Caitlin Loeffler '19

Program: Ireland-Cork Spring Semester

Major: Chemistry

Minor: Secondary Education

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

I have always wanted to experience different cultures as long as I can remember, so studying abroad was the best choice for me in that aspect. I decided on the Cork program because I have lots of family history in Ireland, but I knew very little about what it meant to be Irish. I have family from County Cork and County Kerry, so I got to be in those areas for a majority of the semester which was very important to me. This program is also extremely independent which I loved because it allowed me to function as a "real adult" and practice some of the experiences I could be having after college.

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

For me, learning the art of Irish dancing was one of my favorite cultural experiences I had abroad. I was in the step dancing class so I would learn different steps every week, but I also got the chance to do a Ceile dance while I was on the Ring of Kerry excursion. On top of that, our dance professor had us perform a dance to live music at one of the local pubs as part of our final. Everyone there seemed to be so impressed that we had learned that dance in a matter of months and it's something I'm going to continue practicing in the US.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

I loved this program because of how it allowed me to be completely independent. It was a small group, so sometimes that meant I would do things on my own, but I also had the chance to grow close with some awesome Bennies and Johnnies who I didn't know before the experience. I loved being able to go to a school completely different than CSB/SJU as well because it allowed me to remind myself why I chose these schools for my undergraduate studies. The best part of my experience, though, was the ability to travel while I was abroad. I didn't leave Ireland for a majority of my time there, but during spring break I was able to go around and experience different cultures for cheaper than it would be to fly across the United States. It reinspired me to try and learn other languages so that I don't constantly have to rely on others translating for me. The whole semester helped me in accomplishing a dream of independent travel as well.

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?

I was able to take a class in my major with an entirely new perception of how chemistry should be conducted in the environment, and that was eye opening to me. The semester brought me out of my shell and made me realize that I need to be more open to being myself here on campus and not when I'm on my own, so that was a major benefit. This also provides you with the opportunity to build your resume in ways that you didn't expect. It heightens your ability to problem solve, engage with a diverse group of individuals, and better learn to manage money than you would back home. You may not be working a job, but you can still be building a resume that makes you a competitive applicant.

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

Save a little bit throughout your whole decision process. I only started saving money the semester before I left for this trip, but it would have made my time a little easier had I started earlier. My other tip is that if you're going to spend money, spend it on an experience rather than a thing. It's totally fine to want to get a t shirt or something to show you were abroad, but it's even better to come back with stories about how you spent your time. Go on ghost tours, go to performances, go to sporting events that are important to the country. You might lose the objects you buy, but you won't lose those experiences.