Innovation in Ireland – May Term 2016
—by Mariah Kettler
When I first thought about going to Ireland for 3 and a half weeks I was a little hesitant. I had never been out of the country or away from home for that long. It was my last semester of college and I was focused on walking across that stage when my professor announced she had 2 openings for the Innovation in Ireland program. Unknowingly, my roommate at the time was also considering this program. I thought about it for a day or so and thought why not? Little did I know I was about to have a truly mind opening experience and I’m not just saying that to be dramatic. Ireland was the best decision I made during my college career.
Arriving in Ireland, I looked out the window of the plane and saw beautiful green grassland and I instantly fell in love. The cobblestone streets are even better than in the movies, as are the sheep. As far as culture goes, Ireland is not that different from the U.S. as they speak English and you can find a McDonalds and Starbucks on every corner. However, there were many differences such as the food. It was out of this world as everything tastes homemade, which it probably is. If you enjoy eating amazing food-this program is for you.
What I got most out of the program however, was meeting and visiting so many companies. We went to a variety some small, some large. Throughout the program you are working on a “company project” which consists of meeting with a company of your choice and applying the innovation characteristics you learn about along the way. Business major or not this is a fabulous opportunity to expand your knowledge and gain beneficial contacts. As John Kratz (Professor at UMD) says, “it’s not about who you know it’s about who they know”.
I met with a company called Altocloud. They are a startup company based in Cork and are located in the Portershed which houses many startup companies in a collaborative environment. Before arriving I had been conversing with the Head of Digital Marketing, Maricka Burke O’Keogh. I’m not going to lie it’s a little intimidating reaching out blind to a company in another company asking for an interview. Maricka made the whole process a piece of cake and was so willing to answer all of the questions I had. While in Ireland I met with her for an hour and asked many questions about Altocloud, her role and about their innovativeness as a company. I learned more than I ever thought I would and I am forever grateful for that. If you’re curious about the awesome company I met with you should take a look at their website: https://www.altocloud.com/
I recently started working in Minneapolis at my “big girl” job and I would be lying if I said the knowledge I gained in Ireland isn’t being put to use here. Going abroad has offered me a different perspective on everyday life and has helped me to understand that not everyone thinks the same. I’ve also been able to utilize some of my contacts that I gained in Ireland. I still remain connected with all of the contacts I made on LinkedIn and enjoy seeing their updates.
Going abroad is an experience that I don’t think anyone can put into words, rather you have to experience it for yourself. The memories you make with your group, the culture and experiences while abroad are ones that will truly last a lifetime. No matter how busy you are or how many excuses you come up to as to why you can’t go I challenge you to take the leap and just say “yes.”