Studying abroad is valuable

The Graiguecullen Bridge across the river Barrow in Carlow, Ireland. Portions of the bridge date back to 1569.

Marissa Miller / Clarion

The Graiguecullen Bridge across the river Barrow in Carlow, Ireland. Portions of the bridge date back to 1569.

Marissa Miller, Staff Writer

A little over a month ago I was on a plane headed back to the United States after studying abroad for a semester at Carlow College in Carlow, Ireland. When I originally left for Ireland in the fall, I knew that the experience was going to change my life, but I was surprised to find out how much it had changed me. I am more confident in myself, especially when it comes to my success as a student.

I also came back with a new outlook on the world. Studying abroad took me out of my element and placed me in a community that experienced the world differently than the community I had come from.

For a country that is roughly half the size of Wisconsin, there was so much to explore and discover. I was captivated by the culture, the language, and the history. For a long time I struggled over the direction in which I wanted my life to go. I knew I had the desire to love what I do, but I couldn’t find the thing I was passionate about. I found that passion in a place I got to call “home” for a few short months.

My heart will always ache to return to the Emerald Isle, to experience the warm wind and the cool rain. I ache to sit in a pub on Thursday nights and listen to a group of people playing music while sipping Irish whiskey. I discovered that I love Irish history and I hope to receive my doctorate’s degree in history with a focus in Irish Studies. I met people and went places that inspired me and I woke up every morning feeling lucky to be in such a wonderful place.

My experience abroad clarified my life; it gave me direction.

My experience abroad may differ from others, but all students that study abroad grow in some way. The beauty of studying abroad is that the experience can be whatever you make it.

The people you meet, the things you do, and what you learn during a semester abroad outmatches any other college experience. It gives you the opportunity to engage in a culture in a way that cannot be achieved by a simple vacation.

If you are not sure where your life is going or what you want to do, spending a semester abroad may be what you need to figure it out.

It lets you escape from your comfortable surroundings and places you somewhere where you will have the space to discover yourself. I could ramble off statistics on why you should study abroad, but that would do a disservice to the experience. There is so much more to living abroad than numbers can express. It opens your eyes to the vastness and exquisite diversity of the world and lets you do things that you never dreamed possible.

I miss my home across the Atlantic, but I appreciate every moment I had in the “sunny southeast” of Ireland. There is never a day that passes that I do not think about Carlow and all the wonderful people I met.

Now that I am home, all I can do is advocate the experience to others. Even if you have never thought about studying abroad or think it is too expensive, look into the programs available, because it just may change your life.