Studying abroad is so ‘grand’

It’s actually really tough to be writing this article right now. That’s because it’s not just the last of my study abroad articles for the year and I’ve run out of things to talk about … it also means that I’m almost done with my study-abroad experience. It seems like just yesterday I was stepping off the plane, trying to figure out what “craic” meant, and falling down every time the bus moved while I was still walking to a seat. Since then, I have (thankfully) learned how to say a wide variety of Irish names and words, gotten my “bus legs” and also learned how to be a better navigator, fly RyanAir, use public transportation, and find all the free Wi-Fi spots around city centre. It hasn’t always been easy, and I have to admit I still make embarrassing mistakes way more than I should.

It’s all worth it though. Although I don’t know if I can still claim the “I’m new here!” excuse, all the tourist faux pas just add to my unforgettable adventure and the collection of stories I’ll have to share when I get back to the U.S.

I’ll try really hard not to use all of the typical study abroad clichés, but no promises. I’ve been reading articles on BuzzFeed about  study abroad expressions and memes, and they’re all really quite true. I apologize in advance for all of the annoying things I’ll probably say and do when I get back, which may include …

1. Saying, “When I was in Europe…” with infuriating frequency.

2. Trying but failing to sound sophisticated by using expressions I’ve learned while abroad such as “grand,” “thanks a million” and “lift” instead of just saying “good,” “thank you” and “elevator.”

3. Dressing only in neutrals.

4. Forgetting which side of the road that cars drive on, and almost getting hit in the process.

5. Being a total snob when it comes to pastries. (Aka, the things they serve in Starbucks are not real scones. Not even close.)

I’ll be honest, the thought of studying abroad was terrifying and thrilling all at once. And once the time to get on the plane suddenly arrived, I questioned my decision to leave my family, my friends, my school and my country for somewhere completely new for five months. I was so afraid that I would get here and completely regret my decision, and miss out on everything going on back home. Although the first night in my new apartment was a little tough, things only got better and better.

Thanks to  study abroad, I have gotten to see the ocean for the first time, travel to six (SIX!) new countries (with three left to go before I leave in three weeks), learned how to figure out planes, trains, buses and the underground, navigated my way through places that don’t speak the same language as me, and had a million adventures in between. I’ve learned how to let go (at least a little bit) and accept the obstacles that inevitably come up, while doing my best not to completely have a meltdown when things don’t go as planned. I have been able to meet friends from all around the world, meet up with a few familiar faces in new places, and maybe, most importantly, eaten countless new amazing foods.

I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this without  study abroad. I’m not going to lie, there were tough days when I wished that I was home in the comfort of my loft at Loras, where people drive on the right side of the road and coffee comes in a normal-sized cup. These days were few though, and all in all I loved every minute of my time abroad. I’m trying not to think about the fact that as I’m writing this, I only have 18 days left here in Dublin.

What I find comfort in is that I know this won’t be my last travel experience. Being abroad has only made me hungrier for new experiences and made me more excited to see more of the world, try new foods and meet new people. I may need a little break from packing/unpacking and air travel for a while, but I know that I have so many more places left on my list to go, and I’m going to do everything in my power to see them.

To anyone traveling abroad next year: I hope this column made you even more excited about the experiences awaiting you. Know that I’m always here if you have questions or want advice, and also know that I will be living vicariously through you next year when you’re abroad, and that I will probably comment on an embarrassing number of your photos.

And finally, to anyone else considering studying abroad: think Nike and JUST DO IT. If there’s ever a perfect time in your life to go abroad, it’s now. We have limited responsibilities tying us down, and you will never be more fit to stay in questionable hostels, run on barely any sleep, and socialize in any kind of environment. Besides, the student discounts over here are amazing! Sure it may be a little pricey, but you really can’t put a monetary value on the memories you will make and experiences that you will have while studying abroad. If you have any doubt, make an appointment with CEL or talk to someone that has previously studied abroad. They’ll tell you the same thing that I am:  study abroad really does = the time of your life.

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