A Truly Life Changing Experience by Rachel Jaksec, Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences Major


Posted: June 6, 2016

Castles, Cliffs and all that Ireland had to offer me!
The Spanish Arch in the center of Galway city

The Spanish Arch in the center of Galway city

Before I even chose a college to attend I knew that I wanted to study abroad and that I would do whatever it took to achieve that goal before I graduated.  Looking back now, having completed my semester abroad, I could not be happier with my initial drive to go abroad.  This past semester has truly changed me as a person and has made me a stronger individual.

The beginning of the semester was a little challenging.  Adapting to a foreign environment, meeting new people and trying to synchronize classes from my abroad university and my home university together made getting comfortable with life in Ireland a bit taxing.  But once everything academically was squared away and I started to organize trips around Ireland and to other parts of Europe, I began to get into a routine and feel more stable.

Galway is cultural a very small college town that really felt like home. The National University of Ireland, Galway was situated a few blocks from the center of town and had a large impact on the liveliness of the town.  The streets were always busy with street performers and people of all ages weaving in and out of shops.  I fell in love with Galway on the first Saturday I was there while walking through the weekend market.  The town was so inviting and the history created a sense of awe that struck me every time I walked down the streets and remember that those same streets had been around for hundreds of years.

For me the best part of my semester abroad was having the flexibility to travel on the weekends and see most of Ireland and parts of Europe.  During the semester I successfully saw the majority of Ireland, parts of Northern Ireland, and cities in England, Belgium, Netherlands, and Italy.  Ireland was by far my favorite place, not just because it felt like home but because there are parts of Ireland that I believe to be the most beautiful places in the world.  Two of my friends and I took a three day trip to Killarney National Park in Co. Kerry and the views were absolutely breathtaking.  We were able to bike through most of the park and see gorgeous landscapes that were filled with rich history.  The experience was absolutely remarkable.

I think the biggest thing studying abroad taught me was how to be comfortable being uncomfortable.  Many time things did not go as planned or were not as black and white as they originally seemed.  My first trip outside of Ireland was to London, England and because my friend and I did not want to miss classes on Thursday we decided to take the latest plane to London that we could find.  This seemed to be a great plan, we would arrive at the airport around 10pm and then take the train system to a friend’s apartment who was studying abroad in London at the time.  The problem was that we underestimated the complexity of the train system and ended up running from platform to platform and managing to catch the very last train in order to get to our destination.  But in the end we made it and even though it was stressful everything worked out.

Incidences like this were not rare either.  I was traveling about every weekend to different cities around Europe and never really knew what to expect once I arrived, even though a large amount of planning went into each trip.  I found, however, that towards the end of the semester and as I got to the last few trips I was going on I was much more relaxed when it came to traveling.  My travel companions and I would put in the necessary research to know where we were going and that we had transportation and housing but when we arrived we went with the flow.  Traveling became less stressful because I knew everything would work out and that it was about making stories and having an adventure rather than having a well-planned out itinerary of what the trip would entail.

Because of this I am now more independent and more confident in my ability to problem solve.  I have brought these traits back to the States with me and hope to use them to further my education and boost my confidence in every aspect of life.  These traits will also help me to gain future employment or to gain admission into graduate school.  I would describe my semester abroad as a huge learning curve in the way the world works and how to handle being a member of it.  I would tell future employers that I can navigate foreign situations and get through difficult times when I am on my own.

Overall, I could not be happier with my choice to study abroad in Galway, Ireland.  I believe because of studying abroad I have grown as a person and now have amazing memories and friends from all over the world.  There is a challenge to studying abroad but overcoming the homesickness and complexity of being in a foreign country by myself has boosted my confidence and independence.  My experience abroad is something I will never forget and would do again in a heartbeat.