Semester Abroad

Rediscovering Running in Ireland

November 11, 2019
By Erin Feeney, CAS '20

Semester Abroad
Trinity College Dublin

When I began my studies at Penn as a freshman in 2016, studying abroad was never part of my four-year plan. I did find the idea of such an experience appealing. However, as a member of the varsity cross country and track and field teams, it was not a realistic option within our three-season competition schedule. After three consecutive stress fractures led me to make the difficult decision to step away from varsity athletics after my sophomore year, studying abroad was suddenly an opportunity within reach.

I embarked on my semester abroad at Trinity College Dublin in the spring of 2019. When I got settled there, I decided that after almost half a year away from consistent running, I would leisurely ease my way back into the sport while exploring my new home. Noticing my Penn Track and Field shirt after I returned from a run one day, my new flatmate, a committee member of Trinity’s running club, encouraged me to join. I was hesitant at first — concerned for injuries sake and admittedly intimidated by the idea of joining half-way through the academic year as a third-year, foreign student. Nevertheless, within a few day's time, I went.

To my pleasant surprise, I was warmly welcomed into the group. Of Irish descent myself, I’m known to exercise the gift of gab on a run, and I found my new acquaintances to be no different. Within a few weeks, they convinced me to attend not only the regular runs but their weekly speed sessions, then long runs, then hill sessions. Before I knew it, I was set to compete with the club in the varsity cross country meet between all universities in Ireland. So, to Galway, we went. 

Erin and teammates


Prior to that meet, I would have never fathomed competing in the shape I was in. In my past athletic career both in high school and at Penn, I was hyper-competitive, driven to win. I sought external “success” through sport, rather than personal satisfaction. Yet within my five months in Dublin my Irish teammates and coach helped me to reconnect with my inherent love of running. Finally, I was once again running for the sheer joy in doing so, and the people I shared that joy with.

Erin with Irish teammates


In the months that followed, I ran countless miles, shared meals and nights out, and competed once more with my Irish teammates. The relationships I forged through the running club are undoubtedly my most treasured takeaway from my semester abroad. Joining allowed me to not only engage with a sport I love but also meet peers who shared that love. Rather than clinging to a community of other American students, I engaged with the local student population. The friendships I formed through the club I still maintain today, and I look forward to the next time I can return to Dublin and see them again.


The Semester Abroad (SA) program offers undergraduate students the opportunity to study in a new global community through extended study for a semester or year. Penn Abroad partners with top institutions around the globe and collaborates with Penn’s undergraduate schools to offer programs for students across academic disciplines.