I’m gonna be honest, when I applied to Plus3 Ireland, the extent of my knowledge of Irish culture was pretty much leprechauns and pubs. I did the virtual Haller Global Honors Fellowship the summer of 2020, but I left that with a far greater understanding of consulting and its practices rather than the bits of Irish culture I picked up through staring at my computer screen. The two weeks I spent in the heart of Dublin, interacting constantly with native students as well as professionals, was a tremendous experience. What I knew to be a small country with only one prominent hub of commerce and culture, I learned packed a huge punch in innovation and commanding the international business landscape. Packed with a rich history of which the vast majority was under British rule, Ireland is actually an extremely young independent country, something I was totally unaware of. This effectively made their economic policies and overall government Play-Doh, extremely malleable and easily amended. Thus, at the end of the 20th century tech giants with little necessity to keep physical offices in certain countries jumped at the chance to move to the land of potatoes, Guinness, and a 12.5% corporate tax rate.
Surrounding Irish business culture, our talk with Dr. Darren Kelly was profoundly insightful. One point he left us with was that Irish businesses would much prefer a B+ student with a knack for thinking differently and bending the rules, rather than choosing the student with the highest GPA. A straight A student is certainly smart, but those able to fill out a rubric to a T and offer little creative thinking are a dime a dozen. It was a very different way of thinking than I was accustomed to, as so much of my educational experience has had an emphasis on only achieving the best grade through whatever (obviously legally and academically honest) means possible. I have years of practice of memorizing information and my brain quickly disposing of it when it is of no use anymore, and it has diminished my creative thinking significantly. This talk from Dr. Kelly was a much needed refresher, a slap to the face urging me to acknowledge what innovation and industry-leading practices are rooted in: a type of thinking you won’t find able to be commonly taught, a perspective on everything which cannot be accurately conveyed in a rubric. I would like to think that shipping off to a different country and surrounding myself with people with some similarities but also extreme cultural differences was the medium necessary for me to fully grasp this alternate attitude on work.
What also certainly helped me understand the most successful businesses was actually talking to representatives! The site visits we had were enlightening, we were able to grasp what the top businesses prioritize, and the challenges of some which were not captivating the market as well as they had hoped. Prioritizing the customer, investing resources into employee growth, and never being satisfied with one’s progress were three values which resonated with me and I will not forget as I enter the workforce in a few years’ time.
As far as personal development goes, Plus3 Ireland helped me immensely with my autonomy. As weird as that sounds, when the semester is in full swing and responsibilities seem endless I often find myself engrossed in such a routine that when free time does open up, I am quite unprepared and waste it entirely. With only two weeks in a country across the Atlantic, I was not going to dedicate a chunk of free time towards playing computer games or watching movies. I rarely planned ahead and would frequently be tired from the day’s planned events, but when we found ourselves with a few open hours, I gathered all the energy I could muster and maximized the time I had. I found myself to be more active, more accepting of the unknown, and more eager to make the most out of every day that I had. I came in with minor connections to a couple people, and left with strong friendships and treasured memories. Two weeks in Ireland, but insights and lessons which will help me for years to come.