Madeline Messina is an official CAPA blogger for summer 2017, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. An Advertising major and a French and Francophone Studies minor at the University of Florida, she is studying abroad in Dublin this semester.
In her last post, Madeline reflects on what she learned in Dublin, and tries to condense it to her top ten takeaways from her experience.
It is surreal to be back home after living my life in Dublin for the past 10 weeks. It seems like everything I see or do reminds me about my journey and the life I was living. I already miss Ireland more than I thought I would. I also miss the amazing people I met along the way. Being back in the States makes me think about all of the things I was lucky enough to experience, and also everything I learned while independently living in another country. I learned an incredible amount of lessons while abroad, and while it’s difficult to narrow it down, I’ve listed my top ten takeaways from the experience that may help a future study abroad student.
1. Take time for yourself to recharge
I learned early on that in order to be able to see and do everything I wanted to, I had to take time out to recuperate from previous travels. We are so busy every day with work, class, homework, and personal travel, that it’s hard to remember to take care of yourself. But it’s important to get an adequate amount of sleep, eat right, and relax every once in a while, to be able to enjoy yourself more.
2. Document the journey
Throughout the entire trip, I kept a journal where I would write down everything I did that day and my thoughts on it. Naturally, however, I did skip some days when my schedule became too hectic. As I was catching up on my journal in St. Stephen’s green, I realize that I had totally forgotten what I had done some days. And I don’t want to forget a thing. That’s why it’s so important to take just 5 minutes out of each day to write everything down and reflect on the day’s journey.
3. Remember to stop and look around
I learned from my Global cities class the art of the flâneur. I learned how it’s important to roam and let your heart guide you to take you to new places and across new paths. Quite often, I would forget that I was in Ireland and forget to take everything in. That is why it is vital to remind yourself to look around and notice every detail so you can remember even once you’ve gone back home.
4. Don’t check off boxes on a list
When talking with some of my friends, what often came up was “Oh we should go to ______, just to say that we’ve been there.” While “touristy” places were great to see, it does not do to make plans based on other’s opinions of what you should do. You should never do something just to do it and check it off of your list. Do what drives you, and if that’s a touristy place, then great, but if not, don’t waste the precious time.
5. Go off the beaten path
Some of the best experiences I had were taking the “path less traveled,” as Robert Frost put it. There is something very Irish about the untouched wilderness. I definitely felt like more of an adventurer when I took my own way instead of where I read to go online.
6. Try something new every day
I saw myself slipping into routine while in Ireland, and that scared me. What I learned is to seldom do the same thing twice. Whether that be a different route to work, coffee shop to study at, or place to eat at for dinner.
7. Travel on your own
Sometimes my friends wouldn’t want to do what I wanted to do, and it took some time for me to realize that I should just go on my own. Traveling by myself opened up a world of possibilities for me. I could do anything I wanted to do and go anywhere I wanted to go. It has been one of the most freeing things I have done, and I have seen so many more incredible things for it.
8. Be brave
This kind of goes along with trying new things and travelling on your own. I realized that you have to be courageous and strong-willed in order to see as much as you can and live as richly as you can. Without being brave, I don’t think I would have went off alone, tried new things, or met new people. In today’s age of social media, I think a lot of people have problems communicating with strangers, but getting to know the people is a huge part of getting to know the culture.
9. You can’t see it all
Unfortunately, 10 weeks is just not long enough to see everything Ireland has to offer. Even a lifetime would be too short to explore everything I want to see there. Realizing that was tough, but it helped me prioritize my travelling agenda. When I come back to Ireland, I know exactly what I want to see next.
10. Adopt the culture
I feel like I absorbed the Irish culture so much that I won’t be able to go back to how I was before the trip, and that’s good. I can happily say that while I’ve been back home, I’ve brought some Irish customs with me and started to share them with my friends and family. I think this is the best way to remember my trip and carry it with me wherever I roam.
I’ve left a piece of my heart in Ireland, but I think Ireland has left something in me too. With me I will take every lesson I learned and every memory I cherish. This in no way is goodbye forever, but as the Irish say, slán go fóill, or goodbye for now.
Madeline's journey continues every Wednesday so stay tuned.