Every international student ever will tell you that their time abroad changes them. Naturally, when I chose to travel to Ireland, I expected this would apply to me as well. But I didn’t expect it to begin even before I boarded the plane. From the day I committed to my semester in Dublin, Ireland, my perspective started to shift. Suddenly, every day on the calendar was significant. One less day to plan. One less day to prepare. One less chance to play with my siblings, hug my friends and soak in the Texas sun before I’m an ocean away.
My summer was a ticking clock and I suddenly felt the weight of the each individual moment. I wanted a clean slate and an open mind for the experiences ahead of me. When I arrived in Dublin, the clock started again and my new “Carpe Diem” attitude took a different form. In my brief adulthood, I’ve come to rely heavily on others and a daily routine – caught up in a routine, leaving out any sense of spontaneity. But, I quickly learned that if I wanted to make the most of my here in Ireland, I will have to loosen up a little and try new things. I have not before.
Every day is a day in Ireland I’ll never get back, so why not go for an impromptu walk to town with my roommates or take a day trip to the South of Ireland at the last minute? The best moments this semester have been unplanned and it’s gotten me thinking: what would life be like if I treated every day like a day in Ireland? Of course, the luxury of being unemployed and the lower demands of European-style universities allow for an amount of free time that is not realistically comparable to life at home, but, nonetheless, that quickly approaching departure date in May has forced me to appreciate the impermanence things.
It is also notable that the best memories I have so far are shared with people I would likely never have spent time with if we met at home. Every day I’m in a position to bond with students from different backgrounds with different interests, often the kind of people with whom I would otherwise have no reason to speak. This semester has been full of experiences not available to me elsewhere. I have learned to play the oud in my living room from a musician from Saudi Arabia and been introduced to a world of Samba by a dance student from Rio de Janeiro. Memories like these are my favorite souvenirs because they’ve shown me one very important thing: people are always a worthwhile investment of your time. I’ve been to world-famous places and seen breathtaking views and each of them I could take or leave, but every person I’ve met along the way has had something to teach me about the world or myself that will be a part of me as long as I live.
It seems crazy to think that it took a trip across the Atlantic to see things that were right in front of me all along, but sometimes all it takes is a little change of perspective. A little “fending on your own” to understand yourself and your surroundings. I don’t want to leave this great country, but I am ecstatic to go home and share all my adventures with loved ones.
About the Author – Guadalupe Carnero ’19, Spring 2017 Dublin, Ireland alumna
Guadalupe is a sophomore Mechanical Engineering student, studying abroad in Dublin, Ireland. She originally wrote this article for the Elizabethtown College Diversity Team’s Diversity E-Newsletter. You can view the most recent addition here.
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