Charles Ward is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Galway.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
When I visited the town of Derry in Northern Ireland we saw the area where the Bloody Sunday massacre took place. This was a harrowing experience that made me reflect on my own culture and how my life growing up was unaffected by all this violence in another country. I instantly became thankful that my life in the U.S. was free of violence and religious persecution. Hearing the stories from the tour guides and seeing the murals really drove home the magnitude of the events surrounding Northern Ireland and the troubles. I could not believe that they still have a dividing wall between the Catholic and Protestant areas of the town. This kind of segregation is unheard of in MN. Therefore, by experiencing this clearly divided nation and city, I will never take for granted the peace and cooperation that I was so blessed to have experienced growing up.
Why did you choose the program in which you participated?
I wanted to gain exposure to other cultures, experience firsthand the economic boom and bust of Ireland, and on a personal level, I wanted to explore my Irish heritage.
I believe that interaction with those from different backgrounds is vital to successful partnerships in today's global economy. By spending an extended period of time in a foreign country, I had the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the culture, history, business practices, religion and politics of Ireland. Additionally, the skills and experiences gained by living independently in a foreign country will greatly help me once I graduate from college as I make my way into the real world.
As an accounting major, I find Ireland's business environment very fascinating. Ireland's economic strategy was very successful in drawing international companies to establish operations in Ireland. I was very interested in understanding how the economy could turn downward so quickly and so deeply. Also my ancestry can be traced back to Ireland and I wanted to learn more about where I came from. Academically, I was looking forward to taking an upper level theology course in Ireland which has such deep roots in Catholicism.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
My experience abroad was one of the best decisions of my life. As I said earlier, I learned so much about another culture and myself that I wouldn't have discovered had I stayed at SJU. I also met a lot of new Johnnies and Bennies who I may never have met if I hadn't studied abroad. These new friends are now some of my closest and it's great knowing more people at school. I have never heard anyone say they had a bad experience going abroad. Talking with other students who studied abroad, we all agreed that our experiences were one of a kind and will always be with us and a highlight of our time at CSB/SJU. I would finish by saying it's foolish not to go when CSB/SJU has so many great programs to offer.
How has the trip affected you? How are you different for having completed the experience?
I learned so much by speaking with local citizens discussing the impacts of the economy on their lives and families, how they view Americans, and what they think of many other current events. These conversations greatly expanded my knowledge of the world around me and I gained a deeper understanding of the Irish culture.
Also by traveling around Ireland and Europe, I gained many skills that will aid me when I live on my own. I have mastered the art of traveling and arranging trips and such. These organizational skills will be very useful in the future. I also had to cook meals for myself which was a new experience for me. As I mentioned before, I am part Irish and living in Ireland was a enlightening experience. I understand the culture and history of where my forefathers came from. Finally, I gained a greater appreciation for history and the world around me.
What advice do you have for future Study Abroad Students?
The biggest thing that I would tell people studying abroad is to just try new things. Never turn down a new opportunity. Studying abroad is all having new experiences and going outside your comfort zone. By doing that, you can gain the most out of studying abroad. In addition, get to know all the members on your trip and your program directors and your host family or place you stay at because these people can help you get the most out of being abroad. Be open minded and have confidence to the program you are on and realize that you will have challenges to overcome but many good times to be had.
Do you have questions about studying abroad in Galway? Email at Charles at firstname.lastname@example.org