It is 7:45AM on a Monday morning, and I am on my own waiting to board a train from Dublin to Cork with  my computer, a list of the places I had arranged to visit but had never even heard of before, a smartphone for navigation purposes, and this crazy idea that I can help coalesce a new multi-cultural network asking young writers across the country to envision an intercultural Ireland.  The only thing that is going through my head are a string of questions: what I am doing here? Why did ever think I could do this on my own?

The answers to these questions have come only slowly.  After taking the time to reflect, I have come to realize that what I was doing on the platform on my own was learning a ton of life and professional skills, most of which are intangible and hard to describe.  Traveling alone has helped me learn how to be more adaptable in unfamiliar and open ended situations, where there was no map or check list. I realized I was writing the manual for building a national network as I was going along.  This adaptability has help me to grow and mature in ways I didn’t know where possible or necessary. Now I know I can I can be placed in almost any environment and given virtually any task, figure out how get something done.

What I was doing on the platform, and in all the days that followed, was learning how to pitch a product, really an idea, in a way that would compel people to act and create new connections throughout Ireland.  My job was to pitch a writing competition to young people by going to every region in Ireland and by visiting virtually every library, refugee accommodation center, youth center, art center and writing club in the Republic.   The main challenge I faced in pitching the competition was finding a way to persuade the person in front of me that they could sit down and write a great story or poem.

Now, with every group I speak to, with every person I convince to write, and with every draft I read, I am answering the questions that nearly paralyzed me earlier on the platform. As the days pass I I find myself slowly persuaded that this crazy idea is going to work, and that I can do this on my own in a foreign county with no map.  I can’t say what the ultimate ripple effect of the writing competition will be, but I do know the effect it has already had on the people I have met, the young people who are now writing stories and poems, their parents, friends, and teachers who have been encouraging them and, of course, on me.


I have just completed my first week and half at my placement with the Metro Éireann newspaper organizing the Fourth Annual Intercultural Writing Competition. In the past, the Intercultural Writing Competition was more focused on targeting students that live in Dublin. This year I am focusing on expanding the competition to other major cities such as Cork and Galway.

Within my brief time at this placement, I have definitely faced challenges in creating a new intercultural network throughout all of Ireland. Having never been to Ireland before, I did not have any connections or people that I knew here. However, with the help from Professor Tobin, Professor Shanahan, and Mr. Onyejelem, the editor of Metro Éireann, I have found my footing in Ireland. I have also found DukeEngage Dublin’s network to be extremely helpful. For example, two students that have had this assignment previously have given me insightful advice on how to improve the competition. Also, I have received immense help and support from the cohort, especially from Alex Johnson who has specifically helped me on the publicity side of the competition.

Given the competition’s expansion, I want to focus on a specific strategy for each city that I go visit. So far, I am mainly focusing on the Dublin strategy. I have been contacting numerous libraries, youth centers, community centers, and churches. Over the past couple of days, Alex and I have begun to hang flyers in the outskirts of Dublin on both the north and south side of the city. These districts have mainly been composed suburban residences. We wanted to ensure to advertise the competition in the suburbs so students that do not live in the center of Dublin can have the opportunity to participate. In the next upcoming days, I will need the cohort’s help hanging flyers throughout the city of Dublin. Their help is essential because I am trying to get the word out as quickly and efficiently as possible since we have already received social media promotion from writing centers and cultural centers.

Another challenge I have faced so far in building an intercultural network has been ensuring that there is diversity. Fortunately, Metro Éireann’s office is located in a part of town in which migrants make up the majority of the population. Metro Éireann is also known as a multicultural newspaper which means its readers come from various backgrounds. In addition, Mr. Onyejelem included a press release I had written in the front page of the latest issue of his newspaper which will help the competition gain diversity. Nevertheless, it is critical for me to focus on promoting the competition to migrants, especially for students whose first language is not English. For that reason, Alex and I visited the City of Dublin Education and Training Board Youth and Education Service Program where we gave a small presentation explaining the basis of the competition and gave teachers informational flyers. I made sure to stress that this writing competition is a great opportunity to practice writing in English because I understand the struggles of learning English through my own experience as a Mexican migrant moving to the United States at a young age.

Constructing a new intercultural network across all of Ireland will continue to be a challenge throughout my time here. In just the first week and a half, I have had some success through social media publicity and hanging flyers. Just today as I was hanging flyers, I visited a radio station that is interested in interviewing me on air next week. What made this experience even more special was that I met with the main producer who showed keen interest despite being stressed about interviewing the new mayor of Dublin. With help from the cohort, the DukeEngage Dublin network, and continuous productivity, I will be able to build an intercultural network across Ireland.