One of the best opportunities for students to expand their horizons is studying abroad. At Georgia Tech, students have various options, such as the BME Galway Program. A ten-week program based at the National University of Ireland, the BME Galway Summer Program leverages the remarkable concentration of medical device companies in the West of Ireland. The program is open to third and fourth year BME students who are interested in an international experience
Two students who attended the program offered some insight into what it actually entails. Alexa Schlein and Savannah Carlsen both decided to study abroad because they wanted the same cultural experience that they saw friends enjoy. Schlein said, “My sister studied abroad with [New York University] in Ghana and had a really cool experience. It made me want to study abroad too.” Carlsen’s motivation for choosing Ireland went further because she wanted to visit family that she had never met. Her mother’s parents immigrated to America, leaving behind many relatives in Ireland. Some of Carlsen’s fondest memories of her summer in Ireland were the afternoons sipping tea with distant relatives who made the country feel like home. Carlsen recalled another fond memory while travelling: kayaking through a saltwater lake filled with bioluminescent shrimp and looking up to see the stars shining with them. Schlein noted that travelling in general was the best part of her study abroad experience. On the weekends she ventured across Europe, taking in the views in Paris and witnessing the sites she had learned about in high school while she journeyed across Rome.
When Schlein and Carlsen were not adventuring on weekends, they spent their time studying. The BME Galway Program offers various BME classes and the opportunity to earn 6 credit hours. This means challenging courses were condensed, but the hard work led to closer relationships with classmates and professors. Schlein even mentioned that these relationships continued when the students returned to Georgia Tech the following fall. She acknowledged that she did not have many friends in her major before studying abroad, and she is thankful for the bonds she formed with her classmates on the trip. Carlsen said that the smaller class sizes allowed you to get to know people well. She now feels more connected to the BME community and enjoys recognizing faces around campus.
Both Schlein and Carlsen recommended without hesitation that students consider studying abroad. Schlein stated, “Going somewhere outside of the United States is important for your global perspective.” She encouraged students considering study abroad to plan far in advance. Some programs fill up fast, and it is important to make sure the course load is relevant. Overall, she said the Galway program was really rewarding. Carlsen’s experience studying abroad helped her realize that some things in life matter more than others, and that people are people. She said “Meeting my family in Ireland allowed me to gain respect for my grandparents and their decision to immigrate.” Studying abroad helped her put things in perspective.
Through studying abroad, both Schlein and Carlsen immersed themselves in cultures different from their own, expanding their views of both the world and themselves.