On Leaving

Headshot of Matthew Shepetin.
Matthew Shepetin
January 14, 2023
JFK Terminal

Hello everyone, I’m Matt. I’ll be studying Political Science and Economics at Trinity College in Dublin this semester and I’m here to share my experience with you all. I’ll be blogging about academics, daily life in Dublin, traveling, and the highs and lows of studying abroad.

This will be my first blog post of the semester (exciting!) and I’m just getting on here to ruminate about life before I leave for Dublin. I’ve had a lot off time to think about leaving and going and everything else during this break which, I think, has been good. It’s now T-48 hours until I catch a flight headed towards Dublin, so I think this would be a good time to share some of my thoughts about this part of the abroad journey (and, yes, I have decided that even though I’m not in Dublin yes, the weeks leading up to departure are definitely part of the experience as a whole).

I guess what nobody told me about this process (or at least it’s not something that I had put much thought into it this past semester) is that starting a new chapter of life entails closing the current one. A few days before I left school for the semester one of my friends joked that I was going to give him “abandonment issues” because I was “leaving him for every.” We laughed because he and I both knew that he was being dramatic (to say the least) and that, of course, I’m not leaving him “forever.” In fact, we’re living together next semester. The more I thought about what he said, though, the more I started to feel like I was abandoning part of my life, abandoning in the sense that I’m leaving something important behind that will not be the same when I come back, all to start a new, temporary, chapter of my life 5,000 miles from everything I’ve ever known. 

Over the course of winter break, I’ve come to terms with the fact that leaving is, and always will be, bittersweet. This is not to say that I believe that leaving is a bad or anything unexpected—part of my decision-making process involved know ing that I wanted change, and I do. This is to say that leaving friends and family and the life I’ve built at school for any amount of time is sad, no matter the circumstances. This is to say that I am incredibly excited to start my abroad journey. I’m looking forward to meeting new friends and exploring Dublin and traveling to visit friends in different cities and leaving about Irish history and everything else that I haven’t accounted for yet. I know for a fact that my time abroad will be a life changing experience, and I’m truly looking forward to opening this  new chapter of my life, even if I don’t know exactly what’s written on the pages yet.

I’ve also spent the last few week planning and planning and planning. Much of my free time has been consumed by internet deep-dives into the best day trips from Dublin. When am I going to see the rainbow row houses in Cork? Visit the Cliff of Moher? Kiss the Blarney Stone? Hike the Wicklow Mountains? My options feel overwhelming—there’s so much to do in just a few short months. It’s only November and I’m already planning my weekends in February, March, and April. Even for me, a serial planner, this feels a little extreme—I barely know what I’ll be feeling up to this weekend, let alone some time months from now.

The rational part of my brain tells me that booking a castle tour for a random weekend in March would be silly. Why commit myself to something I might not even have the time or interest to do? The emotional part of my brain feels otherwise. Living in a new country alone, with friends and family thousands of miles away, will be one of the most challenging experiences of my life so far.

After talking with other students who have gone abroad (and are planning to go abroad), I’ve come to realize that this is a common reaction to a common fear. Right now, still a ways out, my semester abroad feels abstract and esoteric. It’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that in just a few months, I’ll be living in Dublin, far from the safety nets I’ve become accustomed to, at the starting line of a journey that will change my life. It’s natural to feel a bit apprehensive. 

I’ve come to realize only now, as I’m writing this, that I will likely look back on my pre-departure period and smile. If I’ve learned anything from my 21 years on this Earth (and countless family vacation planning disasters), it's that life rarely goes to plan. And honestly, some of my best life experiences have been the most unplanned. Trying to strike a balance between planning and spontaneity has been a problem that I didn’t expect, but dealing with this cognitive dissonance has been both challenging and rewarding. I hope this pre-departure dilemma will be the first of many learning experiences that I encounter during my time abroad. Ultimately, I’m looking forward to handling situations that push me outside of my comfort zone, because I know that no matter how I choose to spend my time in Dublin, it will be a priceless learning experience. 

The past few weeks, then, have been filled with lots of mixed emotions which is inevitable and, I assume, all part of the process. I’m incredibly excited to begin what will undoubtedly be a fun, exciting, comfort-zone-breaking adventure, but that does mean it won’t be hard to start.

Next time I post, I’ll be in Dublin, see you all there!

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Headshot of Matthew Shepetin.

Matthew Shepetin

Hi, I’m Matt! I’m studying Political Science and Economics at Trinity College. I’m a writer, an urban explorer, an avid eater, and a shopping expert who’s excited to tell you all about my experience as a student here in Dublin. I’m from the New York City Metro Area but now I study was Washington University in St. Louis.. Join me as I explore Dublin and learn all about life here in Ireland.

2023 Spring
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