My name is Lela, and I am a rising senior studying chemical engineering and mathematics at UA. Throughout June 2023, I was at University College Dublin (UCD) in Ireland as a part of the UA in Ireland: Chemical Engineering program. I took Polymer Materials Engineering with Dr. O’Harra and Introduction to Biochemical Engineering with Dr. Kim. My time in Ireland exceeded my expectations in more ways than one.
The locations I visited both in Ireland and in other countries in Europe were breathtaking. In Ireland, I visited several famous places, including the Cliffs of Moher, Giant’s Causeway, and Blarney Castle, as well as many well known cities, such as Cork, Galway, and Belfast. Although I enjoyed every place I saw, my two favorite places were Cliffs of Moher and Blarney Castle. The Cliffs of Moher probably top the list for the coolest natural landscape I have seen in my entire life. Beyond being a very beautiful castle, at Blarney Castle I had the opportunity to kiss the Blaney Stone to supposedly gain the gift of eloquence as many have done for several centuries. I also spent a good deal of time exploring Dublin itself. I highly recommend visiting the Guinness Storehouse as well as the green McDonald’s on Grafton Street if you ever happen to be in the area. Outside of Ireland, I spent two of my free weekends traveling to other countries in Europe. One weekend, a few of us from the program traveled to London and saw many of the touristy places, such as the London Eye, Big Ben, and the Natural History Museum. Another weekend, I flew to Spain to visit a few of my friends participating in the IMPRESS REU in San Sebastian, giving me a chance to spend time in a smaller and warmer European city.
Obviously, a large part of study abroad is the opportunity to see and experience new places. However, I would say I will remember the people I met and the friends I made more so than the places I visited. I spent most of my time interacting with other UA students in my program rather than people from Ireland or other American students. Given we had the same classes, we spent most of our time together in lectures or doing homework, which led to us also spending our free time together. Being able to study abroad alongside these people made it the great experience that it was. Whether we were doing homework and studying, going to the gym, traveling to another country, or simply experiencing all Ireland has to offer, these people are what made the experience so great. Before landing in Ireland, I only knew one person in the program. After leaving, I can say I have gained lifelong friends.
I have a few pieces of advice based on my experience for anyone interested in studying abroad. One, I highly recommend studying abroad while in college because you will learn a lot, especially about yourself. Two, try to continue to do something normal to you, like going to the gym or such, while abroad as it helps give you a sense of normalcy and consistency while adjusting to the foreign country. Three, in addition to visiting all of the famous places and doing all of the popular activities, spend time doing some less traditional activities, like trying only locally available items on the McDonald’s menu, eating at a hole-in-the-wall Mexican place you found while on a quest for queso, or letting your friends teach you to golf. Sometimes these less traditional activities create some of the best memories.