My placement:
I was fortunate enough to have been placed at a beautiful former boarding school in a small town called Ennis in the south-west of Ireland.  I stayed with a lovely local in the community just a short walk away from my school.  As a social studies teacher, I taught a variety of humanities subjects at my secondary school. The greatest highlight of my experience was working with the wonderful staff and students of my school.  While the natural beauty of Ireland is splendid, it is authentic experiences with people that I will never forget.

The host culture: 
My favorite part of my host culture was the welcoming attitude and warmness of the Irish.  They immediately made me feel welcome at my school and in my community.  Because many Irish are well traveled, they understand what it is like to spend time living in a foreign country.  The culture is quite social.  For example, my school would allocate ten minutes every day for teatime where teachers would drink hot tea and socialize with one another.  

Challenges:
The most challenging aspect of living overseas was simply the waves of homesickness that can occasionally occur.  After all, you are choosing to live in a new country away from everyone that you know and love.  Understanding that these feelings will happen and will, in time, go away is extremely important.  That is one reason why I would encourage students living and teaching abroad to focus on building relationships with locals in their host country.  The occasional bouts of loneliness will go away much more quickly if you are proactively involved in your community.

One of the most rewarding aspects of my experience overseas was from my community service. Do not be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone.

Professional development:
I gained a great deal of experience student teaching pupils from a large age group. Because Ireland does not have middle schools, I taught students whose ages ranged from eleven to nineteen. I was also able to teach a wider variety of subjects at my school. For example, I taught the following subjects and different grade levels: religion, classics, economics, and world history. These experiences allowed me to not only have a much more dynamic student teaching experience but also gave me experience teaching at both the middle and high school level.

Advice for future students:
I would encourage future participants to actively seek opportunities working in their host culture’s community as soon as possible. One of the most rewarding aspects of my experience overseas was from my community service. It, as much as teaching, helped me integrate and truly understand my community. Do not be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. To get the most out of your experience, you must be proactive in your interactions with your fellow teachers and community members; doing so will reap rewards that you will remember for a lifetime.

Anything else?
I would certainly encourage future participants to take advantage of travel opportunities while they are overseas. Between budget airlines and staying at hostels, I was able to visit an additional four countries during my time in Ireland.  ndeed, some of my most interesting experiences happened while traveling. For example, I got caught up in the yellow-vest movement in Paris during one of my short weekend trips from Ireland.