Political Science major’s Jan Term in Ireland leads to graduate school abroad
Political Science major Gabrielle Gladden knew she wanted to go abroad for graduate school, but it wasn’t until a Jan Term to Ireland and Northern Ireland that she found the right place in Queen’s University Belfast, the oldest school in Northern Ireland and the premier institution in the country.
Gabrielle Gladden, a senior Political Science major from Baltimore, decided to travel to Ireland and Northern Ireland for a January Term after some persuasion from a professor. What she didn’t expect was that a visit to Queen’s University Belfast would lead to her acceptance to the school’s International Relations master’s program, where she’ll be studying next fall.
“Dr. Leahy laid it out for me. We’d be learning about Brexit and Ireland’s history with the U.K. and EU, and I love learning about the politics of it all,” Gladden says.
She knew traveling abroad would boost her resume for a future career in international policy and relations. In fact, she was already looking at graduate programs overseas. So, she decided it was worth getting her first-ever passport for a Jan Term in her final year at McDaniel.
Despite her nerves, the trip was an unforgettable experience for Gladden — and for Professor Leahy, who spearheaded the study abroad.
“The Ireland January Term was a complete success,” Leahy says. “It was not merely politics, history, conflict studies, and EU analysis; it was literature, art, poetry, drama, music, and dance. A cornucopia of the liberal arts.”
The travelers explored Dublin, met with journalists from The Irish Times, toured and attended a performance at the National Theatre of Ireland, and visited the UNESCO World Heritage site at Newgrange, the James Joyce Tower and Museum, and the National Gallery of Ireland.
Two top universities in Northern Ireland were also on the itinerary: Ulster University and Queen’s University Belfast.
When Gladden laid eyes on Queen’s campus, her first thought was of Baltimore. “I was like, ‘This reminds me so much of my high school,’ because it was a castle, and I went to Baltimore City College — known as the castle on the hill.”
At Queen’s, a professor gave the group a mock lecture about Brexit. “I found her so fascinating and was so engaged her entire class. One, because of her accent, and two, because I love politics. I’m hoping I have a class with her.”
After a tour and discussion about the university’s program for international students, Gladden was decided: She would apply to Queen’s. When she got the acceptance in the months between Jan Term and May graduation, she was shocked — but elated.
“I’m so excited. I’m so ready,” she says. “And my parents are really supportive of me going abroad for school.”
Gladden says Associate Professor of Political Science Francis Grice talked her through the U.K. graduate education system, which includes a flexible schedule and discussion-based courses.
“I think that style of learning and teaching is going to be really interesting. I’m definitely looking forward to having more independence and meeting new people,” she says.
Grice was also influential for her academic development, she says, from helping with essays to sharing book recommendations. And Matthew Mongiello, assistant professor of Political Science, was another go-to resource who convinced her she would thrive at Queen’s.
“I just really admire them. They taught me a lot about responsibility, maturity, organization,” she says. “I know that my professors are proud of me, but I’m also proud of the work that they put into their students to make them so strong.”
Now looking ahead to the future, Gladden can’t help but reflect on her time at McDaniel. She was the speaker of the assembly in the Maryland Student Legislature, led by Mongiello, and received The Thomas V. Mike Miller Award for Up and Coming New Members her junior year (the delegation also received the Most Outstanding Delegation Award). She was also among eight students chosen to attend Maryland Independent Higher Education Day in February 2023.
“I don’t think I would have the confidence or the drive that I have if it wasn’t for the professors that I’ve met along the way and the friends that I’ve made here at McDaniel,” she says. “The class sizes were super small, which means that you have really personal relationships with your professors. I couldn’t have asked for a better school.”
Gladden is president of Agents of Change, an advocacy organization on campus, and is a member of the Delta of Maryland chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. As a resident assistant, she’s used to connecting with students at all points in their college journeys.
“I tell my residents, ‘Look, COVID messed up my college experience, but when I came back junior year, I hit the ground running,” Gladden says. “All of the professors were so supportive, so welcoming and caring. They really care about you. They really pay attention to your behavior.”
She’s not sure yet whether she’ll stay in Ireland or return to the U.S. after earning her graduate degree, but she already feels prepared from her time at McDaniel to succeed in grad school and one day hold an office or work in national security.