Amanda Tate is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Galway
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I've had my heart set on studying abroad in Ireland for years, but when it was time to actually pick a program, I gave every one a fair consideration before coming back to the Galway one. I have been encouraged by others for years to study abroad-they've always told me that it's the experience of a lifetime and it's nearly necessary in terms of individual growth and independence. As a person who really enjoys being home and in the routine of things, the Galway program was a perfect match. I come from a very rural background-I was born and raised in a small town and I chose to attend college in an even smaller one. The Galway program instantly appealed to me because it too is located in a rural place. Because of this, I was able to have the thrill and excitement of experiencing someplace new, while also having the familiarity of closeness surrounding me. I also really liked the idea of staying at a local hotel in Spiddal, the Park Lodge. Part of my wanting to travel to Ireland was to experience the presence of the local people, and the Park Lodge is run by some of the finest and friendliest locals one will ever come across. Their hospitality alone really impacted my view of the Irish people as a whole-friendly and entirely welcoming. Finally, in terms of the academic aspects of this trip, the courses really suited me. I am an English major, so I was fortunate enough to enroll in the Anglo-Irish Literature course. I learned so much about Irish writers and my eyes were opened to so much new material. I also was really interested in enrolling in a History course in Ireland so I could actually learn about how the country has evolved over the years. So many times we hear of people referring to Ireland and the Great Potato Famine, but I wanted to know why exactly that happened and how it was addressed. All of the course options really interested me and my want to study abroad in Galway.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
During the first few weeks of September, a couple of other potential teachers and I made our way into Spiddal to visit the local school. We have had a number of great experiences in schools back home, so we were interested in visiting and seeing if we could help out in any way. What we were not aware of, however, is that the school is taught entirely in Gaelic. Although English is the most dominant language in Ireland and nearly everyone speaks it, some small towns, like Spiddal, still have Gaelic schools. We were completely surprised by this fact and disappointed that we wouldn't be able to help out much due to the language barrier. Although we didn't have experiences directly in the classroom, just visiting the school and talking with the principal about the curriculum and students was really interesting. Gaelic is a very difficult language, and in Spiddal, students are expected to speak it. Just from my first impression, school seems to be a lot more strict there than I've ever seen it at home. As a future teacher, I found this very interesting.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
If I was asked to sum up my study abroad experience in one word, it would be "phenomenal." I loved everything about the set-up of the whole program. We stayed at the Park Lodge and were immediately welcomed by the friendliest Irish folks, took courses by professors from the University of Ireland, Galway, experienced nearly every aspect and city of Ireland on weekend excursions, and had the opportunity to independently travel to other parts of Europe. I learned so much about myself on this program, and I really think that it has changed me for the better. Something that I have always adored about the Irish is their sense of time. Everything is a lot more relaxed over there, and as a result, I feel that I have become a more relaxed and stable person. I am more conscious in my decisions and how they affect others. I had to manage my own money for three months and live sustainably with limited electricity. We have so many things here at home that we take advantage of, and my experience in Ireland really opened my eyes to that. Aside from all the wonderful things I learned in class and by experiencing everything Ireland's cities have to offer, perhaps the best thing about this program is the family that 27 of us students, along with our advisor and her family, formed. We lived in close proximity to each other all semester, and we really grew close. I formed so many new relationships abroad that I know will remain with me for the rest of my life. Although it was difficult to say goodbye to the place that had become home to all of us, it's comforting to know that we all have returned back to CSB/SJU and will continue those relationships. Ireland proved to be the adventure of a lifetime, and I am envious of anyone who has the opportunity to enroll in this program in the future. Nothing but good comes out of it.
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?
There are so many benefits to spending time abroad, but perhaps the biggest benefit to me was how much I learned to rely on myself. I became a really independent person on this trip. In terms of figuring out where I need to be at certain times, I've always kind of been a go-with-the-flow person and have relied on others to figure things out. What I learned abroad, though, is that when I am in a foreign city that nobody in my group has ever visited before, I need to step up and take initiative. I learned to navigate huge cities and rural towns. Some other benefits that come with studying abroad are the close friendships that are made. On the Galway program specifically, we all lived in very small cottages with limited electricity and refrigerator space. We had to learn to communicate with each other and plan ahead, and this really improved our friendships throughout out time.
Studying abroad has also contributed to my personal, academic, and professional development. I plan to be a teacher one day, so the Anglo-Irish Literature course that I took proved to be very beneficial. My eyes were opened to some of the best writers throughout Irish history, and I think that they are incredibility interesting and will be fun for my students to one day read. Also, just being in a classroom at the Park Lodge opened my eyes to different teaching strategies that I hope to apply to my career one day. I really learned a lot in my time spent abroad, and I hope to demonstrate that not only to my future students, but also to anyone that I encounter. It was a wonderful experience and I want to share it with others.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
DO IT. There is no time like the present, and you might as well experience something this amazing when youth is on your side. When I was preparing for my trip abroad, I received some advice from another Bennie who had gone abroad before me. She told me that no matter what, seize every opportunity you have abroad. If some of your friends are heading into town for dinner one night and you're just a little bit tired, go anyway. Something great might be going on-like a local band playing your favorite song. The whole experience takes a lot of planning and some discipline in that planning, but I promise you that it is so worth it. My three months abroad went by in the blink of an eye, but I am happy to say that I have no regrets. I saw amazing things and met amazing people. I only wish that I could have the opportunity again.
Do you have questions about studying abroad in Amanda's program? Email Amanda at firstname.lastname@example.org