A hop across the pond

Adriana Lopez '17, School Staff

 

When you grow up on reduced meals and unemployment checks, college doesn’t always seem like an option. From the start of elementary school, the idea of pursuing a higher education is ingrained in us, and in this modern day society, almost to an extent coerced. Despite attending a college preparatory high school, it wasn’t until junior year that I was faced with the reality of scholarships and college applications. However, most, if not all, of my efforts were solely dedicated towards finding awards and grants, and it was not until late October of senior year that I realized I had yet to apply to any universities.

The process of selecting a school is no doubt tedious, and with the recent confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, applying to a public establishment has no guarantee of a stable environment. As it stands with present complications involving Chicago Public Schools, it is difficult to say where the corruption of public school education ends, at least, within the city. With the outrageous tuition costs of most universities, I felt attending an institution with threats of job and budget cuts, wasn’t worth the student debt.

Perhaps it was the controversial election result that finally prompted me to apply international. Despite never traveling outside of the country, the tensions that arose over the past few months left me unsure of the opportunities that would be available in the future within the United States. Researching the educational systems of foreign institutions proved to be quite the challenge in regards to transferring earned credit from Jones. Canada seemed the most immediate and obvious choice, however, attending a university so closely related to the American school system felt mundane. Although I was accepted into Concordia University in Montreal, it did not offer the experience nor education that suited me.

Applying to Ireland was a somewhat spontaneous decision. Though I am not of Irish descendant, I spent a decent amount of my childhood attending a primarily Irish Catholic elementary school on the South Side. Though I do not consider myself a particularly religious individual, the University College Dublin still seemed to remind me of my previous schooling in an atmospheric sense. Being the ‘Global University’ of Ireland, international students make up nearly half of the student population encompassing 127 different countries.

Admittedly, the university’s credibility made it intimidating to even begin an application, much less turn in the final materials. The process is fairly similar to common application for any other institution, save the ability to apply directly to programs rather than the institution as a whole. With a bit of pressure and coaxing, I was able to apply to the Liberal Arts and Sciences Department, encompassing the architecture, arts, social science, business, and science programs. Though the four year education structure is based loosely on the American university structure, the courses offer reign true to Ireland’s standards.

In April, a luncheon was held at a pub for international students residing in the Midwest, to speak with representatives and professors of the university, as well as meet other admitted students. Naturally accommodation was the common theme of most conversations, a sense of relief flooding over the group at the announcement that housing is guaranteed for first year international students. Meeting other applicants was definitely a surreal experience, most of which were attending private high schools and even a French Academy. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by my peers experiences, but in that moment, rather than seep into a feeling of inadequacy, I felt pride of my accomplishments in becoming a part of this exciting community. Of course, essentially moving out of the country when the farthest distance I have ever traveled was the beaches in Miam terrifies me. Yet this new experience, a possibility that I could never even begin to fathom with my previous complicated financial status, seems such an exciting educational experience, I cannot wait to begin.