Besides the fact that pedestrians do not have the right of way here (which can be troublesome to an egocentric walker like me), Dublin is a lovely place to be quaintly situated for the semester. The people are infinitely more friendly than your average American, ivy and fairytale foliage grow everywhere, and most streets are flooded by tea and pastries. There is a romanticized reputation about how students are in a perpetual state of ecstasy and invincibility while studying abroad, so I felt it important to highlight the entire overwhelming orchestra of initial emotions that accompany the daunting length of four months. The delightful, the terrifying, and the hopeful.
Within 24 hours of meeting a new friend, we impulsively booked roundtrip flights to Frankfurt, Germany. An airline was having a sale and our roundtrip flights would only cost €30, so how much thorough planning really needed to be involved in this decision? The flight would depart on a Friday and return on a Monday. Mind you, we are here to study abroad, so scheduling to arrive back in Ireland on a Monday when we have a day full of classes was our first careless mistake. A crucial footnote to add is that we deemed it perfectly fine to fly out of Kerry rather than Dublin in order to get the discount, because “Ireland is so small” and minimal effort would be required to find ourselves there. Things just figure themselves out on study abroad! Our dates of travel were then realized to be an interruption to our first week of classes. Then we learned that Kerry was between 4 and 8 hours away, depending on your method of transportation, and round trip tickets to Kerry would cost us far more than our tickets to Frankfurt themselves. This ticket has since been exchanged and plans for said weekend will be much more local. Spontaneity can be exhilarating, but I advise all to remain mindful.
Next comes the “dark side” of study abroad, if you will. The first few days are at times awkward and conversations can feel forced and peers are playing the part of their social media selves rather than participating in genuine interactions. I get deja vu because it feels eerily similar to the first week of freshman year when we all feel the pressure to meet our best friends within minutes so long as we want to have a fulfilling social experience. After a few hours of painful icebreakers, it is realized that forcing everyone to admit their fears and expectations for the semester perhaps does serve a purpose. Especially since most of us attend different home universities, we are all strangers and many are nervous that friends won’t immediately be made. Nearly everyone that I have spoken to suggests that they are insecure that they won’t have enough money to travel to every country on their list of conquests. You will think you are the only one, then you will realize every other person in the room is on the exact same wavelength. You’re going to miss your boyfriend and your mom and your dog within a pathetically short amount of time upon arrival.
The most hopeful moment experienced during my time abroad so far came when I got a message from someone in my extended family who had seen my last post:
“Hey Molly I read what you posted on Facebook and it helped me go to the doctor and actually get help with my issues extremely similar to yours. I told my dad what drug they gave me and apparently, I’m taking the same thing as you. I was just wondering what to expect with it and what, if anything helps you with this. Thanks a lot and I hope you are enjoying Ireland.”
I cannot articulate how reassured I felt by that message. If all that was required of me to get someone to seek help was admit that I struggle with my mental health, publicizing my experience is inarguably the most powerful gift that I have ever possessed. As always, I urge everyone to speak more publicly about mental health in the hopes that we can save the lives of others who also struggle.
From Dublin, slán abhaile.
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<p>I’m currently a junior at the University of Pittsburgh studying Information Science. I also plan to graduate with a Legal Studies minor and a Latin American studies certificate which is evidence that my curiosity is always being pulled in chaotically amazing directions. I would like to consider myself a cooking, hiking, and gardening aficionado. I believe in empathy, vegetarianism, and girl power.</p>