Clare McCrudden: Study abroad in North Carolina

Clare is a Social Work student at Queen’s University Belfast and spent the 2015-2016 academic year at Warren Wilson College, Asheville, North Carolina USA.

What did you study on your year abroad?

A range of business related subjects; Public Speaking, Spanish, French, Management and Leadership, Sustainability and Economics as well as Career Development through an internship. 

Back home I am also the Northern Ireland Healthcare Leadership Forum’s Public Relations Coordinator which is a student-led society at Queen’s University Belfast. 

I applied for Study USA because I wanted to gain international experience and develop myself professionally as well as personally.

I wanted to develop skills like public speaking, foreign languages, networking and research. I also wanted an opportunity to try subjects outside of my undergraduate degree and to work in unique roles. 

Through Study USA I gained skills, knowledge and perspectives that are unique to me.

What is your favourite memory from your time abroad?

Hiking ‘Angels Landing’ in Zion National Park on St.Patrick’s Day 2016. 

The view from the top was amazing, and to mark the occasion, I was able to carry the Irish Flag the whole day on my backpack. 

This was symbolic for me as I was the only Irish person on our trip and the only one at my college. 

I was with some of my closest friends and we had such a fun week of hiking, camping and visiting different national parks throughout Utah and Arizona on our road trip. 

How has your time abroad benefited you in terms of your skills and employment prospects? 

My internship as a researcher at Asheville Buncombe Food Policy Council provided me with a ‘hands on’ international perspective into health and food security measures in the United States of America.

I was able to work with a local organisation, developing research that was influential in policy-making at County Commissioner Level. 

I also had the opportunity to network at different events, related to my internship as well as at social justice events surrounding equality, diversity and respect. 

This provided me with valuable insight into possible career opportunities, different organizations and what they do for social change, collaborative working internationally, as well as how we can learn from each other.  

My college was also a work college, where I was able to work in different positions; ranging from developing social justice programs on campus to learning how to maintain an organic garden for campus use. 

I gained invaluable learning from my classes and found that I was able to apply the skills I was learning such as Public Speaking and Sustainability and Economics, to help me in my internship and my other job roles. 

What is one lesson you learned during your time abroad?

To always try new things. 

For example, before going to the United States, I had never practiced Yoga but during my time there, I did Yoga three-four times a week and met some of my best friends doing so. 

I now practice as much as I can and it is one of my favourite hobbies. I am actually considering doing my Yoga Teacher Training sometime in the future and I am thankful that I developed such a love for it during my year abroad. 

I also had the opportunity to contra-dance, tap dance, attend herbal tea workshops and learn how to make a wooden spoon.  All of these activities were new to me, they were so enjoyable and I am so glad I did them. 

What advice do you have for people thinking about going abroad?

Be yourself. 

As cliché, as that sounds, I found that making new friends in a way that felt natural, relaxed and with genuine interest, provided that in return. 

The fact that you’re abroad and away from home is just one factor of what makes you interesting. 

However, my advice would be to embrace each day as one with many opportunities, because the year goes so fast.

Students in Northern Ireland, find out how you could spend a year abroad with Study USA