This year my summer vacation got ramped up when I participated in an NMU study abroad program to Ireland, combining a priceless and mind-broadening trip to Ireland with college credits and internship experience.
It took the age-old “What did you do on your summer vacation?” question and blew it out of the water.
The more appropriate question seems to be, what didn’t I do this summer.
The Emerald Isle has always been on my top list of countries to visit, and I wasn’t disappointed—it was full of friendly people, ancient castles and green fields with fluffy sheep penned in by stone walls.
In short, it was everything I had ever imagined of Ireland, and just as postcard-perfect as the movies (P.S. I Love You, anyone?) make it out to be.
Bus tours, museums and locals helped me learn about the country’s origins, such as the takeover by the Vikings, and the subsequent years of self-rule leading up to the spread of Christianity by Saint Patrick.
Yes, the same one we have to thank for our much-beloved green holiday.
I stood on the Cliffs of Moher, rode horses in the Wicklow Mountains, stood inside the ancient site of Newgrange, ate at the King’s Head Pub and chased sheep on the Aran Islands.
On one tour I even left the Republic of Ireland and went North to Belfast, where the Titanic was built, to see the Giant’s Causeway.
The only indicator we had left the country and we were now in part of the UK was the line on the side of the road.It changed from yellow to white.
The real focus of the program was on my internship; a job tailored to my needs, goals and the kind of skills I wanted to develop for the real world.
It was everything I had hoped for and more.
The European Union Studies Association set me up with an intership at Brookside, a small little publishing services business just a 20 minute tram ride south of City Centre.
Also situated in the same building—a little row of cottages converted into an office—was New Island Books, a real live publishing company.
As an English major who wants to work publishing I was thrilled. I learned that the entirety of publishing is composed of chance.
You can study trends, previous sales, and the forecast for the book market ahead, but the truth is nobody really knows what will be popular and what will not.
I have heard of extremely popular authors being turned away from several publishers before hitting it big, but every editor has those kind of dilemmas.
It is a bitter pill to swallow, but the truth is there is no secret formula. There is only chance.
I also found out that food is a crucial part of the publishing world.
There is a lot of chocolate and cookies consumed around the office everyday.
Publishing is a human enterprise, so of course my coworkers played a large role in internship experience.
My co-workers did everything they could to make me feel at home, and I hope that they knew how much I appreciated it.
After Ireland, I knew with certainty that this is what I wanted to do with my life. I had the skills to achieve that goal.
NMU has programs and partnerships that send students almost anywhere on the globe; for a semester, a year, a class trip, a volunteer opportunity or even just an amazing summer.
I know that you can get those kinds of experiences much closer to home, so why go abroad?
It’s true that traveling isn’t cheap, but my program didn’t cost any more than a normal semester of school might.
Plus you’re getting more than an outstanding resume addition—although that’s always a good thing.
Traveling to other countries forces you to step outside of your own bubble, beyond your normal comfort zone.
You will see another culture, you will broaden your mind and will have taken the time to learn something new.
Living in another country tells people that you are mature, that you can find your way in unfamiliar territory and you can rise to a challenge.
The NMU credits and work knowledge aside, you will open yourself to something a lot of people will never experience.
Now is the best time to start planning this kind of adventure.
Go to the International Programs office in Whitman, or watch for meetings in the Student Announcements—new destinations and programs are always being introduced.
This year there are many different study abroad opportunities.
You can read contemporary Chinese literature during the winter semester and then travel to China to learn about photography while traveling.
If nature and ecology is your thing, then consider a trip to Costa Rica to study ecosystem management.
You can create your own study abroad experience. There is an endless list of possibilities.
Go find one that suits your major, your interests, your needs and your budget.
You’ll have your own story to talk about when someone asks what you did on your summer vacation, but you’ll also have much more than that.
You’ll have new friends, new skills and you’ll look at the world just a little bit differently than you did before you left.