Romantic Ireland: Studying Abroad with the Purdue English Department
November 11, 2019 Ally Geoffray
Study Abroad at Purdue
Purdue University offers a large selection of study abroad opportunities, ranking nineteenth in domestic student participation in study abroad. Of the multitude of possibilities, “Locations that attracted 100 or more students in 2016-17 were Australia, China, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom” (Oates). For a long time, study abroad seemed oriented primarily to foreign language majors, but, in actuality, “students in most academic backgrounds can find programs that meet their academic and career goals” (Mohajeri 382-383). These experiences are highly recommended. Studying abroad allows students to develop new skills, oftentimes influencing their future professional aspirations, as “the more international experiences one has, the more likely one is to develop a globally-oriented career” (388).
During the summer of 2019, Professor Maren Linett led an incredible study abroad entitled “Romantic Ireland,” one of the English department’s annual summer programs in Dublin. It boasted the opportunity for students to gain a more global understanding of Irish literature, offering six credits of coursework over the span of three weeks. During the program, students resided at Ireland’s most distinguished university, Trinity College Dublin. With 17 nights in Dublin, 2 nights in Galway, and 1 day spent exploring Sligo, the program allowed students to immerse themselves in another culture, visiting “key Dublin literary and historical sites such as the Dublin Writers Museum, the Parnell Monument, The James Joyce Centre, Trinity College Library, and the Abbey Theater.” These daytrips, as well as evenings in local pubs, allowed for engrossing experiences upon which the students would later reflect, turning in self-reflection essays on their time abroad.
After learning about this study abroad through her academic advisor, Crystal Webb, an English Literature major participating in Purdue’s Degree in 3 Program, realized that it would be a convenient way to travel while still progressing towards graduation. Webb also highlights how her experience in Ireland enhanced her understanding of Irish authors and literature by “bringing these stories to life.” Webb similarly credits it with helping her better understand how important a global perspectives is to any future career plan. Seeing her own culture through the eyes of another was an eye-opening experience, teaching her how often we, as American citizens, tend to assume that we know enough about the world, when we don’t. Basically, Webb claims that her experience was “globalization in action.”
Nyke Bounket, a double major in English Literature and Anthropology, also spoke highly of his experience. First, he mentions the workload; participants were expected “to read probably 30 poems, a couple dozen short stories, several plays and even a novel. All within three weeks.” Bounket humorously quips, “I’m not sure I even remember as much of U.S. history as I do Ireland’s.” He also stresses that exposure to such a different culture would be difficult, if not impossible, to simulate in a classroom setting. Bounket mentions meeting various types of people during his time in Ireland, including “a French philosophy professor, a woman from D.C. who used to serve as a Senator, a group of friends from Russia who were biking the country.” This eclectic group, along with the immersive nature of the trip, allowed him “to reflect on [his] own culture, behaviors, and values.” Finally, Bounkett identifies the natural beauty of Ireland as his favorite part of the experience; the group took a 40-minute train ride to Howth, a town “rugged with history.” He’d “never seen ocean water so clear. It was brimming with brightly colored sailboats, and in the distance were massive, jutting cliffs.” This idyllic scenery must be experienced in person!
Both Webb and Bounkett emphasize communication skills as a major aspect of study abroad. They recommend that other undergraduate students participate in either this particular opportunity, or some study abroad experience during their time at Purdue to develop their communication skills in a global context. Both also express their appreciation for Dr. Linett, who in Webb’s words is one of Purdue’s “hidden gem professors.” Her program class helped Webb to communicate her exact ideas, emphasizing precise writing as key to disseminating knowledge and connecting with other people. Bounkett agrees, identifying Dr. Linnet as “a powerhouse of knowledge and the most intelligent person [he’s] ever met.”
Other Benefits of Study Abroad
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) stating that “over the past three decades, the number of students enrolled outside their country of citizenship has risen dramatically, from 0.8 million worldwide in 1975 to 4.3 million in 2011, a more than fivefold increase.” As technology continues to advance, the world becomes more interconnected and workers with the ability to understand global perspectives increase in demand. Employers desire students who can travel beyond their comfort zones—students who readily embark to new frontiers. Although possibly daunting, study abroad experiences quantifiably assist student’s job prospects and improve their overall empathy and perspective-taking abilities. Ultimately, such opportunities “offer unique experiences to students by providing life-long personal and professional benefits such as personal growth, cultural awareness, employability, new language skills, creativity, communication skills, social network development and other benefits” (Tamilla, 63).
Globally, interest in study abroad programs has grown exponentially, as the personal and economic benefits have become more apparent. Purdue has certainly taken note, and now offers over 200 experiences in more than 45 countries. Romantic Ireland represents one of many opportunities designed to stretch and grow undergraduate students. As Bounket says, “go for the experience and allow yourself to digest everything, slowly and appreciatively.”
Mohajeri Norris, Emily, and Joan Gillespie. “How Study Abroad Shapes Global Careers: Evidence From the United States.” Journal of Studies in International Education, vol. 13, no. 3, Sept. 2009, pp. 382–397, doi:10.1177/1028315308319740.
Oates, Matthew. “Purdue Ranks 19th in the Nation for Study Abroad.” Purdue University News, Purdue, 9 Nov. 2018, www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2018/Q4/purdue-ranks-19th-in-the-nation-for-study-abroad.html.