Caitessa Venables '20

Program: Ireland-Cork Spring Semester

Major: Biochemistry


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

As soon as I decided to go to St. Ben’s and St. John’s I knew I was going to study abroad. Bennies and Johnnies talk so highly of their time abroad and how it changed their perspective on the world. I knew that if given the opportunity, I too was going to travel to a far off country and try to learn and experience as much as possible. I decided on the Cork program because I wanted to explore my Irish heritage while being completely independent. I loved that I got to enroll in a different university and take whatever classes I thought were interesting. I was able to fulfill many of my common curriculum requirements while learning more about a country that I quickly grew to love.

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

Our entire group took a trip up to Northern Ireland for a weekend with a tour group. While in Belfast we were told many things about the tensions between The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. I had no clue that the pressures between the two countries were still so relevant to this day. I was amazed to see neighborhoods surrounded by barbed wire fences and big gates, houses separated by different colors of paint on the street indicating which side they fought for, and buildings still being repaired from bombings twenty years ago. The fragility of peace was brought to my attention through all of this, however, the thing that made a lasting impression on me was the peace wall. This is a wall inside one of the gated communities that is covered in artwork, graffiti, and signatures of people who want to keep the peace between the two countries. I was taken aback by the thousands upon thousands of signatures on that wall. Out of everything I did while abroad, I think signing the peace wall was one thing I will never forget.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

My experience studying abroad was unlike anything I had done before. It was honestly probably the best four months of my life so far. I loved immersing myself in a different country and culture. It was amazing how independent I was and how much my self-confidence grew while abroad because of it. Having a small group of CSB/SJU students along for the ride was the perfect addition to my time there. I got to know everyone really well and gained 11 new friends. There were definitely ups and downs along the way due to being so far from home, but it was entirely worth it due to having the experience of a lifetime and getting a chance to connect with my Irish heritage.

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?

One of the best benefits of studying abroad is getting to know yourself better than you did before. Being in a new country so far from home changes your perspective and makes you learn things about yourself that you may have not known before. I can definitely see a boost in my self confidence after studying abroad compared to beforehand. Another benefit is the relationships formed. Whether it be with fellow CSB/SJU students, other international students, or the Irish themselves, many lasting relationships are formed while abroad. I think another benefit is the amount of travel you can or cannot due. I traveled as much as possible, both around Ireland and outside of the country. Traveling in Europe can be a lot cheaper than in the U.S. which is a great opportunity to explore even more.

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

Do it! If you think studying abroad is a possibility for you take that chance and use the opportunities given to you by our schools to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. While abroad I would advise choosing some sort of object to collect from every place you visit. I collected postcards whenever possible and I love going back and looking at them. Also keep some sort of journal, whether it be a blog, diary, vlog, or writing one sentence a day. This will help you keep track of all your adventures so that you can reminisce or share with friends and family in the future.