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Interning Abroad at Marsh's Library in Dublin

July 08, 2022
by Emmey Harris

What would doing an internship in another country be like? Is work culture in Ireland very different from in the US? What kinds of tasks would I be doing as an intern? As I sat in Chicago O'Hare International Airport for the twelfth consecutive hour, preparing to depart for my summer abroad in Dublin, these questions were running through my mind. I had done plenty of preparation for my internship at Marsh's Library through the application process and my own research, but I knew that there would still be many new and surprising things that differed greatly from my previous experience at my home university (the University of Minnesota). My connecting flight from Chicago to Dublin being delayed by about 14 hours gave me plenty of time to consider these questions. Seemingly against all odds, with two separate mechanical issues preventing the plane from departing on time, I finally made it to Dublin around midnight that night. I was exhausted, for sure, but after a day to get acclimated and settle into my new surroundings, I couldn't wait for my internship to begin!

Marsh's Library Entrance in Dublin

Caption: The entrance to the beautiful Marsh's Library, located right next door to St Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin.

Now that I've started my internship, I can already tell it will be an extremely valuable and rewarding experience. I'm learning firsthand about the daily workings of a historic site and museum, and I've gotten the unique chance to participate in work culture in a different country. I also really appreciate my placement at Marsh's Library; it's the perfect fit for me! If, like me, you are also wondering what applying for and completing an internship abroad through CEA CAPA is like, I am here to help! In this post, I'll be detailing what the internship placement process was like for me, as well as my day-to-day activities and duties at the library.

Marsh's Library First Gallery

Caption: The first gallery of Marsh's Library. This room alone contains about 10,000 books.

When I applied for the internship component of the CEA CAPA program, I knew I wanted to intern in a field related to my major in history. Therefore, I made sure to emphasize my interest in history, particularly Irish history, and in museums, historic sites, and libraries. I explained how I hoped to connect my internship to my post-graduation plans, since I am currently planning to work in museums or archives in the future. I also described my past experience working in customer service and as a student employee at the archives in my home university's library system.

The final part of the internship application I submitted was my resume and a cover letter. If your university has a career services office, I would highly recommend consulting them for advice on how to write and format your cover letter and resume. Since you are not writing the cover letter with a specific company or organization in mind, I would advise keeping the cover letter fairly general. Focus on introducing yourself and your academic background, explaining why you are interested in completing an internship abroad and particularly in the city you chose, and describing your previous experience and relevant skills. In my cover letter, I explained I was excited for the opportunity to complete an internship in Dublin because I would be able to develop my communication skills and cross-cultural understanding, both of which would be vital to my future career, in a city that is rich with history and modern at the same time. I also provided examples of the skills I have obtained through my coursework and previous work experience. CAPA staff is always available to help, so don't hesitate to reach out to your Program Manager with any questions!

About a month after I submitted my application, I was notified by CEA CAPA that Marsh's Library was interested in conducting an interview with me. My interview took place within the next week, and my placement at Marsh's was confirmed a few days later. However, this timeline did vary somewhat among the other students on the program, so do not be concerned if your interview or placement takes a bit longer to be confirmed.

Cage at Marsh's Library

Caption: A "cage" at Marsh's Library. Readers used to actually be locked into these cages to prevent them from stealing the books; they would have to ring a bell to be let out once they were done!

As soon as I heard I had been placed at Marsh's, I couldn't wait to set off for Dublin and start my internship. Founded in 1707, Marsh's Library was Ireland's first public library and houses thousands of books from the fifteenth through eighteenth centuries. Visitors come from all over the world to view the architecture and unique contents of the historic library, which is one of the only eighteenth-century buildings in Dublin still being used for its original purpose. In my role as an intern, I introduce the visitors to the library and give them the information they need to make the most of their visit. Additionally, I make myself available to answer any questions they may have, and I ensure that the historic materials are being protected from mishandling. It's been really interesting to talk with people from all parts of the world who have a shared interest in books and knowledge of the past. Each new day is totally different, since I'm able to learn and share more about what each individual visitor is interested in. I've been able to gain unique insight into what the day-to-day operations of a working library and museum are like, especially one that is situated in a city like Dublin that is so immersed in history.

I've already learned so much from my internship, and it's challenged me to step outside of my comfort zone. It took me some time to absorb all the information I need to know and to get comfortable with sharing this new information with visitors. I'm definitely still learning, and there's plenty of instances where I'm asked a question I don't know how to answer. But these questions have sparked my curiosity and given me opportunities to learn things I would have never thought to ask before. For example, James Joyce and Bram Stoker really would have sat at the chairs in the old reading room of the library! I've found that people in Ireland are generally very friendly and willing to help, and the staff at Marsh's Library are no exception. Whenever I encounter a problem or just need someone to help answer a visitor's question, they are always very understanding and encouraging.

St Patricks Park in Dublin

Caption: Since Marsh's Library is right next door to St. Patrick's Cathedral, I'm often able to take my lunch break in the lovely St. Patrick's Park.

My internship at Marsh's Library has already been a wonderful experience, and I'm so excited to discover what the rest of my time here will be like. I'm extremely grateful for the opportunity to complete an internship here in Dublin, and I would strongly encourage you to consider adding an internship experience to your time abroad!

Marshs Library Bookshelves

Caption: Just a few of the books that can be found at Marsh's Library. The books at the library cover all subjects from astronomy to zoology and everything in between.

Emmey Harris is the Content Creator - Blogger.
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