Meghan Simmet is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Galway.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
Our five-day excursion to Northern Ireland was definitely a cultural experience that made a lasting impression on me. We met a lot of people who were full of interesting stories that they wanted to share. Seeing and learning about the murals in Derry and Belfast that memorialized the victims of the violence that occurred there was really moving. It was incredible to me when our guide told us that 10 years ago we wouldn't have been able to get off of the bus and stand on the street we were standing on because it would have been too dangerous.
Why did you choose the program in which you participated?
I wanted to really be a part of a new place for an extended period of time, instead of just a short visit. I wanted a semester that would be completely different from my normal life at CSB-SJU, and to have the chance to learn from the challenges and new opportunities I would experience.
I chose the Galway program because I had heard so many wonderful things from past participants about the strong bonds of community that are formed on this program. I was interested in the many group excursions included in the program, which allowed us to see so much of Ireland. I also was attracted to the living situation of cottages in such a beautiful setting.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
The entire experience - from traveling around Europe for 18 days before the semester started, to my time in Ireland itself, to an awesome mid-semester trip to Belgium and Switzerland - taught me so much and provided me with so many beautiful opportunities to make the most of each day. It's really hard to sum it all up because it is incredible how many experiences you can pack into four month's time!
How has the trip affected you? How are you different for having completed the experience?
Studying abroad has made me more outgoing in meeting new people, better at handling stressful situations, and more confident in my planning and travel abilities. The trip made me more independent, but also better at relying on and trusting others. Experiencing the Irish way of life has helped me slow down and enjoy the little things that make life special, and to resist the urge to constantly multitask. The experience has made me more appreciative of each day because I realized how incredibly quickly time goes by!
What advice do you have for future Study Abroad Students?
Document everything! It sometimes seemed a little overboard at the time, but I am so thankful for every detailed journal entry, blog post, funny video, and photograph I have because it's scary how much the experience has already started to blur together. I can "relive" it whenever I feel the need now and I am so glad I did these things to preserve the moments and memories. The journal, blog, and photos are way better than any souvenir I could have spent money on.