Explore the opportunity of study abroad

Written by Katie McAreavey

My name is Katie I am a final year Biomedical Engineering with a Placement Year Student from Belfast. I studied abroad in the Spring semester of 2019 at Colorado State University in Fort Collins and I am excited to be one of your Study Abroad Ambassadors this year! I am going to tell you a bit about my study abroad experience so you know what to expect should you choose to study abroad (which you definitely should).

One of the big academic benefits to studying abroad was that I was able to pick different modules that wouldn’t have been on offer to me at Reading. This not only gave me the opportunity to diversify my education, it also boosted my final grade for the year. I was allowed to take one class completely unrelated to my degree and I chose Personal Finance. I found it really interesting and will continue to use the information I learnt for many years to come. I also took a class called Problem Based Learning for Biomedical Engineering. This was a very different class to what I was used to which was a nice change of pace. Every 3 weeks we were put into a different group and had to solve a different problem that required researching a solution or designing an experiment to test the validity of an object. For example, for one of the problems we had to build a plan for a tuberculosis outbreak in the United States (not dissimilar to the Covid pandemic). This was a really great way to meet some American students and practise the skills such as presenting, researching and writing a literature review that I am using in my final year. I also enjoyed the continuous assessment style of learning, I felt that it really played to my strengths and allowed me to do well while gaining a better understanding of the content.

A huge part of the study abroad experience is travelling, and I definitely took advantage of having so many new places to explore right on my doorstep. Snow sports is a huge part of the culture in Colorado, luckily most of my friends and I were relatively experienced skiers and snowboarders. So, at the weekends we enjoyed trying out as many of the ski resorts that Colorado has to offer that we could, this included Vale, Breckenridge, Keystone and Winter Park. We also used the weekends to visit nearby cities such as Denver and Boulder and participate in the American culture by going to ice hockey and basketball games and concerts at Red Rocks. After I turned 21, I also explored the local (and the Las Vegas) bars and clubs and participated in house parties where I learned some new games that I have taught my friends at home.

We also ventured further afield, the best time to do this was during spring break and at the end of the semester. During spring break, me and four other students went to Whistler which is a ski resort about an hour outside of Vancouver where we skied for five days and celebrated St. Patrick‚Äôs Day. Then we travelled back to spend three days in Vancouver (including my 21st birthday) before taking the train down to spend our last day in Seattle where we rode a ferry boat (Grey’s Anatomy fans will know my excitement). At the end of the semester I travelled to the west coast of America to do a road trip which included Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and San Diego and then flew to spend a week in Honolulu before coming back to Reading via Chicago just in time for Summer Ball!

I couldn’t possibly list all my experiences in just one page but hopefully this will give you a good idea of what you have in store if you choose to study abroad. As you can see there are plenty of opportunities to travel and seek out new experiences. I experienced so much in such a short period of time that caused me to become more independent, develop skills that I will use for the rest of my life, open my mind up to a new culture, make lifelong friends and build up my CV that stands me apart from other graduates.

I would encourage everyone to explore the opportunity of study abroad however be prepared, you will catch the travel bug!

If you have any questions or want to know more about the study abroad experience, please do not be afraid to reach out!

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