From Philadelphia to Letterkenny Institute of Technology: My College Experience in Ireland

Honours degree in Design in Fashion
Honours degree in Design in Fashion

Kieva Brady is 18 years old and hails from Philadelphia. She is a first-year student in the Bachelor of Arts (Hons) Degree in Design in Fashion with Promotion at Letterkenny Institute of Technology (LYIT).

Kieva’s mother Deirdre Brady (nee Bradley) emigrated from Letterkenny to the United States when she too was just 18, and subsequently went on to marry Sean Brady, whose parents hail from County Cavan.

Like many young people her age, Kieva began thinking about her university options in 2019 and explored all of her options in the United States. She applied to a number of Art Schools, most notably the Savannah College of Art & Design, but when Covid-19 hit America in early Spring 2020, she began re-evaluating her options.

Kieva’s aunt Sinead, who lives in Letterkenny, supported by the fantastic John McDaid, whose story we also feature in this edition of the ezine. John is a Letterkenny native, and Vice-Chair of the Irish Immigration Center in Philadelphia; he provided Kieva with the information and advice that she needed to explore her study options in Ireland.

Kieva spent her summers visiting her grandparents and extended family in Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, and highlights that some of her most positive memories of childhood come from her time spent in Donegal.

Initially, Kieva wondered whether this would be the right option for her: “Being 18 and making the move to study and live in Ireland is a big decision” she says. “But I thought if I do this, I’ll stand out from others when I return to America; this will set me apart from other graduates”.

With the support and guidance of her mother Deirdre and father Sean, Kieva was connected with LYIT’s Vice President for Research, Equality and External Affairs, John Andy Bonar and Fiona Kelly, LYIT Schools Engagement Officer, thanks to the support of John McDaid.

Following a number of virtual connections, Kieva began the application process to join LYIT, which she found much more straight forward than the US college application process. She added: “The application process to join LYIT is so straight-forward, much easier and much quicker than the US college application process. I applied to join LYIT in June 2020, I received my offer from LYIT in early August 2020, and I left the United States in early September. I quarantined for two weeks on arrival, and then began my bachelor degree study at LYIT in late September 2020. It was such a fast process.”

Kieva says her first few weeks were exciting and nerve-wrecking: “I moved into my first ever apartment, which is located close to campus and I just love the independence. It is also so much more affordable than campus accommodation prices in the US. I have the best of both worlds here; I am studying on a programme that I really enjoy and I am close to my grandparents – which is so important to me. My grandfather has been quite sick this year and studying in Ireland has brought me closer to him. My grandmother is incredible and is the coolest granny around, she takes care of everyone and being able to spend time with them, while studying a programme I really enjoy, has been a terrific experience.”

Kieva is studying an honours degree in Design in Fashion with Promotion and spends two-days per week on campus and studies two days online because of Covid-19 restrictions. This semester Kieva is covering modules such as Art and Design History; Fashion Basics and Photography Basics. She loves the contact time with the academic staff at LYIT and also enjoys her time with classmates – who promise her lots of tours around Ireland and Europe over the coming months and years!

Kieva adds, “Studying and living in Ireland is a ‘home-from-home’. I can travel anywhere around Ireland and I look forward to being able to travel to Europe when Covid-19 restrictions are lifted. I am so excited about the future. I advise anyone that is considering their college options, to consider Ireland, and to consider LYIT. The openness in Ireland is incredible, I have made so many friends, and that’s down to the friendliness and warmth that you get here, particularly in Donegal. I have honestly made friends for life! I am a creative person and I think differently, and I know a lot of freshmen struggle in the US, especially in their freshman year, because they have to take subjects that they don’t enjoy during their first year in college. In Ireland, it is different, you study your area of interest from the beginning – this is a significant difference from the US experience. I advise any student that is making their college application to think about Ireland, this has been a life-changing decision for me, and I am so glad that I made this move.”

Letterkenny Institute of Technology (LYIT) has 4,500 students, two campuses, and offers 54 bachelor degree and honours bachelor degree programmes. The application process is direct to LYIT for International students and if you are interested in finding out more about LYIT email or