Location: University College Cork
Q. Why did you choose your particular destination?
A. My family has a very proud Irish heritage, and I have always wanted to visit Ireland. Study abroad provided the perfect opportunity.
Q. Describe your favorite moment or most breathtaking experience?
A. Two moments come to mind. Kissing the Blarney Stone was an iconic (if not slightly terrifying) experience for me, and definitely a highlight of my trip. Another moment that stands out happened while I was crossing the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. I saw a full double rainbow, as close and beautiful as any I have ever seen. To me, both those moments just encapsulate the Irish experience.
Q. What was your favorite class or learning experience?
A. My favorite class in Ireland was Introduction to Modern Irish, a Gaelic language class. While I have taken Spanish and French, Irish (which is the official language of the Republic of Ireland) was completely foreign to me. It seemed almost impossible to learn at first, but by the end of the semester my friends and I were able to hold conversations about everything from our families to the weather. It was definitely a go maith (good!) experience.
Q. How did the educational experience differ from your experience here at Washington College?
A. I was surprised by the size of my classes in Ireland. At WC, a large class is around 35-40 students. At UCC, my upper-level English courses had hundreds of students. Additionally, most of my classes were lectures rather than discussion-based. Another difference was the grading system, which took me nearly all semester to figure out. In Ireland, an 80 is a very high grade. What I thought were American B minuses turned out to be Irish A pluses!
Q. How did your experience abroad change you?
A. Through studying abroad, I have come to be more independent. When I arrived in Ireland, I only knew a handful of people from Washington College and had no idea where to buy groceries, let alone how to navigate Cork city or the Irish culture. By the end of my semester, I had a whole group of friends I miss terribly and a new set of life skills, from cooking for myself to actively engaging with and meeting new people.
Q. What specific aspects of the culture did you want to bring back to America?
A. The one aspect of Irish culture I miss most is the music. While Ireland is known for its pub songs and heartfelt ballads, the extent to which music is involved in daily life has to be experienced to be believed. Live music is everywhere: in the pubs, on the streets, even at small get-togethers. One afternoon, at a pub in Dublin, we were standing around talking to some of the locals when all of a sudden, a man started singing a beautiful rendition of “Danny Boy,” only to be joined by the bartender and the rest of the patrons. It’s truly amazing.
Beyond the music, though, I really wish I could have brought back an endless supply of Hobnob cookies.
Q. Where else were you able to travel while abroad?
I toured throughout the Republic of Ireland, visiting such places as Dublin, Killarney, the Ring of Kerry, and the Cliffs of Moher. I was also able to visit Belfast in Northern Ireland and spend weekends in London and Paris.
Q. What did you miss most about Washington College while you were away?
While I obviously missed my proximity to friends and family the most, I was surprised by how much I missed Washington College as an institution. I missed the small classes and the close interaction of my professors, as well as Chestertown itself. I am very glad to be back on campus.