Why did you pick this program?
Brianna: I studied abroad in Germany for a year in college. During that time I had created a bucket list of every place in Europe I promised myself I would travel to. Of course, Ireland was on that list. I came here for 2 weeks and absolutely fell in love with the country.
The best part about it was the culture. I had seen nothing like it in all of the oher countries I had seen. The people were SO friendly and warm and welcoming and nonjudgemental and open to EVERYONE. It was incredible. I felt like everwhere I went people wanted to help me and wanted to hear my story. Everyone was so genuinely kind, it was overwhelming.
From that trip, I knew that no matter what, I was coming back to live there one day. So, sure enough, as soon as I moved home to the States, I literally googled "how to move to Ireland". I stumbled upon USIT's Work in Ireland program and it looked like everything I was looking for. I contacted a staff member with some questions, and about a week and a couple emails later, I was filling out the application forms for the program.
What do you wish someone had told you before you went abroad?
Brianna: I think the most valuable lessons I have learned from my travels would be to not arrive with any expectations. Rather than putting your energy and time into imagining exactly what the experience is going to be like, instead focus on what you want to make it for yourself.
Set realistic goals for yourself, that you have the power to control, that way you won't ever be let down. For example, before I moved abroad I made a list of all the countries I wanted to travel to no matter what. I knew that I had full control over the places I traveled to, so I made sure to make each one of those trips happen.
For me, the whole point of traveling is to explore other cultures and meet people from all different walks of life, so another goal I set for myself was to focus my friendships on people from other countries. If I had wanted to surround myself with all Americans, then why would I even be traveling in the first place? I was able to achieve everything I wanted out of my traveling experience, because the only expectations I had were on things I had the power to control.
What is the most important thing you learned abroad?
Brianna: Moving abroad really forces you to appreciate everything you take for granted back at home. That is actually one of the reasons I love traveling so much though, it teaches you to really take a look at your own life and how fortunate you are.
Being away from home for 9 months already, I am missing so many things that I never even thought twice about having before. But it is a great feeling to be able to return home and be so thankful for everything you have and everyone you have.
Traveling has also taught me to be proud from where I am from. Whenever I tell people I am from California, their eyes light up and they ask me all about it. It's so cool to be from a place that everyone wants to visit!
What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?
Brianna: DO IT. You're never going to know unless you try. My experience in Ireland has not at all been what I was anticipating, but now when I am looking back at my life when I am 60 years old I will never need to wonder "what if". That is a fabulous feeling to know that you embraced every opportunity and dream you had at such a young age.
Fortunately, I had the support of family and friends, but it was still a very scary leap to take. I regret nothing though, and I am appreciating the experience for what it is. I think it is so incredible to say you actually lived in another country and experienced living in another culture.
The world is such a big and beautiful place and it is so important to embrace all the opportunities you can to see what else is out there and to open up your eyes, perspectives and judgements.