A Summer Stint: Music Therapy and Realizing My Independence
by Perrin Thompson
When I considered writing a reflection on my time as an intern in Dublin, I thought it would be easy. However, when I sat down (multiple times) to gather my thoughts and begin telling my story, I realized how difficult it was to put what I had experienced into words. How could I convey what a life changing experience I had? How many amazing friendships I had formed? How much I had grown personally and professionally? And how much I had learned about myself being immersed in a foreign culture?
The Stint Ireland experience was much different from the run-of-the-mill study abroad program in that I was able to not only visit a foreign country but also to live and work there, gaining valuable experience in my future career field. I am studying to be a music therapist, and if you’re like most people, that title might leave you scratching your head wondering what exactly it is I do. Music therapy can be used with many populations from premature newborns to elderly people in hospice care and involves using goal-specific therapeutic interventions based on an individual’s unique needs.
I never imagined that I would be able to gain music therapy experience abroad in college because of how specific my field is. That leads me to the other amazing thing about Stint – the experience and process was completely customizable. Stint worked with me from the beginning to understand music therapy and my interests and plug me in to working with Little Pals in Dublin, where I was able to lead daily music therapy sessions with disabled preschoolers.
Watching their faces light up every time I pulled out my guitar was one of my favorite memories of my time in Dublin!
Not only was I able to grow professionally, getting to know my coworkers over tea breaks and leading music therapy sessions on a daily basis for the first time, I was able to grow personally as well. Prior to this experience, I had never traveled alone or lived in an apartment. Before I left for Dublin, though excited, I naturally had some fear of living in another country – that I wouldn’t learn my way around, wouldn’t be able to figure out the public transportation, wouldn’t be able to understand the locals – you name it, I worried about it!
Once I got to Dublin, though, things fell into place and Dublin began to feel like home quicker than I expected. It wasn’t always easy, especially in the first few weeks, but I learned something extremely important that I have brought back stateside with me: I can rely on myself to accomplish anything and everything that I set out to do. Whether it be navigating the Paris Metro system solo with two years of French class knowledge rusty in my mind from my high school years, booking and executing independent day trips across the country, or relying on a paper map for what might have been the first time in my life (or at least a good long while), I was able to figure things out once I put my mind to it. My trip certainly made me realize how independent I am, and I feel that I learned a lot about myself living alone during my trip.
Living in the Stint House was also wonderful – the location was a short walk to the city centre, where I could take in the long history of Dublin or read in St. Stephen’s Green. The best part about living in the Stint House, though, were the relationships that I formed with the fellow interns. It was great to be able to compare life experiences with people from across the globe. I loved having travel and “let’s just go get gelato” companions and gained many close friendships that will endure.
I will forever be so grateful for all of the traveling I got to do around Ireland during my trip. I traveled every weekend that I had a chance to, and I was able to kiss the Blarney Stone, sign the Peace Wall in Belfast, bike on the Aran Islands, take in the beauty of the Cliffs of Moher, buy a claddagh ring in Galway, stand on the hexagonal stones of the Giant’s Causeway, and tour many, many castles. One of my goals was to take in as many sights of the Emerald Isle as I could, and I know the sights will stick with me for the rest of my life.
I had such an amazing time as a Stinter, growing, learning, experiencing the culture with eyes wide open, reminding myself that this wasn’t all a dream, taking in as much as I could. I am truly grateful to my school, Queens University of Charlotte, for helping me get to Ireland, and of course for the spectacular Stint Ireland team that has given me an experience that changed my life.
Ireland will always have a piece of my heart, no matter where I go.
Perrin Thompson is a rising senior music therapy major at Queens University of Charlotte in Charlotte, North Carolina. Her recent trip to Dublin has given her the travel bug and left her planning for many more worldly excursions in the future! She enjoys playing many instruments, taking in nature in the Appalachian Mountains, discovering new restaurants in Charlotte and beyond, spending time with friends and family, and has a passion for helping others through the power of music.