My mom, my sister, and I have a tradition whenever we leave somewhere we love. Regardless of the temperature, we go into the body of water we stayed near and dunk. Then, when we depart later that day, we go home with the lake or seawater in our hair. It’s our cheaper—and chillier—version of souvenirs. We did it last week when we left Lake Chelan, I did it the week before on a road trip to La Jolla, and I most certainly did in Ireland, thanks to going cliff jumping in Howth the day before my flight. Other souvenirs of my study abroad program in Ireland are much more long-lived, like the tiny black sheep on my desk from the Sheep and Wool Centre in Connemara, my Claddagh ring, or the bags of Tayto microwavable popcorn (which I should probably eat soon). Heck, even msn still provides me with Maynooth weather forecasts instead of Bellingham.
When I think of studying abroad in Ireland, I think of being independent and overjoyed. Personally, I found it extremely beneficial to study abroad alone. For one thing, it’s easier to travel when all you have to worry about is yourself. It’s also a good time to establish who you are as a young adult, or even who you’ll be for the rest of your life. You discover how you deal with various situations that might bring out new sides to your personality or enhance already known ones. On the other hand, I know I would’ve loved to have one of my best friends join me on this journey. It’s always good to have a buddy and I would’ve loved to have them by my side, experiencing all those phenomenal times with me.
My biggest advice to anyone who wants to study abroad is to do your research. Like most things, it’s best to be prepared for anything. Know the area you’re going to be in, what type of weather to expect, how many carry-on items you’re allowed, what kind of plug-in adapter you’re going to need to charge your phone.
Looking back, I realize now that I could have attended off-campus activities more often. I focused so much on getting good grades since it is study abroad, but I definitely could’ve hit the town more than I did and ended up just fine in class.
Before I left for Ireland, people warned me about catching the travel bug—and I definitely caught it! I’ve always loved traveling and now can’t wait to see where else I go internationally. In fact, one of my friends is spending Spring Semester in Finland and I’m hoping to visit him over spring break. Being home for now means I’m an advocate for study abroad. I enjoy talking to people about my program and am happy to help them find a means to go abroad as well. Going abroad is a journey that everyone should experience if they desire; it’s so fun and worthwhile to dive into a different culture. For me, study abroad opened the door to—literally—a world of possibilities. Plus, I met new people from all over the globe, saw tons of sheep, and was reminded of who I am as an individual. It’s truly amazing to go out of your comfort zone and discover new things. As a greeting card I saw in a store said, “The world is not going to come to you. The sooner you realize this, the more time you’ll have to pack.”
My one regret about Ireland? Not going down the giant slide in the Maynooth park. Guess I’ll just have to go back sometime