Lessons from Abroad

“Abroad changed me.”

…is the meme of junior year in a nutshell. As people wrap up their study abroad experiences in December or in May, there is always buzz as to how abroad “changed” everyone. The shy person became outgoing; the frazzled person learned how to organize; the uptight person relaxed; the sheltered person developed wanderlust. We joke about it in Apartment 20, but the truth is, I have watched my friends grow. The untrusting have had to rely. The scared have had to face fears. The emotional have had to hold it together. I’m proud and excited for them! It brings me a lot of joy to be there on this journey.

I had some fear coming abroad that I wasn’t going to take anything besides new friends and countries off a bucket list (two great things, I might add). I’m not scared of traveling alone or handling stressful situations. I trust people. I am confident and sure of myself. The conventional “lessons” you hear taken home from time studying abroad felt like things I had either garnered from previous experiences or inherited from my parents (Dad = fearless, level-headed; Mom = logical, strong). Not taking home a trait certainly doesn’t make my time in Cork regrettable, but I like to feel like I am picking up things as I move through this world; growing and evolving into myself. It took some serious reflection, but I do think there are things I am learning/could learn from my semester in Ireland.

Need for stimulation

Not only do I have trouble sitting still, but I have trouble doing anything that doesn’t offer some shot of adrenaline. I love a thrill. Traveling somewhere just to walk the streets? I would rather rent a car, drive to the hidden gems, and end up in crazy shenanigans. I don’t know if this is necessarily a bad thing- I love having stories to tell- but I want to be able to feel peace in the simple things too. I want to find joy in being a casual tourist. I want to find happiness in some stillness, instead of feeling the need for constant stimulation. PS. Audrey & Kate we are still going to find the Indonesian boonies this summer, don’t worry.

Relying on myself as a friend

I love time by myself. I like the independence. But there is something about ending my day on the phone that I’ve grown really attached to. I feel the need to recap my day with a friend; it makes me feel cared for. It’s not something that I want to stop doing, but I do want to be less reliant on it. Paulina, you can recap your day all by yourself. You don’t need the affirmation of anyone else.

Constructing my identity- once again

The hardest part of school last year was the reinvention of my identity after switching roles from first-year. No longer doing Student Government was a real hit to who I saw myself as, and it took awhile to figure out where my new place in my little world would be. Now abroad, I have a similar feeling. I don’t have my Delilahs or my SGA friends or even my group of homies in the same way I did at home. Here, I am with a lot of people who don’t know me in those roles. I once again am going through the process of fitting myself into the context of this new situation. It’s a process I’m not sure will ever get easier, but it does help me in continuing to find myself. Having to teach other people who I am forces me to think deep about who I really am and what I want to be identified with.

This weekend I am going BACK to Spain (thank goodness, bring me sun) to meet up with one of my best friends. It has been a long 4 months; see you so soon, Brendan!

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