IES offers amazing opportunities for students to experience and learn about different cultures. I got to experience Irish culture, city culture, and other US cultures while abroad. I became very close with my roommates from all over the US. I had to overcome my own biases coming from a low-income family to really connect with my roommates from New York City and San Diego because the cultures we grew up in were completely different. I also used the resources IES gave me in the Service Learning course to learn and become a part of the Rialto community. I wanted to make lasting connections with my peers and see what city living is like for families. I think I succeeded in accomplishing almost all of that. I think making lasting connections was a far fetched idea. I should have made the goal, “I want to make meaningful connections in a short amount of time.” After leaving the last day of volunteering I felt sad knowing the likelihood I see those kids or people again was very slim. I think in an experience like studying abroad you will eventually put thousands of miles between people, so you can’t expect to make connections that will transcend space and time, but you can really enjoy and learn from the connections you make. I absolutely fell in love with the kids I worked with regularly. I got to see them progress through the semester and have crushes and thrive on the attention we were giving them. I also connected with my co-workers. I think the common ground of wanting to help the kids was a real catalyst for our bonding. I felt like I was apart of the community. I feel very blessed to have these experiences and I will most definitely remember these people forever.
I think it took me spending a semester abroad and traveling through Europe to realize how little of the States I had seen. Ireland taught me so much about traveling abroad but also opened up curiosity about my own country. I was roomed with four other people who all grew up in such different parts of the same country. I got a crash course in Irish culture, California culture, and New York Culture. My study abroad experience has altered my view on where I am from and for that I am grateful. I got to overcome my assumptions about city people both in Europe and America and reached a new way of accepting different perspectives. And when I got too homesick I could just pop into an American style diner.
Now that I have returned to the States, I am starting my final semester at Indiana University Bloomington. I will graduate with a degree in Linguistics and Anthropology. I will pick up my volunteering at the Bloomington Boys and Girls Club and membership in Oxfam at IU. I plan to continue my global service in the Peace Corps this fall. As of January 1st, my application process for placement in Ukraine has begun. I am applying to teach English to IDPs, internally displaced people. I am so glad my study abroad experience helped me solidify my future goals and grow my experience with global service.