Elizabeth Bach is a junior Chemical Engineer at Cornell University. During her fall semester of junior year, Elizabeth had the honor of studying at University College Dublin in the College of Engineering and Architecture.
Why did you choose this program?
For my study abroad semester, I wanted the best education possible. I chose the engineering program at University College Dublin because of its strong reputation and location. My career goal is to help create and deploy sustainable, affordable energy products. Dublin is the perfect location for my semester abroad because Ireland is one of the world leaders in alternative energy development, and Dublin is a home for many of the technology companies working on alternative energy solutions.
Furthermore, being an engineer requires collaboration with people who have different ideas and backgrounds. I chose to study abroad in Dublin as it is one of the most inclusive and culturally diverse cities in the world. Dublin gave me the opportunity to study with people from many different backgrounds and exposed me to new perspectives and problem-solving approaches.
What did your university assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
My home university (Cornell) assisted me with choosing core curriculum courses abroad that could be transferred back to Cornell for credit. With the help of my academic adviser at University College Dublin, I chose additional courses that deepened my cultural immersion experience by learning more about Irish culture.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Get involved with on-campus organizations early. University College Dublin has a wide range of clubs to fit anyone’s interests. I wish I had been more involved from the start. These clubs allowed me to explore interests I had as well form personal friendships that made me feel like I was a part of the community.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
An average day includes classes in the morning/early afternoon and working on homework assignments with your fellow classmates. Then going to on-campus social clubs or events in the evenings. On the weekends, there are plenty of opportunities to explore different parts of Ireland and Europe. I would strongly recommend taking advantage of the cheap flights to explore different cities around Europe.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it?
Going abroad my biggest fear was that I would not be able to adapt to a different educational system and that I would struggle in most of my courses. I did not find this to be the case at all. While the academics at UCD are challenging, I never felt overwhelmed because UCD has wonderful staff members and on-campus resources for abroad students. I also enjoyed the collaborative academic work environment because I got to know my fellow students and learn more about the Irish educational system.
Tell us something about the program that a participant wouldn’t know unless they experienced the program itself.
The biggest takeaway that I have from studying at UCD, that I couldn’t have imagined beforehand - is how connected I felt to Ireland and UCD after only being there one semester. When I envisioned studying abroad, I thought it would be more of an individual experience. However, through class and working on problem sets with my fellow Irish students, I became a part of UCD’s junior chemical engineering class. I had no idea the strong bonds I would form with my fellow students in such a short time period. This connection to UCD and my friends made my study abroad experience wonderful, but it was bittersweet at the end. It didn’t feel like I was just leaving my semester abroad - it felt like I was leaving my new home.