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Dawn of the Final Day: 5 Tips to Study Abroad Successfully

Alex Dolinger
July 18, 2019
Ha'penny Bridge--Alex Dolinger

As the sun rises on my final full day in Dublin, I am feeling incredibly reflective.  My most overwhelming sentiment is that, while I'm quite sad to be leaving a city that I've grown to love a great deal, I feel completely satisfied with everything that I have been able to do. I truly made the most of this opportunity, and I want to help you do the same! Here are some of the words of wisdom that I have lived by throughout these six weeks.

1. Say yes.

During my first week in Dublin, we were taken on a field trip to Causey Farm, where we saw several adorable animals, baked bread, and received an irish dancing lesson.  I had been looking forward to this field trip ever since I signed up for it in May, but there was one part of the trip that I was unsure about.  The final segment of the Causey Farm experience was to jump into a bog.  I debated heavily over whether or not I wanted to do it. I knew it would be a super uncomfortable bus ride back home, I would have to ruin an outfit, and I would change my shower for the rest of its life. 

I ended up getting the cheapest outfit I could find at Penney's because I knew that I probably would never get the chance to jump into a bog ever again. The bus ride is one of my least favorite memories, and I had to deep clean my entire apartment after taking one step inside. But what I remember the most from that day is laughing harder than I had in months and holding hands with two girls who ended up being some of my closest friends. Studying abroad presents you with countless opportunies that are a little uncomfortable and scary, but I haven't yet regretted something I did do, I've only regretted things that I didn't do. So take chances, try new things, and always say yes!

2. Look up.

O'Connell Street is a lively path to the river that is lined with shops, delicious food, and home to the incredible Spire. I walked down this street at least once a week, typically listening to music or chatting with my friends. It wasn't until this week of trying to take everything in that I really noticed all the historic statues, the well-kept greenery, and just how big the Spire is. I walked past the General Post Office so many times and never stopped to look at the bullet holes that are still in the pillars from the Easter Rising in 1916 (look it up, it's true!).

I know I sound like a baby boomer, but it truly is so easy to become absorbed in phones and worries and the friends you're desperately trying to make. The best feeling I've found on this trip is the feeling of discovering something new and beautiful in what many Dubliners view as daily life.  Any country outside of your own has so much to offer you, and if you don't stop to take it in, you might miss it.

3. Take care.

I was depressingly sick for at least two weeks of my program. I had a murderous sore throat, a disruptive hacking cough, and I wasn't quite in the know about certain Irish meals, so I was having allergic reactions on top of everything. I was so miserable that I couldn't even enjoy the things I was forcing myself out of the house for. Being in a new country with so much to do makes you want to squeeze adventure out of every day, but doing it at the cost of your own health will make the experiences you have tainted with the memory of how badly you were coughing while the tour guide was talking.

My health turned around as soon as I took a day to sleep until noon, eat a good breakfast, and catch up with errands and school work from bed. While I don't recommend making this a habit, studying abroad is both physically and mentally taxing which can require a day of rest. Real life still goes on even though you're on vacation, so you have to deal with it like you would any other time, but better so you can get back out on the town as soon as possible! Listen to your body and your mind and allow yourself to do what it needs.

4. Feel your feelings.

In that vein, studying abroad summons a whirlwind of emotions that aren't always positive. While you're in an amazing new place, you may get confused, you may hate your classes, you may be exhausted and miserable and want to go home. You may regret choosing to take this chance. All of these thoughts came into my head throughout the whole six weeks I've been here, and they were all immediately followed by guilt. I would think about how lucky I was to be having this once-in-a-lifetime experience, and how so many people aren't able to have this experience, and how so many people in America worked very hard to get me here. Who was I to be complaining?

The minute I accepted that this once-in-a-lifetime experience was also a completely terrifying and stressful one, my negative thoughts lessened. Once I was able to voice my negative thoughts without guilt, I got over them a lot faster. I also made a lot of friends because they were all having the same negative feelings that I was! Traveling to a new country and living with a bunch of people you've never met is nerve-wracking whether or not you're living a lifelong dream in the process. Studying abroad is an incredibly positive experience, but there are challenges to everything, so just take them in stride.

5. Be independent!

Imagine: you are in the city of your dreams and there's so much you want to do. You make a handfull of friends who you want to go with you for several of your activities. You discover that no one is interested in something that you desperately want to see, or no one can afford the tour of the landmark you made sure to save up for. You don't want to miss something you're excited about, especially since your time is so limited. Do you really want to do it by yourself?
At the beginning of my time here, my answer would be no, but it is now an emphatic yes. Find the value in taking yourself on adventures and fully enjoying your time abroad. I feel like I have seen everything that I really wanted to see in Dublin, and much of those sights were solo trips because all of my friends weren' t interested in the same things I was. They're still some of my best friends, and we've gone on plenty of other adventures, but you'll be disappointed in youself if you spend most of your trip waiting for other people.

Studying abroad has truly changed me for the better. It was a very hard experience, but also one of the most rewarding of my life. Keeping these things in mind greatly improved my trip, and I hope that they can improve yours as well!

 

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Alex Dolinger

<p>I am a sophomore in college studying scenic design. My favorite things are art, music, and animals. I write for my college newspaper, usually as a theatre critic or comedian. I'm really excited to study abroad because I love meeting new people and experiencing new cultures!</p>

Destination:
Term:
2019 Summer 1, 2019 Summer 2
Home University:
University of Pittsburgh
Hometown:
Warren, PA
Major:
Theatre Arts
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