Blog by Student Ambassador Tressa Hobbs
I am an anthropology and international studies major with classics and geographic information systems minors who decided to escape the Midwestern winter in favor of living and studying at UCC in Cork, Ireland for a semester. Now that I’m back stateside I’m vicariously reliving my study abroad experience through writing blogs. I hope you enjoy reading about my Irish adventure and good luck on your own adventures wherever they may take you.
Ever since I went to my freshman orientation at my university, I knew I wanted to study abroad. So, for me, it was more of a matter of picking the right program and country for my interests. First, I wanted to do a shorter program in Japan, then a summer program in France, and finally a semester in Norway before I discovered my university’s study abroad program with University College Cork. The program at UCC allowed me to take classes that counted towards my major without having to worry about a language barrier (so I thought) and experience the beautiful Emerald Isle through so many immersive experiences. It was the complete package!
For the most part, I was excited for my journey ahead! Fortunately for me I’ve had experience traveling both internationally and on my own, so culture shock and travel anxiety wasn’t a huge issue for me. In the week before I left, I packed and unpacked my suitcase what felt like a million times, made a list of all the places I wanted to visit in Europe, and studied a map of Cork so I “knew” where I was going. Newsflash, you’ll have no idea where you’re going those first few days, and that’s okay! Getting lost and exploring your new city is half the fun!
My first day in Cork I was so excited that not even the rainy Irish weather could dampen my spirit. It felt like an eternity passing through boarder control and customs in Cork with the small group of other UCC international students that were on my flight from Heathrow Airport in London. Getting my passport stamped and making my way out to the cabs in front of the airport finally made this experience real to me. I was actually studying abroad in Ireland!
The cab driver who took me to my apartment spent the ride pointing out his favorite restaurants and pubs in Cork and other places of interest. Immediately after arriving at my apartment my property manager continued the Irish hospitality by making sure I knew which pubs had Irish trad music playing on which nights and the fastest route to Tesco, while helping me carry my heavy suitcase up the stairs to my room. These early glimpses of how caring and helpful the locals are set aside any remaining anxiety about making the wrong decision.
The rest of my first day in Cork was spent getting to know roommates and trekking in the rain to Tesco and Penny’s (both stores you will come to love if you spend time in Ireland) getting groceries and the essentials for my bedroom. To celebrate our first night in Ireland, my roommates and I decided to go to a bar to celebrate. However, since it was a Monday night, and we didn’t yet know the tradition of going out on Tuesdays and Thursdays, most places were closed. We ended up eating in a retro-themed diner in the city center with amazing milkshakes and having the same amount of fun, if not more, that we would’ve had in a bar.
The next few days we spent doing activities planned by the UCC International Office for new international students. I would have been so lost without these activities because they included walking tours of the city, campus tours, multiple opportunities to meet other international students, and even a day trip to Cobh (highly recommended). With all of these activities going on and a city to explore in my down time, there was hardly a chance for me to feel homesick and by the end of Orientation Week I had made countless new friends from all over the world, was slowly figuring out how to navigate the city, and was feeling more confident than ever in my Irish adventure.