Late last week, I was asked by friends that run the Springfield College newspaper to do a guest entry about my semester abroad! It was extremely difficult to summarize my entire semester into less than 600 words, but I gave it a shot! Click here to check out the SC Student website. They’re all great writers, and I’m so impressed with the improvements made in the past couple years! Below is the original article I wrote, those at Springfield can physically read a slightly edited version in this week’s newspaper =)
I enjoy a challenge, who doesn’t!? By stepping onto an international flight this past August, I accepted my biggest challenge yet: four months in Ireland, the land of “gingers”, shamrocks, and Guinness! For the semester, I was abandoning my family and friends; rusty, yet trusty Honda Civic; American junk food; beloved book collection; and comfort zone. As I left America, the jet soared over my small town in Connecticut, and from my leather airplane seat, I gazed past the taunting emergency sick-bag and out into the sea of rolling peach and coral clouds. The sunset-streaked window fogged with my warm exhalations as I anxiously scanned the ant-sized houses for my familiar backyard. Realizing I wouldn’t see the CT Naugatuck Valley again until Christmas, I spontaneously considered skydiving and ditching the flight towards the University of Limerick. Then my ears released the pressure of the plane ascending, and logic thankfully kicked in.
Leaving New England and jumping into different cultures I’d previously only watched or read about has been the best thing that’s ever happened to me! Most of my time in Europe has been spent traveling everywhere I’ve been able to, meeting various travelers and locals, and swapping stories. Like I said earlier, I love a challenge, and predictably, the obstacles I set didn’t end simply after arriving in Limerick; since landing, I’ve only spent a grand total of three weekends on campus. I’ve met my wonderful Irish family, and attended my cousin’s wedding where we partied for a mere 17 hours. I’ve taken seven trips around Ireland, been to England, and traveled four predominantly non-English speaking countries including the Czech Republic, Spain, Italy, and France. I’m happily able to reflect that I’ve made the most of my travel opportunities! While the relatively inexpensive and convenient traveling experiences are exciting and eye-opening, there of course have been some downsides: experiencing European health care and waiting eight hours for stitches, missing a flight and being re-routed to Germany during an 18 hour travel day, feeling the pang of periodic homesickness, and I almost forgot about school! I’ve been able to come to terms with the fact that this semester was never meant to be solely about formal education, and it’s obvious I’ve learned much more outside the classroom. “It’s about the experience as a whole, not my grades”, I’ve been saying, but as Oscar Wilde noted, “Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes”. The school aspect has not been fun, to put it lightly, and my advisers will soon see that my transcript is dreadfully ugly, but hey!, I worked hard to get here right?
Now that my semester abroad is coming to a close, I realize I cannot properly describe the priceless experience of what I’d have missed had I chosen to leap from 30,000 feet rather than land in Ireland. There are so many great places to see and awesome people to meet in the world, that I fear I’ve contracted the incurable epidemic of traveling! Tours of famous cities don’t come with fun and fond memories unless the people along for the ride make it a meaningful experience. I’ve seen countless iconic cites and met absolutely amazing new friends, and the quote “Turns out not where but who you’re with that really matters” from Dave Matthews Band still stands true. I honestly wouldn’t trade this semester for anything and will never forget my adventures abroad. Looking back, I’m so grateful that some inner burst of courage made me take the leap across the pond to Ireland.