Pat McMahon Grant Recipients

In 2022, the San Jose – Dublin Sister City Program created its first grant program for Irish students attending San Jose State University. The grant program is designed to help defray some of the expenses that Irish students face when attending school here in the United States. We are pleased that we were able to help five students for the Spring semester 2022.

Please note: this program is in addition to our Pat McMahon Masters Level Scholarship Program, which, since 2012, has funded 10 students, eight students traveling from Dublin to San Jose, and two students from San Jose to Dublin. Check out our Pat McMahon Scholars page.


Brian Cunningham

I am from county Kildare in Ireland, and I study at University College Dublin. Since January, I have been taking part in an international exchange program at San Jose State University. I have really enjoyed my time here so far and really cannot believe how welcoming and nice people have been since I arrived. I have made so many new friends since I got here. Meeting people has made it much easier for me to settle in. However certain aspects of life in America have been difficult to adjust to. For example, it is very hard to keep in contact with people at home due to the large time difference and the college life here is very different to that of home also. The methods of learning and teaching are on a far more personal level than they are at home. I have gotten to know my lecturers on a personal basis which is something I am not accustomed to but enjoy thoroughly. I really love being out of my comfort zone which is why I have had such a fun time in San Jose so far. I have also really enjoyed the university environment in general. Faculty and students alike have been very hospitable to me as I try to get used to life as an American university student which I have only ever seen in the movies.

No matter where you go in the world I feel as though you always meet another Irish person. I was delighted to get the opportunity to meet people from home at the Shamrock Run. For a brief moment I really felt like I was home when I was overhearing more Irish accents than American, the warm weather however was an ample reminder that I was in fact still in California! I even got the opportunity to meet an older lady who is from the same town as me in Kildare. I had a great chat with her about our shared hometown and how it had changed yet remained the same during the time we both grew up. The Shamrock Run was a great event which seemed to bring the community together. I felt as an Irish person I was at home in San Jose.

The grant offered to be by the San Jose Dublin Sister cities organisation will help me so much. An exchange program is not cheap when you factor in flights, accommodation, food etc. This grant will allow me to focus on my studies as we approach the end of the semester. I really appreciate this gesture and look forward to being involved in San Jose – Dublin Sister City organization in the future. 

I am a 3rd year student at University College Dublin. I am studying Neuroscience. My area of interests are central nervous system diseases and the processes behind the development of addiction. I am from a small village just outside Naas called Caragh. Gaelic football is the most popular sport in the county. I played for a small club called Raheens GFC. 

I went to secondary school at Naas CBS and spent my summers in the Gaelthact summer camps learning to speak Irish which is something I am very proud of. I am happy to now be making my own way in the world far away from home here in San Jose.

Aurelia Dilo

I am a 21 year old from Mullingar, a small town in the midlands of Ireland in a county which is known as the ‘Lake County’. I live there with my two younger sisters and my mother. I was born in Germany to an Irish mother and a German father, and lived there until the age of 11 which is when my family and I moved to Ireland. I am forever grateful to be able to call both Ireland and Germany my home. I am in my third year of a BSc in neuroscience at University College Dublin and hope to either pursue a career in research or enter the pharmaceutical industry after graduation.

Back at home, my family and I go swimming in Lough Owel every other day and sometimes canoe out to Church Island in the summer. I swam competitively until the age of 16 and I would love to take it up again here in SJSU. I also love music and I play the piano to a grade 8. I competed in show jumping competitions every other weekend with my horse Holly. I love exercising and going to the gym and going on long walks and hikes with my friends.

When I applied to go on exchange at San Jose State University, I never believed that I would actually make it this far. It seemed like a distant dream, a fantasy which would never become a reality. I chose to study here in San Jose because I had always dreamed of visiting the states and living the American dream. The weather, food and amazing national parks such as Yosemite and The Grand Canyon are some of the main reasons as to why I chose SJSU. The beauty and the diversity of this country is unreal. So far I have visited San Francisco, one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited; the Golden Gate Bridge and Lombard Street. I also went skiing in Lake Tahoe for a weekend with some of the friends I have made here at the I House. I am so excited to travel and visit all the other things which the USA has to offer. Life here differs greatly from life back at home in Ireland and it has taken some getting used to. Thanks to the people I have met here so far, I do not miss Ireland at all, they are most definitely going to be friends for life.

I am so thankful for the opportunity that the San Jose – Dublin Sister Program has given us Irish residents at the I House and it is amazing to be a part of such a special bilateral friendship. I am most grateful for the generous grant offered to us, which really is a great support to us during this time. I really feel at home here in San Jose and I look forward to meeting other Irish people at the Shamrock Run!

Catherine Doyle

I am 22 years old, and I am from a town in the southeast of Ireland called Carlow. I have two younger sisters, one older brother and two dogs. My interests include athletics, music, and socialising with friends. I attend University College Dublin which is about an hour away from my hometown. At university I am majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology. It is a challenging but interesting degree, and I am hoping to go into a career in STEM. I am currently in the third year of my undergraduate degree.  

Studying science in UCD gives students the opportunity to embark on a bilateral exchange for a semester in one of their partner universities. One of the partner universities is San Jose State University. I was overcome with joy when I was offered the opportunity to go on exchange to San Jose. It has always been a dream of mine to study a semester abroad and San Jose State University in sunny California seemed like the perfect fit for me. The prospect at studying at San Jose State University was a dream come true and I am so grateful I was offered a spot to go on exchange here. 

Prior to embarking on my exchange, I was very excited to see that SJSU offered international students the option to room and board at an international house. I am so glad I chose to live at the international house for my semester abroad as it has given me the opportunity to meet people from countries all over the world. I have learnt a great deal about other cultures, and it has enriched my exchange experience to a great extent. 

I have now been living in San Jose for nearly two months. It is safe to say that my time here has been the experience of a lifetime. I have made so many friends from people around the world. I have greatly enjoyed exploring up and down the west coast. So far, I have visited San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Lake Tahoe. Traveling around California so far has been a thrilling experience and I am so excited to continue my travels in the future. I have also learnt a great deal about the American culture. 

The support from the Sister Cities program means a great deal to me. It is a great privilege for me to receive a grant and I am very much thankful to the Sister City Program for granting me this generous grant. This money will greatly help me to support my study abroad and enrich my experiences here.  

Ben Lynch

I am a Sociology and Poli Sci major from Dublin, Ireland. I love traveling abroad and participating in local cultures (my personal favourite trip was a month-long expedition to East Africa, where me and some classmates volunteered as teachers in a local school). I had wanted to study in the United States for the longest time before finally getting my opportunity to attend SJSU. Many aspects of American culture have always been interesting to me, most of all your many sports. I fell in love with American football specifically to the point of joining my own university’s team (unfortunately during the COVID shortened season, where only one game was played).

I am especially happy that I was accepted to study in San Jose, not only because of the massive change in weather to what I’m used to (although I’d be lying if I said I’m not happy with the constant sunshine), but also the community and city have grown on me so much. Going on walks in downtown and discovering new places to eat and hang out with my mates has been a particularly enjoyable part of the San Jose experience.

Living abroad has given me a few challenges to face (culture shock, home sickness, etc.), but thanks to the people at the International House, other friends I’ve made at SJSU, and the community as a whole, I’ve been able to truly overcome these issues and enjoy my experience here to the fullest.

The support of the Sister Cities Program means the world to me as an Irishman. This celebration of the relationship between our two cities is something that I hope I can help to maintain long into the future. The fact that I can be almost half a world away from my home and still see appreciation of Irish culture and see the Irish identity as a whole flourishing so far away, is absolutely magical to me.

Alice Solcan

I am 20 and I live in Dublin, Ireland. I study sociology and philosophy as a joint major in University College Dublin (UCD). I chose San Jose State University (SJSU) to be more exposed to a diverse society and to meet new people! Being on exchange so far has been amazing especially as a sociology and philosophy major I am learning how to not take social phenomena for granted. I feel as though I am in a much more diverse society and this really showed me how influential social forces and cultural contexts can be in building societies around the world.

I have traveled more than I have ever before in my life during my study abroad here in California. There is never-ending things to do here, so much to explore! The adventures I have shared with friends I have made here will forever stay with me. It is all so fun, from dying of too much heat in L.A and walking the Hollywood walk of fame, to climbing hikes in Yosemite.  When I made new friends here, I learned how to embrace people’s perfections alongside their flaws. I believe that these all invaluable experiences have added a lot of new perspectives and values into my personal development. Another exciting for me has been comparing how classes are taught compared to Ireland. I have had to learn how to find the right balance the differences when managing my work.

I realize that when you really take time to understand the country you’re in you can find a whole new way of life. That’s exciting but it’s also challenging. Today, everything can be done online, including study, meeting people and even working. With Covid, one of my biggest challenges has been missing out on real life experiences as everything has been online including my studies. However, one thing that could never be replaced by online is the wisdom and experiences of studying abroad here in America and sharing experiences with new people away from home.

Sister Cities International works to create exchanges that create ‘community impact’ and spark lifelong friendships and this is exactly what I seek. I would love to in the future build ties between San Jose and Dublin and San Jose is a place I never want to let go of even when I am home in Dublin. Support from the Sister Cities would mean so much to me as it is such an amazing opportunity that I am so grateful for to even be considered. Support from the Sister Cities would mean a lot to me because as I view it offers me encouragement and drive. Ultimately, my goal is to reach my full potential as an academic student but as a person too, develop new hobbies and enjoy the opportunities arising. It will be great to enhance my knowledge and be able to compare and add to my learning from Irish perspective with more about the world, and minimize the constrains on my capacity to taking appropriate intellectual chances of understanding human behavior. This is an exciting opportunity I am determined to embrace.