Toni is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Galway, Ireland
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
After being at CSB/SJU as a first year, I came to realize how important and popular studying abroad was on our campuses. I was originally convinced that I would not be able to take the opportunity, but as I heard more and more about our colleges’ fabulous reputation and learned about the benefits to living abroad even for a short time, I decided that I would apply. I chose the Galway, Ireland program for a couple of different reasons. Firstly, I have never been a busy city kind of person, so I was drawn to the uniquely rural setting that the program has. Additionally, I have Irish heritage and was excited to learn more about the country that my ancestors came from. And as a theology minor, the program provided the opportunity to take an upper division theology course that would help fulfill my minor requirements. All of this culminated together after talking about the program with past students and their enthusiasm for the program inspired me to commit to Galway, Ireland.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
One of my favorite experiences while abroad was volunteering at the nursing home nearby the hotel where we stayed. One specific day, we were invited to listen to a local accordionist play for the residents. The musicians from around the Galway area are renowned around the whole country, so it was amazing. Then, the activities coordinator from the nursing home insisted that we dance with her and another worker from the nursing home. We ended up learning and dancing a traditional Irish dance in front of all of the residents on the spot – it was a blast! To me, this instance really exemplifies what my experiences in Ireland were like.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
I had such an amazing time abroad. I learned so much about the Irish culture and history that I never knew before. It was amazing to learn about history through a completely different perspective. It was through the amazing courses that provided the rare opportunity to travel and fabulous teachers who shared incredible life experiences with us that I fell in love with Ireland.
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?
I learned a lot about myself; I truly believe that I grew in confidence and independence while abroad. It forced me to rely on myself and after a while I eventually stopped hesitating when making decisions. Additionally, I learned some crucial life skills such as how to manage my finances, how to cook, and how to travel safely and efficiently. I definitely think that studying abroad helped me prepare better for my future. As a science major, my semester abroad was atypical in that I was not enrolled in a single science course or lab. I didn’t know what to expect, but by the end of my time abroad, I knew that I missed science and was excited to continue in my major, thus studying abroad helped solidify my passion in my major. Additionally, being abroad definitely made me think more globally, whereas normally I would not think much about the world outside the United States, I find that I now pay better attention to happenings around the world.
What advice can you offer for CSB|SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
If you can, do it. It is an amazing experience that you will never regret and even if it seems impossible, it isn’t. Make sure to make an educated decision about where you want to go and then work to get there because it will be worth it.