One of my goals in traveling to Dublin was to make some sort of progress on my creative work. Write something, paint something, learn something—it didn’t really matter what but I knew I wanted to create. My short story professor, Stephen, started my class off this semester with the informal assignment to start writing everyday before we arrived in Dublin and continue that habit throughout our time abroad. After months of writing, albeit not every day, the notebook I’ve christened as my “Ireland Journal” is now one of my most valuable possessions. I can’t overstate how much I would recommend writing as a daily ritual for students abroad, whether they are studying writing in an official capacity or not.
First of all, I now have an excellent record of my time in Dublin. For someone with the memory of a fruit fly, I have probably already forgotten most of the things I have recorded. Places, events, worries, joy, no matter how important it is to me, it only lives on through my journal. I can look back right now or years from now and re-experience the daily happenings of a period of time that will probably shape the rest of my life. Studying abroad has already changed the trajectory of my future and I’m sure that the impact of my time in Ireland will hit even harder when I return to the States.
Secondly, beyond having a written record of fond and occasionally fraught memories, writing constantly has changed the way I write. Everyone says you should write every day if you want to improve as a writer but of course they say that, it's almost too obvious. Well, they were right, I was just being lazy before, so let’s compromise with trying to write a few times a week. Even just a paragraph at a time. Maybe pair it with a nice sketch of a bird. I have a lot of entries in my Ireland Journal that are really just to-do lists and bird sketches masquerading as creative work. In my defense, I have had a lot to do and there are many great birds in Ireland. Some vicious ones too—swans are always bigger and faster than you think they are and Dublin seagulls are cutthroat. Don’t trust animals with dead white eyes, they’ll steal your bread right out of your hands and laugh.
Finally, writing in a journal has been a self-soothing practice for when things get to be overwhelming. Which is often. Moving to a foreign country is a lot. Studying abroad, or studying period, during a pandemic is a lot. Living without your familiar support systems is a lot. Buying a seemingly endless amount of groceries from a random variety of strange, small European chains and yet still always needing more groceries (?!) and then being forced to decide what to eat every single freaking day, presumably for the rest of your life, is a lot. Writing down how I’m feeling and forcing myself to translate and sort through those feelings in order to be able to write them down in an actual coherent language has helped me stay on top of my chaos.
It’s a strange thing to look forward to, but I am looking forward to sitting down in a few months when I’m missing Dublin and reading through my time here in my own words (and my own infamous handwriting). Hopefully, I’ll be able to read it.
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<p>Hello! My name is Izzy (they/them) and I’m a senior studying anthropology at Indiana University. Within anthropology, I’m particularly interested in storytelling, intersectionality, and modern concepts of gender. I am studying overseas as a part of the IES Dublin- Irish Studies program in the Fall of 2021. I’m excited to share my adventures and discoveries during my time in Dublin. In my free time, I enjoy listening to alternative music, reading the same 4 books over and over again, and attempting to learn random languages before getting distracted after a few weeks.</p>