Traveling abroad has definitely made me become more independent and self-sufficient. I have learned how to function on my own, without the help of my family and close friends; I have also strengthened my social skills by becoming extremely close friends with my two roommates, others participating in the program and native, Irish people. Most importantly, I have learned what it is like to truly be myself.
This Sligo, Ireland study abroad program in which I participated allowed us to work in various disability help services throughout the day. I had little to no experience working with the special needs population, so this trip definitely strengthened my skill set within that particular realm. Professionally, I would like to work further with people with disabilities. I would also like to receive a master’s degree in special education at some point throughout my schooling.
I was surprised as to how independent I became throughout my travels. The first few days, I was extremely homesick and counting down the days until the trip would be over. After about half way through the first week, I was sadly anticipating the end of the trip. I had made so many amazing friends and had so many life-changing experiences that I was not at all ready to return home to the boring, same-old. And every day since I have returned home, I have spent at least part of the day reflecting on the trip and wishing I was back in the most beautiful country in the world.
Prior to the trip, my apprehensions included being lonely and not being able to experience Ireland to its full potential due to my lack of close friends on the trip. Thankfully, I made lifelong friends throughout the excursion and made sure to experience as much of Ireland as was humanly possible. I am very thankful for this revelation.
I cannot wait to travel again. I would honestly consider spending a semester abroad, in Ireland preferably. I really enjoyed my three weeks overseas and I would certainly like to expand that time. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if my future schedule will allow more time studying abroad.
The greatest benefit to my traveling abroad was definitely my outlook on independence and self-sufficiency. Since I have returned home, I have become okay with spending time only with the people who show interest in spending time with me. I have begun to move on from my “safety net” group of friends and only do things that make me happy. I have also been researching academic and professional possible future decisions and keeping in contact with the friends I have made in Ireland, including those who are from Ireland.
My favorite experience throughout the entire trip was definitely meeting Ryan, the DJ. He provided us with communication means, the inside scoop on where to spend our time and an entire day in Galway dedicated to Ireland’s history and quirks. He strengthened the relationship between my roommates, new friends and I by not only giving us something to converse about, but allowing us to bond over the next experiences we were being given. Thankfully, Ryan and I are still in constant communication via Facebook and Skype.
I would encourage future participants to make the most of their journey abroad. Do not be afraid to go out into town as often as possible and meet new people. Allow your roommates to become your new best friends, dance the nights away and make as many Irish (or whichever culture you decide to explore) friends as possible. An insider’s knowledge is nothing like the guided tours and tourist sights you will be seeing throughout your trip.