James McDonough
Political Science and Theology Double Major
Class of 2019
Belfast, Ireland: Irish American Scholars Program

How did you select your Study/Intern Abroad location?

I chose Belfast because the Irish American Scholars program offered me a full tuition scholarship for the Fall semester of 2017. I knew I wanted to study abroad in Ireland since I am an Irish American. I looked for scholarships, applied, and was accepted which made my choice easy.

Why did you want to study or intern abroad?

For two reasons:

1) I grew up in an Irish American family and wanted desperately to go to Ireland, and study abroad made that possible. 2) I am a Pennsylvania native. I was born in Williamsport, grew up in Hershey, and study in Wilkes-Barre. Pennsylvania is my home, my comfort zone. I wanted to study abroad to get beyond my bubble and experience another part of the world.

What were the most memorable experiences of your time abroad?

As a Catholic I fell in love with Ireland and my faith was strengthened in the land of my ancestors, the isle of saints and scholars. During my time in Ireland I went to St Peter’s Church, Drogheda, Co. Louth (about halfway between Belfast and Dublin). This church keeps the head of St Oliver Plunkett, the patron saint of peace and reconciliation between Protestants and Catholics in all Ireland. He is also my confirmation saint. Praying before his reliquary, staring him in the face is the most deeply spiritual thing I have yet done. I was only able to do it since I studied abroad.

What surprised you the most about yourself/the trip?

Throughout college I had become more comfortable with the idea that I am an independent person, that I can do things by myself. Belfast showed me that, yes, I can, to an extent. However, my time made me ask myself why I would ever want to be that rugged individual. The best part of Belfast was the comradery I made there, especially at the Catholic Chaplaincy at Queen’s University Belfast. I went to Ireland as an individual and found that it is far better to be a member of a community. I honestly was not expecting that.

How has (or how might) this experience affect your major and future career?

I’m preparing to teach fifth grade in Glendale, AZ this fall in conjunction with the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) Teaching Fellows. ACE is the University of Notre Dame’s Master of Education program, and I know that study abroad will come up. As a teacher I will be able to talk to my students about my travels and try to give them global minds. As a member of my ACE community I know that study abroad has strengthened my desire for community and our common minded bonds.

What would you tell students considering studying or interning abroad?

Many, if not most, applications are free. You might as well apply. Scholarships are available, all you have to do is ask. College provides you with the most free-time you will ever have, make the most of it and go abroad! I have never met anyone who regretted getting on the plane. I certainly did not.

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