On Jan. 24, The Slate featured a story about a Shippensburg University sophomore named Kelsea Collins, who had just left to learn abroad at Limerick University in Limerick, Ireland.
She had high hopes of a life-changing, perspective-altering experience that would help her better understand her future.
Collins, now a junior, returned May 15 after a four-month trip that exceeded all of her expectations, altered her perspectives and certainly changed her life.
“You just become a different kind of person because you’re completely self-reliant,” Collins said. “You become a stronger person because you put yourself out there.”
She lived at home in Chambersburg, Pa., and commuted to and from SU until she went to Ireland to live on her own for four months; a dramatic change.
To Collins, it was for the best, and made for a time during which she made some of her best friends and memories.
She came back with many new perspectives on academics, culture and herself.
She said one big difference in the schooling style is that there are no general education requirements, and students instead take classes that pertain to their major.
Also, classes are very lecture-based and homework is rare. Most classes boiled down to a couple tests and/or projects.
Collins said it put the student in a more independent role, which is something she found she likes, but it may not be for everyone.
Some of her most interesting observations were cultural ones.
The Irish’s outgoing nature made Collins realize how shy and awkward Americans can be.
It is more common for someone to approach a person and strike up a conversation in Ireland than it is in America.
According to Collins, the Irish people she experienced generally view Americans as gullible, but nice enough people.
Also, as expected, the Irish students found the American accents to be interesting and could differentiate between Collins’ roommate’s New Jersey accent and Collins’ “southern accent.” She was once told, “You sound like TV.”
“I never realized it until I went over there that I say things kind of drawn out and they would call me out on it,” she said, noting that Americans speak much more slowly than the Irish or English.
Collins spent most of her time in Ireland, but took excursions to France, The Netherlands, The Czech Republic, Germany and Italy.
Collins said the experience went beyond academics and culture and changed her perspective on life.
She said it helped her find her self-worth, and the experience made her more well rounded overall.
The memories of walking all over the town, walking along the river she lived beside and riding the bus to school are engraved in her mind forever.
The experience meant so much to her that she became a campus advocate with the group that sponsored her trip, Academic Programs International (API).
She said they made the whole experience easier with assisting with housing arrangements, providing a cell phone service and organizing meetings for students before they left for Ireland so they would know someone prior to arrival.
Collins is excited to work for API and has already created the idea of a gender-neutral speed-dating-style meet-and-greet that would spread awareness about studying abroad and let students get acquainted.
That event will take place on Wednesday, Sept. 26, and API plans to have one event every month this semester. Anyone interested can “Like” the “Shippensburg University International Students” Facebook page where events will be posted.
For any other questions, students can visit the International Office in CUB 221 or contact Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One big focus of the last time Collins talked to The Slate was if the trip would help her understand where she wants to go in her future. When asked about it now, she only had one answer: “Back to Ireland.”