Seize the day: Go overseas

By Josh Albrecht

I never really thought that I would study abroad as part of my college education.

It always seemed as something unattainable for me, especially financially. Of course that never stopped me from attending the Study Abroad fair every year or from visiting the Study Abroad Web site ( and reading about all the exotic places I could be spending my time and money rather than at NIU.

Trip upon trip would catch my eye, and I would wonder what it would be like to go to such places as Costa Rica, England or even Russia.

Finally, a friend of mine went to Italy and after reading the fourth haiku he sent me, I said to myself, “It’s go time.”

That same day, I went to the Study Abroad office to sign up for a summer program that would give me course work that would coincide with my English major.

I quickly found out that a trip to Oxford was being offered for about $5,000. I then, even more quickly, found out that there was a trip to Ireland for about half that price and jumped at the chance to sign up.

Of course there were only three spots left at that time, so I had to make the decision right then and there. I decided to consult no one else on this matter and I immediately went to the bank to get the money for a deposit and in the matter of a few hours I had gone from spending my summer working, to an unforgettable summer of studying movies in Ireland.

I then had to go to the financial aid office and beg for money, and they provided. I love the financial aid office.

The next few months were spent reading as much about Ireland as I possibly could, which quickly turned into browsing through a few magazines and my travel guide. I spent more time watching Irish movies than actually finding out things about Ireland.

And for anyone looking to check out some good Irish films, watch “I Went Down,” “The Quiet Man” and “The Dead.”

The only thing that I was truly worried about was the flight. I assume that every flight I am on could crash, and this thought makes my life miserable, but only when I am flying.

One time when I was flying to Seattle, Wash., I sat next to a 10-year-old boy who broke down every plane crash scenario possible for me and then proceeded to ask me which way I would rather the plane crash.

Would I rather have the plane crash into A) water B) a cliff or C) a building.

I chose water.

So, flying isn’t exactly something that I like to do now, but the flight turned out to be OK, as Aer Lingus treated me very well, especially since they showed such great shows as “Head of the Class” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” to keep my mind occupied.

Once the flight was over, I had arrived in Ireland and was surprised as to how much Ireland looks like Wisconsin. A beautiful land of rolling hills and lush, green vegetation was all around me. At times, the country was so breathtaking that I would actually sit down from exhaustion.

For the next month I was hit by a barrage of cultural and educational adventures. I lived with a host family with two other students and enjoyed their fine Irish cooking nightly. Let’s just say that the potato definitely is a strong part of their culture.

However, that didn’t stop me from tasting other fine cuisine such as a Supermac’s (the Irish version of McDonald’s) chicken patty sandwich.

They were very tasty but not quite as tasty as a Spar spicy chicken breast sandwich with cole slaw, corn, mayo and lettuce. Those were really tasty.

Other cultural treats included getting to taste some of the finest beer in the world, Guinness, straight from the source at the Guinness Brewery, getting to crawl inside an ancient burial mound, visiting castle after castle — including kissing the Blarney Stone and just walking around the streets of Dublin just like James Joyce or Michael Collins may have.

A trip to the Aran Islands was everything that I had imagined rural Ireland to be, and the people there were some of the friendliest that I have ever had the pleasure of speaking to.

Educationally, professors Chown and Self, from NIU, and Negra, from the University of North Texas, helped foster a greater appreciation for the country through the study of its media. Lecturers gave insight into Ireland’s history and recent economic rise over the past few years which has been termed the “Celtic Tiger.”

And now, looking back on my experience, I consider myself very lucky to have seized the day in a sense and actually study abroad. It was one of the best experiences of my life, and I know that the things I learned and experienced will be great fodder for stories throughout my entire life.

So, I urge everyone to study abroad or travel to another country (but through studying abroad you can get credit and financial aid). You will thank everyone when you do.