For the first semester of my college career, I studied abroad.
Yes! Without ever stepping foot in a classroom or moving into a freshman dorm, I studied abroad.
After high school graduation, I was excited to wrap up one chapter of my life and embark on the next–college. While applying to colleges, I never imagined it possible to begin my college career beyond the opposite coast (because west coast = best coast). Months of essay writing, campus tours and ACT prep had finally paid off, and when I found out I had been accepted into Northeastern University, I was ready to start anew in Boston.
A new coast. New classes. New friends. New experiences. And of course, new boys 😉
As I read my admissions letter, I learned that my acceptance to Northeastern came with one condition: for my first semester, I was required to study abroad. In August of 2015, while many of my friends left California to begin college out of state, I left to begin school at University College Dublin (UCD) in Dublin, Ireland. In the four short months that I was abroad, I still cannot muster the words to express how life altering the experience truly was. But I’ll give it a shot.
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Traveling to foreign country is a great experience, but living in foreign country is much different. As obvious as it sounds, when you live abroad, that place becomes your home, and those around you become your family.
My first month in Dublin whisked by as I juggled college classes, enjoying Dublin’s night life and assimilating to living in another country. Like a sapling, I anchored my roots at UCD, where I lived on campus in Belgrove Residences. As I settled and became more comfortable with my surroundings, group outings into the city center soon turned into solo trips, where I’d often visit my favorite restaurants, coffee shops and clothing stores (#penney’s). I even started to branch out and explore sites in Ireland outside of Dublin, and was able to travel to places like Galway, Kilkenny, Causey Farm, Trim Castle, the Cliffs of Moher, Aran Islands, and Howth with my study abroad group.
Day by day, I continued to integrate into Ireland’s capital city and became further immersed in Irish culture. Building friendships with the other UCD students and Dublin locals unearthed hidden gems around the city that I never would have found by myself. I even started to see someone during my time abroad, broadening my scope of what life in Dublin truly is like outside of just studying abroad there.
After touring around Ireland and discovering RyanAir, an airline that only services flights within Europe, my travels extended to places outside of Ireland. During my time abroad, I took trips to Edinburgh, Oslo, Barcelona, Paris and Amsterdam with friends. Although each trip was memorable in its own unique way, nothing beat returning to the comfort and familiarity of Dublin.
Each month that passed marked another month closer to going back home. Through the struggles of exams, illnesses and navigating foreign cities without cellphone service, my friends and I had grown to rely on each other, creating unique friendships based on complete trust in one another. Although I only spent four months in Dublin, I can confidently say that it has become my second home, and leaving back to America is never a final goodbye. Studying abroad as a freshman was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity that has provided me experiences, memories and relationships–both American and Irish–to last a lifetime.
Interested in hearing more about my study abroad experience? Check out this video!