Hey! I’m back!

Although Ryan did a superbly thorough job of filling you guys in on some ILE essentials, I would like to add a few things. (From a girl’s perspective.)

Fiona’s ILE Survival Guide for Girls:

1. Bring a small bag that is easy to carry around that fits your wallet, a digital camera, an international phone if you have one-not necessary, and maybe some lip balm or gum. Leave the heftier tote bags at home. Even if it’s new and adorable and fits all your necessities. Trust me, most of those things aren’t remotely necessary.

2. Get an international phone if you plan on updating your family by phone, but you can just as easily do without one if you don’t think you’ll need it. I don’t recommend using your time in cities relying on Internet Cafes to E-mail/Facebook family and friends. If you want one, there are international phones and plans that let you add minutes for really cheap. (Go to Vodaphone.)

3. Your beloved curling iron/hair straightener can still blow out even with a proper electrical adapter. This can result in burning your hair off, leaving a weird short spot in the back of your blonde tresses. (Neither confirming nor denying if this tip is related to a personal anecdote.) Basically, bring one if you can’t live without it, but use sparingly and carefully.

4. You’re given a lot of independence on the trip, but also the right amount of supervision. Don’t abuse your independence. Listen to directions and stay within the kind boundaries set forth by your wonderful counselors and you will have no problems.

5. This might be painfully girly, but here it goes: Buy a new perfume before you leave the US, (Travel size so TSA can’t freak out.) and use it daily in Ireland. Science shows us that smell is the most sharply tuned sensory association tool we have. In other words, when you’re back stateside and missing the ILE or your ILE friends, one whiff will take you right back to the Emerald Isle. I’m so glad I did this even if you’re laughing at me right now for spritzing perfume in a cloud around my laptop as I write this. Memories.

6. Bring comfortable, broken in flats or sneakers that go with everything. You do a lot of walking and you don’t want to attempt to break in new shoes no matter how cute you think they’ll look on the cobblestones of Temple Bar. Blisters are never cute. Also bring a lightweight raincoat and rain boots for wet days, of which there’s a good amount.

7. Ryan touched on this but…, take pictures! However, don’t take too many pictures. Don’t focus on simply snapping away! Look around, relish the moment, IN the moment, then snap away. Take meaningful photos of things that you love or inspire you. And most importantly, hand someone else the camera once in awhile. What’s a hundred beautiful green landscape shots if your beautiful self isn’t even in one of them?!

8. Connect with any Irish family you may have and see if you can arrange to meet up with them for one day or just dinner. I did this. I know Ryan did too and it is a fantastic new way to experience your heritage. The ILE Program is very accommodating when helping you meet up with your family, but be sure to arrange it well in advance.

9. Buy an Aran Knit Sweater from the Aran Islands. You’ll thank me when you’re back at home, cuddled up in it with a cup of tea and doused in your “memory-perfume,” daydreaming about your summer in Ireland.



Fiona Tomlin-San Diego, CA-ILE 2011

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Trip Dates: June 30-July 24, 2024