Taylor Ilgen '18

Program: Ireland-Cork Spring Semester

Major: Communication

Minor: Psychology

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

I wanted to gain individuality, independence, and explore a new culture. The Cork program provides the opportunity to be enrolled in University College Cork which offers an abundance of class options and included classes in my major and minor that were especially interesting to me. UCC is also a highly international school. It provides the opportunity to meet Irish students as well as students from all over the world which is rather unique. It also has no on-site director which while applying for programs made me slightly hesitant, however, I think it is one of the most beneficial aspects of the Cork program. It especially guided personal growth, maturity, and independence as students from CSB/SJU are dependent on themselves and their peers to navigate through problems rather than depending solely on an instructor to guide them--although, our at-home director was only a phone call away to help in any way that she could!

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

One aspect of Ireland that was extremely different from home was the transportation! At home, I will hop in my car and drive a few blocks to go to a friend’s house or to get groceries but in Ireland we either walked or used public transportation to get anywhere/everywhere. Of course I didn’t have a car and wasn’t able to legally drive while abroad but a classmate told me that many Irish don’t drive either! I had class with an Irish student who told me that at 20 years old he didn’t have a driver’s license and neither did many of his friends. He further explained that it simply wasn’t necessary for many Irish people to have a driver’s license. This was something very new to me. It was a one and a half mile walk to buy groceries in town and it was about the same distance to get to one of my classes. At the beginning of the trip, especially when it rained, that seemed like a super long distant to walk with arms full of groceries. Some days were nicer to walk than others because of the Irish weather (it rains a whole lot) but it was something that just took a rain jacket, buying fewer groceries at one time, and a little getting used to! Overall, it was very refreshing to walk rather than instantly driving everywhere. The change in transportation is something that I have especially appreciated experiencing!

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

Studying abroad was an incredible experience! Not only did I get to travel and explore places that were more beautiful than I could have ever imagined, I also gained a ton of independence and it really opened my eyes to a new perspective of the world and to the different cultures and opportunities that I have yet to experience. Having the opportunity to learn about a new culture also guided me to develop a greater understanding my own culture. There are many aspects of my daily life that are routine at home that I hadn’t previously provided much recognition such as the music that I listen to, the weather, and that Americans drive on the right side of the street rather than the left. Upon returning to home I am much more aware of how small, seemingly insignificant pieces of my daily life come together and impact my perspectives.

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?

Studying abroad provides knowledge and personal growth that can’t be offered in a traditional classroom and I learned so much more about myself than I imagined I would. Although it was difficult to be away from home for an entire semester, it also helped me to appreciate the time that I have with loved ones and was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity. I also was able to make friends that I wouldn’t have had the chance to connect with otherwise which I am super thankful for.

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

Studying abroad is so much more than a trip. While abroad you will see some of the most unbelievably beautiful sites and will take incredible pictures to share with your friends which is great, but studying abroad is so much more than just a vacation. Having the ability to, at such a young age, spend an extended amount of time in another country is life changing. Also, it wasn’t life changing for just me, but also for my family. I was able to share extraordinary experiences with my parents, grandparents and family friends who, in their lifetimes, haven’t gotten the chance to experience. I am so especially grateful to have gotten the opportunity to share these incredible experiences with the ones that I love. If you are able to study abroad, absolutely do it. I didn’t anticipate that I would have the opportunity to do so but I am so, so thankful that I was able to and would absolutely recommend others to take the opportunity as well.