Amanda Kerkhove '20

Program: Ireland-Cork Spring Semester

Major: Biology

Minor: Environmental Studies & History

Student Athlete: Crew


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

I don't remember ever consciously choosing to study abroad. When I first toured CSB/SJU my tour guide gave me plenty of statistics about the school, but one that caught my attention more than the others was the shockingly high percentage of students that participate in the schools study abroad program, and from that time forward I knew that I would be studying abroad because of how seamless CGE makes study abroad for the students at these schools. Deciding on a program was harder. I was able to bring in a large number of credits from high school, and therefore did not need many of the common core classes that a majority of the CSB/SJU study abroad programs offer which made finding a program that fit me a bit more challenging. I was weighing an external program that would give me credits that would count towards my major and my minor and the CSB/SJU Cork program. After a lot of consideration I decided to participate in the Cork program because of its flexibility and customizable class selection.

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

The first experience that comes to mind was my living situation. I was very lucky in having amazing roommates while I was living in Ireland. Not only did I get to know three amazing Bennies, but I lived with two traditional Irish students and two other international students; one who is from Milan, Italy and the other is from southern France. Being able to live with these seven people allowed for some very interesting conversations about what life is like in each of our respective homes. I was able to see Cork not only though my eyes, but with the guidance of native Irishmen and other European students. However, maybe the best experiences I had were the nights that we would cook for each other. We each took turns cooking and teaching each other about how to make each dish and why it is important to us or our home.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

My study abroad experience, as a whole was life changing. As cliche as it sounds, my semester abroad gave me so many opportunities of personal growth. I moved across the ocean with a backpack and a single suitcase, was left with my peers to fend for ourselves, and I got lost. I cried. things didn't go as I planned. I got frustrated. I got lonely. I was disappointed. But much more than that, I navigated cities in foreign countries. I ate plenty of new foods. I met people from all over the world. I made so many memories. I made new friends, and grew closer with to the ones I already had. I planned trips, organized flights, trains, and taxis. I saw so many amazing things. I visited over ten new countries. I gained so much confidence. I am so grateful for all of the ups and downs that my semester abroad gave me and I wouldn't trade a single of the hard moments away because what I learned and how I grew are lessons that are so important to have learned.

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?

The biggest benefit to be gained from study abroad is the self confidence that comes from the amount of independence study abroad gives you. When stripped away from many familiarities and people holding you up you learn how to trust yourself and your self sufficiency. Self confidence and self sufficiency are skills that translate into both academic and professional development as well, because let's all be honest dealing with coworkers, doing customer service, and getting assignments done will never be as stressful as finding a train in the Roman train station by myself with a dead cellphone. I know I can get myself out of tough situations because I did so many other challenging things during my time abroad.

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

Don't say no to adventure. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Do something wild. Do something exciting. Remember learn happens outside of the classroom too. Make the most of every opportunity. You can scroll through Instagram and watch Netflix when you get back to CSB/SJU, but while you're abroad see and do things you can't at home