This week, in an attempt to create some variety in my life and step away from my living room office and the sameness of everything, I decided to pack a bag with a laptop and a lunch and walk the 5km back into the Dublin Center! It was my first being there in a few months so on the walk in I felt almost a little excited at the idea of going somewhere other than the supermarket! I got to listen to a podcast as I breathed in the cleaner air of Dublin City and recognized that even in the space of three months, so much had changed again. Shops that I bought some of the coolest clothes in were now gone. Coffee shops that once sold the best and most expensive americanos and lattes in the city had also closed for good. I allowed myself feel the sense of loss and continued on my journey onto Fishamble Street to the Arcadia University Center. As soon as I walked in the door, I felt a warm, comforting, familiar and secure feeling surround my body and mind. Almost as if I was being greeted with a “welcome home”.
I walked through each room in the building to reconnect with everything this place represents and I returned to my desk with a cup of tea to think some more. I began to ask myself about the purpose of a working space and the importance of this Arcadia Dublin Center. As I took stock of where we have come since moving in there ten years ago, I made a list of the very positive qualities and strengths that this space, a stones throw from Christchurch, holds.
Our Center helps build community. From day one, we invite students into this “home” of Arcadia in Dublin to learn about culture, about each other and to feel connected to our staff. We share our own unique stories about being part of a Dublin Community and about the importance of feeling that connection to a place in which a Semester or year will be spent. We highlight the importance of the Arcadia Ireland Community and from the start, the Center creates the foundation to make this happen. It is a place where students return to when we are meeting for events. There are walls where students can look at photos of those who have come before them in study abroad and about the many experiences shared over the years.
Our center has always been a place where problems can be solved between staff and among staff and students. The Center door has always been open any time of the working day to allow frequent drop ins to chat, ask a question, print a paper, collect a package or just say hello. It is a place where students have made big decisions about academics or personal health or relationships and where we as support staff, have held and contained these dilemmas. It is a place where students have shared happy times over pancakes and hot chocolates or where we have drunk warm mulled wine and exchanged Christmas gifts. It is a place where diversity is encouraged and where we as staff, can learn more and become more aware of an ever-changing student population. It is a place where sustainability is promoted and where we can make better choices in the running of our day-to-day operations.
Our Center has hosted many events to help students give back to the Irish community. Students have packed sandwiches and care packs for the homeless, students have packed bags of sanitary towels and tampons to distribute to homeless period Ireland. Students have shown up to our Center to learn more about the work of local non profit initiatives. Our Center is about educating. This begins from the moment a student walks in the door. They are educating us and we are also educators. It is a place where reading and studying is encouraged in our library and classroom. It is a place where students can share knowledge and form opinions to share within the community.
In the uncertainty of pandemic and lockdowns, yesterday reminded me of the importance of a physical building. Bricks and mortar are one thing but what each room represents within a relatively small building is a marvelous thing. It has comforted me in that moment of quietness and loss in the a city and world driven by a pandemic. I’m holding hope that the Arcadia University Dublin Center in one of Dublin’s most historic quarters, will continue to be the foundation of a student’s study abroad in Ireland. My hope is that it will continue to be a space of learning and of sharing. A place that recognizes the importance of being connected to a community.