South Campus at Maynooth University
Now that the first week of my program is over, things are starting to settle into a routine. With orientation and tours of campus and the town completed, all of the students in my program are experiencing their first full week of classes. We’re finally getting down to business. After all, academics are why we all chose to study abroad, right?
Well it’s not entirely the case, as there are so many other important aspects to going abroad: immersing yourself in a different culture, learning more about who you are, and going on an (somewhat) unpredictable adventure.
My goal was to learn outside of the walls of a classroom, so the courses and curriculum were not a priority when I started my program search. In the end though, the academics are what sold me on Maynooth University.
Maynooth University is nestled in Maynooth, Ireland just outside of Dublin. The program has a two-course schedule, with the potential for students to earn up to six academic credits. The two courses I chose to take were Environmental Politics, and International Trade.
At my home institution I am working on a degree in political science, and environmental issues have always been something I am passionate about. However my home institution does not offer any classes in environmental issues for my major. When I saw that this was a course offered at Maynooth, I was sold.
Prior to my departure I was only planning on taking one course, but after discovering the schedule is truly built for two courses I decided to take another and not receive credit for it at home. Since I do not have the pressure of the grade I decided I would take an introductory class in an area that I do not have much experience with, but still applies to politics. This is how I ended up in International Trade.
For both classes we are learning at an extremely fast pace, but I still feel like I am absorbing the information well because of the structure of our classes. We have class 9 to 12:30 and 2 to 4, four days a week, with field trips on Fridays.
I like that I can take International Trade here without having a background in business or economics. The one downside is that a guest professor from New Mexico teaches it instead of an Irish professor.
Another downside is that I only have classes with other international students—most of whom are also American. The reason is that Maynooth does not have many students who take summer classes, unlike at American schools.
What I did not expect, but what has become my favorite part of my academic experience here, is the field trips and cultural excursions we take for class. Like I said, one Friday during the second week and one Friday during the third week are reserved for class field trips. This is a unique opportunity because not only does it allow us to experience more of Ireland, but it also is a great way to learn about our course in the real world.
For example for my Environmental Politics class we are going to the Irish Parliament and the offices of the European Union where we will receive presentations on the implementation of environmental policies in political institutions. This provides a chance to experience a new political perspective outside of the U.S. and compare how their institutions and policy processes are different from those in the U.S. In other words, this is an invaluable experience for me that I would be unable to get in the States.
So while academics may not have been my original motivator to study abroad, I encourage you to research the course offerings for programs before choosing one so that you can take courses to complement your degree program at home.
Study abroad programs, especially condensed summer programs, can be ideal for taking introductory level classes on topics that are related to your major, but not covered in the curriculum at your home university. They can also be surprisingly engaging, so there is no need to dread spending hours in class.