What Brochures Don’t Tell You About Studying Abroad

I never studied abroad as an undergrad–the programs my school offered always seemed pointless to me. Instead of sending us to a foreign school to meet new people or learn a new language, my college had set up satellite campuses around the globe. I’d have the same teachers, the same peers, even the same dorm life, just transplanted to a new city. And since I was an English major, that new city had to be London, because that’s where they offered the classes I needed.

I thought it would be fun to have a change of scenery for a semester, but I had heard many a tale of study-abroad-gone-useless: “I never went to class, I just got drunk all the time”. “I only hung out with other Americans”. “We lived with other English speakers, so we never even bothered to work on our French”.

So I decided to skip the whole semester abroad experience and go all out–after graduation, I’d go to grad school in another country.

I applied to a few universities, one in Dublin, Ireland, two in London, and one south of London in the seaside town of Brighton. Because of rolling admissions, I heard back from the three UK schools almost immediately–accepted! Yes! Having never been to England, however, I wondered how I could possibly choose. So…I flew to London. For the weekend. In a jet lag-induced haze, I wandered the city, taking photos, visiting campuses. I took a train to Brighton and tried to imagine myself at school there. I made my choice. I bought a London guidebook.

On graduation day, I got another letter in the mail. It was from Ireland, and informed me that I had been accepted to the school in Dublin. My well-laid plans were suddenly de-railed–the masters program in Dublin was exactly what I wanted, and the school had a bit more prestige. At the advice of friends, professors, parents, strangers, whoever…I changed my mind.

I moved to Ireland in the Fall.

When I arrived at Dublin airport on a sunny day in late September, my entire life packed in two suitcases, it was the first time I had ever set foot in Ireland. I knew no one, and my program wasn’t supposed to begin for another few weeks. I was entirely alone…

[I’ll be chronicling some of the best and worst experiences here, so stay tuned!]

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