Pre-Departure: What are your goals for your international experience?
- What do you hope to gain and how much research have you done on your host country and culture that will better prepare you for this experience?
My program is called “Irish Language and Culture” through CEA in Galway, Ireland. I have spent the last year studying Irish on my own as a hobby. I have taught myself using books and online resources. Through my adventures in Galway studying Irish, I hope to gain a greater level of fluency in the language. I hope to immerse myself in the culture and learn about a new part of the world. I have thoroughly researched the area of Ireland where I will be studying. I was very happy to find a program in this city, because it has a high concentration of urban Irish speakers. I’m sure some things will be different about how the Irish live compared to Americans. For example, the Irish are known for their hospitality. I am not especially nervous about the difference in culture because America and Ireland share English as a common language. In Ireland, everyone speaks English and a small minority also speak Irish. I’m sure communication will be easy, as we can always revert back to English if need be! In preparation for packing, I made sure to research the weather. The climate is very similar to the Pacific Northwest. It often rains and is a moderate climate with no extreme heat or cold. I will make sure to pack a rain jacket and umbrella!
- What are you most excited about? What are you most scared or nervous about?
I am most excited to use the Irish I have been learning in actual conversations. I do not know any Irish speakers, and consequently I have never had a conversation as Gaeilge. I am nervous to make mistakes when I am speaking to native speakers. I am also apprehensive about approaching Irish speakers. Researchers have found that only 8% of people residing in Galway City speak Irish outside of a school environment. I would be mortally embarrassed if I started speaking Irish to someone who didn’t know the language. I also am aware that the Irish Language is highly politicized and a strong part of Ireland’s national identity. I will have to keep that in mind on my trip.
- What strategies have you implemented that will allow you to overcome these challenges and take full advantage of your opportunities?
I have not traveled abroad before so I made sure to speak with friends and family with more experience. Through these conversations, I have acquired many helpful tips which will help my trip be a success. For example, a family friend told me that long layover times on international flights are actually desirable, because you do not want to have to rush through the airport to find the terminal and go through customs. Concerning my nervousness about speaking Irish to the people I encounter, I have taken steps to prepare myself. Studying at home, I have tried to speak aloud more, even though I have to talk to myself. Improving my pronunciation has helped me gain more confidence. Attending the study abroad informational meetings my university provided was also an important step to take. In these meetings, we talked about safety, navigating Customs and the airport, and how to pack. Overall, I learned how to make the most out of my study abroad experience. I encourage all students studying abroad to take these meetings seriously, as I found them extremely helpful.