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The Blue & Gray Press | August 24, 2019

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Study abroad offers new methods, perspectives on learning


It feels crazy to think that I have been living in Ireland for almost three months. I feel as if I have been here for much longer, and I cannot fathom that I am already in my last week of classes at University College Cork.

It has definitely been a whirlwind three months, from adjusting to the culture and country, to exploring the city and celebrating St. Patrick’s Day alongside the true Irish.

I still cannot quite wrap my mind around that this Thursday will be my last day of classes. Friday is Good Friday and, because I’m in Ireland, my class that day is canceled. So, after finishing my classes on Thursday, I will be jetting off for a little three-week tour of Europe before coming back to take my finals in May.

Studying in a different country has definitely been a learning process. Classes in Ireland are very different from what I am used to at the University of Mary Washington. Going from a small school like UMW to the large university of UCC, with over 12,000 undergraduates, was a big shift.

Classes here feel much more impersonal, and although the classes are not tremendously large, which may be due to the fact that many Irish students just don’t show up for class, the lecture halls are immense and add to the feeling of being more of a number than a student.

Class schedules are very different as well. We don’t follow a set schedule. I have one class that meets Tuesdays at 4 p.m. in one building and Wednesdays at 12 p.m. in a different building. Not only do they not follow a normal schedule, most have multiple lecturers too. All except one of my classes changed lecturers half way through the semester.

The biggest difference, and the hardest thing to get used to, is the fact that I have an entire month off from class before taking finals in May. Some call it “Easter Break” or the “study period,” whichever you want to call it, to me, it’s a very odd concept. Not only that, but when I come back in May, my four finals are not all crammed into one week as they are at UMW, but spread out, one per week.

It may be that I am just used to a longer semester, or that I have been so busy traveling around Ireland and exploring the Irish culture, but I feel as if I did not learn as much in the classroom as I would expect. It could be that my learning outside the classroom has far overshadowed what I have learned in the classroom, but when talking to an American friend of mine who is studying at UCC with me, she agreed that back at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, she felt she learned more also.

Even though my classes end this week, I have a feeling that my learning is not yet done. I will be traveling to six different countries within the next three weeks, and I know that, although I will not be in an academic setting, I will still be learning and expanding my knowledge of the world. To say that I am excited would be an understatement. I cannot believe that I have the opportunity to travel Europe and experience even more cultures.

Unfortunately, I will not be back in time to write one last article for he Bullet, so I will not be able to write about my travels in Europe. Regardless, my time spent in Ireland has been beyond what I could have imagined, and I am so grateful for the experience.