The idea of Studying abroad has always been a plan in my life. My older sister studied abroad as a high school student and spent a lot of time studying and teaching abroad when I was little. This is most likely what sparked my wanting to study abroad
Many people ask me why I would choose Ireland as my study abroad destination. Most students would choose a place because of the language, but my decision was based on a different aspect of culture. I wanted to live in a place where traditional music and dance were alive and a part of everyday life. I knew I did not want to go abroad for an entire year. If I were to go to a place that speaks a different language, I would need more time. I have based this opinion on the students my family and close friends experience with hosting exchange students. After seeing what they experienced coming to a new place with a different language, I knew that to start feeling at home in a place with a new language, I would need more than just a couple of months.
Before coming to Ireland, I attended a small expeditionary learning school in my home city. Due to the school’s size and model for learning, teachers and students form a very strong and supportive relationship. The moment I decided to study abroad and began planning my trip, I had full support from the faculty at my school. I could not imagine a better and more encouraging community to help me figure out the logistics of studying abroad. The original plan for credits and school was to just do my Irish schooling and figure out how everything would transfer onto my transcript when I got home, but when I arrived in Ireland the plans changed. A level five lockdown closed schools in Ireland and the UK and online school here had a slow rollout. I had become accustomed to online learning as my school in the US has been online since the beginning of the pandemic. For the past month, I have been doing both my schoolwork from the US and my schoolwork from my new Irish school. This way, I can continue to get credit for my school in the US while also making new connections and beginning to immerse myself into school here.
Similar to my school's reaction, my parents were in full support of my decision. Having hosted students in our home and having both of my older sisters study abroad, my family believes that building relationships cross-culturally is very beneficial.
Last February was when I began looking into coming to Ireland for school, and this was pre-lockdown in the US. Initially, my family and I were not sure if I would be able to travel due to COVID-19, but it turned out that it was a possibility. Our family lifestyle over the past year was pretty isolated. We live on a small island. Our practice during the pandemic kept us close to home to keep us and our community safe, and as the time got closer to my departure, our entire family unit decided to self isolate and make our circle even smaller. With the relative safety of staying home throughout the pandemic, in conjunction with our isolated lifestyle, and a negative COVID-19 test before I got on my flight, I felt that coming to Ireland felt relatively safe.
Most of my days here start off with a walk. Other than that, things are pretty mundane, which I believe to be very good. Having an ordinary life is what I came here to do, and the way I think of it is just living my life in a new place in a different way. School, cooking, and family time are an aspect of everyday life that I enjoy very much.
Some things that surprised me most when I arrived were cars driving on the other side of the road (roundabouts are especially strange), how green everything is even in winter, and the lack of peanut butter as a common spread.
As I said earlier, schools here are closed at the moment due to the level five lockdown. This means all of my classes are online. However, even in online classes I already feel a connection to the kind teachers and students I have met so far. As for differences between my Irish school experience and school in the US, there are not many. Some of the subjects are different, for instance the addition of agricultural science or my engineering class. Many of the assignments for school here are project based with a lot of group work.
So far my studying abroad experience has helped my ability to be flexible and open minded to change.
I hope to meet new people, try new things, and have fun.
Already, I have been encouraging my friends to study abroad because I am feeling the enriching benefits of living away from my family while in the safety and comfort of my new Irish home.
The best piece of advice that I received before coming to Ireland was from my sister. Her advice was no matter what, get in the middle of what’s happening in your family. Spend time in the sitting room maybe even just reading a book, learn to cook some traditional meals, play games. Putting yourself in the middle of whatever is happening, even if it is uncomfortable.