Yesterday, I got SPOed (mailed, in non-Macalester speak) my official study abroad acceptance from the International Center here at Mac. I've been accepted by my program for about a month already, so this was essentially the final piece of the puzzle I needed to be able to go.
When I started looking for study abroad programs, I was focusing on ones in Spain because I'm a Hispanic Studies minor. I got discouraged because nothing was jumping out to me like I thought it should. They were good programs, but I just couldn't see myself on any of them. However, because there are SO MANY programs on the International Center's website, it just seemed like a waste not to peruse the Political Science programs, just in case I saw one that would make it worth studying somewhere other than Spain.
And what do you know? I DID! I filled out the applications, got all the signatures and recommendations, figured out what I needed, freaked out multiple times, but I've been accepted and now it's a done deal! Study abroad, here I come!
My plane ticket is booked now. I'm leaving Minneapolis-St. Paul on February 2nd of next year, stopping over a few times in Chicago and Newark, and arriving early the next morning in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The program, through HECUA, is called "Democracy and Social Change", and I get the chance to study conflict relief and sustainable democratization first-hand. There are few places in the entire world that study like this would be possible, so to have this program available is awesome. Macalester also is a member school of HECUA, so I had a cheaper application fee and a smoother process. They even were able to bring in the program director from Northern Ireland to meet with me! He was really funny, and I can't wait to take classes from him.
Like Collin was saying, study abroad can do so much more for you than just travel can. For the first part of my program, I'm taking classes at the University of Ulster in Coleraine and listening to seminars given by people immersed in the Northern Ireland conflict. For the second half, we do an independent study project and a full-time internship out in Belfast or Derry. This gives me the opportunity to not just learn about conflict passively, but to work hands-on with what I'm interested in and tailor the program to my own interests.
Words can't even describe how excited I am to go. I'll make sure to put my study abroad blog up here so I can show you all the awesome pictures I already can't wait to take!