I can’t believe it’s almost over!

I have to admit, I have mixed feelings about my last 10 months in Ireland and mostly about the MBA. I’ve had amazing experiences and of course others that I wouldn’t want a repeat of. The silver lining here is the lessons and memories. What I’m certain of though is that I am not the same person that landed in Dublin, August of last year. I am definitely a much more sophisticated version of myself.

I was fortunate to be awarded the Mwangi MBA Scholarship which is awarded to one Kenyan woman in business. The scholarship is in honour of Ms Catherine Mwangi (former Kenyan ambassador to Ireland) who lost her son – an only child – in a terrorist attack. To turn something so tragic into something that changes people’s lives is amazing. It wasn’t easy jumping through the hoops to get the scholarship but definitely well worth it. I am glad that I took on the challenge and will forever be grateful for the opportunity because it has been life-changing.

These are my highlights for the last 10 months so far, I’ll let you decide if they’re good or bad:

  1. Irish weather

No amount of research could prepare you for the weather in Ireland. You’d think that after climbing numerous mountains I’d understand what extreme weather meant. There are days where it felt like there were all four seasons in one day. My Irish classmates talk about four seasons. Maybe they meant the hotel. I know what I have experienced is rain, wind and clouds with a little sprinkle of sunshine once in a while. I am yet to experience summer despite the fact that this is the end of June. However, it would be unfair not to mention how much I enjoyed the beautiful colours of fall. Irish weather has taught me to always be prepared.

  1. Groups

I have been in nine (maybe more) groups since I started this journey. At the beginning, nothing prepares you for this especially if you land in a group of six. It is a crash course on the fine art of managing people. I love how it breaks the tendency of working in silos and experiencing first hand how effective team work really is.

3. Diversity

Prior to the MBA I had lived and worked in India and Nigeria. Additionally, I had done a bit of travel and therefore thought that I had this thing called diversity figured out. I quickly discovered that there was more to learn. The MBA class is filled with people from so many walks of life; a paediatrician, vets, engineers, an architect, business owners and as if that’s not enough, throw in seven other nationalities. My favourite part was watching people struggle to pronounce my preferred name ‘Shitandi’!

 4. Proby

Living on campus has its perks. You can wake up twenty minutes before a class and still make it to that class on time. Quick and easy commutes mean you don’t have to fight the elements to get to class. Best of all, the random lunches and dinners with classmates who live on campus. I have enjoyed delicious Indian dinners without paying a cent thanks to my very talented Indian housemates. A special mention to Carmela for the most glorious soup I have ever tasted in my life. Some of those meals shall never be forgotten.

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Proby Family

5. International trips

I’m still pinching myself because it’s hard to believe that in such a short amount of time I’ve travelled so much while doing an MBA. South America has never featured in my wildest dreams. The trip to Chile and Argentina was breath-taking. Apart from the profound lessons learnt during company visits, time spent with classmates allowed me to get to know people better. I spent time visiting vineyards, drinking very good wine, wandering around Santiago and Buenos Aires and best of all, I set my eyes on the Andes mountains. A few weeks ago, we spent a week in Lisbon working on consulting projects. Our group worked with an impressive start-up where we helped them put together a strategy to enter the Irish market. It was very satisfying seeing a happy client. Apart from the work, we enjoyed sightseeing and amazing seafood. Interestingly, I was one of the few people who didn’t like the famous custard tarts that Lisbon is known for.

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Wine tasting in Mendoza, Argentina

 6. Running in Blackrock Park

Sunrise in Ireland is both dramatic and beautiful especially in Blackrock park. Running in the park was my therapy during stressful times when there was so much to do and during dark cold winter days. I still don’t believe I went out for runs in 1-degree centigrade weather. There are probably more beautiful places in Ireland, but Blackrock park is my special place.

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Sunrise, Blackrock Park

 Milka Omukuba, Full Time MBA 2018-2019 

International Consulting Project in Lisbon!

As part of the MBA program at UCD we had the opportunity to travel to Lisbon, Portugal for a 3 day crash course in consulting. The intent behind this trip was twofold. First, it offered us exposure to a culture that most of us were not familiar with, and second we had the opportunity to work closely with our Capstone team. This trip took place right after our finals, so needless to say we were all excited for the opportunity to have some hands-on learning exposure in a country with sun and pastel de natas!

We arrived on Sunday, and our project kicked off on Monday. This was a great way to settle in and bond with classmates before the real work began. It was sunny and hot, and we went on a tour of the city, had a great Portuguese meal, and just explored. Lisbon is a beautiful place, and I feel fortunate that we had the opportunity to see it from both a tourists’ eye, and from a business perspective.

On Monday we met our assigned companies. We worked in our Capstone groups with local start ups who had real business problems that they were looking for support on. While it was a school project for us, for them it was something that they were working on for years, and they expected true value from our time. It offered us an opportunity to work closely with a Portuguese company and put our MBA learnings to use. They were generous with their time and attention, and even took us out to some lovely lunches throughout the week. We spent 3 full days at the company speaking to employees while simultaneously researching and developing our proposed solution.

In the end we presented our solution to their leadership team, and they were grateful for our insights. It seemed to go very well for both sides. For them it was an opportunity to have a fresh set of eyes on a long-term problem, and for us we were able to get real world consulting experience on an issue that we could likely face in our future careers. It was a genuinely good feeling to get recognition from a company who was so enthusiastic about the work they were doing.

Once our ideas had been pitched we were able to fully relax. The program was set up so that we could book end our consulting project with some exploring and cohort bonding, and we definitely took advantage of that. We had a group dinner, a night on the town, and explored the top sites. All in all it was both a challenging and fun experience!

Alex Brown, FT MBA 2018-2019



Georgetown Case Competition

Ciara, Colm, Ger, Swathi and I were delighted to be chosen to represent UCD Smurfit at this year’s IBM Georgetown case competition, which took place in Georgetown University, Washington DC. The competition involved developing an innovative digital strategy for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). FEMA is an agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security and its primary purpose is to coordinate the federal response to disasters that overwhelm local and state authorities such as hurricanes, floods and wildfires. We were able to use our diverse backgrounds from engineering, finance and medicine to formulate a solution that considered the needs of all relevant stakeholders including victims, governmental and non-governmental partners, and FEMA itself. Our solution centred on reducing complexity and increasing the speed of access to critical information on the FEMA website and app, as well as proposing virtual reality educational modules for emergency response staff.

In the run up to the competition we were fortunate to have a number of prep sessions with past students, faculty mentors and Paul Slattery, our coach in presentation skills. One of my main goals for my year in the FTMBA has been to work on improving my presentation skills and through the additional sessions we received from Paul in advance of the competition, I feel that my presentations have come on leaps and bounds!

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We flew to Washington on Thursday April 11th and checked into our hotel next to the historic Capitol Building. The competition began early on Friday morning and we arrived to the McDonough School of Business all set for a morning of final preparation before our afternoon presentation. Unfortunately, as we were the second to last group, we were unable to sit in on any of the other finalist’s presentations. The other competitors came from notable schools such as John Hopkins, Carnegie Mellon, Hong Kong University and Georgetown itself. We presented to a panel of 5 judges, all working for IBM and consulting with FEMA. We were thrown some tough questions at the end of the presentation but were happy with our performance overall. We had the chance to watch some presentations from a design challenge that had been happening concurrently before the case competition winners were announced. We were amazed when our team’s name was called as the first place winner! We were the first international team to ever win the competition! The competition was extremely well organised and provided a great opportunity to learn, to challenge ourselves and to mix with other MBA students.

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We were free then to relax and enjoy all the sites of Washington DC for the rest of the weekend! We whizzed around on electric scooters that are dotted all over the city and visited all the major landmarks along the National Mall, such as the Washington and Lincoln memorials, as well as the White House, Arlington cemetery, Capitol Hill and the Library of Congress. We also got to visit the Natural History museum, Air and Space museum and Hirshhorn modern art museum.

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The trip was absolutely fantastic and I would encourage next year’s students to apply so Smurfit can defend the title next year! A big thank you to everyone in the school who helped us along the way!

Carla Peters, Full Time MBA 2018-2019 

 

“Diversity: The art of thinking independently together” -Malcolm Forbes

India is separated from Ireland by  numerous countries, 4979 miles and a world of traditions. I applied to a foreign university with the sole purpose of broadening my horizons. Prior to my MBA, I had received all my education in India and I thought that a different perspective on education would be insightful and interesting,  along with the course content itself. So far, I have not been disappointed.

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I arrived in Dublin on a Friday evening and was just in time to attend the Smurfit Welcome Dinner for MBA students. After an 18 hour journey to a new country, with a considerable time difference, coupled with meeting 30 new people I was left  feeling completely overwhelmed. I definitely needed the weekend to recover.

As the course work and my roles and responsibilities got clearer to me, I realised that the approach to education in Ireland was very different from the one I had experienced in my home country. The focus and approach of the system in Ireland is on what we learn, how we learn,  and how we can apply it in real life situations. The most beneficial part of this approach is the way we are marked for each subject. The scores are usually dependant on a number of factors; including class participation, team work, assignments, mid-term exams and finals. The focus is on what we learn and how well we perform during the whole semester rather than how well we can cram and write in a two hour exam.

Another important cultural difference I found is the social factor involved in the whole experience. Socialisation is a big part of student life, and culture and social involvement is considered to be as important as classroom participation. Knowing your way around Dublin and getting comfortable with commuting through  the city is as vital as knowing your course work.

Arunima De, FTMBA 2018/19

Assumptions are the Devil!

The greatest leaders in the world stand on the shoulders of giants. To make true change happen we need to learn from the change makers, the thought leaders and those that have gone before us trying to break down barriers. When I learned we would have a Thought Leadership Society I immediately knew I would love to get involved, little did I know that I would end up helping to run the committee.

With no information left from last years committee members, I initially had no idea of how I would be able to get the society off the ground.  After a few brainstorming sessions with the other members of the team, we decided the only way to find out what was the best way to move forward was to reach out to our fellow students and see what they would be interested in learning. So our first event was created; the Thought Leadership Society Mixer. On a cold crisp evening after finishing one of our exams, we congregated outside the MBA Clubhouse for nibbles and drinks. We had set up little questionnaires for our fellow cohort, to learn who they would like to hear from and what subjects most interested them.

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Ankita, pictured above, can be seen handing out the surveys. The most interesting part of the survey was that there was an interest in our class hearing from each other. It was nice to see the respect and reverence and I think this spoke to the quality of the students in our cohort. Also, there was an interest in debating topics within the college, rather than just being lectured to. This was an interesting idea that I for one would not have thought of, had we not opened this up to the wider group. It just shows that consumer research pays off!!

The first event was a great success and a lovely time to catch up with each other without the pressures of exams and college bearing down on us. There was a great turn out and hopefully this is be a good sign for future events. We look forward to scheduling many events for the following year and look forward to having a good debate and discussing far-reaching topics from the thought leaders in Ireland and beyond.

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Following our mixer, some of the Society headed to Belfield to see the UCD Orchestra perform which was the cherry on the top of a fantastic day. I would highly recommend fellow students to check out some of the great events on the main UCD campus too.

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Emma Farrell, FTMBA 2018/2019

More than Books and Numbers

As part of the Smurfit MBA application, each hopeful applicant is asked what his or her unique contribution to the MBA class would be. I remember thinking long and hard about this question, vacillating between thinking “of COURSE, I have something special to offer the class!” and feeling intimidated by my own imagination of the impressive feats and accomplishments about which the other applicants were surely writing.

From day one of the MBA, it became clear that I was right about both of the above.

What I did not consider was the purpose and outcome of this unique contribution “competition” for acceptance to the Smurfit MBA programme. Asking that the candidates prove themselves to be exceptional and inimitable ensures that throughout the year, we will learn as much from each other as we do from our first-rate professors and module coordinators. Seven months into my MBA experience, I still never cease to be amazed by my peers. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to collaborate with such incredible people.

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Each MBA candidate in the Class of 2019 brings valuable and unique experiences to the class. Oh boy, are my classmates impressive.

I learn things each day from someone who has a black belt in karate, from someone who has climbed Kilimanjaro (twice!), from someone so well connected that he just may be the Godfather of Dublin. I learn from talented musicians, artists and poets, bloggers, travellers – all generous, kind and funny spirits who masquerade as stud managers, medical professionals, business owners, and orthopaedic racehorse surgeons (among other disguises) by day.

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How about this – a PhD in Optical Engineering, specialised in the behaviour of photopolymer organic holographic material, with a killer GMAT score, a great sense of humour, compassion without limits, who is on the Board of Directors for a child trafficking charity in Nepal? That’s exactly the type of “unique contribution” that I feared competing against during the Smurfit MBA application process!

The Umbrella Foundation is a non-profit NGO and registered charity in Ireland, working to alleviate the impact of trafficking, poverty and war on children and their families in Nepal. It was established in 2005 in response to the growing number of illegal “orphanages” neglecting children’s most basic rights of food, education, safe shelter, healthcare and love. As a responsible and ethical organisation, The Umbrella Foundation works to prevent further trafficking and operation of corrupt children’s homes in Nepal.

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Inspired by my extraordinary classmate who contributes so much to my life, our class and the greater community, I decided to make a unique contribution to my own MBA experience here in Dublin. This past winter, I have trained and raised money for the Brawl for Nepal 2019 – a charity boxing match in aid of The Umbrella Foundation.

For me, the Smurfit MBA is not just learning about corporate finance, organisational behaviour and supply chain management. This incredible experience is also learning how to ask for help, how to support those who need help, figuring out the best place to flag down a taxi home at 3:30am in town, being able to the differentiate an Irish bar from an English bar by name alone, how to throw a mean right hook and how to keep myself entertained in A&E!

We are more than just sales directors, model managers, engineers and communications specialists – we are marathon runners, painters, boxers and friends. This is the Smurfit MBA.

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Carmela Reyes, FTMBA 2018/2019

Happy Days

December had dawned. Lectures had ended. Assignments were submitted. Our semester one was on the verge of being over. My MBA class was perfectly poised to start preparing for the exams and 24 hours per day felt too short.

The MBA Alumni Christmas Dinner in the first week of December gave us the perfect opportunity to relax from our preparations and enjoy a lovely evening over mulled wine networking with the UCD MBA alumni at The Merrion hotel. The evening was filled with inspiration by an enlightening speech from Mr. David McCourt. We were meeting alumni who had walked this MBA journey before and we listened to their successful stories. It was a memorable and magnificent experience, followed by a few, if not more than few pints of Guinness in the beautiful Dublin city after the Christmas Dinner.

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MBA Alumni Christmas dinner
From left to right: Himanshu Kamat, Shubham Sahai, Gerard Finneran, Akhil Khare

As exams neared, the walls of the MBA Suite at UCD Smurfit began appearing colourful with Corporate Finance formulae and supply-demand graphs for Business Economics. Preparation was in full swing and soon, it was show-time. The exams were challenging and for someone like me who thrives on challenges, I loved every moment of it.

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Semester One Celebrations at Nolita

With the exams finished Guinness would have been the most spoken word throughout the cohort. Celebrations were in order. Christmas songs were filling the hearts, and decorations were bringing smiles. Immediately after the exam we had plans to celebrate the end of Semester One at Nolita. As always, after dinner Guinness was a tradition.

Most of my MBA friends had made plans to go home, including me. I decided, however, to leave a little later as I wanted to relax and travel around this beautiful country. Some of us planned a trip to Galway, and I was particularly excited to visit places from Ed Sheeran’s music video Galway Girl. It was the perfect trip to unwind from the hectic routine and enjoy the Christmas markets and happy vibes on the streets.

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Galway

I am now entering this Christmas break with mixed feelings. The MBA at Smurfit is like riding a thrilling rollercoaster that one never wants to get down from. But here I am, seatbelt unbuckled for a month until the next ride begins, and a chance to reflect on the MBA journey through Semester One and to travel home, carrying the excitement for the next ride – Semester Two.

On one hand, it is going to be fun to travel home to meet family and friends, but on the other hand, I am going to miss my MBA friends and the MBA momentum during this break. I am as excited to return to Semester Two as I am to relax during this break. I am seeing a huge personal transformation in myself in the last four months both from a personal and professional perspective. December certainly has been an oscillation of work and fun, and this is the perfect balance.

Sláinte!

Akhil Khare, FTMBA 2018/2019

You get what you pay for!

I was a little late to join the MBA cohort, so missed the initial call to join the GNAM trip, which meant my first preference Yale wasn’t available. It was a real pity as that was part of the reason that I joined the Smurfit MBA. So if you are contemplating doing the MBA, I recommend you get in early, so you can get your first choice of trip locations. I always had a keen interest in technology as well as sustainability, so there was another course that really piqued my interest, that was a course on  Sustainability and Innovation: Technologies and Business Models that Address the Sustainability Crisis by Professor Justin Bull of UBC, Vancouver. I discovered that I would be travelling with David & Colm from Ireland and Kenta from Japan, they had already booked their accommodation, but I managed to convince them that it would be a good idea for us all to stay together in an Airbnb, that it would give us an opportunity to get to know each other better and perhaps do some sightseeing before the course started. Little did I know how right I would be, as we got to know each other a whole lot better.

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Our Airbnb set-up was unique to say the least. There was only one bathroom with the smallest sink possible, so we often ended up brushing our teeth in the kitchen. This pretty soon turned into communal teeth brushing as you can see in the photograph above. Another idiosyncrasy of the building was that we had to walk through each other’s rooms to get to two of the bedrooms! So it meant once you were up, the whole house was up. Fortunately, we didn’t actually spend too much time in the house itself as we had much to see and very little time to see it!

photo-fourphoto-threeWe arrived a day before the course was to start, just to get over the jet lag and do a bit of sightseeing. First stop, of course, was the Long Table Distillery, a micro-distillery that produced its own Gin as well as some of the most delicious cocktails I have ever tried! It got the trip off to a very merry start, to say the least! We also managed to squeeze in some cycling in Stanley Park and a visit to Capilano Bridge. The scenery in Vancouver is stunning and some of the redwood trees are so impressive.

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The course itself was very intense. We squeezed so much learning into such a short space of time. We learned about the incredible technological advancements that were taking place around the world, that would hopefully help to create a sustainable future. We had talks from experts in additive printing, artificial intelligence, the internet of things and blockchain. We were given opportunities to apply this learning by creating our own business applications. It all ended with a hackathon-style presentation which meant very little sleep to get it all done on time. The facilities in UBC Sauder Business School were really impressive and the space we were based in was set up like a board room/executive level suite. Breakfast was provided most mornings, so we were treated extremely well. We also got to do some sightseeing with the group and visit some Canadian businesses which was interesting. We also got to mix well with some of the other students, we met UBC students, as well as people from China, Spain, US, Mexico and Guatemala, so there was a tremendous mix of views and backgrounds which made for interesting conversations.

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Emma Farrell, 2018/19 FTMBA

Put a Hat on it

We’ve finally graduated! Graduation was a surreal mixture of feelings. The delight of seeing all the class again, pride in myself and my classmates for achieving so much and most of all gratefulness for all the support I had throughout the past two and a half years. I wouldn’t be graduating were it not for my amazing friends and family who tolerated the crazy over the last two and a half years.

Starting in August 2016, I could never have foreseen the amount of work and commitment that I had signed myself up to – or more realistically that I had signed my family up to. I waved goodbye to my then 8-month-old and rocked up to Foundation Week. I was more than a little anxious and, as a new mum, I felt slightly vulnerable. I remember practising what to say about my current situation ‘I’m not currently working, I’m still on maternity leave’ and worrying that there would be an internal groan from classmates if they found out I was on their team. It seems ridiculous looking back because I couldn’t have asked for a sounder group of classmates and many of us were in the same boat. At last count, we had 12 MBA babies join the ranks from our weekend class alone.

‘Motherhood’ was never an issue. Even when I added to the family during the break between year 1 and year 2, and showed up to class looking and feeling like a reject extra of the Walking Dead, I never felt like a burden. The truth is everyone in the Executive Class is busy, really busy. Work, business travel, kids, starting a business, moving jobs, moving house, getting married – everyone was trying to balance the competing demands of work, family and study. Instead of feeling like an inconvenience, I felt my crazy schedule was right at home. It was refreshing.

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It has been a transformative few years for me, becoming a mum of two while doing an MBA has been really tough at times but overall it has been incredibly worthwhile. I cherished the time I had with my kids as they began to sit, crawl and toddle through life. I equally treasured the time away from my little monsters where I could drink tea while still hot and converse regularly with adults.

The MBA allowed me the space to review my career goals and to ensure I was on the right path. It has given me the leadership skills and confidence to meet new challenges head on. Most importantly it has provided a renewed gratefulness for my existing friends and family and a whole bunch of new friends too.

I look back at our time with great fondness and I look forward to what the future holds for me and my classmates.

Elaine Broderick, EMBA 2016/2018

GNAM Week in Dublin

Everyone loves to go away on holidays and meet new friends! But what about when staying at home, and meeting lots of new, exciting international friends, becomes the new holiday?

That’s exactly what GNAM week in Dublin was for me; an exciting fun-filled week at Smurfit in UCD, my home town, and where many international students from across the globe came to take the course on offer. The students came from the United States, Canada, Israel, China, Vietnam, Brazil, and Mexico to name just a few of the exotic destinations they flew in from.

The topic of the GNAM course was Digital Business Leadership. During the course we learned how some very traditional companies have incorporated digital technology into their strategy and the benefits that these companies are reaping from the integration.

The week focused on some main industry areas, media, financial services, healthcare and communications.

We had several speakers from each sector come to tell us their story of how they incorporated digital transformation into their business. These included CEO’s of the Irish Times, creator of the successful website daft.ie and the CMO of AIB.

This was an excellent line-up of speakers. Each one detailed to us their experiences of incorporating digital technologies into their sector, the challenges they faced and the successes they have earned based on the hard work.

We also had company visits, on a daily basis, to companies such as Google, Intel, Facebook and IBM. Each company warmly welcomed our group and talked us through their ever changing environments and how they adapt and keep ahead of the game in their sector.

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GNAM Group Company Visit to Google: Names in Lights

No holiday would be complete without good food, and at UCD they provided beautiful breakfasts and lunches every single day. We also were lucky enough to take a trip for dinner to the Wicklow mountains, to Johnny Fox’s pub for dinner, a traditional Irish experience. Another traditional Irish experience, was the pub crawl tour, where we were guided through landmark sites in the historic city.

We ended the week with an afternoon at the historic Abbey Theatre in Dublin’s city centre, where we undertook an improvisation class, aimed at business people in the workplace. It encouraged us to use our creative side and to pull together to create scenes on the stage, blended from stories we envisioned on the day. The true highlight of the day, was to be privileged enough to act out our scenes on the historic stage itself, a real honour.

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Scenes from improvisation, standing on the stage at The Abbey Theatre

We finished the week in the wonderful city, with a visit to Beshoff’s for fish and chips followed by a visit to some of the historic pubs dotted around the streets. All in all, it was one of the best ‘holidays’ I have experienced in my own home city!

Sinead Sullivan, FTMBA 2018/19