May 31, 2017 Edition

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Massey returns from semester
in Northern Ireland

Hannah Massey visited the Buda Castle in Budapest, Hungary, during an Easter holiday trip.
Submitted Photo ~ Hannah Massey

Aubree Hughart
TD Intern

In recent years, studying abroad has become an increasingly popular add-on to the college experience for many students. Most recently, Hannah Massey, a 2014 Walnut Ridge High School graduate, embarked on a semester abroad in Northern Ireland.

In mid-January, Hannah traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to the college campus of Ulster University in Newtownabbey, Northern Ireland, which would be her home for the following four months. The culture shock began almost immediately, as her four apartment roommates came from different parts the world.

"Not only was it a shock to be in a whole different country, but my roommates were so different from me as well," said Massey. Her roommates included women from the United States, Canada, Germany and Finland.

However, the culture shock did not stop there. "I remember the first time I had to pay to use a public restroom. That was crazy to me, since we take for granted having free bathrooms in restaurants and stores."

Although she was busy with class work during a majority of the semester, Hannah also found time to travel the continent of Europe. During her two-week Easter break, she visited numerous countries including: the Republic of Ireland, England, Norway, the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, France, Italy and the Vatican City.

"Everyone asks you what your favorite place was, but that's so hard. I easily had three: Vienna, Rome and London," reflected Massey. She loved the people of Vienna, the culture of Rome and the bustling city of London.

Although she missed her family and friends dearly, Massey also found herself missing other underappreciated American conveniences. "Although they have sophisticated public transportation in most of Europe, I missed my car so much. Also, I missed barbecue food because there are some things you just can't get anywhere else," she said.

Some of the habits Hannah picked up are sticking around despite her recent return to America. In conversation, Irish and English slang come up frequently. "I keep calling my French fries chips, and my sister Beth keeps telling me to start speaking American again," said Massey.

Traveling changes a person, and Massey was no exception to this phenomenon. "I really believe that by traveling I got to get a glimpse into what it is like in other parts of the world," she said. "Living with other foreigners taught me how to be more tolerant of others and to be more patient and thoughtful as they did not come from the same background."

The trip was not always picture perfect, but Hannah knows it was worth the rare moments of culture shock and homesickness. She said, "Traveling is a wondrous adventure. It may not always be pleasant but makes for the best of tales."

Although she knew she wanted to study abroad more than a year ago, the process was not so simple. Massey encountered multiple obstacles in organizing her own study abroad trip.

"I'm an electrical engineering major, and not many schools offer the classes I needed for my degree plan," Hannah said. After much research, she began working with the International Student Exchange Program (ISEP). ISEP's partnership program enabled her to pay tuition through her home college, Arkansas State University.

ISEP then paired Hannah with Ulster University, which offered her the classes she needed for electrical engineering, including control theory, power systems and embedded systems design.

As anyone who travels knows, it can get expensive quickly, especially for a college student. Fortunately, Massey received two merit-based grants to help offset the cost of her academic experience.

These grants included the prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, as well as the Arkansas State University Honors College Experience Grant. Hannah is grateful that her college provided her with faculty and resources to help her pursue her dreams.

Hannah says she is more than ready to hop on the next plane back to Northern Ireland; but for now, she's content with focusing on completing her college education.

She will graduate from ASU in May 2018 with a bachelor of science in electrical engineering. She has already obtained employment through the United States Navy upon graduation.

Her plans with the Navy include relocating to Charleston, S.C., to work as an instructor at the nuclear power school. Massey is one of few college students throughout the U.S. selected for the Navy's Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate program.

Hannah is the daughter of Cary and Raelyne Massey of Walnut Ridge. She has two sisters, Carrie and Beth, and was a co-valedictorian of the WRHS 2014 graduating class.

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