SRU student enriched through cultural experience

Harmony Kasper
April 10, 2014

I always try to live my days to the fullest.  That’s why my favorite phrase is “carpe diem”.  I believe in and love this Latin saying that means “seize the day” so much that I am about to get it tattooed on me (surprise mom and dad!).  When I think about only having one life to live on this planet, it scares me.  What if I don’t get to do everything I want to do before I die?  Like attend the Coachella music festival in California or skydive or ride in a hot air balloon.  There are so many more things to do and see in the world.  Although, I am happy to say that I have successfully checked one item off this mental list of crazy and worthwhile experiences; studying abroad.  I knew since I started college that I wanted to study abroad.  I also knew that I wanted it to happen in Ireland.  I have five different ethnicities; and one of them being Irish.  My grandmother has been a driving force in my interest of the Irish culture.  It’s a special connection that we share.  The opportunity arose through the Study Abroad office at Slippery Rock.  All of my friends and family were excited for me.  I knew this would be an experience I would never forget.

When I received my acceptance letter in the mail, I couldn’t believe it.  This was really happening.  I would be living and going to school in a European country for four months.  Immediately, I started planning and making lists.  I bought an Ireland guide book from Barnes & Noble so I could learn even more about this beautiful green island.  Yes, Ireland is an island.  It was funny because so many people didn’t realize that.  It took me about a week to pack.  I must say that was the most stressful time of my life.  Do you know how hard it is to pack just two suitcases clothes to last four months?  Finally, the morning had come to go to the airport.  I was not going to Ireland alone.  Ali Gilson, a student at Slippery Rock and now one of my closest friends, was also studying abroad at the same university with me.  We met up at the airport and said our goodbyes to our families.  I wasn’t scared, maybe a little nervous.  I didn’t think I was going to cry until my mom did.  After, Ali and I headed through the airport security and to our terminal where in less than 24 hours, a new adventure awaited us.

The University of Limerick in Limerick, Ireland is a large school.  Statistics show that there are around 11,000 students attending, with 1,000 of them being international students.  I mean I thought this was insane?  Was I going to be with international students, Irish students, or both?  Also, I didn’t know what to expect with the classes.  I was hoping it would be easier, since I killed myself last semester.  The classes are completely different from America’s set up.  Instead of having the same class two or three days a week, they have one lecture and one tutorial for each module (course).  Lectures are… well, you know lectures.  Tutorials are smaller groups where you work on projects and they are taught by graduate students.  The classes aren’t overloaded with work, which was good because I planned on doing a lot of travelling.  Not only did I explore Limerick, but most of Ireland and other parts of Europe, as well.

Travelling has become a passion of mine.  I don’t think I can just go home from here and never come back.  There is so much still to see.  While in Ireland, I have seen numerous sites like the beautiful Cliffs of Moher and the “eighth wonder of the world,” the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.  I have also kissed the famous Blarney Stone in the Blarney Castle and visited the historic city of Belfast where the Titanic museum is built right where the ship was crafted.  Of course, I have made frequent trips to the capital of Ireland.  Dublin has so much to offer and is to me, the best place to take first timers to Ireland.  I have also had the opportunity to travel outside of Ireland to: Poland, France, Italy, London and Scotland.

This has been a whirlwind experience.  I am lucky that I never once felt homesick.  I mean how could I?  I have been having such great craic! (Irish slang word used for “fun”).  I am excited to go home, but I am nervous how much I will miss it all.  Ireland is truly remarkable.  I knew coming here that the sheer landscape would blow me away, and it has.  I will never forget when it really hit me that I was here doing this.  We got into the Dublin airport on January 21 around 5 a.m.  Everyone was exhausted and just wanted to get to our new living places to sleep.  We got on a bus that was taking us to Limerick.  After a little over two hours of being asleep, I awoke with the sun shining bright in my eyes.  Looking out the window, I immediately saw picture perfect Ireland.  Rolling green hills… and I mean really green.  Ireland’s grass is unlike anywhere else.  Then I saw some sheep.  Then I saw a sign that said “Limerick” and the distance in kilometers.  Right then, I knew that I had made it.  I accomplished something that many told me they could never do.  I was following a dream.  If you were ever thinking about studying abroad while in college, or even travelling at all, please do it.  I know you won’t regret it.  It has been the best decision of my life so far.  I have taken so much from this experience and I know I will never forget it.  Just keep on carpe diem-ing!

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

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