Padra Xiong

Padra is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Galway, Ireland

Major: Sociology

Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?

I had to choose between a place where I have always wanted to go or to a place where I knew little about. At the end, I chose to study abroad in Galway, a place I knew so little about. Trust me, it was scary at first because I had so many unanswered questions regarding race in Ireland. This was also my first time out of the
country as well.I wanted to be more exposed to another part of the world that I knew I would probably never get the chance to see again. I wanted to learn about the Irish culture and their language. Although I’m not Christian, I wanted to learn more about the Catholic faith. These were some of the things that I really emphasized on and within the three months that I was able to spend on that beautiful island, I can say that I have left with more knowledge about Ireland than when I came in.

Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.

There were so many unexpected moments that really caught me off guard while I was studying abroad in Ireland, but the one that will stick with me took place in Northern Ireland. Our Archaeology professor, Jacqui, gave us a tour around Belfast, specifically in the Protestant areas. There we were able to see various murals regarding events that led up to the divide between the Protestant and Catholic communities there. We also went into the neighborhoods, saw the walls separating the communities, and also saw two girls playing. They followed us for a while asking us questions about where we were from. As Jacqui was explaining a mural to the group, the girls ran past us and started making shooting sounds at us. They ran away laughing, but many of us were a bit taken back. At that moment I realized that what had happened years ago, is still prevalent in these communities today. Everything is a cycle, whether it be religion, prejudices, or racism. It will all just repeat itself unless we are willing to do something about it and break the cycle.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

This whole trip, for me, was all about breaking down the stereotypes I had about the Irish and starting from scratch. I think this is important when you are trying to really get to know their culture, religion, and the people. By doing this, I was able to learn so much about their history, be more exposed to my surroundings, and build relationships with the people. I had such a wonderful time living at Park Lodge, getting to know the Foyle Family (who are the gems of this program), and exploring so much of Ireland. Of course, there were days that were hard, but there are more good days than bad. Going to Ireland is one of the best decisions I have made.

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

Being away for three months, I learned how to be independent really quick. I became more confident in myself and really learned to love myself more. I think I got really lucky with my group and especially with our advisor because they provided me a space to grow. While I was in Ireland, I learned about what is important to me and what I want to fight for once I came back. I look at my life and experiences through a different lens. I learned to value my culture, religion, language, and my people. One of the most important things that I learned while I was in Ireland, is to take my time with whatever I am doing and be present.

What advice can
you offer for CSB|SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?

Study abroad if it fits into your schedule. It will be one of the hardest, most rewarding, and fun experience you will have. I know money can be an issue, but trust me when I say it will all work out. Save as much as you can early on so that you can explore more later. Definitely go out and try new things, but at the same time don’t be afraid to say no to certain occasions. Just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean that you have to. You are your own person and you can decide what you want to do. It’s okay if you do not travel during the breaks. Set a budget for each month so you have an idea of what you’re working with. Reverse culture shock is real so don’t be afraid to admit that you are having a hard time adjusting because I bet you you’re not the only one. Be present and enjoy every
moment you have wherever you may go.