By Kelin McCloskey '19
Junior Kelin McCloskey of the women's rowing team spent her fall semester in Ireland. Here is her experience from the Emerald Isle.
Spending a semester abroad in Ireland has truly been one of the most difficult and one of the most rewarding things I've ever done. Studying abroad had always been a dream of mine, since it is the perfect opportunity to get to know another culture and way of life much more intimately than what is possible on shorter trips. For me, Ireland seemed like the obvious destination as my family has a predominately Irish heritage.
WAC's partnership in Ireland is with University College Cork (UCC). Located near the southern coast of Ireland, Cork is Ireland's second largest city, although it definitely has the feel of a large town, due to its close-knit community and low-rise buildings. UCC itself has a student population that is around 90% Irish, which I certainly appreciated since it allowed me to get an immersive experience. Cork was truly the perfect place to live and study. The people are immensely friendly, the city is extremely safe, transportation is cheap and easily accessible, and there is an abundance of things to do, traditional music to hear, sights to see, drinks to drink, and food to eat.
Due the way the Irish education system is organized, I spent a lot less time in class then I typically would at WAC, although my courses necessitated significantly more outside work. To fill my free time, I joined the mountaineering club and the women's soccer team and also spent time exploring Cork with friends. I was also fortunate enough not to have classes on Fridays, allowing me the ability to travel quite extensively around Ireland and Europe. Ireland is not a large country; it's about the size of Indiana. The combination of Ireland's small size and the widespread accessibility of public transportation enabled me to explore much of Ireland—from the quaint towns and rocky cliffs of the West, to the sea towns of the South, to the bustling city that is Dublin, and even to Northern Ireland (which is actually part of the UK [United Kingdom]). Throughout the course of the semester, I was also able to visit Amsterdam, London, Paris, and Barcelona. Hopping around Europe was an unforgettable experience, and every place I visited was so unique and wonderful, but Ireland is the place that has truly claimed my heart.
I never would have expected the amount of personal growth I experienced this semester. I am certainly much more confident in my own independence after living and traveling in a foreign country. Studying abroad held its struggles, including getting lost countless times, figuring out accents and languages, navigating a different educational system, adjusting to a very wet climate, experiencing culture shock, and missing family and friends and WAC. While there were certainly challenges, so many good things came out of this semester. I've seen breathtaking views, made lasting friendships, eaten incredible food, traveled to places I had never been before, picked up pieces of other languages, exploredmany castles, and learned a lot more about the world and about myself. Studying abroad is an experience I will never forget, and I am so thankful that I was afforded this amazing opportunity even as an athlete, since it's something that most college athletes aren't able to do.
Although I am sad that the semester is coming to an end and that I will have to say slán (goodbye in Irish) to the place that has become like a home to me, I know that Cork and the memories and friendships I have made here will remain with me, and I am excited to see my family and friends in the United States and to be back at WAC in the Spring.