‘Denmark has taught me about what I want from life’

Laoise Murray describes studying in Aarhus; Emma Nic Shuibhne talks about her experience renting in the Netherlands; and Kate Ashe-Leonard visits Dublin after months abroad

Welcome to the May edition of the Irish Times Abroad newsletter. Emma Nic Shuibhne has seen more of the world outside of Ireland. Having studied in Dublin for four years she set her sights abroad for Durham, England, in 2019 for her master’s degree. “My master’s focused on International Human Rights Law, which looks at laws created by the United Nations and the Council of Europe,” she says. Emma’s interest lay in the topic of housing rights, something she based her thesis on to look deeper into the topic “how the international right to housing could be used to protect the rights of members of the Travelling community, who frequently experience evictions or inadequate accommodation conditions”. Now a PhD candidate in the Netherlands, Emma sees a difference between renters’ rights in Ireland and abroad. “The Netherlands have rent checks where you can check whether your landlord is charging you fair rent.”

Kate Ashe-Leonard sailed into Dublin “giddy with anticipation” to see home and those that she had not seen in months. On a mission to sail around the globe she describes “coming home is as essential to the adventure as sailing”. Despite enjoying spending time in familiar places, Kate knows that she will make the return trip to her sailboat to continue her journey: “I couldn’t see myself settling down, that scares me more than crossing oceans.”

Laoise Murray writes about moving to Aarhus in Denmark for a master’s degree and the differences she has found in the way of life there. “This country has lots of positives, but there’s also something missing – a warmth, a friendliness and a general sense of people enjoying life.” She feels that having come for a university education, “Denmark has taught me more about what I want from my life. What I really want is to find somewhere where I could belong.”

This month, one of Laura Kennedy’s pieces breaks emigration down to a case of simple maths. She talks about the cost-benefit of leading a life abroad versus what you would like to be possible if money wasn’t an object. “If I had unlimited funds I would live differently. I would spend the summer in Ireland, filling my niece and nephew’s laughing little faces with sugar and mincing my stiff toes into still-chilly June seawater,” she writes. There are costs you must consider because you pay your way one way or the other, she writes. When it comes down to it the real question for potential emigrants is what kind of life do they want to pursue “one where you can stop and catch your breath for a moment” or one “where you have to run after yourself so that you can never quite stop and fill your lungs”.


Leah Driscoll lists her main takeaways after swapping life in Ireland for Lisbon. The weather plays a big factor in lifestyle in Portugal with “winter here often feels like a nice September day in Ireland”. Because of the good weather, life is built around outdoor activities so “you can switch from work to holiday mode as soon as you step outside”, Leah says. There have been challenges to the move too. Leah has started learning Portuguese as she says it is “difficult to integrate socially with the Portuguese unless you have mastered the language”. Social settings such as yoga classes and coffee shops help to a point but learning fluency in the language is something Leah sees as a must in order to live in Lisbon.

Éamon Ó Caoineachán emigrated to Texas with his girlfriend in 2007 and since then he has been learning “how bloody surreal it is to learn about Ireland in America”. During his time in the US, Éamon pursued a master’s in English at the University of St Thomas. “I felt right at home in this small, Catholic liberal arts university,” he says, and once he finished his English MA Éamon went on to a master’s in Irish studies in the same institution. “The experience of reconnecting with Ireland through the Irish studies programme profoundly impacted me as an emigrant,” he says, “being part of an Irish community for the first time in years was emigrant therapy.”

Susan Bolger lives in Madrid and works for Tourism Ireland promoting the country to locals. “Most of our work here is focused on implementing year-round B2B and B2C marketing initiatives to drive the sustainable growth of inbound tourism.” She is working in her dream role and was appointed to be the Spanish marketing manager where she now leads a team of six in Madrid. “It’s been a privilege to spend my career promoting Ireland abroad,” she says.

If you live overseas and want to share your experience please get in touch with abroad@irishtimes.com with a little information about you and what you do.