In just 48 hours you will be on a plane to Dublin to embark on a new journey. After exclusively living in Virginia for all 21 years of your life, spending four whole months in a whole other country will prove to be both challenging and rewarding.
In order to gain the most of my experience, I have set aside a few goals for you this semester:
- Don’t get too caught up in school that you miss out on the total learning experience. While it is easy to get caught up in schoolwork and studying, you have a whole country to explore that will teach you so much more about the culture around you than the library will.
I hope Dublin treats you well. I hope your traveling safely, having a blast, and writing mom every so often. My top three goals for the semester abroad are to make friends raised in a different culture, learn about the differences between both school and work in Ireland vs the United States, and to grow in my confidence as an individual rather than as a member of a group.
There’s many sayings about Irish luck, but it is most commonly expressed post-ironically. Like this week for example has been one of the best weeks for weather. Unfortunately, this nice weather coincides perfectly with exams. All the day trips that I had reserved for these gorgeous cloudless days (still mid 50s though) will land on the days when I am fastened to a desk. And, I can almost guarantee that by the time I finish my last exam, the weather will almost certainly return to overcast and rain. Another example of this could be mistaking the deadline for this post to be this Sunday as opposed to midnight last night. Regardless, it’s the luck of the Irish and I have become all too familiar with it. This week has been filled with studies and trying to prepare for my upcoming exams this week. It’s finally time to remove all distractions from my everyday life—so that’s probably another reason I why I missed the mark on this deadline.
When you start getting reminder emails about your return flight and internship details, you know that your travels are coming to a close soon. As of today, we concluded our last day of class, and exams are fast approaching us next week. From visiting friends in different countries, I’ve seen that the exchange program is a lot different experience than direct enrolling in a university such as University of Dublin. I can still remotely feel in reach of the harsh realities of exam week in Charlottesville. I still feel the pressures and anxiety of a big University before finals as I witness students pack the library and nervously walk in hallways.
When I think of two of the most culturally significant days during my time here, St. Patrick’s Day and Easter will always come to mind. While both are religiously based, I’m sure anyone can guess which holiday has lost most of its religious calling. They are both important days, but Easter weekend in Ireland felt inherently more genuine to the Irish people and values I’ve become familiarized with in Ireland.
These two weeks of break helped me put my studies in Ireland in perspective. I was able to explore three countries: Greece, Denmark, and Sweden. Exploring these three counties really helped me form a comparison for my time in Ireland and also see how other UVA students’ experience differed from mine.
Woah, as we hit the turn of this second week of spring break, I realize that I only have two months left. By the way, UVA should definitely take a look into a two-week break system. It really recharges the batteries.
I’ve learned a lot of things about living in Ireland and lot about the people here. I’m happy to say that I have given it the best of my time and tried to minimize leaving the country as much others. One of my initial frustrations with some American friends was that a lot of them had booked every weekend of the entire semester to travel out of Ireland. While this certainly demonstrates extraordinary planning skills, it was a bummer that I couldn’t use the time off on weekends to further develop these relationships and explore Ireland.
For the first time, I felt like I was less of a tourist and more of a guide as my brother and his girlfriend came to visit me this past week. This was the first time I had the chance to share my experience in Dublin with family. With this visit came a sense of pride as I revisited some of the popular tourist destinations in Dublin and throughout Ireland. For the first time, I offered something to share rather than learn. My brothers parting words were “You’re lucky to be here. I wish I had this experience in college.” Those words have since renewed a sense of motivation to push myself to not let a day pass by for granted over here.
In less than a few hours you will be hopping on a plane from Boston to Dublin. After all the questions about your plans to study abroad from friends and family, you will finally be frequenting the streets of Dublin and free to take whatever path you wish through Europe.
As you prepare yourself for this incredible journey, I’ve set aside some goals for you to keep in mind while you are in the thick of this adventure.
I’m home in Atlanta now, though not for long. This quick stop between adventures has given me a moment to reflect on the past four months. All I can say is “thank you”, especially to Dublin, my parents, and new friends.
It was a bit of an adjustment at first: cars on the opposite side of the road, a new school, a new accent (and official language), beer served at breakfast… I quickly acclimated to it all. However, even at the end of my time abroad, I had to learn to adjust. Specifically, I had to learn the Irish exam system which consists of 2000 desks in a room with synchronized test taking managed by “invigilators.” I felt confident about my tests, but that room was a bit intimidating… kind of a Harry Potter scenario without the fancy facility.