Why did you choose this program?
I was encouraged by the University of South Carolina's study abroad office and the School of Journalism and Mass Communications to choose ASA and study at Griffith College in Dublin, Ireland.
A benefit of this program and college was the ability to take my major-related courses abroad, rather than saving general education courses. Another deciding factor to choose ASA was the included excursions.
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
Academic Studies Abroad provided airport pick-up, an on-site director, medical insurance, visa advising, pre-departure handbooks and orientations, pre-approved academic credits and financial aid assistance. The staff at ASA was there every step of the process and were quick to respond to questions at all hours of the day! You do have to organize your own flight information, however.
Although I met with my USC advisor and got courses approved, students do not register or schedule classes until arrival at Griffith College, so those are subject to change. Griffith College provided residence-hall living arrangements; meals were not provided, but a shared kitchen is.
Back at my home university, the University of South Carolina, the study abroad office provided a Pre-Departure orientation of their own to ensure that we as students were prepared and had all necessary documents filed.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
You think you can, but you cannot do everything. I figured four months in a different country would be enough time to try every restaurant, every cafe, every night-life scene, EVERYTHING - I was wrong. I, ironically, found comfort in being a "regular" at places; I started to appreciate the familiarity compared to the need for new.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
Classes offered at Griffith College were typically 1.5 hours - 3 hours and often held 1-2 times a week, Monday through Friday. Most classes had discussion periods that were mandatory and reduced the size of the class to further think or ask questions about the lesson lectured on.
When we were not in class, we were visiting tourist attractions, trying new restaurants, grocery shopping or running errands for upcoming trips.
Every other weekend or so we would have an excursion, led by our on-site director, to another city (Howth, Wicklow, Galway, Cork, etc.) in Ireland. Some were personally directed by our on-site director (a local from Dublin!) while others were organized tours or buses, paid by our initial program fee.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
Compared to other study abroad destinations, I did not experience a culture shock and did not face the obstacle of a language barrier. I was not fearful of the foreign country I would call home, but rather, who I would be sharing and spending time with in the program. I was concerned about forming friendships, considering I had traveled solo, not knowing anyone in the program prior.
ASA already organized and established times/events/meals that gave students the opportunity to socialize and get to know each other beginning the first day. I think the biggest realization for me was that students that choose to study abroad tend to have similar personalities, motivations and goals - whether it be personal or professional. I had to remind myself that it wasn't only me who was nervous or clueless; we were all experiencing the same emotions and feelings. I am forever thankful for the other students in my spring 2018 program; the hall community immediately bonded us from celebrating birthdays to cooking meals together to sharing clothes -- to traveling the world!
What's your advice to other abroad students?
1. Meet people from the country! While I attended Griffith College, I met a few other international students here or there but did not form any close bonds or relationships with Irish students. Looking back, that is something I feel like I perhaps missed out on.
2. Even though you FINALLY learned the public transportation system, when you can - walk! Some of my favorite cafes or events around the city were ones we stumbled upon by chance. And NEVER stop taking photos - you're allowed to still be a tourist!
3. Try your best to budget - I found it useful to grocery shop and cook meals with my roommates during the week so that we could treat ourselves by eating out on weekends! Always look for promotional deals or specials!