Bridget Burnham - 2015 Program Participant
Bridget at Kilkenny Castle in Ireland with her friend Kara
What inspired you to study abroad in Galway, Ireland?
When looking into where to study abroad, I knew I wanted to go somewhere in Europe that speaks English and would have similar business classes that I could use for my degree in business marketing. With almost half of my heritage being Irish, I have always wanted to go to Ireland. As such, it was the natural choice for me out of the countries that met my language and class needs.
How easy was Academic Program International’s application process?
Going through API was really easy for me because I had a friend who had gone on a program with them the semester before and could help me. I also knew multiple people applying to study abroad through API’s programs at the same time, so we all helped each other through the process. When my friends couldn't help me, my API program manager was very helpful and attentive.
Great view of the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland
How did the Irish community influence your experience?
The Irish people are known for being welcoming and just all around nice, and that was very prevalent. I lived with Irish students and went to school with them, so I really got to form relationships with people in the community. They showed me around town, introduced me to their friends, and taught me the all around Irish way of life, which made my experience that much more rewarding.
What were you most satisfied with about API?
I was most satisfied with my local program API managers in Galway. They were a married couple who were absolutely hilarious and really took all the API students in as their own. The women, Finn, even referred to herself as our “Irish sister.” I could go to them with absolutely anything, from being homesick to travel advice to how to prepare for finals.
If you could change anything about your experience abroad, what would you change?
I had traveled every weekend for four weeks in a row, and then was in Ireland for a few weeks to catch my breath. I thought I still had all this time to travel around Ireland towards the end of the semester when the weather would be nicer, so I just stayed in Galway. Then finals and the rest of my trips out of Ireland hit, and I ran out of time to do everything I wanted in Ireland. So if I could redo it, I would fully capitalize on my time go to all the places in Ireland that I wanted to, even though the weather was not ideal. However, I know I will go back to Ireland in my life so I’ll see what I missed eventually.
Bridget on a visit to National University of Ireland in Galway with her friend Kara
What were some differences in the structure of your courses and studying at a foreign university in comparison to your home university?
One major difference was that most of my grades were based off of one final written exam, and the grading system is the opposite of in the U.S. Also, the whole schooling system was really disorganized, which was hard for me. None of the study abroad students could figure out when our Easter break was and we weren't told our final exam schedule until two weeks before, making planning trips hard. When it came to actual content, I thought the level was accurate to what I would have studied at home, and the Irish students were very helpful if I needed.
When learning a new language, people often make embarrassing mistakes. Even though English is the official language of Ireland, did you have any of those funny misunderstandings with the accent or slang?
One prevalent word that everyone in town uses is “craic”, pronounced like “crack”. It means fun or a good time. People would say “How was the craic last night?” and would go on to clarify that they were not talking about the drug. Another one, that I think is throughout Europe actually, is the word “fag” for cigarette. That got a little confusing while out at the pubs. I also had to ask, “what?” a lot. The accent can be really hard to understand, depending on where the person is from in Ireland.
What was your favorite place that you visited outside of Ireland?
I dont think I can narrow it down to just one favorite, but Amsterdam is a place that I really loved. The city is lively, covered in bikes, lined with canals, and has beautiful buildings. I’m not a big history buff, but Amsterdam has a very intriguing past to me and it was really interesting to learn about, which I think made me really appreciate the city more than I did other places.
Bridget and friends Kara N. and Kara W. at Galway Bay, Ireland
Are there parts of Irish culture that you have adopted into your everyday life back in the United States?
In general, I brought back a lot of random little things. I now say words like lovely and grand all the time. I can also say that I now drink Irish breakfast tea with milk almost everyday. A big one is that rain doesn't bother me anymore. I’m from Colorado, so the amount of rain in Ireland really took some getting used to, but now when it rains here it barely phases me, while all my friends are freaking out if it rains three days in a row.