Wendy Rima is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Galway
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I originally chose to study abroad, because I wanted to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience another country and culture and to widen my world view. I have always wanted to travel, and I thought the experience of living in another country for an extended period of time would be an amazing opportunity. I chose to specifically study in Galway, Ireland for the fall of 2013, for many reasons. First, I liked the rural aspect of the program. I wanted to experience rural Ireland, and I liked that we live in a rural area while still having access to the exciting city of Galway. Another reason I chose the Galway program was because of the community setup of the program. I was very drawn to the idea of living, traveling, and having class with a smaller group of Bennies and Johnnies that I would become close friends with. The third big reason that I will touch on is all of the planned excursions. I absolutely loved that it was pre-planned that we would travel to all of the amazing places in Ireland, as it really gave us the full experience of the country.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
One of the cultural experiences that sticks out in my mind is our trip to Northern Ireland. We had learned a lot about the Troubles in our classes and from what had heard and seen since being in the country, but actually being in the north was an eye opening experience. To see the murals, walls, and division that exists in Northern Ireland was an experience that I had never had before. It is hard to imagine neighborhoods in St. Joe or Minnesota divided by their religious affiliation. I have a friend in Belfast that studied at St. John's last year, and it was an unexpected experience when he felt uncomfortable coming to meet us in certain places in the city. While he was in America our differences in religion, with him being a Protestant and my being Catholic, were never even a topic of conversation. But in his home in Belfast, it literally put us on separate sides of a dividing wall, and that was when the reality and full extent of the Troubles really hit me and made sense to me.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
Overall, my study abroad experience was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It was a balance of our classes, excursions, and experiences with both the local people of the country and our fellow Bennies and Johnnies. During the week we had classes with our amazing Irish professors, that not only taught us about the subjects they were teaching, but the culture and their experiences of Ireland as well. On many of our weekends, we were fortunate enough to have planned excursions all over Ireland. These excursions gave us the opportunity to see almost every part of Ireland, and it really contributed to my experience of the culture and it gave me a more complete view of the country. On the weekends we were not on excursions, we had the chance to go out in and experience the amazing city of Galway. We got to make local friends and feel at home in one of the most amazing cities I have ever visited, and I am so lucky to have called it home. Throughout all of these experiences of class, excursions, and weekends, in Galway, our study abroad group was able to be together and bond. We truly became a family and it was one of the most amazing parts of the trip.
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?
Studying abroad has numerous benefits. You are able to get a new world view, and to learn so much about not only a new culture, but you also gain a new perspective on the American culture. I became so much more aware of world issues that I had not paid attention to before, and I came to realize how much the decisions and conditions in the US affect the rest of the world. I also greatly developed my personality as well. Studying abroad really gives you the chance to reflect on yourself and your goals, and it gives you a new perspective on what you want to do with your life and your future goals. For me, it reassured me that my career path was right for me, and it helped to show me what kind of person I want to be. Studying abroad also reaffirmed by career path. By learning about the legal systems and legal issues going on in other countries, it gave me a new perspective of these things in the U.S. and gave me a new and unique perspective to take back to the rest of my studies.
What advice can you offer for CSB|SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
The best advice I could give to someone who is going to study abroad is to take advantage of every single opportunity you get. Looking back on my experience now, I am so glad that I took advantage of opportunity I could, and it is because of that, that I truly have no regrets. There are so many amazing experiences waiting for study abroad students if you put yourself out there, and I would encourage future students to try everything even if it seems sort of uncomfortable or out of the ordinary. Also, specifically to the participants of the Galway program, I would really suggest to try to disconnect from social media. I feel that I got so close to the people on my trip and did so many amazing things, because I was not constantly on wifi or attached to my phone. While it can be hard to be away from friends and family, you are truly living a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you don't want to spend on your phone or computer. Even the nights that it seemed like nothing was going on, for those of us that were hanging out in our cottages instead of the classroom, we always ended up doing fun and unexpected things that are some of my greatest memories. Overall, just seize every opportunity, and completely open yourself up to new and exciting experiences, because they are everywhere for study abroad participants.
Do you have questions about studying abroad in Wendy's program? Email Wendy at firstname.lastname@example.org