I participated in SUNY New Paltz’s summer program at the University of Limerick for many reasons. For one, I wanted to go over the summer so I wouldn’t be behind in school. I transferred to Binghamton my junior year and it was important to me that I graduate on time with students my age. Also, I didn’t necessarily want a program that was the whole summer, since I’ve never been abroad before by myself. Lastly, and most importantly, I chose their program because they offered a class that would finish my requirements for my sociology minor. I had almost all of my general education requirements done, so I really wanted to focus on either getting credit towards my major or my minor.
My perception about studying abroad before I actually went abroad is that there wouldn’t be much school work to do and that it was mostly time to explore a foreign country. I thought that time spent abroad would be about going to famous landmarks and trying new things that you could only do in a foreign country.
What surprised me the most when I went abroad is that there were endless possibilities as to what you could do. I thought that I would be limited as to what I could do based on when I have classes and I thought that the people in charge of the program would prefer if we all stuck together. Luckily for us, Ireland was a very safe country to travel to so we did not have to worry about safety at all. Knowing this, our supervisors seemed fine with us going off on our own, and even letting some people stay in Dublin for the weekend, even though it was about an hour and a half away from school. I was also surprised by how friendly people there are. Being in America, not many people come up to you on the street and start a conversation with you unless they know you, but in Ireland anyone would strike up a conversation with you or at least say hello.
I would say my biggest challenge when going abroad is finding where to go. Not only was I in a foreign country, but the road signs could sometimes be hard to follow when you were trying to go somewhere. I have a bad sense of direction, so it was even worse when going abroad, even though we had maps to help us. Luckily, people were very helpful and someone was always there to lend a helping hand.
I would definitely have to say the most rewarding experience about going to Ireland was traveling to places all over Ireland. Luckily for my program, most of the trips were arranged by the school and had buses to pick us up and take us to places, so we didn’t have to worry that much about finding transportation. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words and I will never forget the memories that I have from this trip.
I would say that this trip benefited me personally in that it helped me become more independent. I now know what it is like to go somewhere where you don’t know anyone or how things work in a new environment. Thanks to this trip, I now feel more confident in my travelling capabilities and that I would like to travel as part of my future career.
I would encourage others to go abroad because you will never experience anything else in your life like this. Sure you can go abroad when you are older, but you might have more responsibilities, such as being married, having a family, and/or having a job. Having these responsibilities might make it harder to go abroad and get the full experience. Doing it while you are an undergrad will help you grow as a person and will help you realize your full potential.
Megan Andrews, an Education Abroad Ambassador, who studied abroad in Ireland in Summer 2016