My six weeks in Dublin were the most incredible weeks of my life. But, alas, all good things must come to an end, and I have been back in America for exactly a week. I've given all my gifts, displayed my souvenirs, and unpacked my incredibly overweight suitcase. Now that I'm fully acclimated to life as I knew it, I've had time to reflect on my time in Ireland, and there's a lot of things that I wish I knew before I went abroad. As a final farewell to Dublin--and this blog--I will be sharing all the things I wish someone had told me before I left for Dublin.
Pack for who you are, not who you want to be.
The acting intensive that I was a part of in Dublin had a very strict all-black-athletic-wear dress code. I brought the perfect amount of black workout clothes for the program, but also thought I'd bring extra workout clothes in case I wanted to go to the gym on my own time. I packed a suit, despite doing enough research to know that Ireland is not a very formal country. I also packed seven books, thinking I would read them all while lounging on St. Stephen's Green. There were several items of clothing that I did not wear once, and I only opened one of those books during the flight to Dublin. I imagined myself being a classy, skinny European who worked out before class everyday and read books in the park. In reality, I cherished every second of sleep I could get because I was always exhausted, and I was always exhausted because I wanted to spend every second outside of class exploring the city and crossing things off my Ireland Bucket List (we'll get to that soon). Think of how you like to spend your time in daily life, and what experiences you are longing for the most while abroad. You may love reading books and working out (I do too!), but you can do that all day long in America without missing anything important.
Make a list of what you want to experience.
Your time abroad flies unbelievably fast. For the first three weeks, I was exploring the city, but I wasn't doing a lot of new things every day. I would see things I wanted to do, but I would say "I have so much time! I'll get to it later." Then, the halfway mark hit, and I freaked out. "I have no time! How am I supposed to do everything I want to do?"
I decided to make a list so I could organize my thoughts and start booking stuff. My mom had sent me a link that had 25 must-see Dublin activities, and I wrote them all down. I thought of all the things I said I'd get to, and I wrote them down. I had a pretty hefty list, and I was a bit overwhelmed, but with the help of Google Calendar, I booked a trip to London, a trip to Cork, a kayaking trip to Dalkey to see seals, organized a museum crawl with one of my newfound best friends, and much more. There were some things that I didn't get to, but I walked into Dublin Airport last week feeling like I did everything I wanted to. My list also helped my friends, and we were able to do so much together once we were organized! The Irish Bucket List served me very well, and left me with #noregrets.
Embrace the Solo Adventure.
When you study abroad, you are introduced to a small group of people. Suddenly, you are in a new country where you only know (in my case) thirteen people. You find people within those thirteen people who share your interests, and suddenly you have a group of friends who you find yourself doing almost everything with. As you settle in, you realize that not everyone has the same Irish Bucket List as you do. I wasted a lot of time because there were places I wanted to go but no one wanted to go with me. I had tons of fun going out and experiencing things on my own! Plus, being alone helped me meet more Irish locals, and I did end up making several Irish friends during my solo adventures. It can be daunting to go do things on your own, but it's better than leaving with regrets.
For the love of God, get a new SIM card immediately.
My final piece of wisdom is the one that caused me the most stress, and therefore, the most relief when I fixed the issue. You may have an international plan that you think is good enough, but make absolutely sure you know what you're getting so you have a working phone once you touch down on foreign soil. I spent every day being so grateful for my trusty Vodaphone app and the fact that I had data and unlimited texts when some of my friends did not. The IES Abroad website literally tells you to do this, but I just thought Verizon had my back. I was betrayed, but you don't have to be! You are able to enjoy these incredible experiences more when you have nothing to worry about, so take this simple thing off your mind as soon as you can.
I'm going to remember the lessons I learned (both inside and outside the classroom) in Dublin for the rest of my life, and I'm so grateful for the things this beautiful city has taught me. Studying abroad can be scary (it was the scariest thing I have ever done), but you learn from the fear, and IES Abroad connects you with students who are just as scared as you are. It's most certainly a learning curve, but every second of confusion was worth it. My most important piece of advice is to lean in to this experience. Embracing the fear and confusion also lets you embrace the magic and the fun. Everything will be okay, and you'll have the time of your life. Good Luck!
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<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>