The Lehigh Real Estate in Dublin program offered students an immersive exploration into real estate development in Ireland

Gehrig Rosenthal ‘25 had never had a study abroad experience before. So when he learned of a Lehigh University program studying international real estate development in Ireland, he and two of his friends – all of whom are minoring in real estate – jumped at the opportunity.

“It was an unbelievable experience,” said Rosenthal, a junior majoring in accounting and finance. “I will recommend it to anyone if they ever have a chance to do something like it.”

Rosenthal was one of 16 students who participated in Lehigh Real Estate in Dublin, a study abroad program in which they visited several development sites and landmarks, spoke to developers and real estate experts, and experienced the culture of Ireland’s capital city.

Immersive Exploration

A group of Lehigh University students in Ireland
Lehigh University students spend nearly two weeks in Dublin as part of the Lehigh Real Estate in Dublin program.

Held from Jan. 3 to Jan. 14 for students interested in commercial real estate or pursuing a real estate minor, the Lehigh Real Estate in Dublin program offered an immersive exploration into the dynamic world of international real estate development, engaging students in real-world scenarios involving physical development projects and providing invaluable insight into the industry.  The program also compared and contrasted the approaches used in real estate development in Ireland relative to the US market conventions taught at Lehigh.

Leading the students through this course was a fantastic experience, enriched by guest speakers from the industry who discussed actual projects and led students on site tours to highlight classroom topics, said Professor Loren Keim, Professor of Practice, Lehigh University, Goodman Center for Real Estate.

This marked the first year Lehigh Real Estate International Development Study Abroad was offered. It proved so successful that the program may be offered in different countries in future academic years, though it may be held again in Dublin next year, according to Shannon Smith, Assistant Director at the Goodman Center and staff leader of this year’s Dublin program.

Lehigh Real Estate in Dublin was offered in partnership between the Lehigh’s College of Business and the Study Abroad office at Lehigh’s Office of International Affairs (OIA). It featured students from varying areas of study, including business majors of finance, marketing, and accounting, as well as other majors like architecture, biology, and population health. 

“Our faculty-led study abroad programs warmly embrace students from all of Lehigh’s colleges, fostering diverse perspectives and offering students a unique opportunity to explore subjects beyond their usual studies, all while deeply immersing themselves in another culture," said Jodeen Joyner, Senior Study Abroad Advisor and program manager for the Dublin program.

The Dublin program began with classes about Irish history and geography before delving into topics like development, the Irish real estate markets, planning and zoning, asset management, property acquisition, financing, project site selection, and development appraisals, Smith said.

Getting a Real-World Look

Lehigh study abroad students learn about commercial real estate in Dublin
The Lehigh students at Ardee Point, a student housing development completed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The students visited nearly a dozen residential, commercial, industrial and mixed-use development projects, including walking tours within the construction sites so they could “get a real-world look,” Smith said. Among these construction sites was the Camden Yard development, a blend of cultural spaces, retail, green outdoor areas, apartments, and eateries.

It was truly a wonderful experience witnessing 16 students from diverse majors immerse themselves in the world of international real estate. Seeing them form relationships, engage in team-building experiences, and embark on excursions was rewarding. Witnessing their appreciation for the rich history and culture of the country was really special, Smith said. 

They also visited the redevelopment of Clerys Department Store, a historical Dublin landmark; the Construction Industry Federation site; Ardee Point, a student housing development completed during the COVID-19 pandemic; and Bray Central, a new shopping center in a seaside suburb south of Dublin.

“We actually went into the construction sites wearing hard hats and got to see them up close, which was really cool,” said Corinne Lyght ‘25, a junior majoring in finance who participated in Lehigh Real Estate in Dublin. “Just to have that hands-on experience was great; a lot different than just looking at pictures in a classroom.”

Lyght plays on Lehigh’s women’s soccer team and cannot pursue traditional semester-long study abroad programs, so she was grateful for the opportunity to take advantage of this program. She also participated in the Lehigh in Milan program in Italy last summer.

Expert Speakers and Site Visits

Lehigh study abroad students learn about commercial real estate in Dublin
The students at the Fegan Academy of Irish Dance in Dublin.

The students in Dublin heard from multiple guest speakers from companies like Fairfield Real Estate Finance, Quanta Capital, Osborne+Co Investment Management, Colliers Dublin and Deloitte Ireland. As well as Westridge Real Estate, Simmons + Simmons, Core Capital, ConwayMcBeth and Twinlite.

Many of the speakers and site visits were arranged by the program’s alumni partner Chris Wilson ‘90, CEO of Fairfield Real Estate Finance, who is based in Connecticut but travels to Dublin each month for business. Wilson is a member of the Goodman Center for Real Estates Advisory Council and visits the classrooms annually as a guest speaker.

“Setting up the inaugural program was a lot of work and required close coordination with Shannon Smith and Professor Loren Keim, but it was great to see it work out so well,” Wilson said. “Fairfield’s local borrowers and advisors were happy to participate and the students were fabulous. I look forward to working with Lehigh to replicate the success of the initial Dublin study abroad program.”

Lehigh Real Estate in Dublin also included tours and visits to various Irish landmarks and locations, including Dún Laoghaire Harbour, the James Joyce Tower & Museum, Dalkey Castle, Glendalough, the Wicklow Mountains, Kilkenny, Dunmore Cave, Giant’s Causeway, Dark Hedges, the Dunluce Castle ruins, and panoramic tour of Belfast City.  The students even had a tour of Leinster House, the meeting place for Ireland’s Assembly and Senate, guided by a former Irish Minister of State.

“I had a great time,” Lyght said. “It was even better than I expected, exceeding my expectations in every way.”