Benefits of Choosing IFSA-Butler
Traveling has always been such a big part of my life so I knew from the moment I started at Washington State University that I wanted to study abroad. I had no clue where to begin but luckily my university has an amazing global learning center that provided me with all of the information I needed.
When I first went to the office, I did not even know where I wanted to go or how long I wanted to go for. There were so many different options like six week summer programs, faculty-led semester programs, and others including the full academic year program that I chose to go with. The first priority I had was choosing a country and university. I had only taken two years of high school German so I knew I was limited to English speaking countries. I was in Australia with my parents earlier that year so I crossed that off my list. That pretty much left me with the UK, Ireland, or Canada. Canada was way too close to home so I was forced to narrow my choices from within the British Isles. There were tons of schools in England but nothing about them really stood out to me. I had visited Ireland on a trip I took in 2010 and remembered seeing Queen’s University here in Belfast. I looked to see if they offered politics, which of course they did figuring it is Northern Ireland! It was decided. I was going to Queen’s.
My next important decision I had to make was choosing a program to go with. I had no clue what to do so luckily there were a couple interest meetings that were able to answer all the questions that my parents and I had. When do I go? How long am I there for? Do my credits transfer over? And most importantly, how much was it going to cost? When it was all said and done, the people I was in contact with at the global learning center helped me choose IFSA-Butler (Institute for Study Abroad). From that point on, I would be doing everything through them. The few people I talked to in the following months were very helpful and supportive. They handled my application process and all of the logistical things like my accommodation and orientation stuff.
The IFSA staff here in Ireland is absolutely wonderful. When I first arrived in September, I spent a week with them and the other Americans while they showed us around the city, took us out to eat, and helped us move into our accommodation. I was really scared when I first landed because I did not know if people like them would be here to get us settled in. Fortunately, they are great at their job and super friendly!
I have also met our local Belfast “coordinator” Eibhlin who looks after us at Queen’s and Stranmillis. She plans little outings like group dinners or shows and goes with us on our big IFSA excursions. I first met here last semester when I went to Galway for our adventure weekend. Since then, we have been to the Belfast Winter Wonderland, Dublin, the Antrim Coast, and Carlingford together. She is so good at making those trips fun and definitely knows how to have a good time!
Part of choosing IFSA was getting to participate in those trips to Galway, Dublin, the Antrim Coast, and Carlingford. The cost is included in our initial payments so it is worth your while to go on them. I have written about those trips before so I will not go into too much detail on them. During those big trips, us Belfast students get to meet up with all of the other IFSA groups studying on the island from places like Cork, Limerick, Dublin, and Derry. Sometimes being with 100 other Americans can be a bit much, but at the end of the day, it is still a lot of fun to meet up with them.
I really do not have anything negative to say about IFSA. They have been nothing but supportive and have made my time here insurmountably better. They made the application process very easy to understand, they know how to welcome students and make them feel comfortable in a foreign environment, and they have a well trained staff that is always willing to work with you to make your experience that much better. I really recommend going through IFSA-Butler if you wish to study abroad in the future.
Before I end this, there are two very special people I want to give exclusive shoutouts to. These people have been in my life pretty much the entire time I have been in Ireland and I do not know what I would without them. That sounds pretty cliché but they really are some of my best friends.
First off, Nathan Harrison. I got to know Nathan pretty early on in the first semester. He started coming over more and more and our friendship quickly grew from there. Our simple friendship has evolved into a lasting bromance than I am not ashamed to publicly announce. He is an amazing guy and hope we can stay in touch after I go home.
Secondly, Danielle Goligy. Danielle lives right across the hall from me and is so much fun. I will start off by saying she has a great taste in TV shows. She has introduced me to Breaking Bad, House of Cards, Prison Break, and Vikings. And I will admit that I have binge watched each one of them. On a more personal note though, she is wonderful to talk to. She is studying law so we always have some pretty intense government conversations. Her feisty personality is quite entertaining to mess with. No matter how much I get on her nerves though, we find a way to move on. She is truly incredible and I am going to miss her with all my heart.