Prepare for Landing: My Experience Leaving Study Abroad

Sammi Bilitz
May 9, 2022
Picnic at St. Stephen's Green

Getting back home is much more of a journey than anyone, myself included, expects it to be.

The journey starts in the host country. A few days before my actual flight home, I was finishing finals, attempting to pack up four months of my life and saying goodbye to friends I had spent every day with. It was exhausting, emotionally and physically. Luckily, I was able to stay mostly on top of my schoolwork during the finals week, so I still had time to revisit all my favorite Dublin haunts and spend the last few nights out with all my new friends, reminiscing about our time abroad and talking about what we looked forward to most at home.

Unfortunately, I barely started packing before my final night in the city. Nothing motivates like an immovable deadline. This could have been way more stressful, but a couple of my roommates camped out on my bed while I packed up all my worldly positions and kept me company until everything was sorted in its proper bag. At my apartment building, Aparto, there is a donation station where I was able to drop off any of the extraneous purchases that did not need to venture home with me, i.e. trash cans, soap trays, freshly acquired hangers. Once I set about packing everything up, it was fairly easy to get it done, but I kept stalling until the last minute, not really believing that it was all coming to an end.

The next morning, travel day, I was drained from cleaning and packing the day before but didn’t want to miss out on saying goodbye to everyone. I woke at 6:30 and finished organizing a couple of things before grabbing my last coffee from the local shop on our street. Thus commenced an Ocean’s 11-esq departure of the roommates: one by one we met in the hallway, wished each other well and promised to update everyone on our lives from that point.

When I finally made it to the airport and began the long return across the sea, I was glad I got there three hours before my flight time. Those in my program who had already gone to the airport sent back warnings of long lines and large crowds. Thankfully, I had enough time to relaxingly make my way through both security and U.S. customs before finding my gate. 

Alas, on the second leg of my journey, I was hit with flight delays. Originally, I was taking three flights to get home, but my second was delayed so much that I missed the third and was stuck in Philadelphia when my final destination was Indianapolis. Luckily, while abroad, I honed the skills of staying calm under unexpected pressure and being confident in my abilities as a solo traveler to make alternative game plans for me to get where I needed to go.

I ended up flying that night into Cincinnati, only two hours away from my hometown, where my dad picked me up and we drove for the final leg of the journey home. All in all, I got to my house only a half hour after I originally planned, but I was suitcase-less. Not to worry, all my bags with all my last-minute packed belongings showed up two days later with no damage and no additional cost.

Beyond the prep and the actual journey of getting back home, I also hadn’t prepared properly to answer the question, “So, how was Ireland?”

It seems simple, Ireland was fun, but it is tough to explain everything I did while abroad. It’s hard to fully describe the different nuances of people I met or places I went or things I learned in what seems like a short amount of time.

There are some things I could have thought out ahead of time, like what my favorite part was or what my favorite class was. But I found that over the next couple of days as I talked with my friends or family, stories and experiences would just come up naturally and I didn’t need to put so much pressure on myself to think of the perfect answer to the “How was Ireland?” question.

Ireland was an unforgettable experience that now is part of my everyday life, what more can I say?

Sammi Bilitz

<p>Sammi Bilitz is a junior at Indiana University enrolled in the Writer's Program in Dublin, Ireland. She is studying journalism and international studies and is so excited to explore what Ireland has to offer. In her free time, you can find her huddled up in some bookstore with a steaming cup of tea in hand.</p>

2022 Spring
Home University:
Indiana University
Zionsville, IN
International Studies
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