By Jenae Withey
(A huge thank you to Jenae Withey for this blog which gives a very personal account of how a study abroad experience can influence your life)
When I was first asked to write about my time at UCC I was absolutely stumped where to start. How could I start to explain an experience that has so completely changed my life and a place that I still think about every day. How can I adequately explain how my confidence, my personality and my self esteem were affected in the best ways just because I went to a new university for a few months? When I decided to go to UCC I had just expected to get a new experience in a new country. All I had hoped for was to have a great time but I got so much more in return.
I became more reliant and trusting of myself. Living on my own, and having to take care of myself was a completely new experience. For the first time in my life I had to think about what I needed for groceries and budget so that I would be able to afford them. I had to learn my way around a brand new city and figure out how I would get new places. Luckily my friends were going through the same challenges and we were able to help each other when one of us was stuck and by the end of the first month in Cork I knew the city like the back of my hand.
I became more confident in myself. My first week it seemed that I had a constant mantra going through my head of ‘what if people don’t like me?’. I was hesitant at first to make new friends because I know that my personality can be strange. I frequently reference things no one has heard about, people don’t usually catch my sarcasm and a lot of times I can come off as being unapproachable. But I went to events where I knew no one, and I went out on the town, and I found that the more I let others see the true me the closer that we became and soon I felt more like myself than I ever had before.
I spoke up more and became more outspoken. If I didn’t I would have become just another face in the crowd and after 18 years standing by the side I decided that enough was enough. So I spoke up in class and talked to other students that I normally would have been too shy to. I made connections with other people in coffee shops or in line for the bus. I learned about things that I never could have imagined and was able to share my opinions with others and have great discussions with them. My motto became ‘When else?’ When else will I get this opportunity? When else will I meet this person? So I jumped at every new experience and I wouldn’t have nearly half as many good memories if I hadn’t.
I can honestly say that my only regret from my time in Cork is that I didn’t do more. It seems crazy to think that I am a completely different person now than I was this time last year and it’s all because on a whim I decided to apply to UCC.