Describe your most meaningful souvenir and why you love it?
Alyssa: I am of the belief that the best way to learn about the culture of a city is to visit a farmers’ market. I feel that it is a great way to meet locals, see popular cultural goods, taste foods from the area and even perhaps listen to live music.
With that said, the most meaningful souvenir I obtained was a gift for my younger sister. It was a necklace that spelled her name. What made it so special was that I witnessed the vendor make it right in front of me!
I told him my sister’s name, and watched as he used this little tool to manipulate a wire, shaping the letters and then attaching them to a chain.
I filmed him making the entire thing so I was able to give my sister her gift, along with the Irish man crafting it! As an added bonus, I talked to him throughout the duration of the video as well so she could hear his accent. It was really neat. I definitely recommend seeking out as many farmers’ markets as possible! I also encourage you to spark as much conversation as possible. Find the local vendors, and you’ll be sure to learn about the culture in a fun, hands-on way.
What is one piece of advice you'd give future students traveling with your program?
Alyssa: I would advise future students to plan, plan, plan! My only regret (and I feel like regret is such a strong word because this experience was an entirely positive one!) is not planning out my weekend travel ahead of time. As I was interning Monday through Thursday every week, I had to be very strategic with how I chose to spend my spare time. I wanted to travel as much as possible, and I definitely did!
However, if I would have planned the weekends prior to my departure from America, I could have seen much more of Europe. This is because, once I had arrived in Ireland, I was typically looking at flights only a few weeks ahead of time. This made the tickets quite expensive. However, had I purchased them months in advance, I could have seen more countries in a cost efficient way.
The bottom line is this: put a lot of thought into where you’d like to travel before you get overseas. Start planning this at least four months in advance. Buy the flights, the train tickets, etc. and do your research. Don’t be intimidated about setting dates in stone like I was! It will all work out. You and your wallet will not regret it, and you’ll be able to see so much more!
How has this experience impacted your future? (Personally, professionally, academically, etc)
Alyssa: This experience has been truly invaluable. I’ve only been home for about five months, and already it’s impacted my career in a big way. Not only has it set me apart from my peers in the workplace, it’s given me an amazing conversation topic to exercise with professors and potential employers alike.
You would be amazed at how many conversations it has sparked, and how many connections it has made for me. People are very interested to hear about your adventures abroad!
You'll find that people often have some sort of connection to your host country, be it that they've traveled there themselves or they have ancestors from there. It’s been a helpful way for me to relate to many people and I’m positive you’ll have the same experience.
Describe your favorite must-have food that you tried abroad.
Alyssa: Fish and chips, obviously! You can’t travel to Ireland without trying fish and chips. Even if you don’t care for seafood (like I don’t!) it’s a can’t-miss entrée. Try to find a “chipper” (a hole-in-the-wall restaurant that serves fish and chips) that is off the beaten path. Ask locals who they recommend because often their suggestion will be your best bet. Take it from someone who isn't a huge seafood eater: you’ll be glad you tried it! Try to adopt an "open mind" mentality for every aspect of your life overseas—and that includes cuisine!