Emma shares a chance encounter on a bus ride that helped her realize how the last four months have taught her more than she anticipated about life, culture, meaningful interactions, and being bold with kindness. She talks about letting go of the rush and routine she was accustomed to back in the US, getting to know people with different opinions, and how she formed an open-minded view to living like a European.
I was late.
A lesson not learned from my time abroad: my relationship with time will never be harmonious.
“I hope that thing is lighter than it looks,” said the old man nodding to my suitcase, as he slowly took a seat on the crowded 10:40 AM bus heading towards the airport. I had high hopes that each of these stops would be speedy; and failed plans of being on the 10:15 AM bus. I would interject with “Oops!” here, but I am not so sure that my timely miscalculations were so regrettable.
“It has wheels, thankfully!” I smiled at the old man. While our interaction only lasted a few bus stops, it brought about sudden realizations regarding my entire journey abroad.
Realization #1 thanks to that old man on the bus: Living like a European.
It took this old man a long time to board the bus. Maybe because he was old, or maybe because there was an even older nun in front of him. Or maybe because he was just living like a European—taking his time… laying back… living in the moment!
While I should have been stressed about missing my flight home, I was instead very amused by the way they both hobbled onto the bus. I realized how much happier and healthier I have felt living within this environment. I have lost my pesky haste, along with the anxiety of rush and routine! Sitting in cafes for hours, mingling amongst the smell of espresso and stimulating conversation, will be something I will miss about Europe. It is this mindset I hope to bring back to the US: taking each moment for what it is, without expectations for the next.
Reflecting on our semester and checking out what we have achieved on the “50 Things to Do In Dublin” jar at Bibi’s.
Realization #2 thanks to that old man on the bus: How to be social again.
The ease in which this old man and I started talking to each other—like old friends—made me realize how much more sociable I have become from studying abroad. Back at school, it seemed like there were no more friends to be made. My perspective was that everyone (including myself) had their established groups, and few were looking for further connections.
Different is beautiful.
Going abroad hit my social reset button! I rediscovered how fun it is to make new friends and meet new people! We become hesitant towards people we do not know—but this fear is so irrational! We may not know their name, but we do know who they are...human! And whether we like it or not—we need each other, and everyone wants friends. Especially when studying abroad! Everyone is in open waters, looking for a lifeboat.
So, throw a buoy—and be bold with your kindness! Take time to learn about people with different opinions and experiences from your own! Listen! Ask questions! Being transported to a whole new world does not always require a boarding pass. Which leads me to…
Realization #3 thanks to that old man on the bus: We do not have “types”.
While the old man and I come from completely different generations and cultures—we got along just fine (even with politics thrown into the bit). Judgment is a terrible habit—however, it is one that is hard to break. While we can never truly stop making stories up in our heads about people we have just met, we can mindfully leave those misconceptions at the doorstep as we enter social interactions.
“Types” are only reserved for Pizza talk around here. The Bernard Shaw-has so many!
Be open minded to all types of people! “You know, Emma…,” one of my flatmates said to me a few days before the semester ended “...at the beginning of this, I really did not think we were going to be friends.” I laughed and replied, enthusiastically, “Me too!” And never happier to be wrong! While at first it seemed our personalities did not jive, we soon found that our conversations were lively and full of laughs. We never judged harshly of each other—we just judged wrongly in ourselves, and the “type” of people we thought we ought to get along with.
Realization #4 thanks to that old man on the bus: After a while, any place becomes home.
After explaining that my suitcase and I were heading back to Massachusetts, I asked the old man if he was from Dublin. “Oh, no…,” he squinted as if looking back in time, “…originally from the west coast. But I have been here for years now. And, you know, after a while, it starts to become your home.”
Our home can be found right under the pink puffs of sky, and just between Erika and Micheal’s shoulders—Griffith College!
Four months ago, these words would have been gibberish to me. Not because of the accent (some of which, I will never understand) but because at that time, the idea of uprooting your whole life and starting it somewhere completely new was so foreign to me. Yet, like the old man, I too had adjusted to life in Dublin and found a community to call home. I can’t give you the exact “how-to”. It just happens. What I can tell you, however, is that you do not have to look very hard.
Just hop on a bus.
And if you miss it…you are never too late. There is always another one just around the corner. There is always time to realize how special the journey can be.
Emma Aulenback is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2019, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A Sociology major at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, she is studying abroad in Dublin this semester.
Emma's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.