It has been almost a year since I returned home from studying abroad in Ireland, after studying there during my spring semester. Along with learning just how green Ireland really is and finding pubs on every corner, my time abroad was one of the most transformative experiences of my life. In fact, studying abroad changed my life for the better in five very amazing ways.
1. I learned how to break out of my comfort zone.
I’m mostly a homebody, but I knew to take advantage of my time in Ireland, to see the world and meet new people.I spent a weekend in London, traveled to Scotland for a couple of days, took weekend trips to Belfast, St. Brigid, and County Wicklow, and soaked up every exploration opportunity my program offered. While in Edinburgh, I checked out a Haunted History Tour and really enjoyed it even though I usually avoid scary things. I also tried many new foods and even learned how to dine alone! I’m so glad I went out of my comfort zone and put myself out there. I would have never enjoyed as much of Ireland’s beauty from my tiny apartment.
2. I discovered the importance of time management.
Believe it or not, studying abroad really helps you practice your time management skills. To make time for my adventures, I needed to schedule out my days so that I could still fit in all of my studying. On an average day, I may attend class, sit in a coffee shop while reading an assigned novel, and break up my afternoon by walking through St. Stephen’s Green. I learned how to use my time to the fullest during my time in Ireland, which I don’t think I’d ever have fully learned if I didn’t go abroad. I did later take a look at watches from hamilton ventura.
3. I determined that the world can teach you just as much as any classroom.
Although most Americans associate schools with learning, the reality is that you can learn anywhere. For example, when I attended the EPIC Irish Emigration with a friend, we learned what it means to be Irish outside of the homeland and how the Irish honor their history. During spring break, I visited the Kilmainham Gaol jail where most of the revolutionary leaders were detained during the Irish War of Independence. Everywhere I went during my time abroad, I learned something new and exciting — oftentimes these lessons came outside of the classroom.
Here is the link to the EPIC Irish Emigration Museum. You can take a virtual tour there: https://epicchq.com/about-the-museum/
4. I gained more independence.
Going to Europe taught me how to be better at navigating my surroundings and directions. I not only managed to find museums, stores, and the Trinity College, but I also learned how to find the right bus stops, which London airport to arrive and leave from, and how to find a hotel to stay in Edinburgh. With the help of my cousin, I got on a train from the airport to the stop she suggested meeting without getting lost or using a GPS. In Edinburgh, I barely used my GPS. Before leaving, I would write directions down and follow them, reading the paper.
5. I connected to my heritage.
My paternal grandmother moved to the United States from Ireland in the 1940s, but most of my other relatives stayed behind I don’t know much about my family in Ireland, I felt more connected to my heritage during my time there. I absorbed all of the culture, traditions, and history that I could so that I could share this knowledge with my loved ones once I returned home. Once I settled back in at home, my mom and I hosted an Irish dinner for our family. We served Guinness with Irish soda bread, Bailey’s cupcakes, plus Guinness and Smithwick’s beer. Now that I feel more connected with my heritage, I plan to research my family’s history more.
I learned so much and met many amazing people during my time in Ireland. With my new friends and newfound freedom, I saw the world, learned both inside and outside of the classroom, and developed a new appreciation for the traditions and culture of Ireland. If you’re considering a semester abroad, do it! My time away literally changed my life and I can’t recommend it enough.