn’t a decision I made overnight. I took my time deliberating over different study abroad locations and narrowing down my options. But when it came down to it, I knew Ireland was the right choice for me. I wanted to explore my heritage, which is greatly Irish, and get a better understanding of my family history. I also wanted to go somewhere that spoke English, because I am not fluent in any other language, although I am now definitely interested in learning a new language! I also knew that Ireland was a beautiful destination that was encompassed in greenery and nature, and who wouldn’t love that. And lastly, the program was affordable and made the most sense with my major. Everything I needed to take was at University College Cork, and once I saw the campus on Google maps, I knew it was a match made in heaven.

Was dancing something you were involved in before arriving at Cork?

My major back at the University of California Irvine is dance, and it’s something I have been doing for as long as I can remember. For this reason, it was essential that I studied abroad somewhere that offered dance classes, but what was so great about UCC was that the campus offered traditional Irish step dance, which is a style that I had never done before. Three months ago step dancing was something completely new to me, and now it is one of my favourite styles! If I had not studied abroad in Cork, I would have never discovered this new enjoyment!

Is the experience at Cork enriching you?

This experience has been one of the most enriching times of my life. My classes and professors are really great, and one of my favourite parts about life at UCC is the student-to-teacher collaboration. All of my teachers have informed my classes that they are there to learn from us just as much as we are there to learn from them. This teaching dynamic is fairly new to me, and was really eye opening. One of my teachers invited me to teach a dance class for the second year drama students, and it has been one of my favourite moments by far. Not only was I sharing my passion with others, but I also got the opportunity to teach a college level class. I can confidently say that I would not have had the experience if I did not study abroad.

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What are the best memories of Cork you have so far and what are you going to take back with you.

I have had a lot of amazing moments here in Cork, but I will never forget the time I performed with my Irish step dancing class in a local pub. It was at that moment that I realized how important this experience was; I had always assumed learning had to be done in the classroom or in a class setting, but studying abroad is all about learning from the local culture. Laughing and dancing with my friends taught me more than all of my textbooks combined.

Would you recommend Cork and what advice would you give students who are thinking of Ireland as a possible destination for their year abroad?

I would most definitely recommend Cork as a great place to study abroad, but anywhere in Ireland is going to offer an amazing experience. This country is filled with kind people and great schools. My advice to those of you who choose to study abroad here, is to get involved as soon as you can. Don’t over commit yourself, but get involved on campus quickly. You only have so much time here and you really want to make the most of it. Also take time to get to know the local community; everyone in Ireland is very friendly and they can offer you a different view of Ireland. Lastly, make friends and get outside; there are so many sights to experience and the friends that you make on this trip make the best travel companions!

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