Lindsay Robinson is a Study Abroad student at the University of Limerick, from Colorado USA. Here, she discusses the various stages of adjusting to life in Ireland, and offers her advice to incoming students starting their study abroad adventure.
Dear study abroad students…
…if you are in the same boat I am (in a very unfamiliar country traveling by yourself with no personal connections), then there are probably a lot of questions you have. You might know where you’re living, and where you’re going to school, and if you’re really ahead, you might have an idea about where you might want to travel, but as soon as you show up to the Shannon or Dublin airport, you are going to be sitting there asking yourself “now what?”
First of all, start talking to people.
There WILL be other study abroad students on your flight. Find them. Talk to them. You might not necessarily become best buddies with these people, but at least you’ll recognize some faces around campus or have some chums to go to stables with in the coming nights. Also, talk to the international ambassador(s) that is arranging the bus ride for you back to school. This will not be the last time you see them, and these people know everything and are really cool.
You will then arrive at your house/dorm/apartment/garbage can, and maybe start to unpack.
You will stare at your bleak white walls and be sad about the prison you’re living in. BRING PICTURES OR A POSTER OR A MAP OR A TAPASTRY or anything with a splash of color to make your living space for the next 15 weeks fab. But also don’t waste valuable luggage space with tons of decorations. Be smart. On slightly unrelated note, whatever you’re packing, it’s more than you need. I had a friend who brought a backpacking backpack worth of stuff for the 15 weeks in Ireland and 3 weeks of backpacking after and she did just fine with that amount of stuff.
It’s now the week before school even starts, and you have no purpose…
“…if you thought studying abroad would be comfortable, I’m sorry… it’s not, but that’s actually the best part about it.”
…no plans, nothing going on except the desperate attempt to make friends and to figure out vaguely where things are around campus and the city. I have no idea how to make friends other than putting yourself out there in a sort-of uncomfortable way, but if you thought studying abroad would be comfortable, I’m sorry… it’s not, but that’s actually the best part about it. Being out of your element and learning to ask for help and adjust to a new environment is a beautiful thing and WILL happen while you are abroad, and don’t ever be sad about that.
Next thing you should do is go for a walk.
Find the stellar paths that are within spitting distance of campus, keep walking on them and find one of the two castles (which are rad) that we have “on campus”, figure out where the bus stop is and know that the 304 will take you into town, and maybe figure out the other busses you might want to take. Also, find the nearest grocery store, because being nourished is important. Also if you’re younger than 21, celebrate your pseudo 21st birthday and buy yourself some beer! Also, call your mom. Call your mom before something goes wrong and you need her help. Call her and tell her you’re alive, and where you live is beautiful, and don’t tell her you climbed a 500 year old castle with half-broken, wobbly steps (maybe tell your dad, but not your mom).
Lastly, love and embrace the culture.
The Irish people are very friendly, and talk really quickly, and have funny sayings, and will randomly start chanting when they’re excited, and play obscure sports but you will learn all this very soon. Be ready for some major jet lag, and to be exhausted for the first week you’re here, but know that it will be worth it (in retrospect it will be I promise). And if you feel lonely and confused, and uneasy, just know that you are absolutely not alone and embrace the discomfort, because I promise you will miss it when you’re gone.
Thanks to Lindsay for sharing her story with us!