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SIM Cards and Stress-Crying: Day One!

June 5, 2019

After landing on foreign soil for the first time on Tuesday, I am now writing this from my gorgeous IES Abroad housing, where I am unpacked, well-rested, and most importantly, completely set up in the electronics department.  This took me time, tears, and ten thousand steps, and it's become quite the lesson that I wished I was prepared for, which has inspired this post.

Some backstory about me: two years ago, I moved to Pittsburgh after living in small towns all my life.  I was absolutely terrified and was facing a super steep learning curve.  Things like public transportation, safety, and navigating such a large place were completely foreign to me, even though they're second-nature now.  

I cannot remember a more stressful time in my life. I spent my first two weeks crying in public bathrooms and bothering my RA for advice. But, my philosophy was this: I can get out of any jam as long as I have my phone.  

Thus, Google was my best friend for those first couple weeks. I found directions, restaurants, and detailed guides of how to use the bus system. Because of that experience, I was never that nervous about getting to Dublin and being on my own. I knew that my maps app could take me wherever I needed to go, and I could surely figure out taxis and buses with some quick searches.  

While I now think Dublin is quite similar to Pittsburgh (only much cleaner and prettier), I was missing one essential component when I got off the plane. My phone wasn't getting the service or data that I was told it would have, so I found myself in a jam that I had never been in before, and the one thing I relied on for help was out of commission.  

Part of me feels like this is a bit of a first-world problem, but when you really think about it, most of us rely entirely on cell phones. I sure do. I knew this, so I made sure to go to my phone provider before I left and ask what my best option for talking and texting was for this trip, and they told me to simply turn my phone off once I landed. Once I turned it back on again, all was supposed to be well and working just like it did in the states. I was skeptical, but decided to trust the professionals.  

Luckily for me, I have a friend from my home school who is studying abroad in Dublin as well, and she was the only person I was able to reach. She told me that all I had to do was use some free wi-fi (which is quite plentiful in Dublin) to find my nearest Vodaphone and get a new SIM card. I then was swept outside to a huge line of people waiting for taxis, which I had never used without an app. I managed to get to my hotel, where I finally got to sit down and figure out my options. 

I made it to a Vodaphone with the help of my new housemate, and had a new SIM card within twenty minutes and twenty euros. I felt that this was too good to be true. Turns out, it was!

I am still getting used to the Irish accent, and the store was quite crowded. Therefore, I didn't understand that the card I was given only really worked on weekends. I also didn't understand that to change that, I had to download an app and select a new phone plan. I made this discovery after Facetiming my mom from my laptop while on the verge of a stress-cry because all I really wanted was to be able to use Google Maps outside of buildings.  

The most important thing that I forgot at the time was that I was exhausted from flying through five hours of time zones and had no right to be making any kind of imporant decision. Still, I just really wanted to get this done so I wouldn't have to worry about it anymore.

I was about to head back to Vodaphone to admit that I was incredibly confused and needed help of any kind (this is something I have already done often in Dublin, and the locals really are as nice and helpful as they are made out to be). It was then, by sheer luck, I saw a link to the app on my initial receipt, and managed to purchase myself the perfect phone plan for my needs at a very affordable price.  

I am now Google-mapping my way around town and loving every minute. The people are friendly, the food is delicious, and I already have a group of fellow students who are just as confused as I am.  

When I was going through this phone process, I kept feeling very guilty. I think of studying abroad as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that several students aren't able to have. The fact that I was stressed and upset at all was wearing on me, because I know that I am incredibly lucky to be here. However, I did not make any progress in solving my problem until I recognized that moving to a new continent on two hours of sleep is bound to be stressful for anyone.  

No written guide can fully prepare you for how different everything is (though I'm going to try my best to with these blog posts). Even though everyone speaks english, it feels like I'm learning a new language. A new phone plan, a new bus system, new slang, new everything. I know that by the time I leave it's going to be just as easy as living in Pittsburgh, but right now I feel like I've entered an alternate universe.  

My advice to future (or current) students abroad, and the point of this post, is that this incredible, amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity can still be hard and scary. The whole point of studying abroad is to learn, and the stress and discomfort is a learning experience. I know that I'm on the precipice of an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life, just like when I moved to Pittsburgh. It will not always be pretty, but Dublin is a tameable beast that already has a special place in my heart, and I am so excited for the coming weeks!

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