Spring 2022 | Semester Exchanges Blog

The past 5 months have flown by faster than I could have imagined. The experience that I had been looking forward to and planning for years is really over and I can’t believe it. There are no words to articulate how amazing and impactful my time abroad was. It truly was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I will be forever grateful for the people I met, the memories I made, and the things I learned this semester. I never thought that I would get so attached to a place and experience as much as I did. If you’re reading this and thinking about studying abroad, do it. I promise it will be worth it. 

When I wrote my last blog post, I had been in Madrid for about two weeks. Everything was still new and fresh and I still had a lot of doubts about living in a new country. Of course, throughout my semester there were ups and downs just as any other semester but I wouldn’t give up this experience for anything. I have learned so much about myself and what I truly value. My perspective has been changed by the people that I have met who are living completely different, yet similar lives to me. I’ve learned to not take myself so seriously and roll with the punches rather than try to plan out everything with such detail. In European, and especially Spanish culture, the people value life more than work. They take time to spend with family and friends and just enjoy life to the fullest. I’ve been conditioned to work hard and achieve my goals my whole life and being abroad has taught me to take a step back and just enjoy the moments that I am given. Being goal-oriented isn’t all that life has to offer. I now prioritize my happiness first.

If I had to pinpoint my favorite aspect of this experience I would definitely say it’s the travel and the people that I got to travel with. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel to many cities and countries throughout my time abroad and those trips have made an invaluable impact on me. Immersing myself in completely new cultures every weekend was exhausting at times but the exhilaration of it all outweighed anything else. The feeling of being on a plane to a new place is unbeatable and I am so thankful that I was able to experience that feeling so many times. Throughout my travels, I visited iconic historical sites, art museums, beautiful oceans, and more. It truly felt like I was living in a dream. The best part, however, was the friendships that I cultivated along the way. Traveling with a group strips you down to your core. You see each other tired, hungry, and stressed but you also get to experience the most beautiful places together. It’s a unique bond that will never be broken. 

Lastly, after an entire semester of experience, I can definitely say that I’ve picked up some tips and tricks that I would love to share with incoming students or anyone else who wants to listen. My most important piece of advice remains the same as what I said in my first post; get out of your comfort zone. Try new foods, be independent, meet new people, and do things that you could have never envisioned yourself doing. If you come out of your study abroad the same way as you started it, you will be missing out on what this program is all about. You’re here to learn and grow, so don’t limit yourself!

Now for some more practical advice:

  1. When it comes to packing; less is more. Bring layer-able clothing and essentials but when you get to your city, you’re going to want to buy a new wardrobe anyways so don’t waste the space in your suitcase with old clothes.
  2. Choose a living arrangement in a central location. It was so helpful to be located in the center of Madrid for ease of access to everything. If you are able to find a place in the center, it will make your life a lot easier.
  3. Study for final exams early! UC3M has a grading system where the majority of your final grade comes from the final exam. It’s not what we’re used to at A&M so I found it very helpful to start studying for finals about 3 weeks in advance since they hold so much weight and I didn’t want to risk failing.
  4. Don’t book your travel super far in advance because you will meet new people and want to go on trips with them and if your whole semester is booked out, you won’t have the chance.
  5. Finally: You will get homesick eventually, even if you think you won’t. When that happens, talk about it with your fellow study abroad friends. Everyone experiences it and it helps to talk it out. Just know that it will pass and remember why you signed up for this in the first place.

I hope that this advice is helpful to someone who is about to embark on their own adventures abroad. I can confidently say that this was without a doubt the best semester of my life. I can’t express in words how much Madrid and its people mean to me but I hope that it treats whoever is going to be there next as well as it treated me. Hasta Luego, Madrid! <33 

P.S. If you’re an incoming student reading this and you have any questions, feel free to DM me on Instagram @nikhila_bulusu 🙂

Categories: Spain

Boarding my flight from JFK to MAD, I didn’t know where I would be the next time I flew home. Not in a literal sense – but figuratively speaking. Where would I be personally? I knew I would be in a different, more mature place five months after my first flight; but what is it that I would learn that allowed me to grow into the person I was going home.

If you were to have asked me before going abroad, if I considered myself a “global citizen” I would have said yes, naively convinced that my passion for traveling the world and curiosity of other cultures automatically made me one. I was quickly hit with the truth that that title didn’t fully belong to me.  As defined by the Oxfam organization, a “global citizen” is someone who is aware of and understands the wider world – and their place in it. As Americans, although we are aware of globalization and how different communities can be reached by the touch of an electronic screen button, many of us, including myself have failed to realize that this doesn’t equate to our understanding of the wider world itself.

In history class, we refer to Europe as the Old World, and the Americas as the New World – almost as if they are two separate entities, functioning entirely differently. While I wouldn’t refer to Europe as “old”, I do agree that we are completely different worlds – Europe and the United States of America (yes, intentionally excluding the other nations making up the Americas). From education to government to lifestyle to culture, we have just a handful of similarities (given the UK as an exception). I’ve learned this through exploring different countries, talking with people of other nationalities, listening to course lectures, and every time I do so, I come to this same conclusion. I’ve also learned the consequence of us functioning entirely differently. To sum how one of my international friends put it – the United States is this big, powerful country whose only focus is on itself and its global position.

The other nations can’t help but turn their eyes towards what we are doing in America because of our massive influence in entertainment, media, politics, and the global economy. I’ve always understood our large presence on the international stage, but never considered the true effect on others. Amongst other Americans, we joke about how other countries dislike us but don’t take a step back to understand why they look at us or treat us differently. I believe if more of us did we would know the answer – and it’s one I’ve just stated. Our world is globalizing at an exponential rate, but we still unknowingly function as two different entities. If we look at the bigger picture, turn our eyes and focus on entertainment, media, and politics that aren’t just ours in the United States, we would be aware of and understand the wider world, and more importantly, our place in it – that’s what being a global citizen is all about. That’s why going on exchange has been such an insightful, life-changing opportunity.

I could write a book of takeaway lessons from being an exchange student, but this is by far the most relevant. It is what has changed my perspective, widened my lens, and allowed me to say with full certainty that I am a global citizen. It is what has made me a full advocate for students to apply to a study abroad program and take that flight overseas as I did five months ago.

Categories: Spain

Now that I have completed my semester abroad I am beyond excited to share some of my favorite memories. Throughout this time I had the privilege of living right in the heart of Madrid, this allowed me to get around so much easier and I was always able to get around the city much quicker than if I had lived in the outskirts. During my time in Madrid, I got the chance to discover some of my favorite local spots such as watching the sunset from the palace which was only a 5 min walk from my apartment. Madrid has so much to offer in terms of food and I loved discovering new spots, one of my favorite tapas bars is called El mini bar! I loved going to that place for tinto de verano and their croquetas which are Spanish staples.

During my semester abroad I also had the opportunity to travel so much and I enjoyed exploring new countries with my friends. I was able to visit 10 countries during my time abroad and those experiences were unforgettable. Being able to travel in Europe is so much easier than it is in the US and I highly encourage anyone who is able to take advantage of this! Being able to visit all these countries allowed me to learn a lot about different cultures.

Being abroad was a lot of fun and the experience is so rewarding but I want to shed some light into a portion that lots of people tend to leave out. With good days also come bad days, there’s time when homesickness can get the best of you and I encourage anyone who experiences this while they are abroad to reach out to their support systems, it’s so important to take care of yourself and talk to those around you. Most of the time someone else could probably be feeling the same way as you. One of the ways I coped with feeling homesick was by reaching out to friends who had done previous exchange semesters and sure enough, they had experienced the same things as me.

I could not be more thankful for this experience and every day I am so glad I picked Madrid as the place to do my semester abroad. This city has so much to offer and I will forever cherish the memories I made with my friends abroad. To anyone who is interested in studying in Madrid do it!

Categories: Spain

As I reach the end of my time in Nice, it is time to reflect on what I have learned and how I have grown. When I first arrived in Nice, I was completely alone and wondering if I had made the right choice. Now, five months later, I have had the experience of a lifetime and learned so much.

EDHEC Business School was quite different than Mays. The three-hour-long classes were rough but allowed many long weekends to travel. The grades were based only on a midterm and final exam, mostly a 30/70 split. I was lucky enough to have at least one fellow exchange student in every course, as the French students are indeed difficult to get to know. The classes there were high-level, and I really enjoyed the electives, which were taught by professors with incredible real-world experience and unique teaching styles. I will miss the campus itself. Many of the classrooms and the various decks had views of the ocean and the private planes at the airport. It was easy to start planning my walk to the beach when I was two hours into a derivatives class.

My favorite part of the exchange was all the people I got to meet. I was the only American in the M1 program, so I was truly out of my comfort zone. I met people from places I never thought I would and loved learning about how their cultures and all their languages. I also got to live with people from England and The Netherlands and see the differences in how they live. I especially enjoyed the authentic Stroopwafels my roommate’s family brought.

I was able to travel to five countries during my time in Monaco. My favorite was Portugal, and I spent the most time in Switzerland with four trips. I was also incredibly lucky to attend some of the world’s most iconic events. I went to the Cannes Film Festival and saw celebrities walk the red carpet. I also extended my trip to go to the Monaco Grand Prix, something I never thought I would do.

Although there is much to see in all of Europe, I feel that Nice is one of the best cities for a long stay. The weather there is great, with a milder winter I especially appreciated and much cooler summers than Texas. The Côte d’Azur is truly beautiful, and I grew to love Nice’s rock beaches. There are sand ones nearby though if you can’t get used to it. There is so much to see in a close radius as well. I took trains to Cannes, Antibes, Marseilles, Monaco, and many more places. You can even take an hour-long train to Ventimiglia, Italy. Nice also offers a direct bus to three different ski resorts for a mere six euros each way. I made four different day trips out to Isola 2000 in my time there.

My time in Nice taught me a lot. I had to deal with many challenges there such as the language barrier, opening a bank account, and luggage lost for five days that was only saved by a French-speaking friend. It is a time I wouldn’t change for anything, and I hope to return soon.

Categories: France

If you’re reading this article, you are probably considering a study abroad. I remember when I was in the same position a year ago. The idea of a new challenge, an adventure, and supposedly “easier” classes for a whole semester was enticing (Easier classes? No. Less pressure? Certainly.) But like everyone, I feared the pain of losing what I knew to the pleasure of what I could gain. Thankfully, my friends, family, and academic advisor made the path easy to say “yes” to studying abroad. It was scary as heck, but I’m so grateful that Kira eleven months ago accepted the challenge of living abroad with faith, determination, and an itch for exploration.

In this post, I will share three things that I learned about “conducting business and engaging with individuals” in Prague. Really, these three tips are helpful for embracing the culture, accepting different perspectives, and building meaningful relationships.

  1. Research and understand Hofstede’s CultureDimensions
    • In my Intercultural Negotiations class this semester, we learned about cultural differences, specifically in a corporate context. The link above compares the US with the Czech Republic in six cultural dimensions. When preparing for an international trip, this tool can be useful in understanding the values and paradigms that shape the decisions of people from other cultures. For example, the US and the Czech Republic have opposing scores in Long Term Orientation (LTO) index. Reading the description below, I learned that the US has a low-level LTO index: Americans measure success on a relatively short-term basis (i.e., quarterly profit reports) and judge situations as right and wrong, good and evil. The Czech Republic has a high LTO score: Czech people value investing and thrifting and determine truth as relative in each situation. I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with this tool. Knowing our own cultural background will allow us to appreciate people from different cultures in our abroad experiences.
  2. Know what is taboo
    • In addition to knowing how other cultures think, it is important to understand what topics to promote and what to avoid. Here is a short list, specific to the Czech Republic.
      • Things the Czech are proud of:
        • King Charles IV and St. Wenceslaus (many things are named after them)
        • The word “robot” was invented by the Czech (just the word, not the technology)
        • The inventor of contact lenses, Otto Wichterle, is Czech!
        • Pilsner beer (and any Czech beer, for that matter)
        • The hockey star Jaromír Jágr, composer Antonín Dvořák, and author Franz Kafka
      • Touchy topics to avoid:
        • Referring to the Czech Republic as “Czechia” (they prefer the original and full name)
        • The old communist regime and influence of the USSR
        • The expulsion of Germans in the 1940s
        • The three emigration waves
  3. Learn the communication style
    • From my experience, Czech people are quieter and more reserved than the average American. The typical US greeting of “How are you doing?” is treated as a question and not a “howdy.” I noticed that instead of saying “no,” the Czech tend to postpone, delay, or use any other means to deny your request without explicitly saying it. They like to complain (especially about the weather). Where it is common to share your job as part of an introduction in the US, Czech people do not really care what your title or position; it is not relevant when meeting someone new. Lastly, when entering or leaving a store or café, it is expected to say hello (Dobrý den) and goodbye (Na shledanou) to the employees.

Thanks for reading my closing article. I hope I have inspired you to pack your bags and take a leap of faith to a new country. Feel free to reach out to me with questions about Prague (even if I have already graduated- I’m class of 2023) Also read my first entry on the CIBS blog and my personal study abroad blog!

Categories: Czech Republic

My time in Nottingham has come to an end. I had a great semester exploring and meeting new people! I have learned so many new things and I can’t wait to take them with me and use them in my everyday life.

My time abroad has definitely made me become more of a global citizen. I have had the incredible opportunity to learn through a different method of teaching and experience new points of view. I really enjoyed the structure of the majority of my classes. We had no quizzes, homework assignments, or exams throughout the course of the semester. Instead we had one cumulative final essay that we had all semester to work on. However, for other classes that had final exams instead of an essay, this made learning the material more difficult. There was no way to check our understanding of the concepts being taught throughout the semester, so studying for a final was a daunting task.  Nevertheless, it was nice not having much work to do during the week and made for a less stressful semester. I definitely noticed that conducting business in England and Europe as a whole is a lot more laid back than in the U.S.

Hopefully, I will be able to take what I learned while abroad to my future work. It was nice having a good balance of work and free time. I spent a lot of my free time traveling and exploring England, and even other countries in Europe! Public transportation in Europe is very accessible and made traveling super easy. The people in Nottingham were very friendly and always surprised to meet an American, since it is not a very big city like London is. The only downside to England was the food. It definitely doesn’t hold a candle to American food, and made me have a greater appreciation for the food back home.

Overall I really enjoyed my semester abroad! I can’t wait to visit England again. I made great lifelong friends during my time in Nottingham, England and would definitely recommend doing a semester exchange to those considering it!

Categories: United Kingdom

This is Ngoc Huynh, Class of ’23, and a Management-HRM Major with a Minor in Psychology. I am writing this about 98% through my Exchange in Copenhagen, Denmark (DK). I am officially done with exams, sightseeing, and Semester Exchange Journey! I originally pursued this opportunity to obtain an International Business Certificate and improve my resumé. In addition to that, I had a large interest in working abroad and expatriates. However, I got a lot more than that—as cheesy as this is, but I understand why people say going abroad is life-changing.

(Amager Strandpark; the water is very clear. This is technically still a part of Copenhagen, but it is a good breather from the city life.)

Going to Copenhagen made me become more mindful. I knew that Danes had a strong belief in giving equal opportunities and being open-minded while keeping to themselves. It is common for them to do their own things. When you are out, it is just you. Do not expect people to help/assist unless you are vocal and ask. There are no assumptions. Seeing it in real life was a totally different story, and I was shocked. Even so, I did not realize how vocal/active they can be about fighting for people’s rights. When the Abortion Crisis occurred in the US, Danes were protesting in front of the US Embassy—fighting for the rights of women. What they were doing would not affect what happens in the US. They cannot vote and did not put it on social media, but they still did it to show their solidarity to the cause. There is graffiti all over Copenhagen referencing #BlackLivesMatter, what is going on in Ukraine, legalization of marijuana, etc. These things do not directly affect them, but they are still creating awareness and helping these voices be heard. These people are not internet social justice warriors—they are in the trenches, and I wish the US was like that as well. I love that they are willing to pay high taxes to give people in their country free education, free healthcare, and basically an opportunity to have a better life.

(A poster about a Global Marijuana March in Christiania. Marijuana is not legalized in Denmark, however, in Christiania—“no man’s land,” the laws of the land become murky, however, this is where recreational marijuana occurs. Police are stationed there, but its usage is overlooked! Long story short, it is complicated.)

A course that helped me assimilate into the Danish culture, stimulate my brain, and recognize mindfulness was Negotiations. My professor was a whole show. He taught workshops, wrote multiple books, and was an International Business negotiator himself. He was well-versed in everyone’s cultural background—he explained nuances, folklore, stereotypes, etc., and was a great facilitator. The class was his stage, and the students were the audience. Most of us were International Exchange students, but there were some Danish students as well. As a result, whenever did our Negotiation Exercises, we all had to remember the cultural differences we had and adjust to them. It was interesting to see Hofstede’s 6 Dimensions of Culture in real life. To have a successful negotiation and come out with a deal, you must think and be mindful. As a Human Resources major with a Psychology minor, I loved the class. It appealed to all of my senses. Also, the last negotiation we did, in his words—was “so Danish.” By then, 4 months had passed, and everyone was a different cultural animal. I thought that showed how effective he was in teaching us. Sadly, this was the professor’s last semester before retiring, but he was truly one of the best I was under. Typically, I shop for all of my professors at TAMU. If I am paying tuition, then I want to learn under professors who would benefit me intellectually. I typically end up with professors who I enjoy even if they are tough and do not obtain an A; it is about the intrinsic benefit. I was not able to do that this time due to the Course Selection Process—which honestly could be improved (10/10 prefer Howdy, even though I keep getting assigned to the 4AM timeslots), so getting assigned to this man was luck of the draw.

Overall, my assumptions were correct about Copenhagen. I did A LOT of research beforehand, and it came in handy. There was an assumption that everyone wore black, and they did. There was another assumption of them keeping to themselves and having dark humor, and they did as well. But, most importantly, there was an assumption of them being progressive, and they were. This is hard to live up to, but they succeeded in my opinion. They were one of the first countries to legalize same-sex marriage, advocate for gender equality (before it was cool, and this is reflected in work and romantic life), free education, free healthcare, etc. As someone who was required to obtain a Residence Permit, I was essentially given the same rights as a Danish Citizen. I had access to these. Luckily, I did not have to use them, but it would have been beneficial. There are people in the US that cannot afford healthcare, and it is sad. When I see what is going on in Copenhagen, I cannot help but be wishful for the US to reach that level one day.

Before I came to Copenhagen, I was burnt out. There was a lot going on, and I felt like I could not remove myself from the situation. I was academically successful, my private was relatively good, and this was the healthiest I have been in the longest. Even so, I could not help but feel dissatisfied and like a failure. Everyone around me was getting married or pregnant. They were getting jobs and moving on with their lives. I could not relate. However, thanks to this experience, my professors, my roommate, the people I met there, I feel like I have my groove back. My exchange gave me the privilege to take myself out of where I was and be put in a different setting. There were obviously ups and downs during this Exchange, but that is life. This made me realize that I would like to go abroad again one day—for work, pleasure, or to live wherever. You are where you are, but it is how you adapt and prevail!

(A very large sculpture located in Christiania! It is nice to look at and a great message; the world is in our hands, and it is, however, you would like to interpret it!)

Lastly, I want to thank my sponsors, advisors, friends, and family for being a part of this journey. I would also like to thank Mays Business School and the Center for International Business Studies (CIBS) for creating opportunities like this for students like me! It has truly been one of a kind, and this would not have ever occurred without their love and support. I got more than what I expected from this opportunity, and I am truly grateful and humbled.

This is my last blog EVER, and goodbye for now Copenhagen. I will be back one day!

Categories: Denmark

As I am writing this, I can not believe this experience is over. If people had asked me if I would do it all over again, I would simply say yes. Last semester I had the opportunity to come to Cergy, and I loved it so much that I decided to do it again for the second time. Fair enough, Cergy isn’t the prettiest city but it is very cozy, and you do have Paris 35 minutes away. Having the chance to relive the experience in the same place allowed me to learn more things about the city. If you have the opportunity to live in Paris do it. The commute isn’t too bad, and there isn’t much to do in Cergy, so if you can find an apartment in Paris do it. If not, you will love Cergy, there will always be something going on within the residences. Living at a residence allowed me to build a great group of friends. Friends that have become like family, friends who you get to travel with.

At first, I thought, this would be like a normal school year, go to school make new friends and maybe get to know Paris a little bit more. However, this year not only did Paris become my home, but my friends also became my family, and I adopted some of the French cultures into my daily life. This experience completely changes my outlook on friendships, because the bonds that you form during this time are completely different from the friends back home. These friends become your family, your support system for six months. I truly believe you find your best friends here. When I came here, I thought it was going to be very difficult to adapt to a new culture. But being able to be part of Paris and its culture has made this experience 100% better. Know every time I’m able to have a conversation in French with a Parisienne I stop feeling like a tourist and feel like I belong here.

Even though I am going to miss Paris a lot, it does not compare to how much I am going to miss ESSEC. I thought I would never say that I will miss a school, but ESSEC and its students have won me over. The way that classes are taught at ESSEC allows you to see how life would be outside of school, it has introduced me to the finance world in a different way and has pushed me to challenge myself and see what I want to do when I graduate. The professors are very direct and will tell you what you need to hear to better yourself. It might be hard at first, but trust me you will learn plenty from them.

I truly don’t want this experience to end. I have grown and learned so much from it that it will be very hard to say goodbye. But I know that I will come back, meeting all these people from all over the world has opened up so many opportunities. Know I have friends that I can go visit around the world, and now it will be their chance to show me more about their cultures.

No matter what, this year has been one of the most amazing years of my life. And I will truly recommend ESSEC to anyone who not only wants to learn more about the French culture but also who wants to immerse themselves in a very diverse and fun community.

I just want to say thank you and I will miss you.

Categories: France

Howdy!

When I wrote my first blog post, I was not in the same place that I am now. I was still making my first friends and had not gotten a full appreciation of Maastricht yet. Well, my time abroad has done nothing but fly by! I am currently about to finish exams and do one last go-around of Europe with my family before coming home now.

To anyone who may gloss over studying in Maastricht because Dutch city names sound made up or may not be well known to Americans (myself included before studying here), I ask that you reconsider your options and give a look to Maastricht. This city has so much to offer in the literal heart of Europe (as the European Union was created here), cities such as Cologne, Brussels, Amsterdam, and Bruges are all within 3 hours of Maastricht by train. Even better, Brussels and Amsterdam are also airports with cheap flights across Europe as we got to travel to cities such as Munich, Berlin, Vienna, Prague, Bratislava, and Stockholm over the course of this semester. While the traveling is incredibly convenient, the city and university have so much to offer and shouldn’t be glossed over for bigger and more known cities. Maastricht University is more than 50% international, non-Dutch students, and there is a very large number of fellow exchange students. In my friend group, I am the only student from the US, with friends from Italy, France, Spain, England, Germany, and Greece.

Being close to so many internationals really opens your eyes to the world, and communication is not a problem as everyone speaks almost perfect English. Further, The Netherlands is literally THE best country in the world for English proficiency as a second language, from the checkout line scanner to the waiter. English is no problem which is pretty amazing, unless you are trying to learn Dutch then nobody lets you struggle in your practicing as they suggest switching to English right away! The city is also incredibly beautiful with a ton of history dating back to the Romans and even one of the Three Musketeers dying in Maastricht. We often found ourselves sitting outside at cafes and in the park soaking in the sun and studying together, or we’d go to cafes in the two main squares of Maastricht and just soak in such an awesome city. Maastricht is very much a student city and felt very vibrant and never once felt dead.

The university is really unorthodox though, as the university chooses to use a PBL (Problem Based Learning) system, where students prepare the material before “tutorials,” or small learning groups of no more than 12 students, discuss the material, and fill in the gaps of the subject as it is self-taught. While you have to stay on top of your work weekly, the learning format of actually getting to know your peers in such a small discussion group, compared to a 300-person lecture, allows you to meet local students and exchange students in a meaningful way. Also, courses are broken up into two “periods” where each period consists of two courses, so the workload is broken up nicely.

I would recommend the spring semester to those considering Maastricht, as there are a ton of public and national holidays during the spring that allows you to really experience Dutch culture. Koningsdag (the Dutch king’s birthday) was my favorite holiday, as it was in the middle of the week, we got a break from classes where everyone in the region came to Maastricht to celebrate in the streets from 10:00 in the morning until midnight, the whole city had live music and turned itself into a massive flea market on all the streets. The King himself even celebrated in Maastricht, as he celebrates in a different Dutch city each year, so Maastricht was especially electric this time.

In short, Maastricht is an amazing city, and Maastricht University is a great place to spend your semester abroad, to branch out and make friends from across the world while staying in the heart of Europe!

Categories: The Netherlands

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).

Categories: Ireland