Why did you decide to study abroad?
Before study abroad, I had never broken my comfort zone so completely, so in large part it was an exercise in discipline and self-exploration. Also, I would be able to fit the course work into my own course schedule, so I would be able to graduate on time.
What was the thing you struggled with the most?
In a word, my greatest struggle was balance. My priorities were constantly in competition with each other, and I had difficulty picking what I really wanted.
I wanted to see the world. I wanted to be a great student. I wanted to meet people. Mostly, I wanted a genuine experience, which is often less romantic than “study abroad” is thought to be.
The Irish students all viewed the “study abroad” students as kids on a holiday. There were students who took easy classes and visited new countries every weekend, while I studied because I wanted to do well in classes, and earn the respect of my Irish peers. I also wanted to have a local experience, so I spent time at local restaurants and at dinners with my roommates.
In Ireland, all the engineering students take more focused class work, and so by their third year (I studied abroad in my third year), they are doing their capstone project. I still had not taken the bulk of my specialized classes, but I had taken a wider set of introductory classes, so there were days I was ahead of the curriculum, and days I was very far behind. We were given a week off to study for finals, so I finally traveled to Rome, and then got sick for the entire week.
What was the most memorable thing about your experience?
The most memorable part of my experience was participating in site visits in Ireland. I did so independently at the Aran Island harbor, alongside actual practicing professionals in the country, as well as on a trip with my classmates to see the structural retrofit of a church that had experienced a terrible fire. Having gone on field visits in America, seeing similarities and differences between design and implementation in the different countries was affirming. Also, being able to meet with practicing and aspiring professionals abroad is something that I believe will echo with me throughout my career.
I also fondly remember staying up late in the architecture studio (where the upper class engineering students were given a work space) with a Canadian student who felt just as out of place as I did. It was the peak of the challenge I sought out when I chose the program. The civil engineering students liked to boast that University of Limerick’s civil program was the toughest in the country, and I was proud to work alongside them. Their work was much more hand-drafting and hand-calculation driven. There were fewer tests, less homework, and almost exclusively independent study and one project work.
Would you advise other students to study abroad?
The short answer is yes. I would advise any student with the inkling for a study abroad experience to pick up the phone and make a call or send an email to apply for a program to see if it could be financially feasible.
In a word, I have to say there is resonant value in having global exposure. New perspective can revolutionize how you think, or affirm the way you already do. In engineering, specifically, having exposure to international design standards can be helpful in further informing the kind of conservatism you face in your own career.
What would you like us to know about you?
I am a firm believer in integrated design, and presence of ARTS education in STEM fields. I am currently employed in site development work, and while I begin preparation for my professional licensure exams, I professionally aspire to keep environmentally-conscious design a viable, economic, and sustainable decision for developers in the Northwest.