Alyssa Hoppe is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Galway.
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I got a little taste of what it was like to travel abroad after graduating high school and it was an amazing experience, so spending an entire semester in another country was something that always interested me. I also knew that I would grow as a person by challenging myself and pushing my comfort zone. I chose the Galway program for several reasons. Exploring my Irish heritage was a very influential factor in my decision, but I also thought the rural setting would be a good match for my personality and the amount of planned group excursions that would give us an opportunity to explore all of Ireland was a very attractive feature.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
t's hard to choose just one experience, but the most impressionable one was getting to know Jacqui, the archaeology professor. She led several of our excursions, but the one that stands out is the Northern Ireland trip. Learning about the rich history and strife throughout Northern Ireland and the rest of the country was very intriguing, but what enriched the classroom material was actually experiencing Northern Ireland. I will never forget the strong emotions that Jacqui's tours of free Derry evoked in all of us.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
Life-changing. It may be cliche, but it's entirely true. I learned so more about myself, my culture, and the culture of Ireland than I ever could in a traditional class setting. It was an incredible experience that I'm truly grateful for and will never forget!
Based on your experiences abroad, what are some of the benefits of spending a semester abroad? How has studying abroad contributed to your personal, academic, and professional development?
You can take away something significant from almost every experience whether it be a positive or negative one. The challenging aspects of things like living with new people, planning trips, budgeting money and so on, changed me for the better. I've gained more independence and adaptation skills than I ever thought I would. I know that I've grown since my time abroad because I'm more open to trying new things, getting out of my comfort zone, and otherwise pushing myself.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
If you're unsure of whether you want to, all I can say is DO IT! It was such a unique and life-changing experience that I wouldn't trade for anything! Reflect often, take tons of pictures, and blog or journal about your experiences. Do as much as you can! Never stop moving and soaking everything in, but also take moments to yourself to just appreciate the sheer beauty of your surroundings. It can only be a life-changing experience if you're open to the change. Try new things and push your comfort zone!