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Home Sweet Home

Being away from home taught me so much about the world around me, but it also made me appreciate what I have at home. They always say you never realize what you have until it’s gone, and I have definitely experienced that over the last few weeks. There are many things I’m glad to have back now that I’m home, but there are also a lot of things I miss tremendously about being abroad.

Things I Love About Being Home:

  • Customer Service – In Ireland, customer service was nearly nonexistent. Servers work for a living wage and do not receive tips, therefore they don’t check up on you during your meal, refill your drink, or ask if our food was satisfactory. I felt like a queen at my first sit-down meal back in the States.
  • Family & Friends – One of the best parts about being home is having my family and friends near me at all times. I missed them so much while I was gone, and it’s so nice to be able to see them in real life, rather than through Skype.
  • Phone – I never realized how dependent I was on my phone until I was lost in London with no internet access on my phone and the inability to call anyone for help. I appreciate having my phone working again more than I could have ever imagined.
  • Not Living Out of a Suitcase – Being able to wear something besides the 8 shirts and 2 pairs of jeans I brought to Europe makes getting dressed so much easier. I’m beyond thankful to have access to all of my clothes now so that I don’t have to go buy something every time I don’t have the appropriate clothing with me for certain events. My wallet and my fashion sense appreciate it too.
  • Routine – Now that I’m not racing off to different countries and trying to squeeze as much into a single day as possible, I am a lot more relaxed. I finally have opportunities for some much needed down time.

Things I Miss About Being Abroad:

  • Adventure – Never once while abroad was I bored. The same cannot be said about being home. Sometimes while I’m doing nothing but watching TV I think about what I would be doing if I were still in Ireland — Exploring castles and meeting awesome people are usually at the top of that list.
  • Friends – Although we were only together for a short period of time, my classmates and I became super close. I miss living, learning, and exploring with all of them dearly!
  • Learning – Whether it be in or out of the classroom, I learned something new every single day while abroad. I was always curious about my surroundings, the history of where I was, or the culture of the area I was in.
  • Freedom- While abroad, I was (for the most part) able to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. If I wanted to take the train somewhere for the day, I could. If I wanted to buy last minute tickets to a concert, I could. And if I wanted to just stay in and read or watch a movie, I could. Now that I’m home, I have to work so I’m not as available to take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way.

Irish Expectations vs. Realities

Going into Ireland, I had a lot of ideas in my head of what to expect. It ranged from shepherds on rolling green hills to alcoholics drinking Guinness in pubs. What I quickly realized was, just as in the US, not all Irish stereotypes are completely accurate.

Shepherds on Rolling Green Hills:  This stereotype is the one I would consider to be the most accurate. Ireland looks exactly how it does on calendars — gorgeous landscapes scattered with animals, mainly sheep. When I imagined Ireland though, I forgot that just like back home, they have big cities which don’t fit into the scenic Irish stereotype. Once you get just a few miles away from the cities, however, it’s back to the breathtaking Ireland we know and love.

Leprechauns: Never once during my month-long stay in Ireland did I see a leprechaun. I was also surprised by the relatively low number of redheads. When most people think about Ireland, redheads are one of the first things that come to mind. Although I would say the amount of them was slightly higher, not very many of the people I saw had that iconic Irish trait.

Alcohol: It’s no secret that the Irish love their alcohol, and with both Guinness and Jameson coming from their country, why wouldn’t they? The Irish do drink considerably more than most Americans, but they also handle their alcohol better. There was not just a bunch of drunk people causing scenes in the streets every night like I thought there would be. I was also surprised to learn that although the legal drinking age is 18, many pubs/clubs only let in people over 21, 23, or even 25! They do this to limit the amount of rowdy intoxicated teenagers in their businesses in order to promote a better atmosphere.

These are just a few of the preconceived notions I had about Ireland before I had the opportunity to experience their culture for myself. Overall, I was very pleasantly surprised, and it did not take long for me to absolutely fall in love with this country.

Goodbye, Ireland!

During the last week of my study abroad program, we left Cork for Dublin. I never realized how comfortable I had become in Cork. Having spent nearly a month there, I was beginning to feel like a local. I knew my way around, where the best restaurants were, and had met some great people. Leaving was bittersweet, but I was excited to spend my last week abroad in Dublin. When we arrived, I immediately wished I was back in Cork. The city was huge and crazy. There were large amounts of people everywhere I went and everything seemed so hectic and chaotic. Suddenly I was back to square one, not knowing where anything was or how to get there. Luckily, I was surrounded by a great group of friends who helped make the transition easier. Our last week turned out to be one of the best, making having to go home even harder.

So, here we are. Four countries, eight flights, and 10,000+ miles later, my adventure abroad has come to an end. The last five weeks have gone above and beyond any expectations I may have had, and I could not be more thankful. I have experienced things I thought I would never have the chance to experience. This opportunity allowed me to grow not only as a student, but also as a person. I have become much more independent and patient, but most importantly, I have discovered a sense of wonder and adventure that I did not know I possessed. I would not trade the last five weeks for the world!

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STUDY ABROAD

When I imagined my summer abroad I imagined myself exploring castles, seeing the most beautiful places, and meeting some incredible people. There was only one thing I forgot when dreaming about this trip: they call it “study abroad” or a reason. However, the reality of having to go to class and do research in preparation for our final assignment hit me like a truck this past week.

Going to class and sitting through lectures every morning has definitely not been the highlight of my time here, but it could certainly have been a lot worse… like remembering you have a 250+ page book that needs to be read by tomorrow. That’s happened this week and really reminded me why I’m here in the first place. It is difficult to go from hiking up mountains to taking notes in class and it is even more difficult to turn down offers to go on amazing day trips to stay in and write a paper, but I know that taking my studies here seriously is necessary. I have to keep reminding myself that no matter how good of a time I am having here, I am not vacationing. I am studying.

It is easy to feel like I am wasting my limited time in this gorgeous country when I stay in my apartment to work on homework, but I know that that homework is the whole reason I am here. Luckily, I have classes that are keeping me interested and challenging me intellectually. My professors are also doing a great job relating what we are learning in class to what we are seeing on our day trips. This is definitely helping to make studying feel more worthwhile.

Getting into the Swing of Things

I’ve been in Ireland for nearly two weeks now and I feel like I’m finally getting into the swing of things. I’m a lot more comfortable with the city  I’m living in, I’ve become friends with the others who are studying abroad here, I’m familiar with the local shops, restaurants, and pubs, and I finally feel like I’ve gotten into a routine. I’m settled in my apartment and have been fully immersed into Irish history through the classes I am taking. When I first came to Europe, I was afraid I would never be able to get to this point. I felt like I was living in a unfamiliar area with unfamiliar people, and it was going to stay like that. I’m so thankful that I’m finally starting to feel like Cork is “home.”

During one of our first lectures, our professor told us that there were four stages of studying abroad: 1) An adrenaline and excitement high. 2) Becoming comfortable and getting into a routine. 3) Missing home and wanting to go back. And 4) Never wanting to leave. So far, this statement has proven to be extremely accurate. The first few days we were all so excited and wanted to do everything as soon as we could. I went to the city center at least once a day to shop, eat, and go out. But, because I am studying here, I quickly realized that sleep was necessary in order to make it to class every morning. So, I slowed down a little and began staying in more often. Then came stage #2: working out a routine. I now have my schedule set up in a way that works. Class in the morning, lunch, outing with my class and professors, then free time to do homework, have fun, eat dinner, or take care of a few things around my apartment.

I feel like I’m slowing moving from stage 2 into stage 3. Although I am really comfortable here, I am starting to really miss my friends, family, and cat. I look forward to messages from my parents, Snapchats from my friends, and random texts reminding me of things from back home. I don’t necessarily want to go home, but I am looking forward to being reunited with everyone!

Traveling Woes

When I first decided to study abroad and then do some additional traveling, I began planning everything. We’re talking minute by minute itineraries that included when to eat and sleep. I had everything ready, so there was no way anything could go wrong, right? Not exactly. I very quickly learned that no matter how detailed and well thought out my plans were, something can and will go wrong. Traveling isn’t easy, folks.
Case in point: flight delays. After a particularly long and exhausting flight across the Atlantic, I had to suffer through a nine hour layover in Dublin. Well, it was supposed to be only nine hours anyway. I was anxious and beyond tired, ready to be in London at last so I could finally get some much needed sleep. That’s when disaster struck. Well, not really, but it sure did feel like it. Our flight was delayed by over two hours, and I was not a happy camper. It wasn’t the fact that I had to wait an extra couple of hours, it was the fact that in order to get to my hostel from the airport, I was planning on take the underground. After all, that’s what my itinerary told me to do. The real tragedy came when I realized that the underground stops running around midnight, the same exact time my new flight was expected to land. In a frenzy, I frantically messaged my sister, a seasoned London veteran, asking for alternative ways to our hostel. She gave me a name of a bus and told me where to get off. Relived, I relaxed a little and waited for our plane to finally arrive.
Upon landing in London, I was super stressed. I forgot were my sister told me to get off of the bus, I had no access to the internet for maps, I had no idea where to even find the buses, and I hadn’t slept in what felt like weeks. That’s when a miracle happened. As we walked down the arrivals hallway and come across all the drivers holding signs with names on them, I see a sign with my name on it — MY NAME. It took me a second to realize who it was. It was a good friend from school, Abi, who was already in London. I have never been happier to see a familiar face. It was like when you’re starving and you find that last Pop Tart in the back of a kitchen cabinet that you hid from the rest of your family.
Having already gone through Heathrow and figured out the transportation system, Abi was a huge help. We were quickly able to find the bus and we hopped on. At this point I was delirious due to lack of sleep, and for some reason an hour long bus ride on one of those red, double-decker buses seemed like a good ol’ time – until we realized we had no idea where to get off and we didn’t have a map. My sister told me one stop, Abi found another one online, a woman at the airport had her own suggestion, and the bus driver himself told us something different. We were clueless and had no other choice but to wing it.

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The smiling face I was pleasantly surprised by at the airport.

We decided to just get off at a random stop and to see if we could find our way back to our hostel, but something just didn’t feel right. It was 2am, we were at an abandoned bus stop, and we had no idea what to do. So, I swallowed my pride and hailed my first taxi. Our driver was extremely friendly and told us we picked one of the closest stops possible to our hostel. How that happened, I still have no idea. Ten minutes and £11 later, we were at our hostel. I then fell asleep in the same shirt and pair of jeans I had been wearing for almost 2 days, but I didn’t care. It was the best 4.5 hours of sleep I’ve ever had.
Moral of the story: nothing goes right while traveling, but it’s important to remain calm and improvise. If a delayed flight and a late-night bus adventure are the worst things that happen, then I’d consider this trip a success!

Andrea