The gray sky hung above me as the fresh, cool air whipped around my heavy luggage rolling on the sidewalk. The smell of sea air wafted to me from afar after an almost sleepless night. The eight of us trotted along wearily as our first leg of the journey was complete. For someone who doesn’t like to travel much, Dublin certainly brought me closer to the realization of how close the world is to my fingertips.
Dublin, Ireland was just the first stop on my study abroad trip. I visited over eight different cities scattered across Ireland, sometimes staying for a few nights and sometimes only for a few hours. The constant travel seemed to be something that I didn’t think about much before I left.
The quick pace, the many sites and the original Irish culture was fantastical. The course, COM370 Ireland in Text and Image, gave photography and travel writing a new perspective for me as the three weeks passed in a daze of speedy green.
The first few minutes in Dublin felt like a dream: unable to distinguish the cozy U.S. from the new land. This was how I felt most of the time when I was away from home. The vibrant green everywhere, the fields of cows, people milling about and the small traffic lanes made for culture shock. That feeling lasted for the first couple of days, but the pace kept getting faster as we moved about.
“My goal was to expose us to a lot of different areas,” Dr. Katherine Hughes, the professor of the course, said. We visited several cities and made a circle across the whole of Ireland.
The four-hour time difference didn’t help much in regards to getting oriented to the country. The pacing was hasty, but the desire to learn more about the Irish culture, see historical sites and feel a little more confident kept my heart beating. The traveling quickly took a toll on me and was too fast paced to see everything that I had wished to.
“I called my family,” senior Victoria Madonna said in relation to coping with the pacing of the trip.
The travel was filled with long bike rides, boats, planes, buses, vans and a whole lot of walking. Each new location had so many different wonders in store. From cozy Galway to revving Dublin, the whole of Ireland is teeming with interesting history and pleasant people as long as you don’t act like a tourist.
“I found that I appreciate folks who are willing to be adventurous,” Hughes said. She discovered this when she was on the trip. Finding out more about yourself is a vital process of any trip. Studying abroad allows for digging into personal interests, issues and traits.
“I never expected to see myself traipsing along through Dublin, literally living at Trinity College. I never would have thought I would have done that.” sophomore Rebecca Easton said, one of the students along on the wild journey. Traveling has a way of opening the mind and challenging people to see new sides of themselves.
“Approach it with an open mind. Try to find a destination that you have some interest in,” Hughes said. Going abroad is a large step outside of comfort zones, but this lends itself to the chance of new learning experiences.
Seeing the world through new eyes was the first step to discovering how similar two places of the world can be. Ireland, while greener and rockier than most of the US, has a natural charm that can ease the worries of nervous travel abroad students. The trip brought me closer to the people in my group and helped me see life anew.
As I walked the crowded streets of Dublin alone and navigated my way back to Trinity College, I realized that I was a capable person. If I could do that, then I could do pretty much anything. The whole experience gave me a confidence that no ordinary college course could. This new found poise has helped me become a braver person.
“Pack light,” Hughes said. Going abroad is a tricky business for those who have trouble knowing what to bring.
“Do research on the country you’re going to,” Easton said. Knowing the location that future study abroad students want to travel to will help ensure that a fitting destination is selected. Having this knowledge of the country in advance will also aid in safety and cultural awareness.
The chance to study abroad rarely happens outside of college. The time to go explore the world, gain confidence and learn about new cultures stems from signing up to go. The shifting world won’t stay still long and the chance to see the culture as it is today, vanishes tomorrow. Exploring Ireland is a brand new way to dive into Irish culture and experience the wonders that it has to offer. Studying abroad is possible even for those who aren’t fond of traveling methods.
“I was really reluctant,” Easton said. “I was not nervous, but very apprehensive about going to another country. It took some convincing from my parents…” The whole process was inspiring and challenged those with the reluctance to travel. “I’m really glad that I listened to my parents’ prodding and actually got on a plane.”
“Seeing the world’s greatest features, wherever you go, you can’t just look at them on a screen,” Madonna said. The chance to go out into the world is something that isn’t available to everyone. Seeing pictures of a splendid location doesn’t even begin to touch on what it’s like to actually be at that place. The views become more fantastic and beautiful when you get to see it in person.
My journey ended where it began: Dublin airport. The rainy sky waved goodbye as the over seven-hour flight brought us home. The last moments of those gray skies won’t be forgotten as the rain washed away my old self.