Dingle Global Education is a newly founded provider of faculty-led study abroad programs in Ireland that recently welcomed American students to the traditions, community, and beauty of West Kerry.
This article is proudly presented with Dingle Hub. They bring together innovative people who want to build creative and inclusive communities across the Dingle Peninsula, where they lead projects that aim to ensure it remains liveable and sustainable.
Seán Pól Ó Conchúir fell into his career by pure chance. Farming from a young age as part of a busy household with eight other siblings, he always saw his future in agriculture.
Sitting in a meeting room in Dingle Hub overlooking the harbor, Seán Pól explains that life had other plans and he went on to complete studies in business and technology. Yet, it was only after he found himself working in the study abroad sector that he felt like he had come across a job that fitted his personality.
"For fifteen years I was looking after students, dealing with Americans, faculty, and universities. I never thought that would happen, but I found a job that I loved and that I was good at."
When the pandemic rolled around, Seán Pól had what he describes as a "sink or swim moment" and he decided to take the chance of setting up his own company.
Working alongside his wife Lenka, they launched Dingle Global Education (DGE), offering unique study abroad programs for students and their faculty to experience on the Dingle Peninsula and in other parts of Ireland.
Faculty members work with DGE to design the program but Seán Pól's main message to them is, “You worry about the teaching, and I’ll worry about everything else.”
"When you send your students to us and while they are under our care, we are treating them like family," he adds.
Dingle Global Education’s first group of students arrived this May from Washington and Lee University in Virginia along with their professor Dr. Chris Dobbins, to study a month-long program of Irish literature, folklore, and language.
During their stay, they learned from guest speakers about various topics such as the Famine and its history in the area, life on the Blasket Islands, and a music lesson from Dr. Aoife Granville, a musician and Univerity College Cork lecturer, who taught them how to play the tin whistle.
Irish language classes were also held, "When they would go to get coffee they would say 'go raibh maith agat' and little things like that. They saw that the Irish language is a real thing and that it’s alive and not just like a Disney [fairtytale]."
One special moment that stands out for Seán Pól is when they held a trad session in a local pub and the students got to share songs and feel the magic of Irish storytelling through the tradition of sean nós singing.
When setting up the company, Seán Pól started by working from home but said he soon needed an escape from his four walls. He began renting a desk in the local shared workspace at Dingle Hub. The facilities there had all he needed to concentrate on moving his business to the next level. As well as high-speed broadband, he found that the interaction with others who work there helped him thrive.
During the process of developing a logo for DGE, Seán Pól began chatting to his nearby desk neighbors who shared their ideas with him.
“My creativity is certainly not in design and to get those opinions were so welcoming. Receiving feedback definitely increased my productivity." In the end, the naomhóg - a type of boat unique to the West of Ireland - was decided on as the symbol.
Later this month, DGE will be welcoming students from the University of California Santa Cruz alongside their professor Steve Coulter who previously spent many years living in the area.
Looking ahead, Séan Pól is excited for what's to come, "In the future, we see an opportunity in bringing specialist groups, book clubs, alumni groups, and even church groups that would have an interest in an Irish subject area whether that’s Celtic spirituality or Irish literature, and facilitate a program for them."
He finishes by reflecting on the symbol of the naomhóg, "It's associated with our old traditions, the language, and the community. That’s what we’re trying to do, bring people in our boat and show them our way of life."