Case Western Reserve University student Kelsey Darrah describes her Science Study Abroad experience in University College Dublin…

My first year of college, I must have had such a horrible midterm week that I decided to make an appointment to meet with our study abroad advisors at my home university, Case Western Reserve University. I had spent all my life in my hometown in Northeast Ohio, and then stayed in the area to attend college in Cleveland. As a physics major, studying abroad felt like something that wouldn’t be possible for me without delaying my graduation. In addition, I was worried about the financial costs of my study abroad. My meeting with my advisor helped me clear my worries, and I was soon booking my flight to University College Dublin.

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An excursion to the Wicklow Mountains

I initially chose Dublin for two reasons: Ireland spoke English and UCD had all the classes I needed to still graduate on time. What’s more important, however, are the reasons that I decided to return for a second semester and the reasons I’m glad I did.

My first semester abroad at UCD was nothing short of amazing. Despite being busy with my physics classes and doing research as a part of the Study Abroad Research Module, I spent a lot of time traveling. My favorite place I went to was with the International Student Society to Donegal. Not only did I get to spend my time rock climbing, kayaking, and hiking along the coast, but I also got to befriend someone from every continent on this trip, aside from Antarctica.

UCD Science Study Abroad

It was this experience of meeting new people from around the world, along with wanting to further immerse myself in Irish culture, that brought me back for a second semester. Many of my friends were also American my first semester, which turned out to be helpful for travelling and sightseeing, but I still left feeling a little bit upset that I didn’t come home with as many Irish friends as I had hoped. Soon after I returned, I was filling out an application for another semester at UCD, and with the help of the UCD Science Study Abroad advisor, Jamie Wells, I would be able to take all the physics classes I needed at UCD.

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My second semester has been very different, and I learned that making Irish friends was as simple as getting involved. I decided to join the UCD Ladies Boat Club and spend my weekends rowing down the River Liffey. Being part of this team very exciting. We travelled to places such as Cork and Limerick for races, and I even got to meet the Irish silver medallists Paul and Gary O’Donovan! While I didn’t get to spend the weekends taking advantage of the Ryanair flights, it did give me beautiful blisters on my hands as well as cultural insight to Ireland that I wouldn’t have otherwise gotten.

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Another important part of this semester was becoming more involved in my course. While it can be difficult to make friends, studying abroad often puts you in a situation of getting to know strangers. I slowly began to talk to other physics students in my classes, and before I knew it the highlight of my day was the time I got to spend in the “Nerd Castle,” a study room where the third and fourth year physics majors spend time between classes. This is the place that made me feel like I truly belonged in Ireland, and this was confirmed by one of my instructors telling me that I’m “one of them now” one day when he walked by. I felt pretty proud of this moment.

Often I get asked, “How’s this semester comparing to your last?” And the answer is that I can’t compare the two. My two semesters were both great, but comparing them is like apples and oranges. One semester was filled with travelling around Ireland and Europe, and the other has brought me closer to Ireland than I could have ever imagined. What I learned from both experiences is that it’s the people that make studying abroad in Ireland special and that even though Ireland may speak English, it can sound like a completely different language.

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