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Maine to Ireland: Academics Abroad

Apr 22, 2016 1:30:00 PM / by Stephanie Sadler

CAPAStudyAbroad_SP21_Dublin_Alum_ColeTaylorCole Taylor is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2016, sharing their story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A journalism and media writing major at Lasell College, they are studying abroad in Dublin this semester.

In this week's post, Cole talks about putting the study in study abroad.

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When I came to Ireland I knew the academics would be a bit different than what I was accustomed to; there would be challenges as well as barriers. With the semester winding down, I can now compare my American education to my Irish education and describe both in equal depth.

In America, I find that my routine is rapid— I am constantly on the move, staying involved in classes, work, social life, and extracurricular obligations. I am often scheduled down to the hour and normally carry a loaded schedule with five to six classes.

In Ireland, my routine is decelerated because I only have two classes [Creative Writing and Irish Culture and History]. That being said, I am an intern for most of the week [Monday through Wednesday], but the internship is not too demanding. Since I only have class two days a week, things sometimes feel inconsistent. I was aware that my semester abroad would be a little less taxing because I formed my schedule to have enjoyable time with minimal stress, but it didn't take long for me to realize I miss my fast-paced routine.

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My internship is at a social media analysis company called Olytico. Being my first professional internship, I have little to base my comparison to those internships in America. Through observation though, I have noticed quite the similarity between American and Irish internships. The work load is equal, the requirements are similar, and the structures of each are aligned. That being said, some differences are apparent; work ethic and culture within the workplace. In Ireland, the work ethic is strong but less assertive as America. In America, supervisors are straightforward and nearly bossy at times while in Ireland, there is a sense of humbleness. The tasks may be exactly the same, but it is the approach and supervision that varies. That leads to the culture aspect. American work culture and Irish work culture are much different. American work culture is fast paced, sometimes stressful, impersonal, and aggressive. Irish work culture is calm, based on communication, amiable, and focused. I enjoy working as an intern in Ireland and hope to pursue an American internship for better comparison and ample intercultural experience in the workplace.

Accompanying my internship is a class called Learning through Internships. This class is structured to help guide us interns through the Irish culture in the workplace and discuss the positives and negatives of our placements. We are given minimal assignments to help broaden our knowledge and sharpen our skills. This class is unlike any classes I have ever taken. It is incredibly engaging and interactive allowing us to build off of one another. It is catered to our needs and tailored to our successes. There are, indeed, classes such as this one in America but they are not as focused and dialled in on hands-on work. They are much more passive and less creative.

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Of course, while abroad there is time to travel on weekends. Traveling has helped me adhere to the idea of a busy schedule, but the academic part, strictly, has been an adjustment.

At Lasell College back home, I am used to writing some kind of paper whether it be a blog, essay, press release, or memo nearly every single day. Time management is absolutely imperative in my studies at home because a full class load can be difficult to juggle. At Griffith College, I have less, but more intense assignments throughout the semester.

Class structure at Lasell is very similar to the structure at Griffith College. The class sizes are small [20-40 students] and the opportunity to build student/professor relationships is obtainable. The class length is typically longer in Ireland because the classes often meet only once a week. Both of my classes are three hours long whereas classes at Lasell are normally under two hours and meet twice a week—sometimes two and half hours once a week.

The material is quite equal between America and Ireland, in my experience. I have not found myself disoriented once since my involvement with Irish academics. However, there is much less hand holding in Ireland. The guidelines for assignments are not as specific and there are no reminders for when things are due. Personally, I can appreciate the intention behind this because as a college student, independence and self-reliance are important. In America, students are often reminded about when things are due and given lots of slack. While it is valuable to have professors who are willing to reiterate and guide their students, it sometimes portrays the wrong message—students become reliant.

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In my time abroad I have not only learned what the 1641 Depositions are and how to write a proper narrative, but I have learned to become even more independent and trust myself. Academics are very important to me and I am normally a stickler for exceptional grades, but being in Ireland has taught me to take chances with my writing and try new styles even if it means not getting As all the time.

I am eager to see how I react and choose to approach assignments when I return to the States. The Irish education system is very specific and to Americans it is sometimes perceived as unforgiving or demanding, but I believe I have gained a whole new understanding and an appreciation for academics as a whole. I am fortunate to have experienced education in another culture and country. In the end, it will only make me a better, seasoned student with an acquisition of intercultural competence.

Thanks Cole!

Cole's journey continues every Friday so stay tuned.

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Topics: Dublin, Ireland, Official Bloggers and Vloggers, Academics Abroad