About this time last spring, I began what became the amazing and fulfilling adventure that was studying abroad in Galway, Ireland with IFSA-Butler. As a freshman, I had heard about some upperclassmen who studied abroad in Ireland and did some interesting coursework in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies; so I ran with that, and put myself on a plane to the Emerald Isle.
The coursework I took as a full-time student at NUIG (National University of Ireland, Galway) offered a different and important perspective that complimented the kinds of classes I take as a Sociology major here at F&M. The university offers an MA in Social Work, but undergraduate students can still benefit from this; most of my classes were in the School of Sociology & Politics, and two of them were taught by actual social workers. These classes were extremely valuable to me, especially in figuring out what I want to do with my life after my time as an undergraduate.
One of the most incredible things about my time in Ireland, especially as a queer person, was that I was there during the major debates about the Marriage Equality Referendum, the country’s choice to make the decision about legalizing same-sex marriage by democratic vote. While of course as an American, I would obviously not be able to participate in the vote, I was still able to immerse myself in everything that was going on in relation to the event. I listened to radio programs, watched television specials and debates, wore a “YES” button on my jacket, and stopped to talk to people distributing flyers on the streets. On May 23rd, six days after I got back home to the States, the referendum passed, making Ireland the first country in the world to instate marriage equality based on popular vote by its citizens. I was so happy, I sat in my kitchen and cried while reading all the articles and seeing the pictures and posts made by people celebrating not only in Ireland, but others like me, from all over the world. It felt like being a part of something so much bigger.
As an activist on F&M’s campus (and in life), the experiences I had in Ireland were essential to my growth and progression in the world of social justice, and the world in general, in a very personal way. These real-life experiences gave me exciting tools to handle a much wider array of circumstances, and I am so eager to discuss those things with others, especially those that have trepidations about going abroad, like I certainly did! Despite my fears, by being open about my struggles with things such as mental illness, I was always able to get the help and support I needed from IFSA-Butler, F&M, and others around me. No matter how much it may feel like it, you’re never alone! I would not change a single thing about my time in Ireland for the world, from the program I went with, to the city and university I chose to attend, to every journey and adventure I made happen or joined while I was there. Sometimes, I can still feel the wind from Galway Bay on my face.
Cadence Pentheny '16
Term Abroad: Spring 2015
Brooks College House
Minor: Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies
- The Harbaugh Club
- Alice Drum Women's Center