Study Abroad: Expectation, Preparation (or lack thereof) & Reality

Gabriel and Ivy Beltres are a married couple who have both travelled from Robert Morris University, Pennsylvania together to UL as part of the Study Abroad programme. Bellow they talked about how they prepared for their study abroad experience and what their expectations were. This article was co-written by both Ivy and Gabe, from their different perspectives.

Ivy:Making the choice to study abroad can seem difficult. Leaving family and friends behind. Venturing out into the great unknown. Truth is, it is not for everyone, yet should be experienced by everyone. It is not only something to remember, it is an adventure that will shape you, and be useful for many things [for example, it can give you an extra footing when applying for a job]. With that in mind my husband, Gabriel (Gabe) and I knew it was something we could not miss.

Gabe: When people think of studying abroad, they focus closely on what they can do abroad that they cannot usually do at home. My wife, Ivy, and I had a very different expectation when we decided to study abroad. We began our planning at our home university, Robert Morris University, in Moon Township, Pennsylvania. A university with an amazing atmosphere and filled with professors and staff who go above and beyond, like the study abroad office who we coordinated with to plan our semester abroad.

Ivy: We quickly figured out that studying abroad as a third-year student with only a handful of classes to select from can be difficult and limiting, yet not impossible.

Gabe: After being given a few choices, two locations stood out to us, Bangkok in Thailand and Limerick in Ireland. These two cities provided us with the opportunities to take our science courses while also being able to take in a different culture…

Ivy:    …and travel. Learning is an integral part of being human. Getting to know new people and seeing different places is also a plus.

Gabe: We say this because we lived in Japan for a few years, so are not novice to travel and learning about a different culture, and though we enjoyed every minute in Japan we were left with the need to experience more. Since we had never been to Europe, we had never truly experienced any of the many cultures that extend from it. With that in mind we decided to go to Ireland.

Ivy: The University of Limerick is the location we chose and their study abroad team is amazing. From our acceptance they have sent weekly e-mails with several things: history of Limerick, lists of Irish phrases and words, packing lists, even information on the documents needed for opening an Irish bank account, and so much more. They gave us so much information we hardly had any questions to ask, but they did suggest for us to do our research before traveling to the emerald isle that has such a rich history in its land, people, and heritage.

Gabe: There were many things that we researched about Ireland that helped shape our expectations about how it would be here. We looked up the culture, customs, currency, language, and many other things.

Ivy: The months passed quickly and before we even noticed finals were over, winter brake had passed, and it was two weeks before the start of term. We frantically packed leaving half of what we needed and bring half of what we wanted, gathered our important documents, dropped off our cat at a pet hotel we found the same day as our flight (we didn’t forget she was there…she just jumped in the suitcase and tried to blend in so she could come with us), and we were on a plane heading to Ireland.

Gabe: We landed in Dublin, which was comparable to landing in any big city – fast paced and busy. Everything was moving quickly and even so the locals took time to help get us to where we needed to go, our hotel, for some much-needed rest and a shower. Once there we decided to go to a local pub (it’s a bar that serves food and can have live bands). We had some Guinness, soda bread, Irish butter, and Irish stew. At first sight the stew looked unappealing to me, even though my wife said it smelled great, that was due to the plethora of vegetables that were visible, and the soda bread looked weird, but I tried it anyways. The bread was different, yet good and the stew was absolutely amazing.

Ivy: That stew truly was a thing of beauty, I will never forget it. After that, we made our way back to the hotel, at around 17:00 GMT (5pm), and Gabe knocked out for 16 hours. I say Gabe because I started adjusting my sleep to Ireland time prior to traveling to Ireland to make sure to nip jet-lag in the butt, thus I went to sleep much later. The next morning we learned something we had not read. Everything all but halts in Ireland on a Sunday morning, when we read that religion and family was a big deal here, they were not kidding, just about all stores, museums, pubs, and restaurants are closed until after Sunday service. Most places also close early on Sunday. So, finding nothing more to do we bought our train tickets and made our way to the city of Limerick. We are lucky to live off campus with a host family who have been amazingly supportive.

Gabe: Everything here is green, fresh, and natural. Don’t get me wrong there are things which are similar to the American style of living, like fast food and what not, but everything just feels and tastes healthier. Even the air smells fresher somehow.

Ivy: Even though we have only been here for two short weeks it feels as if we have packed a lifetime worth of experiences, the different trips around Ireland that the university facilitates, the great food, music, dancing, and amazing new friends from all over the world…

            …and this is just the beginning.

P.s. When you plan your study abroad to Ireland prepare for all kinds of weather. I am sitting in the Glucksman Library on campus and in the last three hour I have seen it go from cloudy and rainy to sunny and snowy, and now it’s just windy and partly cloudy.


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