Kerry Flynn – PR & Media – Level 3
Central Connecticut State University, USA
I first heard about the study abroad programme during my second year at QMU and couldn’t have been more excited at the prospect of studying and living in a new country for one semester.
When I first moved from Ireland to Scotland to start my first year of university, the one piece of advice my parents gave me was ‘experience it all’ and what better way to do that than to study abroad. The programme offered lots of options ranging from Australia to Europe, but I had my heart set on America. The chance to live in America for one semester, meet locals, travel and experience American culture had been something I had always dreamt of. So I applied and was beyond thrilled the day I got accepted and on top of it all, I was going to be experiencing it all with my best friend, Kate. So on the 14th January, Kate and I set off New York City, and then travelled to New Britain, Connecticut to begin our American university experience.
One of the most interesting aspects of studying abroad is the chance to live in the place rather than just visit it. By living in Connecticut, I was able to experience a whole new culture, really get to know the locals and experience first-hand how the American education system differs from the British education system, all of which really helped me develop as a person.
My favourite part of the study abroad programme overall was the chance to travel around surrounding cities and possibly countries. To me, travelling is the best way to see and understand the world; so travelling around America was at the top of my priority list. First stop: Boston. Despite the extreme weather and coldness I had never experienced before, it is still one of the most beautiful cities I have been to and I’ll definitely be returning. Shortly after returning from Boston, Kate and I were itching to travel again, so over St Patrick’s Day (a holiday we Irish adore), we decided to spend it in a place that might even do it better than the Irish do – New York City! We watched the parade, had a Guinness or two and enjoyed an atmosphere that you would need to see to believe. From NYC, we travelled to Miami for Spring Break… and yes, ‘spring break’ is a real thing. We soaked up the sun for a couple of days and then headed back to classes.
As well as the study abroad experience being beneficial to my cultural development, it was so beneficial academically. To be able to add that experience to my CV is one very few people can do as well as it standing out to future employers. But most importantly, the study abroad experience will be a life experience that will serve you well. From practical rewards like building your CV and academic experience, to personal transformations such as self-fulfillment and the sharing of knowledge, studying abroad will certainly change you, and you will become a better person.
The most difficult thing about studying abroad is the culture shock. Culture shock affects everyone differently. Some people find the cultural changes too different and very difficult to get used to, and before I went abroad, I suspected that I might be one of these people. However, I was the complete opposite. Yes the culture was very different, but I found it all fascinating rather than anything else and because I travelled quite a bit, the atmosphere was always changing and I found it exciting. Another difficult aspect of studying abroad is missing your family and friends, especially depending on the country you’re in, the time difference can make it difficult to communicate and stay in touch. However, with modern technology it is so easy to just send an email, Facebook message or text, and with dealing with issues like culture shock, making friends, new classes and travelling, you might find you need the support of friends and family.
Lastly, the biggest piece of advice I can give about the study abroad experience is enjoy yourself! And that is in all aspects, from budgeting and saving as much money as you can so you can experience everything you want to whilst you’re there, to socialising and gasping the opportunity to meet new people. You’ll find that if you say yes to every experience and opportunity, you’ll really make the whole experience one you’ll never forget.