Katherine Keatley is a psychology student from Texas, studying abroad at the University of Limerick. Here, she explores the changes in perspective that have come about through her experience studying abroad in Ireland. Apply to Study Abroad in Ireland for free now.
Any former international student will tell you that their time abroad changed them. Naturally, when I chose to travel to Ireland, I expected this would apply to me as well. But I didn’t expect it before I even boarded the plane! From the day I committed to my semester at the University of Limerick, my perspective started to shift. Suddenly, every day on the calendar was significant. One less day to plan. One less day to prepare. One less chance to play with my nieces, hug my friends, and soak in the Texas sun before I’m an ocean away. My Summer was a ticking clock, and I suddenly felt the weight of each individual moment. I felt the need to tie up any loose ends, and not leave anything unsaid. I wanted a clean slate and an open mind for the experiences ahead of me.
When I arrived in Limerick, the clock started again, and my new “Carpe Diem” attitude took a different form. In my brief adulthood, I’ve come to rely heavily on routine. My obsessive time management leaves little room for spontaneity. But I quickly learned that if I want to make the most of my time here, I will have to loosen my grip on my schedule a little.
Every day is a day in Ireland I’ll never get back, so why not go for an impromptu walk to town with my roommates, or join a day trip to Dublin at the last minute? The best moments this semester have been unplanned.
And it’s gotten me thinking, what would life be like if I treated every day like a day in Ireland? Of course, the luxury of being unemployed and the lower demands of European style universities allow for an amount of free time that is not realistically comparable to life at home. But nonetheless, that quickly approaching departure date in December has forced me to appreciate the impermanence of things. John Lennon put it best when he said “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”
It is also notable that the best memories I have so far are shared with people I would likely never have spent time with if we met at home. As a part of the International Education Division at UL, I’m in a position to bond with other students from different backgrounds with different interests, often the kind of people I would otherwise have no reason to speak to. I’ve learned self-defense in my living room from a rower from Massachusetts, and been introduced to the world of Lush cosmetics by an art student from New York. I’ve learned more about Irish traditional music from a Texan whistle player than from my music professors, and debated the origins of the Old Testament with a German standup comedian. Memories like these are my favorite souvenirs because they’ve shown me one very important thing: people are always a worthwhile investment of your time. I’ve been to world-famous places and seen breathtaking views, and each of them I could take or leave. But every person I’ve met along the way has had something to teach me about the world or myself that will be a part of me as long as I live.
It seems absurd that it took a trip across the Atlantic to see things that were right in front of me all along. But sometimes all it takes is a little change of perspective.
If you haven’t studied abroad and have the chance, let me join the ranks of veterans and repeat what so many told me: do it for the experience.
There are so many facets to this world we all share. If you think it’s beautiful there, come have a look at it from the other side!
Katherine Keatley is a study abroad student at the University of Limerick, majoring in Psychology. Follow Katherine’s personal study abroad blog!
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