For One Econ Major, Personal and Academic Fulfillment Comes from a Year in Ireland

Wednesday, September 18, 2019
Temple Bar in Dublin

Katie Cassedy had only planned to do a semester at University College Dublin (UCD), but once she was there, she realized she had to stay the entire academic year. The economics major, who plans to graduate in spring 2020, realized in October that a semester wasn’t going to be enough. “Once October hit, I called my mom and said, ‘I said I have to stay. I love it here. It's awesome.’” Thanks to some help from Director of Undergraduate Studies Connel Fullenkamp, Katie was able to make a year away work for her academic plan. 

One of the reasons Katie decided to prolong her stay was that she had joined the varsity sailing team at UCD. “All the big competitions are in the spring. So I stayed, and it was awesome because my six-person team ended up winning Varsity. We won Nationals, I got a gold medal and everything.” The team went on to place in the top 10 in British Nationals. Katie felt that joining the team was instrumental in making her away experience successful. “I made so many like genuine Irish friends. There were a ton of Duke people there, and I saw them around, but I went in knowing that I wanted to make Irish friends.”

If you’re worried that Katie spent all her time sailing and no time on her academics, fret not. “I feel like the perception about studying away is that you aren’t actually studying, but I was studying so much. The econ and finance courses there are the hardest to get into. And all my classmates thought, ‘Oh, she goes to Duke, she’s really smart.’ So I felt like I had to prove myself. I was studying all the time.” Katie noticed several differences from her classes at Duke. She compared her classes in Ireland to running sprints, whereas Duke was more like a marathon. “It’s very much continuous assessment at Duke, but at UCD it’s only a couple assignments and then a final exam. You have to change how you study.” Katie also noticed that the classes were different, being much bigger and less interactive than her classes at Duke.

Katie’s interest in economics and Ireland comes from her family background. Her mom is from Ireland, and she spent many summers in County Cork growing up. Once she decided to study away, Ireland was the natural choice. “I considered going to the university at Cork, because I knew so many people there already, but I’m glad I ended up not having the option. I would have just hung out with people I already knew. That's one reason I went to Dublin – I feel like my circle expanded so much more.” 

She’s always been interested in macroeconomics, and the opportunity to study it abroad was something she couldn’t pass up. “It was really neat to go and take economics classes in Ireland because what we study in macroeconomics here at Duke is the same thing that everybody else studies all over the world. We also got to apply it to what's going on in the world right now, especially with Brexit.” Following graduation, she is planning on taking her interest in economics and fusing it with her love for Ireland. “There are lot of companies that have EU headquarters in Ireland. I’m interested in working for a tech company or any other big company in their business side.”

It’s obvious that studying away had a major impact on Katie’s academic career and her future goals. However, she knows it can be hard for Duke students to get away from the Duke “bubble,” both in Durham and abroad. What would she tell other Duke students who aren’t sure if studying away fits into their plan at Duke? “Who you are as a person is so much more than what you're on paper. There are so many opportunities abroad for students, so why wouldn’t you go? Go somewhere else and get a breath of fresh air and experience something else. Duke will always be here.”