Lukas Steffensmeier

Lukas is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Ireland-Cork

Major: Theology

Minor: Economics/Philosophy

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

I was on the fence about studying abroad since coming here, originally I specifically planned on NOT studying abroad. After hearing stories from some of my friends who had studied abroad and all the incredible experiences they had, I started to reconsider. When looking at programs I didn't really want to be around other Americans so much and wanted to actually be abroad, rather than studying in an American school that happens to be abroad. Cork was a small program, with no faculty advisor which put me in an Irish university. There was a great deal of freedom and independence in the Cork program that I really wanted, along with it being in Ireland (which was one my top 3 places to visit before I die). Lastly, Irish history and especially its traditional music fascinated me, which helped my decision as well.

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

I got invited to my Irish roommate's house out in Dingle county, which is a hotspot for Irish traditional music. We were there three nights and each night I got to go out and listen to some of the best Irish music I've ever heard in the atmosphere that it was made for. The area was so lively and inviting. By the end I got invited to play with the musicians in the pubs (and did so) and make friends with the locals. It was one of the coolest experiences I've had.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

It rained. Everyday. Especially the first month, (I forgot that the sky wasn't grey at one point) but it was a good reminder of being in a different country because it was always sunny back home. I often got bored of the sun because it was sunny all the time. Because of this, I always loved rain in America. It was different, less common, even mystical at time. Some of my favorite memories in America came on rainy days. So when I stepped outside the airport in Ireland to a light drizzle, I knew it was different. The entire island had a different feeling, a unique smell, a sense of wonder. I was never really sure what it was that first month, but it just kept raining and I kept loving it. But as time went on, I got started to get tired of the rain. I got used to it. Eventually the rain stopped and the sun came out. I realized then how much I actually missed the sun. I learned to appreciate the sun in a new way. I still loved the rain (and had plenty of experiences of broken umbrellas and failed rain ponchos). But I learned there is a balance between the two. I can't not think of Ireland when it rains now, and in a good way. Ireland was a place of constant movement and change for me, like water streaming down the sidewalk, and by the end I had placed so many roots that it was odd to leave. Of course, the entire time held the tension of all the roots I had back home. Ireland was an adventure, a pilgrimage, a place of exploration, both literally and figuratively. And with all that came a ton of challenges. But it also became a home, with a whole new set of friends that I still keep in touch with and an attitude that has very much shaped my own. Overall, I learned how to love two very unique places and appreciate the good in both. 

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 largest benefit I received was confidence in independence. I was forced to do a lot things by myself that I had never done before. I learned how to cook because there was no campus meal plan, I learned how to plan a trip and figure out the logistics of how to get somewhere, what to do there, where to stay, and keep the cost at affordable. I learned how to get around in countries where I did not speak the native tongue. I learned how to live on my own. If anything, it'll greatly help me in my next move to a new city. Academically, I really learned how I study best and how to motivate myself. Then Irish school system is very different than how we do it in America and it was a great challenge to learn what works for me and what doesn't. Overall, studying abroad helps you learn a ton about yourself and stretches you in unique ways that would be difficult to do otherwise.

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

The goal of a class is not the grade but the knowledge gained. The goal of university is not the diploma but the experience received. The goal of studying abroad is not to say "I've been there" but rather is the adventure getting there. Give it a shot, or at least an inquiry. It can't hurt to ask. Lastly, take a risk. It's fun sometimes :)