TU’s First Freshman Abroad

Tulsa is the only home I have ever known, and I am never away from my family for long; even at college, I only live twenty minutes from home.  However, all this changed when I was given the opportunity to study abroad my freshman year.  I now go to college 4,184 miles from home, I haven’t seen my family in over two months, and yet, despite the sudden and dramatic changes, choosing to study abroad so early was the one of the best decisions I have ever made.

I came to TU knowing I wanted to spend a semester overseas, and when it became evident that doing so during my sophomore or junior year would be impossible due to my nursing classes, the School of Nursing and the Center for Global Education came up with a solution – they would allow me to be the first freshman that TU has ever sent abroad.  With a lot of last minute planning and an abundance of help from Dr. Robin Ploeger in Oxley College of Health Sciences and Laura Semenow in the Center for Global Education, I am studying this semester at the University of Limerick in Ireland.

I was so excited for this opportunity for many reasons – the independence, experiencing a new culture, and ultimately opening a new pathway for other nursing students who want to study abroad.  And while studying abroad has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life, taking this leap as a freshman has presented some challenges.

When I left for Ireland, I was only five months into my college experience.  I had only just begun to adjust to campus life and establish new relationships, and instead of having a full year to develop those friendships, I had but one semester before I left.  For me, this has been the most difficult part of studying abroad as a freshman.

However, my foreign adventure has made overcoming this challenge worth it. I found an amazing group of friends here in Ireland with whom I get to travel and experience the world.  In just a few short months, I have stayed in all the major cities in Ireland, visited Giant’s Causeway, drove the Ring of Kerry, and took a boat ride underneath the Cliffs of Moher.

In addition, much of the coursework here at UL has afforded me many one-of-a-kind opportunities.  My midwifery courses cover specific topics I truly enjoy learning about such as the procedures for labor and delivery and even how to resuscitate an apneic infant.  By practicing on the simulation robots, I have had the chance to learn clinical skills that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn for a while longer back at home.

Perhaps my favorite abroad experience involves a service learning project I am doing in a small Irish town called Bruff.  The town has been suffering from a lack of unified communication, so my partner Nicole and I created a solution for them.  We developed the first town newsletter for the community that has been received with much praise.  While I worked to better this community, I even got the opportunity to not only spend the night with one of the Irish families living there but also walk in the town’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  That weekend, I ate home-cooked Irish meals (and was given all the recipes), went to a singsong in a local pub, visited a local fairy fort, and fully immersed myself in the Irish culture.

I have less than two months left on the Emerald Isle, and while I am excited to see my family and friends, I will be extremely sad to leave this place.  This experience is unmatched by any in my lifetime; I am incredibly grateful to everyone who has helped me in this process, and I feel truly fortunate to be abroad as a freshman. I plan to get the most out of what little time I have left in Ireland.

Natalie Ames
University of Tulsa ’20
Limerick, Ireland | Spring 2017