My semester in Dublin, Ireland is rapidly coming to a end. Aside from conflicting feelings of wanting to stay here forever while missing home, this is what I have noticed:
People document experiences differently.
You don’t have to keep a blog or a diary. My dedication to writing in a diary has been lacking since middle school, so I didn’t think that would work out well.
Instead, I’m a visual person. My camera is my diary, a medium to remember the places I’ve been (and more importantly the food I’ve eaten along the way). Looking back through those pictures is enough reflection for me.
Embrace the different schedule.
People assume you’re always kept busy while abroad. I’ve never had this much free time in college. Last semester I juggled classes, a part-time job in retail, equestrian team and my sorority. Free time was more of a foreign concept for me than living in a different city for four months.
The Boston University Dublin program has two classes and an elective in the first half of the semester. During the second half, we have a full-time internship and the continuing elective. That leaves a lot of time.
One of the reasons I did study abroad was for the change of pace. I sometimes feel lost in knowing what to do with an emptier schedule, but it is good for me.
I am not more “cultured” or a “changed person.”
Dublin has little-to-no culture shock. I am in another English-speaking, cosmopolitan city. Living in cities prior and studying in Boston prepared me well.
Ireland has an incredibly rich culture that stands on its own. But, it’s not worth talking about as if it’s completely different from the United States.
Thanks to waves of immigration of the Irish to the states, there is a piece of Ireland culture that has stayed. One of the moments when I realized this when my whole news-feed on St. Patrick’s Day was filled with posts of people celebrating back home.
I haven’t changed, but rather gained perspective. It’s crazy to think how little space we occupy in this world.
Home is a state of mind, not a location.
“Where are you from?” is a question I’ve been asked often during my time in Europe. There is no right answer.
Did they mean where my hometown is? I grew up in downtown Chicago.
Did they mean where I live now? My family is in Maryland, I live in Boston for college.
Did they mean my ethnicity? To say the least I have a diverse family background. My dad is Indian, growing up in Kolkata, India then moved to Chicago. My mom is a mesh of Irish, Danish, and Polish, growing up in New York City’s colorful neighbor across the river: Jersey City, New Jersey.
Do not neglect what you loved doing back home.
I’ve tried to integrate bits of my old schedule from home to my Dublin experience abroad.
Taking time to explore the city by myself reminded me of when I was a lost little freshman navigating around Boston for the first few weeks. I’ve asked my mom many times for the recipes she makes at home because I miss her cooking. I’ll go to a café when I want to leave the BU Dublin bubble to organize my life. Joining the Dublin City University Equestrian team and taking lessons was important to me; I’ve grown up with these animals and this sport.
Sunday brunch is not a meal, but a lifestyle. I will never miss an opportunity to go out in the city with friends to try a new restaurant.
Know what you value. Travel for quality, not quantity.
Study abroad is a gateway drug to travel. There seems to be a crazy rush to go on as many weekend trips as possible while abroad. During my last month here, I decided to stay put and enjoy the country I committed to studying in in the first place.
I get it, RyanAir flights and Airbnbs are cost-effective and these trips seem like a now-or-never situation because they are convenient. These places won’t disappear once I leave Europe. A rushed couple of days in the cities I’ve traveled to during abroad were never enough. I will be back.
People have different priorities while traveling and studying abroad. Travel with those who are on the same page as you. Some want to explore every monument, landmark and museum possible. Some don’t mind skipping out and to sit on a rooftop, watching the world go by. Find your balance.
Never feel limited to a set itinerary while traveling. It’s called wanderlust for a reason. Looking down on your phone on a map to calculate the fastest way to get from point A to point B isn’t an ideal way to explore a city. Have some direction, but look up. Your phone battery and data bill will thank you.
Abroad is one of the best decisions I’ve made.
Never say no to an opportunity to study abroad in fear that you might miss out. The experiences you will have will outweigh the FOMO you have from your friends back at school. Stay in touch often and they’ll be back waiting for you when you get home. If they aren’t, they probably weren’t worth having around in the first place.
The Irish are the kindest people I have met.
Every time I stepped out of Ireland to travel, I missed it more than I thought. The people were a huge factor. I can’t always understand what they’re saying behind their heavy, sometimes mumbled accent, but their genuine nature, humor, sincerity, appreciation and pride for their country is clear. It’s been a privilege to work with, study, and be around some of the greatest people I have met.