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From Bloomington to the British Isles – Braden’s Spring Break Abroad

Hello! My name is Braden McCarty and I am a graduate student in the Speech Pathology program here at ISU. Over spring break, I was part of the Communication Sciences and Disorders Department trip to Edinburgh, Scotland, and London, England. We also added an extra stop to Dublin, Ireland, at the end of our trip. It was definitely the busiest 10 days of my life! I have so many fond memories from my time abroad that I will cherish forever. The study abroad program gave me the opportunity to learn about different cultures, travel with some of my best friends, and cross three amazing places off my bucket list. What could be better than that? I hope learning about my experience will help any of you who have been considering studying abroad.

Windsor Castle in the spring

Windsor Castle

I took a trip abroad when I was in high school and had been itching to go on another ever since. I was too nervous as an undergraduate student to travel abroad for an entire semester, so I knew if I ever took a trip it would need to be a shortened one. Now that I am in graduate school, that was really the only option for me since I need to be here on campus. When I heard about this trip, I was immediately hooked. I loved the fact that two of my professors would be leading the trip and that I would be traveling with people from my major. It’s a great way to feel connected to everyone before you leave since you have that factor in common. I have always wanted to go to Ireland, so the fact that we were going to be ending our trip in Dublin over St. Patrick’s Day weekend was the deciding factor for me. I will warn you—traveling abroad over spring break is not for the faint of heart. While it did feel like a mini vacation, our trip was definitely much more active and more structured than a typical semester-long study abroad trip. We were traveling with another tour group and planned many of our activities in advance, so we often needed to follow a schedule to ensure we were able to see everything we wanted.

We packed in all the must-see sites because we only had a few days at each location. There was so much history to absorb in a short amount of time, but we were able to do it! In Scotland we walked along Princes Street, visited Edinburgh Castle and drove through the countryside to the University of St. Andrews. London was jam packed! The Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and Windsor Castle were the highlighted stops. None of them disappointed. In Dublin, we toured St. Patrick’s Cathedral and stopped at Trinity College to view the Book of Kells. A couple of my friends and I also toured the Guinness Storehouse. If you’re ever in Dublin, you HAVE to go there—the atmosphere was incredible.

sign of Murray's Bar & Grill decorated for  St. Patrick's Day with lights and balloons

Dublin decorated for St. Patrick’s Day

While in Scotland, we had the opportunity to visit the speech pathology department (CALL Scotland) at the University of Edinburgh to learn how they use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) in practice. CALL Scotland provides numerous resources to professionals and families to use with children who communicate via AAC. These resources included picture symbol templates for general communication and picture symbol materials that children can use to participate in the conversation during shared book reading activities.  Many of these resources can be accessed online free of charge, which we were all thrilled to learn. The employees gave us a tour of their facility, as well as a demonstration of what they do in therapy to encourage communication with AAC devices. It was fascinating to see the similarities and differences to our practice in the United States.

Courtyard shot form the University of St. Andrews

University of St. Andrews

I am very happy with my study abroad experience. I encourage you to step outside your comfort zone and consider studying abroad. Whether you are adventurous enough to leave for the semester or just want a taste of a new environment over spring break, the study abroad program has something for you. You can choose programs for a specific major or take those general education hours at a campus in any part of the world—the possibilities are endless.