Anyone who knows me knows that this isn’t my first trip to Dublin. I came six years ago before I started my freshman year of high school. During that nineteen-day experience, I developed a love for Europe and its culture. This love burned so brightly that I was ready to come back long before I returned to the States.
When it came time to discuss travel abroad plans with my academic adviser in Champlain College, I began making a list of all the countries I wanted to visit but would also be comfortable living in. Now, my adviser is pretty well-known for pushing his advisees out of their comfort zone, and originally, he tried to talk me out of coming to Dublin as he believed it maybe wasn’t going to be challenging enough for me. I’d already been there so I already had some level of comfort. But I successfully argued to go.
There is something beautifully different about studying abroad in a country versus coming on a summer high school tour. My first trip to Ireland was lovely, but it wasn’t my trip. I didn’t get to decide where to go or what I was going to do. I was just along for the ride. And yeah, that was fun but this trip is sooooo much better and sooooo much more than that.
This is my trip. Yeah, I’m taking classes but ultimately, I get to do what I want when I want. And that kind of freedom is necessary to immerse yourself in a culture. I didn’t have that level of freedom the first go-round.
I flew to Dublin by myself, got through customs by myself, and made it to the meeting place by myself. Instead of hopping on a coach bus and driving straight to a tourist hotspot, I got in a taxi and headed to my apartment.
I really love that this time around I have a place to call “home.” It’s a bit off the beaten path which is perfect for me. I love city environments, but I also like having some place quiet and chill to lay my head.
Living in Dublin for the past month has been the blissful honeymoon with adulthood that I didn’t know existed. I don’t have a food plan which means I have to fend for myself. Back in Burlington, I found myself constantly eating out and thought that I might slip into familiar spending habits here. Thankfully that’s not the case. I go grocery shopping weekly and make my own meals. It’s definitely not as bad as I thought it would be.
I get to come and go as I please (when I’m not required to be in class of course). This gives me time to sit and relax in St. Stephen’s Green. I vividly remember my first trip to the Green. I was ecstatic because it was the first place in Ireland where I could actually be in the Crayola crayon green grass. I happily skipped onto a patch of grass and collapsed in near snow angel form with patriotic Mickey. Now I spend hours at a time sitting on a park bench and writing whatever flows while I’m there.
So what I’m getting at is that you shouldn’t let an old, pre-college trip stop you from spending a semester abroad in a somewhat familiar place. You’ve grown as individual, and the city that you’re returning to has changed as well. Dublin is a bustling city so full of life. I didn’t give it its due credit my first time here. I was a city girl whose mind had not yet fully opened.
Now that I’m back, I can see how it’s not that much different than Philly. It has the ridiculous inner-city traffic, the crowds of people commuting from one place to another, and a thriving sense of city pride.
And you might just have a similar revelation when you study abroad.