Penn Abroad: Rising senior Ariana Wiltjer in Ireland

Wiltjer says a highlight of her spring semester at Trinity College Dublin was an ice-cold, early morning swim with her new best friends.

Ariana Wiltjer standing in a courtyard, a friend on either side of her, with historic stone buildings in the background
Rising senior Ariana Wiltjer (center), an economics major and consumer psychology minor in the College of Arts and Sciences, studied abroad at Trinity College Dublin. A highlight of the spring semester experience was making her two now-best friends, rising Penn senior Sylvia Goldfond (left), and Johns Hopkins University May graduate Liv Marino (right). (Image: Courtesy of Ariana Wiltjer)

Penn Abroad offered students studying abroad during the spring semester the opportunity to create a video about their experiences for a new contest. Rising senior Ariana Wiltjer is an economics major and consumer psychology minor in the College of Arts and Sciences from Portland, Oregon. She studied at Trinity College Dublin as part of the Consortium for Advanced Studies Abroad.

The motivation to go study in Dublin, Wiltjer says, was “push myself to learn outside of the American education system to gain valuable global perspectives.” An early morning, icy cold-water plunge on Ireland’s dramatic coastline was just one of the memorable highlights of her semester abroad.

Why did you choose to study in Ireland?

Even before beginning my education at Penn, I knew that studying abroad was a priority for me to push myself to learn in a different setting. Upon discovering Trinity College Dublin, I was instantly drawn to the academic environment and culture that Trinity and the city of Dublin provide. I was a part of the Consortium for Advanced Studies Abroad (CASA), along with 29 other students from top universities in the United States. One of the reasons I chose to go to Dublin was because I would be able to be a part of this program, with planned excursions, a cohort of students, and staff there to support us and answer any questions we had along the way. On the non-academic side, being from the Pacific Northwest, I was looking forward to studying in Ireland, as it is home to many beautiful hikes, cliffs, and natural pools along the coastline.

What was a highlight during your semester abroad?

My semester abroad was very academically enriching, but one of my most vivid highlights was when my friends and I went for an ice-cold swim in the natural pool, Vico Baths, just outside of Dublin. Before going to Ireland, I didn’t know any of the other Penn students going to Dublin, but after only a few weeks the other CASA students and I quickly became close. In fact, I met two of my now-best friends there. One of them is another Penn student, Sylvia Goldfond, who is going to be my roommate for our senior year. Sylvia, our other friend, Liv Marino from Johns Hopkins University, and I crawled out of bed at 4 one morning towards the end of the semester and traveled an hour to one of our favorite towns, Killiney. After a refreshing sunrise hike, we had a breakfast picnic at the top of the hill and enjoyed the views of the sun rising over the water. We then walked to Vico Baths, the natural swimming pool, where we joined the locals for an icy cold swim in the Dublin Bay. Although it was freezing, it felt surreal to be swimming and watching the sun glimmer off the waves with my best friends, enjoying a typical Dubliner morning halfway across the world from home.

How do you think your abroad experience may impact your career at Penn and your goals for the future?

My academic goals for studying at Trinity were to push myself to learn outside of the American education system to gain valuable global perspectives that I will be able to use in my future career. Studying in my courses at Trinity exposed me to new teaching and learning styles, different cultures and communities, and international perspectives to economics and business. After studying at Trinity, I realized that I would like to move abroad after graduating from Penn, whether that be to work or to attend graduate school. In addition, I developed a strong interest in developmental economics during my semester taking the course Economics of Less Developed Countries. In our lectures and sessions with guest speakers, we learned about the concrete changes to poverty and inequality that can be made through studies on educational and health policies in less-developed countries. I now see this as a potential future career path.