Q&A with the Ireland Programme Officer: Isabelle Gunn

It’s time for us to introduce our new Ireland Programme Officer, Isabelle Gunn! Isabelle will be based in Dublin and working with us at the Edinburgh Study Centre from afar. Originally from the town of Stroud in England, Isabelle focused on International Studies at Goldsmiths College, University of London, where she became interested in languages and education. She then went on to teach English abroad for a while before moving to Dublin, and now she has officially joined the UCEAP team!

Keep reading to get to know Isabelle a bit better!

What was one of your favourite memories from your time teaching abroad?

I think my first day working at the Navy Officer School in Chile sticks out in my mind! It’s located on the top of a cliff overlooking the city of Valparaíso so the views are spectacular and I’d never been at a Naval base before. I remember being very excited to meet the students. It was interesting to see all the cadets in training, marching around the base and randomly doing press-ups outside my classroom! It all felt quite surreal!

What impact has living abroad left on your life?

Immersing yourself in a new culture is one of the best things you can do in terms of personal growth. My experience living abroad has opened me up to new perspectives and taken me out of my comfort zone. I’m now more open to try new things and challenge myself. I’ve also learnt a new language – Spanish! This has had a huge impact on my life as I’ve formed relationships with people who I might never have been able to in the past. Having said that, living abroad has also taught me that you don’t necessarily need to speak the same language as someone to form deep and long lasting relationships. I spent 3 months working in a village in India and even though I didn’t speak the local language, I found other ways to communicate. I remember I would spend hours laughing and dancing with people in the local community. The relationships and memories your make while living in another country will shape the rest of your life. Despite the physical distance, I’d also say that it has strengthened the relationships I have with my friends and family back home. It makes you realise what you really value in life. 

What advice would you give to students who are considering studying abroad?

Make sure to do a lot of research about your host country. It’s good to read up about the country’s customs and things such as travel, cost of living, etc. If you know anyone who’s been to same country, speak to them to find out more as you can learn a lot through word of mouth. Try to immerse yourself in the culture by getting to know the local people and by joining the societies at your college. If you’re open minded culturally, you’ll get more out of the experience. It’s great to make friends in other countries as you can learn so much and teach your friends and family new things back home.

What does your position as the Ireland Programme Officer entail?

The role is varied and involves planning and facilitating orientation events as well as supporting students from the UC throughout their time in Ireland. I’ll be looking after the welfare of students and will work closely with staff at the colleges across the country. It also involves academic administration such as working through study lists.

What inspired you to apply for this position and what are you looking forward to the most about it?

I loved the idea of supporting people on their study abroad journeys, having lived and studied abroad myself. I have a good understanding of what it’s like to move to a new country and step out of your comfort zone. I feel like I will be able to empathise well with the UC students and help out with any queries they may have. This is what mainly attracted me to apply for the position. I’m very much looking forward to meeting the students at orientation and showing them around Dublin! It’s great to be in an international environment – there are always new things you can learn from those around you!  

List one interesting or unexpected fact about yourself?

I meditate for 20 minutes at least once a day! People are always surprised by this. Even if I have a busy day, I like to fit it in as it’s so relaxing and allows me to spend some time in the present moment. I wouldn’t say that I’m very good at it but I really enjoy it and would recommend it to anyone!