In Fall of 2018, BA English and Theater minor at UFV Alicia Tobin embarked on her first study abroad semester to the National University of Ireland in Galway. Alicia was inspired by friends who had studied abroad in Switzerland and England, showing her that going to school abroad with UFV was an attainable goal. However, going abroad was a big step in her life: “I’ve lived on the same street, in the same house since I was born, and [have] also never been outside North America. I wanted to do something big, but I’ve always had the pressure of continuing my education, and not taking time off to travel, so studying abroad really seemed like he perfect fit for me. I’ve always felt a connection to [Ireland], even though I’d never been. Most of my family is from Ireland, and I’ve always known I wanted to go, but a vacation just didn’t seem right. I wanted to really experience the culture over a long period of time, and to integrate with and understand the Irish people on more than just a visiting tourist level.” Alicia shared. I would fully agree with her on this, since there really is nothing like integrating another part of the world into your daily life.
Further than deciding where to go and that you’re going to go, Alicia hits the nail right on the head when she says that it’s the sticking to your original decision to go that takes a conscious effort (and courage)! “There are visa arrangements, housing arrangements, transportation, bank transfers, phone number/plan changes, and classes among many other things consider,” Alicia says. After struggles with finding accommodation and last minute changes, Alicia says she made it through mainly on her persistence and self-motivation. These experiences and struggles yielded some healthy advice for future #UFVExplorers: “advocate for yourself, and ask lots of questions. Find someone who has recently studied abroad, and learn from them. There are hundreds of visiting students at every university, and no one can do all of the work for you. Do lots of research, and keep deadlines in mind, because they sneak up. It is so worth the panic and stress though. Say yes to all opportunities, and start looking for accommodation early. The less you have to do in the last few days before you leave for your trip, the better!” That’s REALLY good advice, Alicia!
I asked Alicia about some of her specific experiences, and hearing about them reminded me so much of my own study abroad, and the ‘wins’ over the challenges that most UFV Explorers face with loneliness and being new in a strange place. Most students want to know more about how long it takes to make friends, and Alicia had an awesome and inspiring story about this: “I met a group of girls at school who I’ve ended up becoming fast friends with. That is the really cool thing about studying abroad, is that all international students are in the same position as you are, and for the time that you’re here, you’re all each other have, so you have to get close fast. As I’m writing this, I’ve been in Ireland for just over 2 weeks, and my new found friends and I have already booked a trip to Paris, are planning an impromptu flight for next weekend, and are going to Dublin together this Friday, which is a 3 hour bus trip from Galway. My favorite experience so far was last Thursday night. After class, we walked into Eyre Square, and found a local pub with live music. We just sat with our backpacks on the floor, ate dinner and listened to traditional Irish music. I kept thinking to myself ‘I can’t believe I’m here, and I can’t believe I did this for myself.’ I had finally had that moment of realization that this is where I’m going to live for the next 4 months, and it just felt so surreal and right. As soon as I said it out loud, everyone at the table shouted out ‘Yes!.’ They had all been thinking the same thing. It was such a cool experience, and still so surreal…” I love that story, Alicia, and I think that that is what a lot of future explorers want to hear about, and what previous explorers like to share!
~~If these encouraging and exciting anecdotes don’t convince you to go on an adventure you’ve been dreaming of, come on in and let us know how we can help! Let’s bust those #studyabroadmyths in your mind and send you packing. You’ll be glad you did. Thank you, Alicia, for sharing your experiences!~~