August 25, 2022
My name is Maya, and I am a politics and legal studies double major at UCSC. I recently participated in the Global Seminar: Writing 2 in Ireland Research and Travel Writing program during the summer of 2022. Being a first-generation student at an American university meant that growing up, I didn’t have much guidance about how to navigate through college applications or the college experience. Yet, I always had my heart set on studying abroad, specifically in Europe, because of what I had heard from friends who had studied abroad in Europe and immensely enjoyed it. Due to the intense requirements of my double major, I was especially interested in the Writing 2 program as it allowed me to complete a GE during the summer to stay on track for my graduation requirements.
My study abroad opportunity was made possible through the Gilman Scholarship and other financial aid I was able to attain. As I was researching funding opportunities for the program, I found that the Gilman Scholarship was available to Pell grant recipients. The Global Learning team walked me through the process of applying and preparing application responses. The scholarship application process helped me to set goals for my study abroad program, and pinpoint what I hoped to take away from the experience, which was mainly the ability to learn more about new cultures and places that are rich in history. I was then able to structure my trip and remind myself to step out of my comfort zone in terms of venturing out to meet new people.
One of the challenges our group faced while abroad was the struggle of dealing with COVID. Positive tests plagued the beginning of our program and loomed over our experience for a while. The challenge of protecting ourselves from a global pandemic and learning to keep ourselves safe while some of us tested positive was tough. Taking the right precautions, and maintaining a clean and sanitized living environment, while still exploring the town and making the most of our program was slightly difficult, but a balance we learned to navigate throughout our experience abroad.
Being a person of color (POC) in a predominantly white area was another challenge I had to navigate while abroad. Having grown up in a mostly white area, I was accustomed to the stares that accompanied being a person of color, but I still found it slightly off-putting in my new study abroad environment. I was able to take comfort, however, in being around fellow POC peers in my program and being able to talk about the worries and experiences we had dealt with during our time in Ireland. For instance, understanding that locals were not exactly used to seeing or being around POCs, which explained odd behavior like some stares or glares on the street. Discussing these experiences with others that could relate, rather than just ignoring them or pushing them to the back of my mind, helped me feel much more at ease.
Overall, the experience of studying abroad in Ireland was incredibly gratifying. It made me even more eager to travel and learn about the history and culture of a different country. I got the chance to connect with locals, meet and speak with them in town, and learn about the history of the town from their own perspectives. The program helped me build my ability to converse with others and step outside of my comfort zone. From this, I have been able to take away memories of conversations in coffee shops and chats on the streets with strangers. I also took away a stronger sense of appreciation and passion for understanding the historical compositions of ancient cultures such as the Celts, something that I intend on pursuing throughout the rest of my time at UCSC, and after. I am eternally grateful for my experience on the program, the opportunity to study abroad with new friends and old, and the learning experience of how to best travel on my own and efficiently use my time abroad. I highly recommend studying abroad because of how eye-opening and gratifying the experience can be.