For many students, one of the best opportunities university life has to offer is to study abroad.
With the Maynooth Study Abroad Fair taking place on October 23, from 11 AM – 3 PM in the
Main Sports Hall, Phoenix Building here are some heartfelt insights into Maynooth students
experiences from their time away during the 2017-2018 academic year, and advice for future students.
Whether one studies a language or not, there is almost always the possibility to go somewhere
as a part of your degree and create life long memories.
Michael McKiernan – Graz, Austria
The five of us had set out for slovenia from graz that morning. The drive down straight,flat and
sometimes seemingly infinite motorways was soon propelled into the intertwining
mountain passages of the Soca national park. We had heard it was a truly beautiful place but
some things in life cannot be described with words. It is fair to say it exceeded any expectations
any of us had. The day consisted of setting up our camp,exploring our environment and treating
ourselves to a nice family dinner in the local restaurant. As the sun found refuge behind the tall
mountain peaks, night fell upon us.It seemed the whole sky opened up, I had never seen so
many stars in my life complimented with an outrageous full moon. We spent the night
having a laugh and decided to do a reiki (it was that kind of night). It was a truly
wholesome experience, one that I will keep close to my heart for the rest of my life.
Anyone thinking of going on erasmus stop thinking and jump straight into it.
There is so much to see inour world and erasmus is the perfect opportunity to do just that.
Fiona McCormack – Montevideo, Uruguay
Un lindo recuerdo – A huge part of Uruguayan culture is the passion the people have for football.
I was lucky to have experienced all of the hype in the build up for the World Cup 2018. The best
game I went to see was Uruguay v Bolivia in Estadio Centenario, the stadium which hosted the first
ever World Cup in 1930. Like most South American countries, they are very passionate people and
it really shows itself in the nature of sport. This is why they needed to ensure high security at their
games by having a 7 foot barbed wire fence and a moat full of water surrounding the pitch.
The atmosphere at the matches is unique and there is a positive feel-good energy among the fans like no other.
I was surrounded by a sea of turquoise blue and before I knew it I was singing along to their anthem and
chanting their songs as if it were my own country. I soon discovered that football is like a religion in
Uruguay, it gives them hope and allows them to unite. To close our final chapter in Uruguay, we headed
to a special Festival at the stadium organised by fans as a send off for the team heading to Russia. This was
a magical moment shared with my Uruguayan and International friends that were like my family over there.
I’m pretty sure I can still hear the chants echoing around the stadium. ¡Uruguay Nomá!
Tegan Somers – Alicante, Spain
We’d taken so many trips to popular tourist destinations, like Madrid, Valencia, Barcelona, and
other major cities widely known for their beauty and culture. But for me, Guadalest comes out on
top. The small town is completely surrounded by mountains, lakes and waterfalls and we spent
the day swimming, exploring the area and just relaxing. Even though there was not much touristy
activities to do here, I’ll always remember the sense of tranquility there was and spending the day
with my friends in a place that was unlike anywhere I had been to before. I think learning and
understanding the culture of somewhere is equally as important to learning the language itself is so
make sure you take every opportunity you can to travel and explore everything the country has to
offer. Every experience will teach you something that you didn’t know before.
James Hayden – Boston, USA
Having spent the year in what is probably the sanest state in America, Massachusetts, myself and
fellow Irish Erasmus student Rory Heffernan were yearning for something more authentic.
We booked flights to Georgia, rented a Convertible Mustang and made our way to the NASCAR
All Star event in Charlotte, NC. On the way we stopped in several thrift stores to pick up the,
probably compulsory, US themed clothing. Around this time, we became increasingly nervous.
After nearly 9 months of hyping the southern culture, we feared it would be a disappointment.
It certainly was not, the 90,000+ capacity track was full of drunk, often topless, Americans.
A truly beautiful day. If you ain’t first, your last.
My advice definitely isn’t ground breaking but, it definitely is something I think every outgoing
student needs to hear. Travel when you can, no matter how broke it will leave you midweek.
Marita Christie – Salamanca, Spain
The Erasmus programme allowed me to live and study in a different part of the
world and to experience a culture that was completely foreign to me. My
Spanish housemates and friends helped me to stop being a “guiri” (foreigner). I
learned about their culture, for example, taking a siesta, going for tapas, eating
an evening meal at eleven-pm and only getting ready to go on a night out at
midnight! I also learned a lot by teaching English for a few hours a week in a
local primary school By doing this, I got to see how daily life really is in a very
traditional Spanish cityand got to know the families very well.
I’ll always remember that the first night I arrived in Salamanca, I was too
nervous to call a taxi and speak Spanish and I compare this to my final ride to
the airport where I continued the conversation with the driver for a few
minutes after we had arrived.
My advice for future Erasmus students is to grasp every opportunity that
comes your way, ie: trips to small traditional villages, a language exchange
night at the local café or even just talking to the locals in cafes or at the
Domhnall Conroy – Granada, Spain
For the last week of our Erasmus year two of our best friends from the first semester, Thea and Gauthier, returned to Granada.
This made for the perfect send off. On one of the last nights we packed our bags and took a bus to the coastal village of Castell de Ferro,
with no accomodation booked but a faith that we’d survive the warm night under the stars. After a day of eating and drinking
on the beach, we hiked up towards the castle ruins which overlooked the village and the ocean. A lot of sweat was spilled, but before dusk we
found a plateau of flat ground beside the uins with an incredible panoramic view of the mediteranean sea in front, and Almería’s famous
‘Mar de Plastico’ behind us. With music, laughter, and a feeling of nostalgia, we watched the one of our last Spanish sunsets and spent the night reminiscing
about the whirlwind of a year. It was surreal and sad to be leaving it all behind, but an undoubtable sense of joy accompanied the night.
With tired eyes we caught the sunrise, treked down to the village for a café con leche and bused back to Granada for the last time surrounded by friendship and warmth.
For future students – there will be days when you miss home, and days when you feel like you’ve made it. Just roll with the tide and embrace whatever comes your way.
Marcus Tunney – Graz, Austria
Before leaving Ireland and going away to live and study in another country
for a year I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect or how it would go, but I knew
I had to give it a shot. Now I can say it wasthe best choice I’ve ever made.
Living abroad by yourself and having to make your own way in
everything is a daunting task for a lot of people, but I found it extremely
rewarding being fully self-reliant and it definitely developed me a whole
lot as a person. The one downside is that of course eventually it will come
to an end and you will be upset coming home. But if you aren’t upset to be
leaving, did you really have a good time?
Go for it and give it everything you have. The wide variety of experiences you will
share with all the new friends you will have made makes it an unmissable opportunity.