The last week of everyone being together went by in a flash, but my friends and I definitely tried to squeeze in as much time together as we could. I got to see a few things I had missed in the city, eat plenty of good meals with friends (including a pot luck where we cooked anything and everything we had left in our fridge), and go out to our favorite pubs. The staff at IES Abroad brought us all to a really nice dinner in Dublin to say bye a few days before everyone had to go home. It was pretty surreal saying my last goodbyes to the people I had seen almost everyday for the past few months, and even harder to say bye to some people that I knew I might not see again. But regardless of if I see them again or not, every person I met had such a huge impact on my experience.
Dublin would not have been the same without weekly RA meetings with Patrick, fascinating history lectures from Michael, daily motivational speeches from Stephen, field trips planned by Jackie, and so much more. Even though I was only there for a short amount of time, in the grand scheme of things, it amazes me how well I have come to know so many different people. I can honestly say that I have met some awesome friends through this experience, and I definitely don’t plan on letting them go anytime soon! As much as I learned from the city, I know I’ve learned just as much from the people I was so lucky enough to meet. As my friend Kelly so perfectly put it, “If you make meaningful connections with the people around you, you'll never be too far from family”. The people I was so blessed to meet through this experience definitely helped make Dublin feel like home.
After the panic of fitting in lots of goodbyes and packing up, it suddenly hit me that my friends were leaving in the mornign. Just as I woke up to a completely empty and quiet apartment I got a call from reception saying that my Dad was here! Seeing family in Dublin made it all the more real that I would be leaving so soon, but I was really happy to be able to take one last week to say my goodbyes to Ireland and see whatever I had missed. After a week full of activities, from bar crawls to bike rides, I hopped on a plane to come back to the US.
As I sit on my couch writing this last blog only a few days after coming home, I can’t help but look back at my time in Dublin as one big dream. It’s not that the experience is a blur, but that it almost seems to not be true. How lucky was I to wake up everyday and stare out at the River Liffey, to walk upstairs and visit my best friends whenever I wanted, and to take classes from some of the most interesting teachers I’ve ever had?! There are endless things to be thankful for from my experience abroad, but I can easily narrow it down to one. I can’t think of any other time when I was most able to figure out who I was and what I wanted to do. Being in a completely different country from my family and friends was hard, but learning more about myself was totally worth it. I now know that I can find a hotel in a random alley of Florence without a GPS (even if it does take 2 hours), I have a weird fascination with Irish history, I love long walks instead of driving places, chicken and veggies are about all I can cook, and sometimes it’s ok to just take a little break and be on my own. A million other experiences helped me discover what I like, what I don’t like, what I’m good at, what I’m bad at, and so much more.
This semester has been an absolute whirlwind. Seeing everything now from the other side, it seems like it went by way too fast. Saying goodbye to everyone and everything was honestly a lot harder than I thought it would be. Even though I am so excited to be home, I know I’ll soon be missing the life I had back in Ireland! I know going abroad is a decision I will look back on and never regret, and I definitely encourage other people to do the same. Go outside your comfort zone, even if it’s just for one semester. I promise, it’s worth it!
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<p>Hi! My name is Rachel Marini and I am a Junior at Penn State University. I'm majoring in Elementary Education (with an English focus) and plan to minor in special ed. I am a huge book nerd, but when I'm not reading I like to hang out with my family and friends, go to the beach, and just spend time outdoors. Traveling has always been a big part of my life, because I love exploring new places. Going to Dublin is something that I know I won't regret, and I can't wait to share my experience with all of you!</p>