Before you make the decision to study abroad, hundreds of people will tell you that every moment of your experience will be an adventure. From my experience thus far, this statement is true, but not in the way you might think. If you’re studying abroad with the expectation of staying in a new country every weekend and spending every moment exploring, you may be disappointed to find that once the rush of orientation ends and classes begin, you won’t have as much spare time as you thought. However, every moment is still a unique experience, just in smaller, subtler ways.
Before I came to Dublin, I told myself I would have a new adventure every day of my 100-day program. I’ve managed to keep this promise so far by expanding the definition of “adventure” to a broader scope. Yes, I’ve taken day trips to other parts of Ireland, spent the weekends walking the coast or exploring the mountains. But what I’ve learned to love about Dublin are the everyday adventures: taking a new route home, trying a new restaurant, finding a new study spot, making a new home.
What makes a place comfortable is finding things that are familiar, and this mellow third week of living in Dublin has shown me that I’m almost there. This is the point where Dublin is no longer a mystery to me. I’ve been to every segment of the city, I’ve learned the ropes of public transportation, and I’ve taken so many routes back to our apartment that I can make it home through intuition.
I’ve found a beautiful bookstore on Grafton Street that I’ve adopted as my own, books on the first two floors and a café on the third, with the most perfect red velvet cupcakes I’ve ever tasted. I sit in the café between classes to finish last-minute reading. I’ve found restaurants where I’ve fallen in love with traditional Irish foods (I’d recommend the fish and chips). I’ve sat in the pews of ancient cathedrals, followed the path of famous Irish writers, tried to find the parts of Dublin where I can act like a local rather than a tourist.
But I’ve also taken comfort in my room. I’ve holed up to spend all day finishing a short story or class readings. I’ve spent evenings watching my favorite movies with Irish snacks by my side. I’ve spent mornings lying in bed for an extra hour. These are all things I would do at home, which is exactly the point. Part of the adventure of studying abroad is that you get to make a new city your home, and when you have mellow weeks, that’s how you know you’re there. You’re comfortable in a city that’s completely foreign.
One of the best moments of my study abroad experience was when, after a class that stretched until 6 p.m., my friend and I walked back toward our apartment, and she pointed out how nice it was to finally know the way home, to get all the way back without second-guessing, turning down a wrong street. Walking home felt normal, familiar.
One of the best ways to prepare for studying abroad is to manage your expectations. Some days will be more exciting than others. Within a few weeks, the city you’re in will start to feel more like home, and that itself is a true adventure.