Austen in Ireland: Reflections of my Semester Abroad

After being back in the USA for two weeks, I figured I would finish up with some reflections from my semester abroad.

Looking back at my first blog entry, I’d hoped to really assimilate myself into the Irish culture.  I feel that I was able to do this to a certain extent, as I became a member of the UCD softball club and made good friends with many of them.

The UCD Softball Club

The UCD Softball Club

There was a mix of Irish, American, and Canadian, so I was able to meet Irish students as well as other Americans.  It was a really great choice to join this club and I enjoyed the social aspects of it too–the tournaments and the nights out in Dublin.  I also was able to enjoy the Irish culture outside of Dublin by visiting the cities of Galway and Cork.  These cities had a very different and more local feel to them than Dublin and were a nice change of pace.

However, I didn’t hang out with my Irish apartment mates as much as I had planned to at the beginning of the year.  I did spend a decent amount of time with them the first couple of weeks, getting to know them and such, but it seemed that they were very different from me and we did not have much in common.

Although we all got along very well, other than saying “hi” to them in the common room or the kitchen, I did not spend much time with them.  I played video games (FIFA) with the guys sometimes, but that was about it.  This is one of my bigger regrets of the semester.  However, I really was able to bond with most of the Irish people I met and they really were some of the nicest and funniest people I have met.  Their ability to enjoy life is really remarkable.

Another goal I had was to compare the different learning environments between the Irish universities and American universities.  Overall, I would say my classes at the University of Richmond were more challenging than the classes I took at University College Dublin.  The small class sizes at Richmond really require you to pay attention and not get behind in learning the material in class.

The larger classes at University College Dublin were held in lecture theaters and solely consisted of lecturing and very little class participation.   As for grading, there were very few assignments throughout the semester, and as a result, they counted for a fairly large portion of the class grade.  Through the whole first month, I did not really have much work at all.  Most of the classes had a sort of midterm essay assignment worth about 30% of the grade, and then a final exam worth about 70% of the grade.

However, there were some variations between the classes–one class had a couple of group assignments during the semester, another class had one large journal (7,500 words) for its sole assignment, and my Irish class had smaller continuous assignments as well as an oral exam.

The only stressful time during the semester was finals because there were so many exams occurring at the same time and they counted for a much larger portion of the grade than finals at Richmond.  It mainly consisted of essays so writing for a full two hours could definitely be demanding and intimidating.  Although I felt that I have learned many important things at UCD, my closer relationships with the professors at Richmond have allowed me to acquire more knowledge than when I was at UCD in Dublin.

Gaining my independence was also an important aspect of my study abroad experience.  Being an only child with somewhat sheltering parents, I felt that this would be a great experience for myself.  Although I did study abroad the previous summer as well, that was only for a month and this was for four months.

This study abroad experience definitely did help me become more independent, from planning trips across Europe by myself to cooking meals.  I definitely did miss my parents at times being halfway across the world from them but it was a great learning experience.

Also at the top of my list was being able to travel throughout Europe.  On my first blog post I made a list including the Cliffs of Moher, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, and Rome.  Although I did not make it to Prague and Rome, I did go to the Cliffs of Moher, Amsterdam, and Berlin!  Also other places I was able to visit included southern France, Munich, Liverpool, Newcastle, Belfast, Edinburgh and various places around Ireland.

Although I did not make it to some of the places I had hoped to visit (mainly Eastern Europe) I did travel a great amount and it was nice being able to visit some less-touristy cities such as Liverpool and Newcastle. It was nice meeting locals there too since they apparently loved Americans there.

Being able to travel and see new places has ultimately become more of an interest as a result of this trip and I hope to be able to do a Euro trip of some sorts next summer after I graduate.

Although I was very nervous and anxious about the semester I felt that I navigated along very well.  I was homesick at the start, but once I got acclimated and made friends the time flew by so quickly.  I still cannot believe how fast those four months have been.  I was really able to experience the Irish culture and all that it had to offer and I am sure to be there again in the near future.

Overall, saying I had the most memorable semester abroad is an understatement.  I not only had a fantastic time but I also was able to learn a lot more about myself from becoming more independent to also being more outgoing since I was in a new country and trying to meet new people.  It was a fantastic experience and I would most definitely do it again if I could.  The places I saw, the people I met, and the experiences I had contributed to the great memories I have of this semester.  Although I look forward to my senior year at the University of Richmond, I will always have an Irish part of me from these past four months.

Until next time, sláinte (cheers) Ireland.

The Temple Bar

The Temple Bar

The UCD Campus

The UCD Campus

The River Liffey

The River Liffey

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