Mickayla DuFresne-To '19

Program: Ireland-Cork Spring Semester

Major: Biochemistry, Pre-Medicine

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

As a first-year student, when I asked graduates from CSB/SJU what their biggest regret was about their time in college, the number one response I got was "I wish I had studied abroad." I like to try and live with as few regrets as I can, so I took this answer to heart and started looking at programs the following year.

However, as a first generation, oldest of seven children, I knew cost was something to worry about and, as a science major, time and suitability to my 4-year plan were my main concerns. I decided on Cork as I could chose classes that fit my plan and I liked that it was in the spring since I needed to take certain fall only courses. I also decided on Cork because it offered academic opportunities not present at CSB/SJU, such as an anatomy course with a cadaver lab.

Besides career and academic reasons, I also chose to study abroad in Cork due to its rich culture and the opportunity for independence it presented. The idea of being emerged into a whole new place without someone holding my hand was thrilling and interesting.

I haven't regretted my decision for a second.

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

While not so much completely cultural, I celebrated St. Patrick's Day in Cork. For the morning, I spend my time with the other CSB/SJU Cork program participants and watched the parade before I split off and joined my Irish friends in a pub to watch the rugby game. It happened to be a very important game since, if Ireland won, they win the title of "Grand Slam," meaning they beat all the other countries in their matches this season.

I think this was one of the most touching and profound moments I had as I felt fully submerged with the Irish. Amusingly, my Irish friends dubbed me an "honorary Irish person" after Ireland won and draped me in a flag, which I still have a home.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

I know that's what everyone says; everyone is right. Study abroad opens your eyes to what is out there. Opportunities, landscapes, cultures, people. I learned so much about the world but not only that, I learned about myself. I became more confident in myself and my abilities, especially to problem solve, organize, and take on the day. I feel more prepared to take on the "real world" outside of school and wherever life will take me.

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?

Some benefits of studying abroad, besides what I've already covered, include the changes you see when you return. I know so much more about Ireland. I am taking an English course here, mythology, currently and we are reading poetry by famous Irish authors. I was able to explain in detail about what these authors were going through while in Ireland at any given time. I also can apply knowledge I gained about Ireland to more applicable situations. I am working towards medical school and I was able to work with cadavers in Ireland to learn the bones and muscles of the body. I am required to take an anatomy course here before I can take physiology so that course really helped me understand not only my anatomy course here and now, but my work in the emergency department. 

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

Consider every aspect of the program. From what I've heard from friends in different programs, you can really do no wrong in choosing a program, but I strongly encourage not choosing a program just because "oh, that sounds fun." Every experience will have those aspects of fun but not every experience is right for you. Take your time. Talk to advisors, other students, your parents, relatives. While it is ultimately your decision, you will have responsibilities as this isn't a vacation or trip. It's a study abroad program and an unforgettable experience/opportunity.