July 8th, 2023 12:40 p.m. I’m currently sitting next to a window on my flight out of Dublin. I have about an hour left and I’ve spent a lot of this flight thinking about my trip as a whole. Six weeks have felt like it both flew by and like it has been a year. I know this is something everybody says, but studying abroad is an experience I will hold with me for the rest of my life. There were so many components to this trip that I wasn’t expecting or even ready for, but I’m so grateful for every single one of them.
One of these components and probably the most important part were the friends I made on this trip. I knew I would meet people and make friends, that's only natural. What I wasn’t quite expecting was to make friends that last a lifetime. I was so nervous going into the trip thinking that I would just be acquaintances with people in my program and I was preparing for that to be enough. But, something I learned is that the other people who study abroad with you already have something so innately similar to you that a connection is bound to form. Everyone there is looking for a sense of adventure and exploration and that common interest will start to manifest into such strong relationships. The friends that I made on this trip are the only other people in this whole world that experienced this part of life with me, and I just wanted to touch on how special that is. Whatever you do when you are abroad, don’t sacrifice relationships with other people. It can be easy to want to go off on your own and stick to your own schedule but these friendships and relationships made every other moment of studying abroad ten times better. If there is one piece of advice or information I want to get across it’s that being with other people while studying abroad is a must. It can be scary to reach out to others and form connections, but having a community with you while abroad allows you to soak in every moment and have people to remember this time with. Plus, it fills every adventure with laughs, conversation, and overall joy!
Now for a few other takeaways, I had while being in a new country for an extended period of time. One- there is no “right way” to study abroad. I spent a lot of the trip trying to study abroad correctly and experience every single thing I possibly could experience, but the second I let the notion of “traveling perfectly” go I had a much better time. I never wanted a moment to go to waste, and I was so scared of missing out on experiences. This at times caused a wave of stress to rush over me because I didn’t think I should stray from plans. But really, the second things became more spontaneous and I allowed myself to rest days and days without plans the trip became so much more enjoyable. I think it’s incredibly important to leave any preconceived ideas or visions of studying abroad behind because you are going to have a fantastic time no matter what you do, and it’s not worth it to stress out trying to meet expectations. Two- budget properly. This is a boring and pretty obvious tip, but It’s important to touch on. Being in another country isn’t cheap, and you are going to spend money whether that's at coffee shops, restaurants, shopping, excursions, or even just laundry. It’s really important to realize that you will have to spend money while you are gone and figuring out the best way for you to do that before you leave is so beneficial. I was definitely caught off guard by some of the things I had to spend money on so I think creating a budget or limit before you go would be helpful. Three- leave room in your suitcase for when you come home! I had quite a difficult time trying to pack for the trip home because I accumulated so many things while in Ireland, so either don’t pack the night before you leave as I did, or make sure you’ll have extra space in your bags before heading home.
There are so many things I could talk about when it comes to studying abroad, and how to be as prepared as possible, but in all honesty I went into this program pretty unprepared. That’s incredibly uncommon for me because I love to know exactly what I’m getting into and how to have the best time. I believe though, that not overly preparing allowed me to embrace every moment of this trip because it was all so new and exciting. It’s so important to go into traveling and being abroad with an open mind and heart and allow the experience to fully wash over you!
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I'm Amelia McCabe and I'm a Current Freshman at the University of Tennessee. I'm originally from Chicago, Illinois and I love getting to go home and visit the city! I'm a theatre major and spend lots of time acting, with friends, or as a barista!