Full disclosure, it definitely has not sunk in that I’ve made it to Dublin and the Writers’ Program is days away from starting.
Six days ago, I had (almost) everything I needed (and certainly more) stuffed in suitcases that spilled over my parents’ basement floor, and pretty much every waking moment of every day had the expectation of checking something off a seemingly never ending to-do list. But this study abroad experience was just that—the subject of suitcases and to-do lists. Lo and behold, I have now made it to this place far away, in a program that almost a year ago I was just starting the application for.
During this never-ending planning and packing and sorting-out phase, I was somewhat surprised as to how much time I had to think about my upcoming trip. And being the unreliable narrator to myself, I had plenty of stories going.
Here are some things the idealist in me drew up as possibilities:
- I have an epiphany on a cliff looking out at the water on a blustery day where everything is gray and green and my life is forever changed from that moment on because old habits have nothing on me
- I write something powerful enough to get Sally Rooney to notice me and asks to collaborate on her next novel
- I perform at an open mic and somehow Hozier invites me to open for him
- I find the one true love of my life because apparently that’s a thing
- I go camping with friends who end up becoming my future roommates all through my 20s and 30s, and we end up inspiring a novel reminiscent of A Little Life, but with maybe 10% of the trauma dump
- I have my Love & Gelato moment and decide I’m never returning to the U.S. Flash forward two years, and I’m living a stress-free and idyllic life on the cobblestone streets of an old city blending in as a stranger in such a place
Combine that with the realist in me—yes, I am a Capricorn—and here come more possibilities.
Here are some things that will probably actually happen:
- I will get lost and end up late to somewhere
- I will have to have a conversation with someone about finances
- I will spend at least an hour staring at pictures of my dog wishing I could hug him
- I will forget my umbrella and/or rain coat on the worst possible day
- I will struggle to get in the habit of cleaning my bathroom and doing laundry regularly (sorry Mom, I know you’ve been manifesting)
- I will face the ultimate boss battle against jet lag (actually happened, was definitely rough but getting a lot better)
- I will buy a nice journal for documenting the trip and leave it on the plane (this actually happened, thankfully I quickly found a replacement)
The guessing game certainly isn’t over now that I’m here; I still don’t know what lies ahead. I know dates and times and course schedules, but everything is still very up in the air. Which isn’t such a bad place to be, to be honest. And I can say that in the past couple of days, I’ve definitely found some footing.
Here are things that also ended up happening so far:
- I met lots of wonderful people that I’ve hit it off with pretty much instantly
- I’ve walked through gorgeous places on my way to supermarkets, orientation, or just to wherever I’m curious about
- I’ve actually been sleeping at a reasonable pace despite jet lag
- I found my own way home using the wonders of public transportation (during the day of course—I don’t recommend traveling alone at night)
- I’ve taken alone time when needed and reached out to people when I’ve wanted to hang out
- I made myself dinner instead of going out to eat three nights in a row—working towards getting this budgeting thing down
- I stayed in touch with family and friends
- I forgave myself for the times it was hard to sleep because I missed home, and celebrated when I felt adjusted
Another full disclosure—I didn’t expect to be as homesick as I have been in the last few days. When I was home it would feel like departure day couldn’t come faster. As soon as I arrived here, I couldn’t stop thinking about how unprepared I felt, how I couldn’t fathom that people ever don’t miss being a kid when most things were handled for you. What I’m learning is that growing up is not just a switch flipped where you’re thrown out on your own and you have to figure out how to live in a foreign city (especially if you, like me, did not grow up in a city). It’s a lot more steps that lead up to when you arrive, and once you do, you’re not completely on your own.
All in all, I’ve been patient with myself, but never abandoned the notion that something very magical can happen. And sometimes, magic takes time. And while soon enough it won’t be true, right now I have lots of time ahead of me in Dublin, and I can’t wait for all of it.
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he/him -- I'm studying Creative Writing and Studio Art at Knox College, class of 2025! I mostly dabble in cartooning, poetry, creative nonfiction, portraits, and humor writing. Outside of my majors, I play guitar and electric bass and sleep a lot.