JoAnna Ness - 2015 Program Participant

A view of the sea off Kerry, Ireland

With other IES Abroad participants in Kerry, Ireland

Why did you decide to apply for an international program?

I applied for an international program because I wanted to expand my worldview. I knew that this would be a great opportunity to experience life in a completely different place, surrounded by a different culture, and I hoped to learn a lot about myself and others in the process.

Why did you choose to study abroad in Ireland?

Growing up, I was always fascinated by stories of Ireland. I saw the country as a exciting and beautiful place. I knew I would feel more comfortable in a laid-back, English speaking country than somewhere that I would struggle with language barriers, and this turned out to be completely true.

What was your favorite part of Dublin?

Dublin is an incredible city. It's extremely walkable, so I saved a lot of money on transportation while still seeing the sights. The airport was easy to get to and cheap Ryanair flights to various countries were plentiful. The DART train allowed us to take quick day trips or half day trips when we had a spare morning for exploring another coastal city or cliff walk.

What was the best part about your IES Abroad program?

The program is very small, and we all became close friends as a result. The IES Abroad staff members are incredible, and the courses are all very interesting. Even though we were living an ocean away from home, having friends who were American helped ease the culture shock as we all adjusted together. Everyone we met, from the owner of a coffee shop down the street to the tour guide on Paddy Wagon tours, was friendly, and I felt completely comfortable in the city as a result.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

The staff at the IES Abroad Center are absolutely the best. From the very moment I stepped away from the baggage claim, they helped welcome us to Dublin and introduced us to all things Irish. I always felt cared for, and they made sure we knew that they would do whatever they could if we ever needed anything. They excelled at serving as tour guides (both in Ireland and by making suggestions for other cities we wanted to visit), friends, and instructors.

Early morning in Bruges, Belgium

Enjoying a break in Bruges, Belgium

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

I wish I would have joined a gym or established an exercise routine with friends early on. Studying abroad means trying new foods wherever you travel. It's such a short time that you have to seize every opportunity to try something new, including food. Unfortunately, this decision weighed upon me a bit heavily at the end, quite literally. I think establishing an exercise routine in the very beginning and developing healthy habits in that unfamiliar environment would have helped me to enjoy the rest of my travels with more energy and happiness. Although, in my opinion, crepes do a pretty good job at making people happy, too.

What was a typical day like as an international student in Dublin?

On a typical day, I would wake up and get ready for class around 8:30 a.m. I ate breakfast in the apartment or picked up a coffee on my walk to class. My first class would end around 12:30 p.m., so a group of people would either eat lunch at the IES Abroad Center or go out to eat at a cafe. Sometimes we would go visit a museum or do something in the city center in the afternoon. Otherwise, we would work on homework before the afternoon/evening class in the IES Abroad Center. After class, we often made "family dinners" and watched movies while working on homework.

What did you like doing on your free time?

My favorite activity was hiking or walking along the coast. I really enjoyed taking the train to seaside towns and getting out of the city for some fresh air and exercise. It was another great opportunity to see a little more of Ireland.

What were your accommodations like in Dublin? 

I stayed in a two bedroom, one bathroom apartment with two other American girls who were in the same IES Abroad program. The apartment had a kitchen with an oven and microwave (and washer/dryer combo), as well as a common room. I really liked the location of the apartment. It was a five minute walk to class, 10 to 15 minutes to a lot of good cafes, and 30 minutes to the city center.

Now that you're home, how has studying abroad impacted your life?

Studying abroad has taught me a lot about myself. I am more open to the idea of living somewhere extremely different for a short time, and it definitely made me catch the travel bug. It has also made me more confident when I enter new situations, because that was something we dealt with constantly while abroad. I have a special appreciation for kind, welcoming people, because I know how much it meant to me while I was in a new place, and I try harder to be that person for others. Listening to others talk about the United States also changed how I view my country, and it was very eye-opening.