Colin completed a master’s program in Dublin, Ireland and is now the Director of Students Services for CEA Global Campus Dublin.
Where did you go to school?
University of Iowa
When and where did you study abroad?
2008-2010: master’s program in Dublin, Ireland
What was the BEST part about studying abroad?
The most enjoyable part for me was adapting to a new culture and discovering the ins and outs of a foreign capital city. It takes a bit of time, but once you feel like you have a decent grasp of the city, everything else seems to fall into place (e.g. finding your favorite cafes/pubs/restaurants, making friends, etc.). All of the traveling is a close second.
What did you learn about the rest of the world from studying abroad? What did you learn about yourself from the experience?
It definitely expanded my worldview by allowing me to discover the world that exists outside of the U.S. There is so much to see and do beyond our cultural bubbles, and it’s a pity how often we neglect this.
What was your BIGGEST challenge when studying abroad?
Because I went abroad independently and wasn’t doing the typical semester abroad program, I had a tough time integrating at the start. I wasn’t with other American students who were all going through the experience together. I had to adapt on my own and try to find my own way. The hardest part was making friends. It was easy to meet people on a night out and have a decent chat, laugh and whatnot, but it was quite difficult to make proper ‘friends’ and build a solid social network.
Like most things, it took time. It takes a while for people to connect on levels that go beyond the superficial, especially as you get older. When you throw cultural differences into the equation, it lengthens the process even more. In time, I managed to overcome those barriers and can now say I made several lifelong friendships as a result.
How did studying abroad change your life? How did it help you personally and professionally?
On a personal level, studying abroad opened my eyes to life in a way which never would have been possible otherwise. My thirst for traveling and experiencing new cultures is something that will never be quenched. It’s part of my identity now, so I will just have to work around this need and find ways (i.e. the time and money) to keep it satisfied.
Professionally, it seemed to pave the way for my career. I didn’t really plan for it. Luckily, things seemed to come together unexpectedly.
What have you been doing post studying abroad?
I am currently the Director of Students Services for CEA Global Campus Dublin and the International School of Business-Dublin. I am also a part-time lecturer for both organizations and teach Communication & Global Competence to our American students and Intercultural Management to our European students.
I got my feet wet in the study abroad industry while pursuing my Master’s in Dublin. I worked briefly as the Resident Director for FIE, managing a customized program from Drexel University. On top of that, I worked part-time for a small study abroad center for European students, doing various administrative and student service-related tasks.
What’s your BEST piece of advice for a student who is thinking about studying abroad?
1. Make it happen. No matter what it takes, find the time/money/courage/etc. to do it. Even if it means graduating a semester late, it will be well worth it in the long run. Life is way too short to pass up such an experience.
2. Go into it with as much of an open mind as possible. It’s easier said than done, but try your best to check any ‘baggage’ you may be carrying as you pass through immigration. It’s unfortunate when you observe someone who never really makes an effort to maximize the experience or learn about themselves and/or the host culture.
3. Ride the wave.