Pre-Freshman Trip of a Lifetime

Montana Major
Freshman
Occupational Therapy major
Summer II
Ireland & Northern Ireland, Colonialism and Terrorism

Being a freshman at WMU I have never been on a study abroad trip before, I haven’t even been out of the country, and I could not have asked for a better first experience. My time in Ireland has been a life changing trip and holds some of my favorite memories. I have always wanted to travel, so when presented with this opportunity, I jumped at the chance to go. It was nerve-racking at first; what should I pack? Is my plane going to crash? What if my classmates don’t like me? Honestly though, as soon as we got to Dublin, all of my fears vanished. Stepping through the airport doors and arriving in the middle of another country surrounded by people who were raised differently and think differently than us, really is refreshing and exciting. You never truly know how a place is until you see for yourself. I had so many expectations for how it was going to be, and it turned out to be completely different and also much better than that.

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My class had twelve students total, thirteen with our professor, and we bonded on day one. Being around such a small class for a majority of our day every day, made us all very close friends. We were very comfortable around each other and it created a great learning environment because we weren’t afraid to speak our minds or make mistakes. We all respected each other’s opinions and still had fun and made memories with everyone. Being with that group changed how I act around people and how I make friends now. They helped me become more outgoing and confident in class discussions and became some really great friends of mine.

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One opinion of mine that changed was about travelling. I never knew how possible it was to travel. No, the airport is not my favorite place, but then again, that plane is what brought me to a new experience. I always believed that travelling was a very complicated process, all the lines for luggage and passports that you see in movies with people missing their flights, but actually doing that for a study abroad trip is not as bad as people think. You have so much excitement for the trip that you don’t let yourself see a line or a crowd, all you can see is the potential for an amazing time.

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While in Ireland we studied colonialism and terrorism, which means we studied a lot about Ireland’s history with Northern Ireland and Britain. We got the opportunity to visit museums and art galleries, beaches and shops, colleges and a number of places in Dublin. I learned a lot while there, but to be honest, my favorite part was the scenery. To start, the architecture in Dublin in gorgeous. The buildings are a mix of modern and traditional architecture that makes it very interesting and gives the city a great vibe. The country is so green that it puts the grass here to shame. My favorite memory from the trip is when we went to Northern Ireland, specifically Ballymena, and stayed in a hostel. The hostel was family-run, so we had the chance to meet the couple, their children, and their pets. They taught us how to dance and brought a group over to play fiddles for us, and on one of the days they took us to Mount Slemish where we spent the day hiking. To us, Mount Slemish is quite a climb. Although, in Northern Ireland, they call it a hill. Making it to the top of that mountain was such a rewarding experience for me, and I’m sure the rest of the group feels the same. After being in the city the first half of the trip, getting to climb for a day made it my best memory.

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