Jessica Hergert is a junior at Rider University. She is currently studying abroad at Griffith College and interning with Olytico through the CAPA study abroad programme. Jessica heads back to America on May 27th, 2017.
My decision to study abroad was made mostly on a whim. I had always felt as though I had this deep-seeded wanderlust that I could not fulfil in my small New Jersey town. I grew up in Andover, New Jersey, a farming community town filled with fields of dairy cows and corn. Growing up I did not travel much, only leaving the country twice on a cruise with my best friend’s family and a magical but sub-zero trip to Québec, Canada in 2016. I wanted so badly to see the world, become more independent and experience something outside of what I knew.
I am a junior-going-on-senior at Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. Until last year, I was pursuing a Biology degree with the hopes of becoming a big-time molecular geneticist who would find the cure for Huntington’s Disease. With every lab report, titration and 5 a.m. study night, I realised that science was not where my heart was – my passion has always been writing. I changed my major to journalism, keeping a minor in biology. With my first class in my new major, I knew this was the career path for me. The newfound excitement I had pushed me to do something I had always wanted to do but never thought I would: study abroad.
Ireland was always in the back of my mind. The outdoor enthusiast that I am was always drawn to the lush green landscapes while the mystic inside me felt somehow connected to the swirling, ancient symbols that seem to pervade Irish history. I wanted to go somewhere that spoke my language as I felt I could connect with the people and the culture on a much deeper level. Ireland was always the only choice for me.
The CAPA: Dublin study abroad program was a perfect fit for me. I was so unsure of how I was going to get an internship at home but CAPA allowed me to study, work and experience another culture all at once. I attended courses at Griffith College Dublin, a small school where I took an array of courses not offered at Rider. I had also received the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship award prior to leaving New Jersey which only fueled me to make my time in Ireland the most meaningful it could be.
When I got the email from CAPA saying I had an interview with Olytico I was excited but apprehensive about the relevance of social media analytics to journalism. Immediately following the interview my entire outlook was changed and I knew that only good things would be coming out of my first internship. I was told that my background in biology was an asset in data analysis while my journalistic mindset was necessary for interpreting and understanding the data. It sounded like a match made in heaven.
My first day at Olytico came about two weeks after I landed. I had had some time to see the city, become familiar with the buses, and even try a traditional Guinness. Still, walking to 34 Fitzwilliam Square South using my phone’s GPS so I didn’t get lost was more than a little nerve-wracking. After meeting the team during my first of many Monday Huddles, those nerves began to disappear. From that first day on, the office was a place of support, growth and understanding, attributes that I did not expect to associate with an internship. I was treated as part of the team and given real responsibility within the company. I had essentially full rein of the weekly Twitter Trends blog which allowed me to further my journalistic writing, build up my portfolio and research current events in Irish culture.
I learned so much during my time with Olytico, more than even I probably appreciate right now. I came to Ireland wanting to gain independence and confidence while also growing as a journalist. Somehow, Olytico allowed me to accomplish all of those goals while also teaching me to be patient with myself, be unafraid to ask questions and still have a bit of craic along the way.
My time in Ireland has exceeded my wildest dreams. My love for hiking allowed me to summit nine mountains while here including Carrauntoohil, my first country highpoint. I travelled to Poland and saw, in person, a community still rebuilding after WWII. It was as if the history books that seemed so dull in high school came to life with new vibrancy. I also got to visit London, a city I had dreamed of seeing since I was little. If I am being honest, I got choked up when my Uber rounded a corner to
reveal my first in-person view of Big Ben…but I’ll blame the jetlag. After my classes are over I have trips booked to visit Romania, Greece, Rome, Barcelona and Malta, a little island that was apparently my grandfather’s favourite place when he served in the Navy. Although Ireland has a large part of my heart, the opportunity to travel so extensively is something I feel blessed to have.
As my time at Olytico comes to an end, I cannot thank the team enough for welcoming me into the office with such kindness and generosity. I gained skills here that I did not expect to and feel as though I connected with the Irish culture in a way other study abroad students are unable to. It’s been a wild ride but one I wouldn’t change for anything.