Maura is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Galway
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I chose to study abroad because I came from a family of five kids and none of my siblings took the opportunity to study abroad. It was their biggest regret and I didn't want to miss out on that opportunity. Study abroad was also a factor in my decision to change majors from nursing. I wanted to see the world, and gain independence. At the same time, I wanted to pick a program that was different from my life in Minnesota, but that didn't take me completely out of my small town comfort zone. I chose the Galway, Ireland program because I had been informed of the program from past students who described it as the best program because of the traveling and excursions on the weekends. I was attracted to the program because of my heritage. I wanted to go back to a place that I had a family connection to because that would make me feel more at home. The classes offered with the Galway program were also interesting as well. I loved English and Theology and was able to take both classes while abroad. The Archeology class offered was also a class that I knew would be like no other class I had taken at St. Ben's and that was an incentive. I believed it to be the perfect program for me, and after studying there, I know that I was right in my decision.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
Where to begin? Well the feeling of family and closeness is prevalent in the interaction between people of Ireland. I let my walls down and enjoyed conversations with people because I learned to never rush a good conversation. The pub life was amazing with live musicians playing traditional Irish music any day of the week. Our weekend excursions gave us the opportunity to see all of Ireland and travel to the main areas that others talk about visiting if they ever make it to the Emerald Isle. In the beginning, we took two weeks of Irish language, one of the hardest things I have done! Irish is like no other language and in Galway, many still learn Irish and can speak it fluently, more than any other part of Ireland. Being surrounded by a language I have never heard before and trying my hand at some phrases was really amazing.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
It is so hard to sum up my experience abroad. Unforgettable does not do the four months I was away justice. Studying abroad forces you to be challenged in the most positive way as a young adult. You learn to watch your finances more than you do in the U.S. because you need to budget with the conversion from euros to dollars in mind. Also, you discover more about yourself as a person than you knew before. I didn't believe that I could be away from my family for as long as I was, but the time goes by so fast because you will be so busy. The relationships I made with the other 29 students were not what I expected. They became my family and I enjoyed my time with them immensely. You support each other and spend so much time with them, that when you return to America you can't wait to see them back on campus. The classes were great because I learned facts and retained information from the classroom that was then taken outside and applied all around the country and the history of Ireland is enough to make someone never forget how amazing it is that this country is independent.I think about Ireland everyday and it gives me warm knowing that I will go back there someday, and I can't wait!
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?
Study abroad has made me more independent as a young adult. I enjoy time alone, but I also am not afraid to interact with people I have never met. It also gave me patience that I will need as a professional when adapting to change and going with the flow. Academically, it was a nice change of pace from my track. I am graduating a year early and in doing so, my last two years would have consisted of almost all psychology course. Ireland gave me the opportunity to dive into literature, theology, archeology and culture and health in a way that I would not have been able to if I stayed on campus. Professionally, I am looking to be a therapist and go to graduate school in the fall. Being in many countries and interacting with the people helped me to become more open-minded to other cultures, backgrounds and people. As a therapist, I will be working with just that and now I will be more prepared to face it head on and it makes me excited because I have nothing to fear. There are only benefits for studying abroad. Not drawbacks. You will never forget the moments you shared with the other CSB/SJU students, your directors, your professors and the people of Ireland. It opens your eyes to how big the world is and makes you a better person because you have seen more of it. You will feel the change in yourself from spending three months away from your life here, and it will all be for the better.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
My advice to you would be ask lots of questions!!! Speak with other students, professors, advisers, friends. The more information you get before making a decision means that your decision will be the best for you and you will have confidence in your choice. I spoke a lot with my adviser about my academic plan, making sure that I would still be on track after because that is extremely important. I also made sure that I could study abroad financially. I paid for the program on my own with the help of scholarships and loans and it was worth every penny.
Do you have questions about studying abroad in Galway? Email Maura at email@example.com