Becca Simon is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Galway, Ireland
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
Our day touring in Derry was very surreal to me. Our archaeology professor had grown up in the area and was showing us around. She shared stories with us about the fear and growing up during the Troubles. The Bloody Sunday Museum we toured was just off the sidewalk where that tragedy took place. All the history is so raw, which is very moving. We then went on a walking tour of the Bogside murals. They were such a beautiful expression of the conflict and pain the city had faced while really embodying the hope that it has today.
Why did you choose the program in which you participated?
I wanted to study abroad because I saw it as an opportunity I would never again get. It gave me a chance to live in another country and learn about all it had to offer while being in a familiar enough setting with other CSBSJU students. That allowed me to feel comfortable because I was not going through my experiences alone. I picked Galway in particular because it was unique among the study abroad programs. It was likely the one chance I would ever have to live in a rural area of another country and truly experience life the way the locals do. Of course, I was very excited to get to live in Ireland and travel across the entire island.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
This trip was probably the greatest time of my life! The Irish are an incredibly warm and welcoming group of people; they really embraced our group and were eager to share their experiences and learn about us. The Foyles, Rory, and everyone at the Park Lodge became an Irish family for us, and we had the opportunity to learn Irish history, culture, theology, and literature from brilliant Irish profs. I formed very strong friendships with my program participants, and we share experiences that no one else can understand.
How has the trip affected you? How are you different for having completed the experience?
My semester in Ireland helped me to become much more independent. I was really able to push out of my comfort zone and try new things. I am now a lot more comfortable in opting for an intimidating but rewarding experience. It also opened my eyes to a lot of the small things about America which most of us take for granted, such as our energy consumption.
What advice do you have for future Study Abroad Students?
Make the most of your time abroad! Looking back, there are a few opportunities I wish I would have taken but didn't. If you're questioning whether to apply, just go for it! It is an incredible experience that you really cannot get at any other time in your life. Choose the program that suits you. Do not follow your friends or worry about not knowing anyone; it is amazing how quickly being in a foreign country can bond you.