Nursing Students Publish Book of Reflections on Study Abroad Experience

Nursing Students Publish Book of Reflections on Study Abroad Experience

The "Galway Girls" are a group of senior nursing students whose study abroad experience was curtailed as a result of the pandemic.

Egan School Class of ’21 students turned their fond reflections about their time in Galway, Ireland into a book, titled Our Journey Abroad: Through the Eyes of the Galway Girls.

In mid-March of 2020, 28 Egan School nursing students had to quickly vacate their semester-long study abroad program in Galway, Ireland and return to the U.S. due to growing worries over the Covid-19 pandemic. Fortunately, the program's academics were moved online, so students experienced a seamless continuation of their coursework despite having to return early to their respective homes.

Still, there was little time to say goodbye to dear new friends, thrilling excursions were abruptly canceled, and the once-in-a-lifetime experience of living and studying in Europe was suddenly over.

Cover art of the 'Our Journey Abroad: Through the Eyes of the Galway Girls' book

Instead of seeing it all through a lens of negativity and disappointment, the nursing students — all members of the Class of ’21 — turned their fond reflections into a self-published book, titled Our Journey Abroad: Through the Eyes of the Galway Girls.

The book was the idea of one of their teachers, Associate Professor Linda Roney, EdD, RN-BC, CPEN, CNE. She believed it would help the students process their experiences and concerns over the troubling times if they wrote down their thoughts. “I began to think of the strengths we have at Fairfield with the Jesuit tradition, in that we promote reflection in all aspects of our courses and lives,” said Dr. Roney.

“When they came home, they understood why they came home — there was a pandemic,” she continued. “But on a very personal level, something they had worked hard to achieve and dreamed of doing had ended abruptly. Reflection often helps us learn from our experiences.”

During Dr. Roney's “Foundations of Research for Evidence-Based Practice” course, students shared their personal stories. Ultimately, every student wrote a chapter for the book. In her “What I Wish I Knew Before I Left” chapter, Molly Hilliard ’21 wrote that friends and family assumed her study abroad experience was ruined by being cut in half. She felt the opposite: “I look back on those months," she reflected, "and I remember how connected the world is and how beautiful our similarities and differences are across the globe, especially when shared.”

For Abby McCarthy ’21, Galway was a time to make new “best” friends. As a symbol of their newfound bonds, she and her pals bought rings that were cut from the same piece of silver on their last day there. “This possession I will forever hold close to me,” she wrote.

Several students, such as Erin Greuenberg ’21, recalled trying to quickly book flights home amid the fear of Covid. “Once the world is back to normal again," Greuenberg noted, "I hope to go back to Galway with my family.” 

Others wrote of unique European adventures, such as Clare Cagney '21, who reminisced about the fun of meeting the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, also known as Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Lauren Jamieson ’21, co-editor of the book with Dr. Roney, said it was a great way to finish up senior year and achieve some closure. In her chapter, she observed, “If there is anything I learned from abroad, it’s to not take life too seriously and to live in the moment. Tomorrow is never guaranteed…” 

Over and over, Egan faculty members emphasized that this is a special group of young women. When they came home, many of the student nurses worked in hospitals taking care of Covid patients. They were also student leaders at the Covid testing site at Fairfield, and once vaccines became available they helped vaccinate the community.

On May 18, the book’s publication was celebrated with a virtual Zoom launch party. “To look at what you made out of that experience, to take it from being a disappointment to a growth experience is so impressive to me,” Dean Meredith Kazer, PhD, APRN-BC, FAAN, said at the event. “I shouldn't be surprised, because this is what Egan School students have always done; they have always gotten the deeper meaning in these situations.”

Waving a little Irish flag, Ann Monahan, a site coordinator of the Galway program, received a big round of applause as she "Zoomed in" from Ireland. “I know it was not easy for all of you, but it makes you much more resilient,” she told the students.

On graduation morning, the student-authors surprised their parents with copies of Our Journey Abroad. They dedicated the book to Dr. Roney, who sees it as the students’ legacy to Fairfield. “They are permanently bonded as authors on this book,” she said. “I wanted them to have this tangible item that they could take away, that they could pick up and smile and reflect back on.”

The book is available for purchase at Proceeds from its sales will go to support students at the Egan School of Nursing & Health Studies. If you have any questions, please reach out to Dr. Linda Roney at  

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