Rachel studied in Galway on the Arcadia: Galway, National University of Ireland Program in Spring 2016.
If you could go abroad again, what would you do differently?
At first I was a bit shy and overwhelmed because going abroad and being thrown into another culture can be very intimidating. Culture shock was a harder obstacle than I thought it would be and it took me a while to truly let go and just enjoy the ride. If I had to do something differently I would stop trying to control everything and just let things flow. No matter how many backup plans you have, traveling is never going to go the way you planned it, for better or for worse. There will always be some obstacles, whether it’s getting stuck in the London Tube at 11pm because you took a late flight or finding out that you managed to plan your weekend to Bruges, Belgium the same weekend as the annual Bruges Beer Festival. But no matter if its good or bad, you must learn to just go along for the ride and work with what you’ve got. So, if I had to do it all again, which I would in a heartbeat, I would have stopped trying to control everything and stress when things don’t go as planned and just have fun, relax and ride the waves of adventure.
What specific factors influenced your decision to go abroad?
Growing up in an Army family traveling was not a pass time, it was a way of life. I’ve grown to love my way of life and before I chose what colleges to apply to, I knew I wanted to go abroad. Since day one of freshman year I was asking questions and figuring out how I could manipulate my academic plan to accommodate a study abroad semester. Now, having met that goal, I feel overjoyed that I gained that experience but also a little sad that it’s already over.
What was it about your program specifically that fit your personal goals over other programs?
My program fit me because it sent me to Galway, Ireland in a group of 23 people. At first I was skeptical about being in a group, but the people in my program truly made my study abroad experience amazing. It was nice to have friends to talk to and travel with and ultimately share this experience with. I still stay in contact with a lot of my fellow study abroad students and I believe the experiences we shared have cultivated friendships that will last a life time.
What experiences did you have while studying abroad that you feel you could not have had if you had stayed at Penn State?
Truly understanding other people and their cultures. Penn State is a very diverse campus but it is hard to really grasp someone else’s way of life without being a part of it. Going abroad puts you in another country’s lifestyle and gives you the opportunity to become a part of it. Through that experience I feel I have a greater understanding of how others think and why they believe what they believe. The world is full of stereotypes, both good and bad, and through my firsthand experience I have learned to make my own assumptions based on the facts.