Dublin was an insane journey and the best six weeks of my life. Last summer was a difficult time for me and I came to Ireland with no idea what to expect–I knew no one and I had no idea what my classes would be like. Despite this, I felt at home after only a few days and never wanted to leave. My new and dear friend Gaby agrees; we have both done a fair bit of traveling and Dublin is the first place that we both clicked with that quickly and intensely. I became close friends with many people from the program and fell in love with the city.
Getting around took a couple of tries but is quite easy once you figure it out. The tram (called the Luas) went from just outside of the accommodation to right by the IES Abroad center. As for classes, I think I had the two most incredible teaching experiences. Back home I am studying mechanical engineering, but during this program I was doing cultural studies and literature. My professors for the classes were some of the best I’ve ever had: they took us on walks around the city, field trips to neighboring towns, tours of the GAA stadium, and most importantly gave an enhanced appreciation for the Irish way of life. Being able to learn in depth about the culture and history of the city you are staying in from people that grew up there allows for a unique experience that radically changes your views. Everything seems to make more sense. I remember my first day of the cultural studies class, Darren explained that after the Irish gained independence they developed a laissez-faire attitude towards life. That instantly clicked with me as being the reason that the Irish are always late. If an Irish person gives you a meeting time, add on fifteen minutes to it, minimum. It's little things like this that you begin to pick up on.
The people I met in Ireland were unreal, in all the best ways. Maybe it’s the accent, but they are so welcoming and charming and genuine. The Irish won’t sugar coat things, they’ll tell you what’s on their mind, and somehow you’re always laughing. During my time in Dublin I became very close friends with a group of students at University College Dublin from the mountaineering team. They took me climbing with them and it was so easy to get along with them. Afterward we went for pints and they told me, “Eh you know we get loads of Americans to transfer. We just find them someone to fall in love with and then they’re trapped.” This made me laugh and it was also quite flattering that they wanted me to come stay and be close with all of them. The group taught me lots about Ireland and I became very close with one in particular who taught me Irish expressions and showed me the best places in Ireland. If I could offer one piece of advice, it would be to meet natives to the place you are visiting and build bonds with them; while it’s great to have friends within the program, the real reason you are in a new country is to experience it to the fullest and, while it may be intimidating, that includes meeting locals.
Would I change anything about my study abroad experience? Absolutely not. Well actually maybe I’d choose to not get Covid (you can read about that in my blog), but other than that every bit of it constructed the most amazing experience. When it came time to leave I was devastated and simply did not want to go. But I traveled for two weeks after the program and, while it may be because of the insane events of those two weeks (too long of a story for this post), I am ready to come home and share my stories with family and friends. Know that your study abroad experience should be a time of growth, learning, and fun. It may not always be easy but in the end, you will be a more well-rounded international citizen with an increased appreciation for travel and other people. If you are hesitating, don't. Studying abroad will be one of the best decisions you ever make and will open so many doors in your future!
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Stella is currently a mechanical engineering student at the University of Colorado Boulder, where her goal is to always have at least one foot out of her comfort zone. When she is not on the engineering grind, she is passionate about playing guitar, backpacking, climbing, dancing, or really anything that will get her outside and soaking up the sunshine. Being raised in a French/English bilingual household, she grew up with an appreciation for other cultures and traveling. As she continues on her journey toward adulthood, she hopes to keep experiencing the unfamiliar and become an increasingly global citizen.