Should You Study Abroad? My Experience in Dublin

A+clear+night+sky+on+a+walk+home+from+class.+Photo+By%3A+Bel+Kelly.

A clear night sky on a walk home from class. Photo By: Bel Kelly.

You step off a seven hour flight. You’re jetlagged; you’re five hours off the time you’re used to. You’re not quite three thousand miles of ocean away from home, and you’re in a city over two thousand times bigger than where you’re used to living. What are you feeling?

This is the question I asked myself when I arrived in Dublin this past January at eight in the morning after an overnight flight. The sky was gray, the weather was balmy compared to winter in Vermont, and my taxi driver was extremely talkative. I had it in my head that I should be excited. This was the start of my study abroad, the one that I had been planning since freshman year. But I was exhausted. 

What are you feeling? 

I wasn’t sure. 

Now, three months later, I’m more equipped to answer that question, although it’s still a tricky one. There are a lot of magnificent things about Dublin. 

The weather hangs regularly around 50 degrees, and it doesn’t rain nearly as much as people say. Everything is convenient; you can walk to everything you need, and what you can’t walk to, you can bus to for under two Euro. The student accommodation building here treats adults like adults and isn’t nearly as anal as Champlain’s on-campus housing. 

The Cliffs of Moher. Photo by: Bel Kelly.

There is real beauty to living in such a big city. The glow of population rises off the skyline when the sun goes down; countless cranes, part of the perpetual construction projects going on in the city, cut sharp shapes into the sky. It’s an urban, industrial beauty, but that’s alright. 

Classes abroad in Dublin are easy enough that they seem secondary to exploring the city and celebrating being somewhere new and different. There are essays every couple of weeks, but my workload here has been about half of my workload compared to the Burlington campus. The courses feel almost like high school classes; teaching in Ireland, as I learned, is more lecture-based, and in-class discussions with the level of student involvement I’m used to in Burlington are rare. But, again, classes kind of feel like an afterthought here, at least for me, so it’s not the end of the world that they’re less engaging than I expected they’d be. 

Time, instead, is spent doing urban exploring, bouncing from park to playground past midnight under the orange glow of the streetlamps. The school organizes trips out of Dublin, up to Northern Ireland for a weekend, or west to Cork; it’s a good chance to get out of the city and see more of the country. Drinking is a big part of social culture here, if you drink. Get used to bar hopping local pubs until you find your preferred place — mine is the local punk bar.

My favourite times in Dublin have been spent on the trips the faculty here organizes, bringing us for weekends in the north and west of the country, seeing new villages and coastlines. That or late nights with my friends in our local park, just a ten minute walk from our apartment. We bring a speaker and dance in the skate bowl until it gets too cold, the city lights around us providing a gentle glow. 

As much as there is to do here, I find myself missing home. I miss my friends in Burlington, and I sort of miss living on campus. I definitely miss having a library to study in — we have a study room in our apartment building here, but it’s not the same. These feelings aren’t crippling for me, though; I know that the homesickness for me hasn’t been as bad as it is for some of my friends. There are some people here who genuinely want to go home. 

What are you feeling?

I’m feeling good about being here, overall. I’m definitely glad I decided to study abroad. Maybe the experience is so shockingly new and different for me because I’ve never lived in a city this big before, but I’m enjoying the contrast. I don’t know if I could live somewhere this urban permanently, but it’s so much fun for just a couple of months. 

The city definitely eased me into loving it here; it took its time with me on that. But I haven’t regretted coming over a single time since I arrived. 

I have an internship here directly in my field of study, I’m making easy A’s in all my classes, and I’ve spent a lot of wonderful nights wandering through the city. That’s enough to make me happy.

A graveyard on the Aran Islands. Photo by: Bel Kelly.

It’s worth saying: you need to be pretty independent if you want to have a good time abroad. You’re in charge of grocery shopping and cooking for yourself, you’re in charge of cleaning your apartment, you’re in charge of getting yourself the half hour walk to classes and back. But it’s doable, and for me, it’s been worth it. 

If you can manage it, there’s something powerfully inspiring about being so far from home.