Hello, everyone, my name is Marcus Zappa. I am a senior marketing and management double major and am from the beautiful city of Amherst, Ohio. I am a member of the swim team, a brother of Phi Kappa Tau and this summer I embarked on a journey of a lifetime by studying abroad in Cork, Ireland.
Toward the end of my junior year in high school, my older sister, started talking about how she wanted to study abroad in Florence, Italy, she did her research on the program there and in the summer of 2011 she took off and spent four months in Florence, where she studied while being able to travel around Europe on the weekends. While she was away and after she returned home, she would speak about her adventures in Europe, about how much she learned and how much that semester changed her life. She came back to the United States so much more accomplished than when she had left. That is when my interest in studying abroad was peaked, however, I knew nothing about studying abroad other than what my sister had told me, I was not even in college at this point, I could not study abroad yet. So I put the idea on the back burner and told myself I would look into it more when I went to college.
The following August from her return was my freshman year at Mount Union. I forgot all about study abroad for the majority of that year, until late into that year when two of my teammates and future roommates decided to study abroad in Melbourne, Australia for the semester. When they told me they were going I didn’t think much of it, it did not give me a burning desire to go study abroad. It was not until they came back from their adventures that I started getting the itch to go abroad. Like my sister, they would tell me how incredible their experiences were. I was so jealous, I wanted those same experiences, those stories, I wanted all of the friends they made while in Melbourne. Everything they would tell me would get me more interested and more excited to do my own study abroad stories, and friends. So I started researching it, I looked at countries, colleges, terms, and I settled on Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia. Just like my friends Michael and Brian had done. I would leave in March of 2015 and come home in June that way I could have a whole semester abroad, and I would not miss any time swimming.
Now that I had my plans ready it was time to talk to my parents. Over the summer of 2014 I talked to my parents quite a bit about going abroad and where I wanted to go. They told me they were excited I was considering studying abroad and that they supported me in my decision to do so, however they encouraged me to look at studying somewhere in Europe. They wanted me to really learn from my time abroad and experience as many different cultures as I possibly could in my time abroad. So I did, I thought about my decision, I talked to people who had studied in different countries throughout Europe, did more research on the programs offered my USAC (Undergraduate Study Abroad Consortium), and I decided against Australia. While I think Australia would have been a phenomenal time, and I support anyone who would like to study there, something about Ireland was calling my name. I went back to my parents and consulted with them about Ireland and they were extremely happy with my decision.
In June of 2015, I took off for Dublin excited and terrified of what was going to happen over the next few weeks. I didn’t know anyone who was going, I knew little about my host institution, housing situation, and culture. I was just along for the ride. In retrospect, I could have found most of that stuff online, but I was more interested to just go with the flow and have a good time. On my flight, I met a few other students who would be a part of my program and we all became friends before we touched down in Dublin. After landing, we met our on-site resident director Mary Steele, who is an absolutely wonderful woman. This is when the adventures began.
The first thing our group did was a three-day tour of the Ring of Kerry, on this trip I saw beautiful landscapes, the likes of which I would have only thought I would see pictures of. I met Irish people and was able to learn about the history of Kerry through their magnificent stories, and also on this trip I was able to climb the tallest peak in all of Ireland, it was a pretty eventful three days.
Those three days eventually had to come to an end and classes began. I took International Conflict Management and Tracing Your Irish Roots. These two classes were incredible and I learned so much about Ireland and world politics through them. While I learned a lot in the classroom – I learned even more outside of it.
One of my favorite memories was the time my friends and I went to Blarney Castle. For those who have not heard of Blarney, it is where one can go to kiss the Blarney Stone and be blessed with the ‘gift of gab.’ The Blarney grounds were beautiful and seemed never-ending. We walked around the grounds for hours upon hours until we finally walked to Blarney Castle and after climbing what seemed like 18 flights of extremely narrow stairs I made it to the stone and was then blessed with the gift of gab. While I feel no different today, I think it is still pretty cool that I get to say I have kissed the Blarney Stone.
Some of the greatest memories I have of Ireland did not come from me going out and exploring well-known areas of Ireland. The best memories I have are from my friends and I walking around the city of Cork, talking to locals, and just exploring the incredible city that Cork is. To anyone who is visiting Ireland or is interested in studying abroad there I would say to absolutely go see all the tourist attractions for they are incredible, however also go and just do some exploring on your own, you will not be disappointed.
Every weekend I would travel to a different country, I was able to visit London, England, Alicante, Spain, Rome, Naples, and Carpi, Italy. Each city was fun in their own way. I enjoyed London for the museums, Alicante for the beaches, Rome for the incredible history, Naples for the people and pizza, and finally Capri for the scenery. While my time in Europe was brief it was an incredible experience and I would not trade my time there for anything. Thank you for reading and I hope all of you who are considering studying abroad go do it, do not let anything hold you back. It will change your life.