Senior Serena Cavanaugh poses for a photo during third period. She will be attending the No. 1 ranked college in Ireland — Trinity College Dublin. (Rahma Shaikh)
Senior Serena Cavanaugh poses for a photo during third period. She will be attending the No. 1 ranked college in Ireland — Trinity College Dublin.

Rahma Shaikh

Flying abroad

Senior to attend college in Ireland

May 24, 2023

Her desire to study abroad began as a child when her mom created a rule in which she isn’t allowed to go to college in the state. Now, senior Serena Cavanaugh will be traveling to Europe and attending the No. 1 college in Ireland. 

Cavanaugh’s journey applying to colleges began with an organization at her mom’s work called “Bright Horizons,” which includes a college coach students can use for free. The organization gave her various options on college locations, as well the costs and scholarship opportunities. But Cavanaugh came across Trinity College Dublin herself.

“I don’t speak any other languages besides English,” Cavanaugh said. “I think going abroad to a country that is predominately speaking another language [could] be really overwhelming. I was looking at countries that spoke [mainly] English and schools within those countries, and all the stars aligned for [this] school.” 

Cavanaugh is majoring in a political science, philosophy, sociology and economics program, in which all subjects are taken the first four years, and then narrowed down to one or two subjects during the last year.

“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do,” Cavanaugh said. “I still don’t. I kind of know what I want to study now, but I’m not really sure what [to do as a career]. I think that’s also why I chose the program that I did — it gives you a wider range of things you can do when you graduate.”

Since her sophomore year, Cavanaugh has been a member of AcDec and said it has influenced her decision in choosing a college.

“This is a unique experience,” Cavanaugh said. “Being able to go to a college that’s far away [and] more competitive, you always think, ‘am I going to be prepared enough to do this?’ ‘am I smart enough’ [or] ‘am I going to be able to handle the workload?’ Trinity is very student-driven [and] with AcDec, you get prepared for that. You have to learn a ton of information, memorize it and be able to synthesize it. I think that’s helped me prepare and feel more confident in being able to go further.”

Senior Kaden Nguyen, who has been in AcDec with Cavanaugh for three years, said she took on a leadership role in the class this year, and hopes she’s successful in the future.

“I really love working with her and hanging out with her,” Nguyen said. “She’s very cooperative and collaborative, [and] she’s willing to take in your perspective and work with you through things. She [can be] very combative, [but it] is in a way that’s productive – I think that’s one of her defining features.”

AcDec coach Donna Friend, whom Cavanaugh is also a student aide for, watched her grow into a leader and organizer for the team.

“If anybody’s going to go somewhere new and different from their high school experience and handle, embrace and love it — it’s Serena,” Friend said. “She’ll have a blast. She already visited [Ireland], and the stories she came back with — you could just see it. Her eyes were all sparkly and she was kind of giggly when she talked about it — she’s ready.”

Cavanaugh said she hopes to experience a variety of new steps in her future.

“I’m looking forward to being in a completely different place,” Cavanaugh said. “Texas definitely isn’t the right place for me. I’m looking forward to [Ireland], and all the new experiences and differences in cultures [that I’ll see]. Once I’m there, [my next steps are] traveling around the rest of Europe. [My advice to others is to] not limit your options — think with the widest scope that you can, because you can go anywhere.”

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