A year abroad in Montana

A view of Missoula from Mt. Sentinel

A view of Missoula from Mt. Sentinel

BEES student Will O’Shea writes about his year studying abroad at the University of Montana:

Mid-way through my second year I received an email from the School of BEES informing students of the option to spend their third year abroad in a foreign university. Having spent the last 10 years living in Cork city I decided it was time for a change and applied.

Two bison cause a traffic jam on the main road running through Yellowstone

Two bison cause a traffic jam on the main road running through Yellowstone

March rolled around and I received word that I had been accepted into the University of Montana, Missoula. After a quick brush up on my US geography I learned that Montana was a state in the Pacific Northwest, bordering Washington. With an area bigger than that of Germany, it is surprisingly the 48th least populated state in the union with slightly under 1 million people. With friends jetting off to places exotic locations like Boston and San Diego, I was slightly apprehensive boarding my flight to an unknown city in the foothills of the Rockies.

The mountains of Glacier National Park

The mountains of Glacier National Park

On arrival I realized my worries were completely unnecessary. The university organized events every day for the first few weeks making sure everybody was comfortable in their new surroundings. Once classes began I felt as if I had been in Missoula for months.

An elephant seal basks on a beach along the Pacific Coast Highway

An elephant seal basks on a beach along the Pacific Coast Highway

Classes were pretty diverse, ranging from Ornithology to Statistics. One, called Hunter Check Station involved standing on the side of the road (usually in the snow) inspecting game that hunters had harvested. During that module, we aged hundreds of deer, elk and even a black bear.

During the year, I travelled whenever possible. Yellowstone National Park was seven hours to the south so that was on top of my list of things to see while in Montana. On arrival I was told of Glacier National Park three hours north, which was if anything even more spectacular with its picturesque scenery.

The Colorado River winds through the Grand Canyon

The Colorado River winds through the Grand Canyon

Other trips included spending St. Patrick’s Day in Butte Montana (which according to the Irish Times is the most Irish town in America), and a 10,000 mile, 5 week road-trip which took us to all the major cities in the US.

To anyone even considering a year abroad I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. I’ve made friends with people from all over the world, seen and done things that I’ll never do again.  My year in the University of Montana was a once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget.

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