Recently, World Campus business administration student Luis Cruz traveled more than 3,000 miles from his home in Wallkill, New York, to Ireland for a weeklong study abroad opportunity. The program, offered through World Campus in partnership with Penn State Brandywine Global programs, gave Luis the opportunity to travel between the Irish cities of Galway, Belfast, and Dublin in the span of 7 days. We had the opportunity to chat with Luis and hear about his exciting travels.
How did you fit the program into your school and work life?
Academically, I asked my adviser to help me choose a class that would allow me to go on the trip. She signed me up for AM ST 105 — an American Studies class focused on Irish culture and its influence in the United States. We had several assignments due prior to departure, so that we would be prepared and somewhat informed on what to expect in Ireland. In terms of getting ready with my personal life, I simply took vacation time from work.
Prior to participating, did you have any concerns?
Yes. I was really nervous about meeting everyone else who was going. I thought they would already know one another, and that I would sort of be a bit of a loner, but that was not the case. It was great to meet World Campus students during the trip from Altoona, Pennsylvania; North Carolina; and Seattle, Washington. Even the campus-based students from Penn State Brandywine and University Park were friendly and easy to get along with. After the third day on the trip everyone talked as if we had all known each other for a long time.
Can you describe the classroom environment?
We didn’t have to sit in a traditional classroom setting — our professor allowed whatever city we were in to serve as our classroom. We were expected to explore some of the popular and historic sites, and take in as much as we could. We also met over breakfast to discuss what we learned and share facts on certain attractions with one another (as part of our community contribution). Also, as part of my project for the class I was expected to talk to locals about their view on the economy in Ireland.
How did study abroad enhance your World Campus experience?
It allowed me to explore and visit another country, and meet fellow Penn State students. I’ve taken online courses through another institution and they didn’t really make you feel connected to the school or your peers. I think it’s great that Penn State includes World Campus students in these trips. It helps make us feel more a part of the Penn State community. It’s great to get the on-campus experience as a World Campus student.
What was the most memorable moment of your trip?
Definitely going to the Kylemore Abbey by myself. On our second day in Galway the group I was hanging out with didn’t really want to make the hour and fifteen minute journey to see the Kylemore Abbey, so I decided to go alone. I’ve always seen pictures of the Abbey online, and in one of our books, and I really wanted to visit it (It’s not every day I’m Ireland!). The bus driver was extremely friendly, and though he could only take me to a certain point which was about 15 minutes from the Abbey, he arranged for a taxi to pick me up and take me the rest of the way.
Once at the Abbey I explored the castle, and just felt really impressed with myself for venturing out on my own like that. I was also still processing the fact that I was in a completely different country across the Atlantic Ocean. It was an amazing feeling to see the beautiful countryside Ireland had to offer, and to know that I was really there. After leaving the Abbey I had to walk 3 miles to Letterfrack where I would take the bus back to Galway. It was quite the adventure for me since I had never done anything like that before.
What would you say was your biggest learning experience?
As a Business Administration student, part of my project was to ask locals how they felt about the economy in Ireland. I talked with local Irish people in Galway, Letterfrack, and Belfast and it was interesting to learn how opinions varied.
Some thought that the economy wasn’t too bad, while others thought the country was on its knees because of how bad the economy was. A front desk clerk in one of the hotels mentioned since the dollar is worth less than the euro, many Americans are very conscious about how they spend their money while abroad (I sure was). The currency in Belfast is the British pound, so the US dollar is worth even less in Northern Ireland.
Would you recommend study abroad to other World Campus students?
I would really recommend study abroad to other World Campus students, because it allows you to meet and connect to other Penn State students and explore a whole new country at the same time. I think that this is a great opportunity made available to World Campus students and we should take advantage of it.
If you’ve had an exciting experience and would like to share, let us know! Drop us an email at WC_Community@outreach.psu.edu.