CAPA alum (and CAPA student ambassador) Brandon Mooney studied abroad in Dublin, Ireland in spring 2018. Today, he reflects on how his time in Dublin shaped him and opened doors he didn’t know existed.
As I sat down to write a blog post looking back on my time studying abroad, I instantly thought of how the experience now three years past (how time flies) has shaped my life. I studied abroad with CAPA Dublin, living and learning at Griffith College while working as a Business Development Intern at an organization called FoodCloud that connects supermarkets, restaurants, and other businesses with food pantries to reduce national food waste. I still look back upon my time in Ireland fondly and consider it to be one of the most impactful experiences of my life. I traveled extensively, made friends and countless memories, grew more independent, and was forced to live outside of my comfort zone. All of this was for the better.
Although I was privileged enough to travel a bit throughout my childhood, I had certainly never traveled alone or without family before I studied abroad. I would highly suggest every study abroad student, no matter their location, travel as much as time and budget allows. In Europe I found traveling to be especially easy. I spent my break week wandering through Switzerland, Germany, and Poland with a close friend; went to the Netherlands both alone and with friends; and explored Ireland through CAPA-led excursions and by myself.
For me, studying abroad in Dublin took an already existing spark and fanned a love for travel into flames. The summer after my study abroad program, I spent a month in Spain visited the Czech Republic, France, and Italy. Two years ago, I spent a week with a college friend in Portugal and the Netherlands. I also took a month-long road trip across the US. None of this would have been possible without CAPA Dublin. It has enriched both my world view and how I interact with those around me.
Going abroad was my first experience being alone and fully responsible for myself and my decisions, even more so than moving out to go to college. An ocean away, in a new place, with the opportunity to travel and spend my money as I pleased. I learned how to be culturally conscious, saw how other people lived in the world, and functioned in a company with a radically different work culture than what I had known in the U.S. More than anything, studying abroad gave me the confidence that I could hack it just about anywhere. I made new friends that I still speak to and had the chance to redefine who I was and take that new person home with me.
For anyone with the privilege and opportunity to study abroad who may be on the fence and waffling back and forth on whether to do it, my advice is to just apply. There are ups and downs, as there always are in life, but you will be stronger for it. My only regret in my study abroad experience is not aiming high enough. Although I would never renege on going to Ireland, I had originally considering going to Vietnam instead, and my parents convinced me to go to Europe, saying it would be less of a culture shock. My advice for you: take the risk. Do the scary thing.
I am of course speaking about all this while looking back on the past; three years further ahead from where I was. It’s easy to say such things. I am now planning a potential backpacking trip to Patagonia in the winter and possible visit to Dubai and the Middle East this summer (pandemic-dependent). I am pursuing a master’s degree in a field that I see great growth in, have two internships that I am passionate about, and work part-time to pay for grad school. I do not know if any of this would have been possible without my time in Ireland. Somehow, I doubt it. I took a risk that I am proud of and learned that travel can open doors you never even knew existed.
We all have our personal reasons on why we go abroad. I hope that my example will convince even just a few readers to say yes to studying abroad. I was a CAPA student ambassador and can say that their programs are excellent. Get out there and see what the world has to offer. I wish you all the best!