Katherine Fenske ’23

Program: Ireland-Cork Semester

Major: Integrative Science

Minor: Political Science


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

When I enrolled at CSB+SJU, I already knew I wanted to study abroad. I had heard great stories from Bennies and Johnnies who had studied abroad all throughout my childhood. I specifically chose to study in Cork because I had visited Ireland previously and loved how friendly the people were and easy opportunity to get outside and hike. Being able to direct enroll at UCC also allowed me to meet both International and Irish students, while getting a lot of specific academic requirements completed because of the freedom involved with registering for classes.

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

One of my favorite memories was my entire weekend in the Aran islands, but specifically chatting with our bed and breakfast host in the morning. He had lived on the islands his entire life and made the best Irish breakfast I had over the entire semester. He gave us tips of what to do on the island, let us pet his donkeys outside, and chatted with us all morning. He was overall one of the nicest people I met in Ireland, which is saying a lot because everyone I met was always friendly and wanted to get to know you.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

My study abroad experience was fantastic overall. Due to covid, we were allowed to travel internationally about a month into the program but had already planned a lot of weekend trips around Ireland instead of international travel. Most weekends or days off from class were spent in different towns doing day trips and hikes and some longer trips were taken to the Ring of Kerry, the Aran Islands, and Northern Ireland. Having the opportunity to see the entire country I called home was really a blessing and I got to know the different towns and counties very well. UCC also has a very short semester in American terms because you are done (unless you have finals) about a week before Easter, so it leaves a lot of space to travel internationally for more than just a few days, which almost all of us took advantage of, and I ended up traveling for about a month outside of Ireland.

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 think the biggest benefit is independence that comes from doing something out of your comfort zone. When you arrive in a new country and attend a new university you get a new opportunity to start over and experience college in a new way. You also learn to really depend on yourself for finances, budgeting, travel planning, scheduling and cooking, which I know will really help me when I return to CSB/SJU and in greater pursuits after graduation. Academically, the European model of teaching and learning is a lot different and much more independent, so I had to learn quickly to be self-motivated and dedicated to a strict schedule, especially towards the end of the semester when major assignments start piling up. Studying abroad was also a big reset button because it gave me time to evaluate what I was coming back to and what was important to dedicate my time to when I got back home, which was clarity I would not have had otherwise.

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

My best advice would be to make a 4-year plan as early as possible and save some general classes to take abroad. Because I did this, I was able to have all of my classes count towards CSB/SJU credit instead of taking some classes abroad that didn't fulfill any graduation requirements. Because you direct enroll into UCC in the Cork program, it's possible to get major and minor requirements done and is a good program to look into if you're crunched on fitting all your classes in but still want to study abroad.