As the rain quietly fell onto the windowsill I sat perched on the leather couch in grey sweatpants, a thick sweater, wool socks, my black beanie hat, and a scarf. It was the beginning of July. The forty-five minute commute home had begun to take its toll on more than just my feet by this point. I hadn’t even heard my roommates walk into the apartment fifteen minutes earlier, and was startled when I saw them standing in the kitchen.
I had no answer when they asked how my day had gone, so I blankly smiled, replied that it had gone well, and returned slowly to my perching place on the leg of the couch. Images of all of my clothing being drenched by the icy rain filled my eyes. Over the past few weeks I watched my roommate’s work attire fade from business, to business casual, and finally casual wear. I wanted to avoid this shift, however, walking to work in the rain and cold every day made my crocodile skin flats and blazers increasingly unappealing.
One of the part-time workers at my office took personal enjoyment from my vitamin-D deficiency, and offered me his seat nearest the window in case the sun came out. Everyone in my office had relocated from other parts of the world, so none of us were truly accustomed to the “island weather” as the Irish jokingly called it. My supervisor, Lisa, was originally from Texas, but seemed to like the cold more than the Texas heat. She was a very kind and understanding person, and made my internship with Volunteering Ireland worth the while.
After two full days of instruction and training Lisa placed me in charge of conducting research with the office’s organizational support team. I was to become familiar with the volunteer opportunities the Dublin community had to offer, as well as to identify the communities that needed the most help and weren’t receiving it. This meant that I was exposed to different vulnerable populations in Dublin—ranging from the elderly and intellectually disabled to the growing migrant community—and offered them Volunteer Ireland’s services in order to help them gain visibility within the community.
When I wasn’t conducting research I was placed in charge of a service-learning project that partnered the Foundation of International Education with the Northeastern University in Ireland program. The program brought American college students from the college and placed them with the very organizations that I had researched earlier in the summer. I manned the project from start to finish by myself, contacting organizations to ask for their participation, reading through all of the student’s resumes, and ultimately pairing the students and the organizations. I was able to help the very people and causes that I had become so attached to, and felt like I was helping to build the community with my own hands. The organizations saw that I truly cared about the issues that they represented when I sent them large groups of the volunteers that they needed so desperately
Things in Ireland got better and better. The value of the dollar began to rise, the sun even began to shine more days often then not, and I bought a bus pass. I visited the Cliffs of Moher, saw all of the main attractions that Dublin had to offer, visited castles in Kilkenny and Glendalough, and took weekend trips to Belfast, London, and Edinburgh. I’ve had a taste of the “real” world, and I can’t wait to bring back all of my new insight and understanding of non-profits and volunteerism to Williamsburg.
Alexandria Phillips ’13 is a government major with a minor in sociology. She is most passionate about civil law, human rights, and equal opportunities in the workplace and classroom. On campus Alexandria is the co-coordinator for the Safe Zone Ally program, a facilitator for the diversity discussion during extended orientation, a trip leader for the outdoors club, and a photographer for The Flat Hat student newspaper. This past summer Alexandria lived in Dublin, Ireland and interned with the national non-profit Volunteering Ireland in their Dublin City North Office.