The University of Iowa

Authored by Kelsey O'Donnell


Student Reflections on First-Generation Abroad: Ireland

My name is Kelsey O’Donnell and I am a fourth year student double majoring in International Studies and Anthropology. For my entire third year, I had the amazing opportunity to study abroad in Cork, Ireland. As a first-generation college student, my sisters and I are the first of our family to attend university, while I am the first of my family to travel abroad. As indicated by my choice in majors, I have always enjoyed learning about other cultures and traveling. As a first year student at Iowa, I was bombarded with information about events and opportunities.
The Labyrinth at Saint Fin Barre's Cathedral in the winter

Home is where you make it

How do you get to the point where you can call a place your home? I believe one of the factors is finding your favorite spots around the city. Cork is home to around 120,000 people, but it does not feel like it. It was not hard to be able to carve out a home for myself in this new place. One of the best things about moving to a new place is being able to explore it. It is very easy to walk or bike all over Cork. As I reflect on all the great things about my time abroad, I can’t help but think about the places that I will miss the most.

Breaking free from the comfort zone

Moving to another country to study abroad for a year is the definition of getting out of one’s comfort zone. Caitlin and I were both propelled out of our comfort zones as soon as we got on an airplane alone. Luckily, branching out is rewarding as well as challenging. One of my most important goals while studying abroad is to get out of the so-called “American bubble” and challenge myself to meet and talk to students from other parts of the world. This does not mean that traveling with or having American friends while abroad is a bad thing. I am very grateful that I met a fellow Iowa student while here and appreciate that she can relate when I am feeling homesick and want to talk about home. However, the connections I have made with people in Ireland and other international students are equally as important to me and open my mind to new experiences and perspectives. I interviewed Caitlin about her ideas regarding the “American bubble” and her advice for getting out of it.

Adjusting to Life in Ireland

Dia duit! That means hello in Irish. My name is Kelsey O’Donnell and I am junior at the University of Iowa studying International Studies and Anthropology. For my entire junior year, however, I am studying abroad in Cork, Ireland at University College Cork. While here, I am taking classes in History, Folklore, French, Literature, and Politics. I chose to study in Ireland because it is a beautiful country with friendly people. I knew that it would be a good choice for my first long-term stay abroad. University College Cork has a great international reputation and the campus is gorgeous.