Abbie is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Cork
Major: Biology (Pre-Med)
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I chose to study abroad to get out of my comfort zone. I wanted to do new things, see new surroundings, and meet new people. I was at a stage in my life where I wanted to take a risk and discover more of what the world had in store.
I chose the Cork program for many reasons. First, I knew that I didn’t want to miss fall semester at CSBSJU, as I am a part of the dance team and it’s my favorite time of the year in MN. I also knew that I wanted to go somewhere in Europe. I ultimately decided on Cork because of my rich family Irish heritage, there is no language barrier in the country, and it’s beyond beautiful. I’ve always wanted to go to Ireland and be immersed in their culture. This program also allows for a great deal of independence since we directly enroll at the University and can pick our own courses. As a science major, this was attractive in the sense I could take generals and science courses so that I didn’t have to worry about them when I came back to CSBSJU. As an additional perk, I knew I wanted to travel, and the school holidays allowed me the freedom to do that.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
Many cultural experiences stand out to me – attending UCC, watching Irish dance and listening to Trad music in pubs, celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Cork, and learning the basics of Ceili dancing and Gaelic football are just a few examples.
One experience in particular stands out to me. As finals were wrapping up, a few others in my group and I decided to take our last weekend in the country and attend a rugby game of our “home” province, Munster, in Limerick. We planned it by ourselves, bought tickets, and traveled the hour or so to Thomond Park. I loved this experience, because we blended in as “locals.” As our time was coming to an end, we felt comfortable with going about our lives as (temporary) Irish citizens and not necessarily tourists. We enjoyed the atmosphere of the game with all others in attendance and learned a great deal about the game itself. It was cool to compare the experiences of sporting events in the U.S. that we have attended to this one. In Ireland, much more emphasis is put on the sport, and not the gadgets of the stadium, advertisements, or even players as individuals. Silence even overcomes the stadium when a player attempts to kick the ball through the uprights, out of respect for him. The comradery of the game was something special to experience. Everyone was invested in their team and had great pride for the game and their province. We all were entertained by the game and what was going on - even cheering with those around us. The Munster win was an added bonus. After having this cultural experience, I think I’ll be a lifetime fan of the Munster rugby team.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
Overall, studying abroad has been the best adventure of my life (so far). If I had the opportunity to do it again, I would. It was life-changing, eye-opening, and shaped me into a better version of myself. I am definitely more courageous, independent, strong, and more outgoing. This trip provided time for me to focus on myself - to find what makes me truly happy, what I love to do, and who I am as a person. There were highs and lows of the trip, but every bump in the road made the experience that much more enriching. Coming back to the U.S., I have seen more of the world, taken a full course load as an international student, and been immersed in a culture that I fell in love with. I’ll cherish this adventure, the memories, and the thousands of pictures on my computer forever. Quantitatively speaking, this experience was an 11/10.
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 allows you to spread your wings. Not only do you get to learn in new environments or new ways, but you also get to experience the world beyond the U.S. Along with that, independence is gained, self-motivation increases, and confidence follows suit.
Personally, I have become more confident in myself and what I can accomplish. I feel more responsible for my future and for my happiness and well-being. I am more assured in the choices I make and how I live day to day. I have also gained so many new friends and gained invaluable experience with traveling.
Academically, the semester abroad was much different from being in rigorous courses and labs at CSBSJU. I took 6 courses at UCC – ranging from an Irish music class to a health psychology class. I had to adjust to a new way of learning. I am also more aware of international issues and more open to learning about different cultures. Having that understanding and will allow me to continue learning with an open mind and an acceptance of new ideas.
Professionally, I believe the confidence and interpersonal skills I have gained will help me with connecting in the work place and succeeding in interviews or as I continue a profession in the medical field.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
“Just Do It”. There will not be another time in your life where you can pick up and leave for four months to be immersed in a brand new environment, make some of the best of friends, and not only learn about school subjects and cultures, but about yourself.
Once you decide to go, run with the opportunities you have. Get out of your comfort zone, explore, and go on adventures. Live in the moment, as time passes by far too quickly. Take this time to learn, have so much fun, and to grow. Take time for you. No doubt you will face challenges adjusting to a new way of life, but take it in strides and never give up.