Student Reflections

What can you achieve in one month abroad?

Jamie D'Amato
August 27, 2021

One month is such a short period in the scheme of things. When I was preparing to leave, I felt like a month was a lifetime to leave behind my normal day-to-day to traipse across the countryside of Ireland. When it came time to leave, it simultaneously felt like I’d lived there a lifetime and like it had only been a moment, and I’d blinked and missed it. 

A one-month program is long enough to really get acquainted with the area, but short enough to work with most peoples’ schedules and to not feel quite as intimidating. I didn’t have to go too long without seeing my beloved pets, and I was able to squeeze it in between semesters. But this one short month was also jam-packed with enough new experiences and creativity to last a lifetime, from field trips into the Burren seeing historical monuments and significant landscapes, and studio days bringing those lessons to life through art.

At the end of the program, we had a gallery day where the whole school came to see our exhibition of our projects. I had created a 50-page coffee table book, and one of the graduate residents at the college gave me a compliment that stuck with me:

“I’ve seen people take a whole semester and not do something as great as you did in just one month.”

First of all, I was beyond flattered and bashful–my designs were simple and easy to replicate quickly, and I padded out the book with lots of full-page photos. I’m a senior, and book design has always been a favorite of mine, so to me it didn’t seem like much. 

But that compliment spoke to more than just my artwork. Really, it encapsulates my experience in the Burren. We had so little time, but we truly made the most of it. I’ve spent whole semesters where I didn’t learn half as much, didn’t create with as much vigor, didn’t have as much fun. It was a semester of experiences crammed into a month.

I never thought I would be able to afford to study abroad, and certainly not to study abroad three times. But things worked out with the support of GEO and a bit of legwork on my end to apply to scholarships. I truly believe studying and living abroad is a life-changing experience and I hope it can be accessible and possible for everyone. Even if you think it isn’t possible for you, if studying abroad is something you’re interested in, it could be worthwhile to do the research and meet with a GEO advisor. I didn’t expect to be studying abroad this summer: I was set on getting a last internship before graduating, but ended up applying to this program on a whim, wondering what the finances would look like. It ended up working out so well that I couldn’t say no–and I couldn’t be happier!

I learned a lot about Irish history, pushed myself to make good art, created a great portfolio piece, and made new friends that I’ll never forget. All in a month.