John Loonan is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Galway.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
I met and became friends with some of the nicest and most hospitable people in the world. We were in a small town near a large city so meeting the locals early meant time to grow friendships that I know will last a lifetime. The Foyles (family that owns the Park Lodge) was already a family friend by the time I arrived. They communicate frequently with my brother, sister, and brother in law as well as my parents and now I am excited to be added to that list. Some of the stories and jokes I have from that family will make me smile whenever I am feeling down. Also, I met a man who I would call one of my best friends. Rory O'Connor, our taxi/hacknee driver, is one of the most genuine, sarcastic, and most friendly person this world has ever seen. At least twice a week I would run to his house for tea and sandwiches and sometimes a Guinness. He lives alone at home except for his dog and cat whom I grew fond of. He loves company and loves friendship. I am honored to call myself his friend and even now in America I still keep in touch with him on skype, facebook, and texting. He is a great man who I want to talk with future Galway study abroaders about and to give them one more thing to be excited about.
Why did you choose the program in which you participated?
I love traveling and knew I wanted to study abroad the second I learned about the great opportunity that CSB/SJU offered to students. I wanted to experience a different culture other than my own. The reason I chose Ireland mainly is because the year before I travelled abroad and prior to submitting my application, my sister and brother had both done the Galway, Ireland program and my lord did they talk my ear off about it. Also prior to deciding where I wanted to study abroad, my sister decided to get married at the Park Lodge Hotel (the place where the students stay) and I got to travel to Spiddal, Co. Galway, Ireland prior to making my decision. While I was there I instantly knew that I had to come back to visit this place and these people. I travelled Ireland for a month and then knew that this would end up being my second home. I left Ireland telling them all I would be back in a few months and thankfully I got accepted to the program and was heading back to my second home.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
Take advantage of this great opportunity while you are in school and don't have a career to interfere. It will be 3 of the best months of your life creating new friends and new memories that both will last forever.
How has the trip affected you? How are you different for having completed the experience?
The day before I left for home I went over to Rory's for one last cup of tea and sandwich and to say goodbye to a new friend. I remember one of the last things we talked about, other than who would cry harder, was that I was going to go back to America a changed person. He said it and I just nodded thinking "yeah yeah" but now being home for over two months I would agree 100% with him. I made new friends with students within days upon arrival because I had to and now anytime I meet someone I don't know on campus I instantly react and try to make another friend. I am constantly smiling whenever I think of Ireland, which is quite often, and I just am very proud of myself for travelling Europe and especially Ireland. I feel like I am apart of club of students who don't really know until they go and I am excited to meet the students who will join this club and who have no idea there life is about to be changed like mine was.
What advice do you have for future Study Abroad Students?
BE SOMEBODIES STORY!! Stay out later than you should, wake up on time, spend money you don't have, become friends with those you don't think you could be friends with, talk with the locals, be polite to your host family and directors and always offer to help, and always remember when your on excursions... "This is the last time I will ever be in _____________(fill in the blank) I can't waste this opportunity!"
Let little things be little things... I mean your abroad for goodness sake
Do you have questions about studying abroad in Galway? Email John at firstname.lastname@example.org