My name is Austen and I am departing for Europe within a week! I am from Richmond, Virginia, although I was born in New York. At the University of Richmond, I am double majoring in psychology and cognitive science as well as minoring in economics. I chose to study abroad at University College Dublin (UCD), the biggest university in Ireland, just outside of the city of Dublin. I have heard some of the greatest things about the unique culture of Ireland and just how friendly the Irish are (they also supposedly have great humor)! Also, I have never been to Ireland and I really wanted to explore a new place as I have been to continental Europe multiple times because my parents love traveling as much as I do.
One thing that appealed to me about UCD specifically is that it is the largest university in Ireland with over 24,000 students, which is interesting to experience after going to such a small school in Richmond. It has a very large percentage of international students with 20% of the school population being international. It is also ranked in the top 100 universities in the world.
One of my main goals is to really assimilate myself in the Irish culture through my study abroad adventure. For my living situation, I will be the only American with five Irish students in my apartment so that is a start! I really wanted to go to an exchange university where I would be with students of the host nation. For this reason, I chose to travel to an English-speaking nation to allow me to bond with others much easier. I studied abroad in France during the summer but it was tough to make friends with the French (probably because of my horrible accent) so I made friends with mostly Americans.
Another goal is to see how different the learning environment is outside of Richmond. Since it is a much larger university, there will most likely be larger classes but possibly more resources as well. It will be interesting to see how different academics will be at UCD compared to Richmond. There are generally fewer assignments which count for a larger part of the grade and finals week will certainly be a very chaotic time since some finals can account for more than 50% of your grade!
I really want to see the countryside of Ireland, which is supposedly beautiful, such as the Cliffs of Moher. I also want to see a lot of Europe, like Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, and Rome to name a few cities!
I have learned the importance of being able to appreciate cultures and places from my parents and I really hope that this semester will teach me even more about a different culture, much like my experience in France over the summer did (a reason for studying abroad again). I also hope to take an Irish language course and an Irish culture (Irish studies) course, which will help me learn even more about Ireland.
I am nervous and anxious in a way to be leaving all my friends and to make a whole new group of friends but I really like that I am the only one from UR so I can make a complete new friend group and immerse myself in the new culture. It will be fun to live in an apartment with people I don’t know and will definitely require cooperation and teamwork! I’m also so excited to start a new adventure in my life.