On Lessons

Kaylie Padgett
May 1, 2016
Staring dramatically out at the Cliffs of Moher.

Throughout my time abroad, my roommate and I have been really good about asking each other quiestions, checking in, and taking time out of our days to reflect on our experience. We often ask for the highs and lows of a trip together, check in on things that we are excited for or things that we would have done differently. 

On our last day in Dublin, we talked about lessons learned, things that we would maybe do differently. 

On the things that I would maybe reconsider a little harder:

I struggled a lot at the beginning of the program with not enrolling in direct enrollment at a Dublin university. I ended up really enjoying my time at IES Abroad, and had I direct enrolled I don’t think I would have gotten to know the staff so well or been able to travel so freely, but I struggled the first few weeks with not feeling connected to the city at all. They told us at the beginning that the Irish were friendly, but somewhat hard to befriend, and I found this true. I had many nice conversations with people I met around the city, but none formed into full-fledged friendships. I bonded with people at IES Abroad, my fellow classmamtes, but I searched for a more tangible connection to Dublin at the beginning. I’m not sure if direct enrollment would have made things any easier, but I would have been around more Irish people in class every day. In the end, I appreciated my IES Abroad Writer’s Program academics, particularly the classes, but direct enrollment elsewhere, like Trinity or Dublin City University, is something I wish I had more heavily considered. 

Besides that, there was little else I would change. You can only anticipate and plan for a trip so much in advance and I think the surprises and the little things are what make a lot of greatness. 

There were still a lot of things I learned, though, like: 

  • you really don’t need as much stuff as you think you need. I, too, was skeptical of the suggested minimalist packing list provided, and while I didn't follow it directly, I kept cutting down the things that I planned to pack. I squished everything into one medium/large suitcase and a carry-on and it was more than enough. 
  • any destination under an hour is a walkable distance. Coming from a campus where you can walk one end to the other in seven minutes, my gauge for what was a "long" walk was really skewed. Walking truly is the best way to get to know the city, though. I made a general rule to walk anywhere that I could get to under an hour (unless it was pouring) and it was really nice. 
  • you're gonna second guess everything you do in the first week of living in a new place. Turning on the shower, buying groceries, ordering a cup of coffee. All of these seemingly mundane things will feel awkward and new and you will be anxious of doing something wrong. That's okay. You're fine. You'll get over it. 
  • the best souvenirs are random things. A lost playing card found near the river, a sticker swiped from a bathroom door stall. The items that I cherish most coming back now are items that remind me of certain moments and feelings. Carroll's is great for gifts for family and friends, but only so much of an experimence can be embodied with a keychain. Sometimes the unorthodox is best. 
  • you actually really can navigate yourself from one country to another, entirely independently, and make it out alive. You can ask for help when you need it. These things are scary, but entirely possible. 

I learned so much in short four months, both things that I noticed and didn't. It feels hard to quantify them all now, so I'll leave at at that. 

I am home now, back in the United States, and my time with Dublin and this blog is coming to an end. There will be some wrap up thoughts in a bit, but for now, that's all, folks. 

Thanks for reading. 

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