Slán go fóill (Goodbye for now) Ireland! – Colleen Anderson
Mays Business School, May 20th, 2022
My semester abroad at the University of Limerick in Ireland was nothing short of amazing. I made so many wonderful memories and friends from around the world and went on exciting adventures throughout the 4 months. I am extremely grateful I had the opportunity to do a semester abroad. I grew both personally and professionally in several ways. My confidence grew and I became more independent and surer of myself. By going out of my comfort zone to make new friends, learning how to use public transportation, navigating airports and unfamiliar places by myself, and more, I developed valuable life skills and boosted my confidence.
At first, being away from my home, family, and friends in a foreign country was a bit daunting and overwhelming, but I was able to adapt to my new environment and become increasingly self-reliant and mature. I felt challenged and empowered by overcoming new experiences. I discovered a ton of things about myself and realized just how capable I am. I worked on group projects with people from different countries and backgrounds as my own which allowed me to learn about new perspectives and develop cross-cultural awareness. I also improved my communication skills when engaging with individuals from Ireland and other international students.
One of my goals was to truly immerse myself in the culture and traditions of Ireland, and I achieved that. I interacted with the locals including my 5 Irish housemates, ate traditional cuisine, watched Gaelic sports, listened to Irish music, participated in Irish traditions and customs like making a St. Brigid’s cross on Saint Brigid’s Day (Imbolc), and traveled all around Ireland. My favorite and most interesting class I took this semester was Irish Folklore, where I learned about the customs and folklore of Ireland. For anyone going abroad, I recommend taking a class like this to learn firsthand about the history and customs of your host country! Additional tips I have for students going abroad include: try not to overpack (plan in advance), dress in layers, do not buy a new phone right before you go so you can get a local SIM card (you can only unlock your phone for a local SIM if your phone is paid off), join clubs and societies, go to campus and city events, eat and buy local, and above all else enjoy your time and live in the moment (your time abroad goes by so fast)!
The University of Limerick is an incredible school to study at. The campus is beautiful, accommodating, and an oasis of nature. The professors and students are friendly and welcoming, and since it is an internationally focused university, you can meet and work with people from all around the world. There are various clubs and societies to get involved and meet new people with shared interests. UL Global is extremely supportive and helps international students during the entire semester to be successful. There is an International Buddy Program that matches incoming international students with a student volunteer from UL based on similar interests. I loved my buddy/mentor and buddy group because we got along so well and hung out a bunch. My mentor helped me settle in and gave me useful tips and advice.
Among other events and activities, UL Global also set up seven Saturday day trips for students to easily tour Ireland. The trips were to the Cliffs of Moher, Blarney Castle and Cork City, Killarney and Torc Waterfall, Dingle, Dublin, Galway, and the Aran Islands. I had such a wonderful time on these trips with friends and was grateful to go to 6 out of the 7 trips, only missing the Dublin one because I was going there later when my family visited. In addition to exploring Ireland, I traveled to other countries in Europe, including England, Italy, Spain, and Greece. I experienced incredible new foods, customs, people, landmarks, and other wonders while traveling and had some of the best times of my life.
Ireland and the University of Limerick surpassed my expectations and initial impressions. The weather was pleasant the majority of the time, the food was amazing, and the people were so kind and helpful. It was a nice change of pace with more free time and less demanding than school at Texas A&M, but still worthwhile and I learned valuable lessons. While abroad, I gained a new perspective on the world and a better understanding and appreciation of other cultures. I expanded my worldview and became a better global citizen. I will use the skills I developed while abroad in work and school to become a well-rounded leader able to engage with diverse individuals.
The memories and friendships I created made for an unforgettable and rewarding 4 months. My time in Ireland was exciting, fulfilling, and life-changing. I experienced new cultures and grew as an individual. This experience changed me in more ways than I could have imagined. I knew studying in a foreign place was going to be fun, but I did not foresee the extent to which I would enjoy it and thrive. I am a strong advocate for studying abroad and could not recommend it enough. My time abroad expanded my outlook on life and led me to want to pursue an internship and/or a job abroad. It is bittersweet going home because as excited I am to see my family and friends (and eat Tex-Mex), I will miss Ireland and the new friends I made. I love Ireland dearly and hope to come back soon!
The pictures attached below are of me at the Cliffs of Moher and Blarney Castle (where I kissed the Blarney stone and received the gift of the gab).