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Report #2 from Study Abroad Student in Galway, Ireland

The following report spotlights the reflections of BME student Shishir Biswas on his experiences in Galway, Ireland with the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering's study abroad program.

Dia daoibh! Is mac léinn ón iasacht mé.  Or in English, Hello! I’m a foreign exchange student.  Being part of the first Purdue-NUIG exchange has been an interesting experience to say the least, both from a cultural and academic standpoint.  I think it important to realize that the success and growth of this exchange is a critical component of the undergraduate BME program, as international experience is becoming increasingly valuable in all types of careers.

While it may not come as much of a shock, the biggest obstacle I’ve found has been senior design.  Being separated from half of your team by the Atlantic Ocean and a 5 hour time difference makes communication extremely difficult and frustrating.  Although we’ve had plenty of group projects and labs throughout the past few years, senior design is really putting into perspective the importance of teamwork.  Working from two different sites, you really need to be able to learn to utilize the resources available to each group to maximize the amount of progress that can be made.  For instance, a group here in Ireland may have access to machinery that may not be present at Purdue, or vice versa, so making the most that availability becomes crucial.  Although distance is indeed a setback, it can also be an advantage for the reason just stated, access to resources.  Dr. McNamara has been a great help in not only providing resources for us, but being one herself.  She has been able to give useful advice and information and help guide our project thus far.  Dr. McNamara and the rest of the NUIG faculty have put a lot of effort into the program thus far, and it shows in the support they have given us.

Although important, senior design is only one part of the abroad experience.  Learning more about Irish culture has definitely been a large part of my life the past few months.  Luckily, a language barrier is not something that we’ve had to worry about (although some accents can be a little hard to understand), so getting to know people and making friends is not very hard.  In general, the students are very warm and friendly.  I think it’s safe to say all of us here have become very good friends with a few of the Irish students (I go to one of my friend’s house almost every weekend to watch football). 

For student’s participating in the program in future years, I would say that joining a number of clubs and societies is a must.  I’ve joined the tennis club, basketball club, and international students society (ISS) myself, and it’s been a great way to meet people quickly and enjoy yourself.  The ISS in particular sets up weekly meetings at a local pub for international students to come hang out and get to know each other.

Finally, one of the most valuable opportunities available to us is the chance to travel to other parts of Europe.  Since arriving in Europe (I came two weeks before the semester started), I’ve been to Paris, Venice, Dublin, and London.  This weekend I’m going to Rome, and next weekend I have a trip planned to go to Birmingham in the UK.  Traveling can get a little hectic and tiring, especially with classes and senior design to balance, but it is more than worth it.  After all, how often do you get to travel around Europe? 

It’s come to the point where I have less than 6 weeks left here, with only 3 weeks of classes before study/finals week.  I already ask myself where all the time has gone, it feels as if I just got here yesterday.  It’s been a great experience that has flown by thus far, and I’m sure when it is all said and done I will only be wishing I had more time to spend abroad.