By Yaelle Nisinzweig, SED 2014
One of the greatest opportunities I took advantage of while at Boston University was taking a semester abroad in Dublin, Ireland. I was able to go abroad as a political science minor, and while I may have been taking a semester off from education classes, I was able to get more involved in another one of my interests. The BU abroad program in Ireland involves about two months of classes with Irish professors, and then about two months of an internship in my field of study. Incredibly, I landed an internship with two Senators in the Seanad (Senate) and went to work every day in the House of the Oireachtas, the National Parliament Building.
On my first day at the Parliament, I was given a tour of the beautiful government building and was taken through the historical artifacts of Ireland that are presented around the halls. After just finishing my Irish history class, I was able to see in person important documents and symbols of Ireland that I had learned about in class. One of the Senators I worked for was legally blind, making him the first Senator in Ireland with a disability. He is the first Senator to use an iPad in the chambers, which allows him to zoom in on electronic copies of all government documents. The second Senator is the spokesperson for Education, Disability, Equality and Mental Health as appointed by the Prime Minister, so while I was in Ireland to study political science, I was really learning about the politics of disabilities. I also met the first openly gay Senator and the first lesbian Senator to be in a civil union, who both have helped bring greater rights to same-sex couples, in addition to the leaders of several political parties and the kindest and friendliest security guards and tour guides in the world.
One of the highlights of my time in the Seanad was meeting the CEO and President of Special Olympics Ireland at a coffee and breakfast social. Growing up, I was very involved in the Special Olympics team in my hometown where my father and I were coaches and my older brother, who is autistic, was an athlete. When I introduced myself to the CEO and President, I told them how much the organization means to me, and while I was star struck by meeting such important members of the Special Olympics, they were just as thrilled to learn about the organization’s importance to me.
In all my preparation and predictions about my semester abroad, I never thought I would be interning with some of the most influential people in disability rights in Ireland and Ireland as a whole. If you are reading this post with time to study abroad, do it! You never know what wonderful things could happen!
*Yaelle Nisinzweig is a senior at Boston University School of Education, studying special education.