For many students, studying abroad is their first time traveling outside of the country. Therefore, there are many excitements and obstacles to uncover the first few weeks the students arrive. In this blog, I want to highlight what I found the most positively and negatively surprising to better help students navigate settling in to Dublin, Ireland.
a. In Dublin, you’ll never be bored for the four months you’re here. Before you receive your Leap Card, you have to walk everywhere pretty much. Which may sound intimidating to some, however, there are no hills like there are in Burlington. Therefore, the walks are quite enjoyable and allow you to meet the locals and enjoy the view while exploring a new city! There are so many routes to take to any destination and the more you walk around and explore, the more you’ll continue to find. Sometimes, the best experiences are the ones that are not planned.
b. The city is full of not only beautiful building structures, but also a multitude of nature-filled parks. Make it a goal to make it to as many parks as the city has to offer to find your favorite relaxation spot to get some fresh air and vitamin d!
c. There’s also a lovely balance between tourist spots and areas that locals hang out. Sometimes, it feels nice to be around other tourists so that it doesn’t feel like you’re standing out constantly for taking pictures or being a bit lost with your whereabouts. Therefore, these areas can make you feel a little more at home. However, it is extremely important to indulge yourself in the new culture as much as you can in order to have the most meaningful experience with your study abroad time in Dublin. It may feel like you’re getting out of your comfort zone, but that’s the goal. Open yourself up to as many different cultures and experiences as possible.
2. Being treated like an adult
a. This aspect is one of my favorite feelings. When arriving in Dublin for me, it was my first time being fully independent. However, no body treated me that way. Everyone I encountered talked to me as if I have been a grown adult for years and talked to me with as much respect as they would anyone older than me. It made me feel more human than ever. In the states, it is often not until you are 21 that you are treated like a ‘real’ adult. The community here is constantly looking to help others. The golden rule (treat others as you want to be treated) truly shows in Dublin.
3. Grocery store low prices
a. There is a grocery store called Lidl directly across the street from Highlight where you’ll be living. The prices here are wonderfully low. Additionally, there are local markets extremely close as well. The prices at these local markets are slightly higher, but still wonderful prices for fresh food and helping out the local community. Therefore, groceries should not be much of a financial burden luckily!
4. Public Transit
a. Once receiving a Leap Card, the busses and trains around Dublin become super easy and cheap to navigate. I’d recommend walking places as much as possible, but I know as a student sometimes it feels nice to just hop on a bus and get to where you need to go and theres nothing wrong with that! So, take advantage of both options.
5. Meeting new people within the program and in the community
a. Studying abroad opens more opportunities to meet new people than any other time in your life will. You’ll be living with different people from your school within your apartment, but there will also be many other study abroad students from different schools living within the highlight center that you will meet. Meeting new people is a vital part of immersing yourself into the culture. Make sure you take every chance you get to ask about irish history and ask people about themselves to learn local perspectives.
6. Beautiful Weather
a. Something I was not expecting at all (which is my fault due to lack of research) is how hot and sunny Dublin is for the first few weeks of the fall semester. I packed no open-toed shoes and no summer outfits at all because I was mainly expecting cooler weather with cloudy and rainy conditions due to what I’ve heard before of Ireland. There has definitely been on and off flash rain showers, but I definitely miss my Tevas and tank tops that I wish I brought! The weather has pleasantly surprised me with being able to soak in vitamin d to help before the gloomy winter arrives.
1. A lot of responsibility
a. It’s important to be able to make good decisions when in the city. Using Google Maps is to be expected when first navigating your way around a new place. However, the app is only focussed on taking you the quickest way, not the safest. Try to do some research of where you are planning on going before doing so. Alternatively, if you feel like you’re heading to a bad part of town or an alley– especially at night— trust your gut and go a different way. The map will readjust or call an uber/taxi. You always need to be aware of your surroundings. A way to help make your way around town without your phone, is to pay attention to the tall or unique landmarks (ex. churches) to aid you in recognizing what part of town you are in. The river and its bridges are also great tools to use in reminding you where you are and where you need to go.
b. Be prepared to manage your money. Being in a new city, there’s so many temptations of consumerism like new restaurants, shops, tours, etc. All of these things are great to spend money on, and in fact, I recommend you doing so in order to consume as much culture as possible. However, implement a budget within the first two weeks. Allow yourself to get a grasp of what things cost in the area and then plan what you will allow yourself to spend money on and how often. A huge thing to consider is this will be the cheapest time in your life to travel Europe. So cooking dinner a few nights for yourself instead of eating out could literally be a plane ticket to explore somewhere new in Europe. Allow yourself to be prepared to make those hard decisions before it’s too late and you don’t have a choice.
c. You have to eat. This one may sound silly. However, I have found when being on your own for the first time, you are much more likely to forget to eat. This can be due to the new workload you have or not having someone make you food which may happen when you are at home or on a meal plan at school. Creating your own meal plan is a great way to help your body get in a routine of eating three times a day and will lift the weight off your shoulders of deciding every single day what you want to eat. This also can help with budgeting as mentioned previously.
d. For many students, this may be your first time cleaning for yourself, and more importantly, for other people. You share a common space and a kitchen in these apartments with seven other people. It is highly important to clean up after yourself in order to show respect to your roommates and the apartment itself. Nobody wants to cook or hangout in a dirty kitchen full of someone else’s mess. So always remember to be mindful to avoid any tension.
e. Managing time has been my most difficult responsibility since arriving in Dublin. I am currently in the midst of balancing phone calls back home, time for myself, time for my friends, time for schoolwork, and for eating. A lot of these things you may assume come naturally, but when in Dublin they sometimes seem to be more like things you need to check off of a to do list. It can feel this way because you don’t have a routine down yet and there are so many opportunities happening right in front of you. This makes it hard to balance the now and the things you were used to back home like talking to your friends or parents every day. Something I have been telling myself to help is that I don’t have to say yes to everything. I don’t have to say yes to every outing i’m invited to nor every hangout. I love being with people and having fun, but I find that if I haven’t given myself enough alone time or haven’t finished enough assignments before hanging out with friends, I end up not having much fun at all because my mind is preoccupied on what I haven’t done. Therefore, try your best to figure out what type of routine works best for you, and if you can’t, it will come naturally, I promise.
a. This is something that should be expected at the start of every new school year. However, this time you may not have your parents or maybe your normal roommate or friend near by to help take care of you. You’ll always have an RA willing to help you at anytime, but it’s good to be proactive in taking care of yourself when you start to feel sick. This includes taking vitamins, having ibuprofen or an equivalent on hand, and staying hydrated!
With all of this in mind, Dublin is already the best experience I’ve ever had and it’s only been two weeks. I know it will only go up from here. I wanted to provide you with these tips to best prepare you for things you may have not thought about before you arrive in this beautiful city to best help you settle in. Below I will include pictures of the highlights of my first experiences here during my time abroad to help inspire you even more to pursue this opportunity.