Dear 21-year-old Grace studying abroad in Dublin,
How are you enjoying Ireland so far? You have been there for about a week now. It probably still hasn’t hit you, that you are actually spending a semester there- crazy, I know right. If I remember correctly, you couldn’t wait to meet new people and make friendships with people from all over the world. Go do that. Talk with your Irish and English flatmates. Soon enough you will spend dinners with them talking about culture difference, your families, life between the different countries. Don’t take this for granted. You will learn so much about not only your new friends, but yourself, the way you were raised; your own culture. Even though you are the oldest within your apartment, don’t let this stop you from hanging out and being friends with your roommates. Yes you may be a few years older than them, but they will offer you so many laughs, lessons, and views of life that it really doesn’t matter about the age difference.
Remember you are studying abroad. You know yourself, you will go to class and do the work. Don’t stress about your grades, or how your classes will transfer back to Babson. Focus on your learning. The Irish schooling is different from what you are used to. Yes, you may only have 1 paper, and 1 exam and that will be your entire grade. Again, do not stress. Put in the effort you know you need to, to pass your classes. It is okay to skip a class here and there. It is okay to not do the reading every single night. Yes you are studying abroad, but remember you need to experience this new country you are living in too. The trip to Galway will teach you more than the reading you have to do on the history of human resource management. You class schedule is IDEAL.- Wednesday and Thursday. Take the time you need to get your work done for the two days of classes you have, and then let yourself off the hook. You have 3 days off- live it up, and use it to explore. Take as many day trips as you can. I hope you realize that taking solo trips will not only be just as fun, but even more worth it to reflect on yourself, and the semester.
You are in a new country, for four months. You are living a 15 minute bus ride from Dublin City. GO. Go into the city as much as you can. Walk the streets and get lost. Take in the beauty that this city has to offer: the Georgian architecture, the pop of color, the Dublin Doors, the history that Dublin is so enriched with. Sit in St. Stephens Green and admire the beauty. Walk along the River Liffey, breathing the fresh, crisp air. Drink tea and eat some lunch at a cute cafe, while reading a good book. Get a pint, even if it is the afternoon- 1. you are in Ireland, and 2. It’s 5 o’clock somewhere. Put the map ( iphone) down, and explore the city. Heck, walk back to campus, it’s only an hour walk.
Enjoy going out. Don’t worry about the way you look, or meeting a cute Irish boy, or taking a taxi home. Go out, and have fun. Don’t complain how you “don’t like clubs”. The Irish clubs you go to, are not what you think they are anyways. They are fun, and you like to dance, even though you usually make a fool of yourself doing so. Go to the pubs. Don’t worry about it being a “bad” pub or one that doesn’t look like it will have locals in it. Go anyways. Talk with the bartenders. Talk with the people sitting at the bar, whether they want to or not. Meet new people, have some drinks, laugh a lot. Embrace the pub culture. Drink lots of beer and Bulmers. You will have a grand time doing so, and you will also embrace a little bit of the Irish lifestyle. You can worry about your headache and wallet tomorrow.
Volunteer. Join the UCD St. Vincent De Paul Society, and get to know the other Irish students who volunteer with the organization. They are just like you: students, who want to give back. SVP will offer you so much during your semester. You will make friends with the members of the organization. You will go on a couple pub crawls with these new friends. You will have many laughs. But you will also get to appreciate life a little more too, with this organization. You will get to see a different side of Dublin, a poorer side. You will get to meet and talk with those less fortunate than you, every Monday night when you just try to put a little good back into the world. Don’t be apart of the Soup Runs to hand out pity. Join the Monday night Soup Runs, and take the opportunity to get to know the other students who are volunteering with you. Take the opportunity to talk to the homeless, listen to them, and try to make their night a little better. You might even have a 15 minute conversation with a gentlemen who used to live in Boston- you will leave with tears in your eyes and a warmed heart. The nights will get colder, but each time you leave to head back to campus after a soup run, you will feel warm and happy.
Explore. Explore. Explore. Don’t stress so much about travelling and trying to go everywhere. Just pick some countries, cities, book a flight and go. It is so easy and so much cheaper than you thought. Use Airbnb, it will make your trips cheaper and easier. You want to go everywhere, but you only have so much time. Don’t worry. You will visit many countries and see so many beautiful sights. Eat the local food. It would help in some circumstances to know another language, but don’t worry you will be fine. Unlike the United States, most places know a little bit of English ( it has become the universal language). Research the city and country you are in, and pick a few places you want to see. You are not a “planner” but it will allow you to have some sort of idea and itinerary for the trip. And trust, it will be necessary some times. Buy souvenirs, eat out, breathe in the life of this new country you will experience.
Understand that you will experience abroad differently than some. Patience is a virtue. To some, abroad is the biggest challenge: leaving home, family, comfort zones. To some, it will take longer to feel comfortable in a new country . Don’t let this hold you back; rather use this to appreciate your free spirit even more. Use this to help those feel more at home. You will question why you don’t feel homesick. Now, that doesn’t mean you don’t miss your family and friends. That doesn’t mean you do not miss Perfectos, your own bed, driving yourself to the store, because you do. You have been waiting to travel for so long. You have wanted to study abroad since middle school. You have always been independent. You are so close with your family and friends, yet you have a free spirit and mind. Use this as an opportunity to listen to it and embrace it.
Get rid of all the expectations going into the semester.They will only make you wish you were doing something different, or visiting somewhere else, or with different people. Throw those expectations away, and embrace this adventure with an open mind. Who cares that you don’t have this big group of friends to travel with. Megan and Jenna will become your closest friends abroad. They will share stories, laughs, tears, and so many amazing experiences with you. Remember it is not quantity, but quality. Who needs a boy to hold them down. Stop trying to meet someone, and just go out and have fun. Who knows, you may stumble upon someone… or not. Either way, it is okay.
Go to Nandos. Get gelato. Splurge and get the iced mocha from Butlers.
Go for a walk around campus.
Take as many pictures and videos as you can- don’t worry about looking like a tourist. It will be worth it in the end.
Order Apache after a night out.
Talk with the taxi drivers. They are friendly, good drivers, and have great tips of places and things to do.
Hang out with your roommates. Watch movies with them. Cook dinner with them. Go out with them.
Use your group projects to get to know other people. You will meet people from 4 different countries.
You will get your GNIB immigration card. It just may take you a few trips into the city.
Talk to people. Get to know them. Listen. Ask questions.
Keep reminding yourself: YOU ARE IN IRELAND.
Four months is a long time. Four months can also feels like a week. You want to do so much during your semester abroad. Remember you can’t do everything. But you sure can try. Take this opportunity, and make it the best four months you possibly can. Challenge yourself. Learn about different cultures and lifestyles. Be curious. Reflect on your experiences and the way you feel. Enjoy every moment. Laugh a lot. It’s okay to cry. Share your smile. Talk to everybody. Be open-minded. Let your guard down. Make mistakes. Be authentically yourself. Explore as much and as far as you can. Keep in touch with family and fiends. Appreciate your life, and all you have been offered. Grow.
Here’s to you; to Ireland; to new adventures!
You, one year later