Christmas is coming so let’s wrap things up…

‘Twas the end of the semester and all across town, foreign students began packing in preparation for being home-bound. Their final exams taken with no longer a care, in hopes that in this weird system their grade might be spared. When new friends say goodbye tears are bound to be shed, as plans for future visits now dance in their heads… Christmas jumpers by kids and adults are now worn, and in sparkling lights city centre is festively adorned. A piece of my heart I’ll leave in the city, not to ever return would sure be a pity. I’m sure I’ll be sad as I fly out of sight, but I’ll be happy to greet my family & friends with a “Happy Christmas to all and to all a goodnight!”

It may not hit me until I’m on my 9 hour flight back to the states or until I’m sitting in my room in Minnesota or even until I’ve been moved in back at Iowa State for a week just how much I love this country and how much I enjoyed my time here. As people slowly leave for winter break, I’ve begun to feel those bittersweet emotions of leaving this beautiful country and great city while being excited for Christmas with my family and seeing my friends from home and school again.

This semester may not have met all of my expectations, but my time travelling abroad has taught me some things about myself and the world. I recommend not going into your own study abroad experience with any expectations at all – I didn’t get as involved with societies like I had been planning nor did I actually acquire any real Irish friends, which was probably the biggest let down. However, I strongly believe that everything happens for a reason and the way my time here in Cork and travelling the UK and Europe played out is exactly what I needed to learn and grow from this experience. I did make some great American friends from coast to coast as well as heard many stories on various planes, buses, and hostels of girls from all over the world who have been travelling for months mostly by themselves or working as an Au pair in a non-English speaking country. I admire all of these ladies that I’ve met for having the courage and bravery to venture out on their own for such long periods of time.

So as I wrap up my time here in Ireland I’ll leave you all with some bits of advice and lessons I’ve learned:

  • If you’re living/studying in a country with a wet/cloudy climate and minimal daylight hours, I highly recommend a trip to a sunny & warm country – Spain is especially nice.
  • Umbrellas are useless in high winds. Don’t even bother. Invest in a nice waterPROOF jacket (thanks, Mom)
  • Fuzzy socks are necessary no matter where you are. A comfy pair of pj pants or sweatpants are worth the space they take up in your suitcase.
  • Kopparberg Pear Cider. ‘Nough said.
  • If you really like something, buy it. Especially when in foreign country markets where you might not have the chance to come back.
  • That being said, money spent on experience is money well spent. Never regret spending a little extra on a trip that could be your favorite memory. Ever.
  • Use every weekend wisely. Explore as much as possible.
  • Explore the city you’re living in. Don’t just go to class & travel other places, you obviously chose that place for a reason.
  • Actually study and do your schoolwork/reading. It’ll probably be way different than the US system but it is called STUDY abroad, isn’t it? (But don’t let that get in the way of you enjoying your semester.)
  • Learn a language (even if it’s practically dead; my Irish Gaelic phrases will still be fun to use when no one understands what I’m saying.)
  • Things will be stolen/lost/broken/stained/misplaced. It’s not the end of the world, it’s just money and stuff that can be easily replaced. Life Lesson: Stop being so materialistic, cherish experience and people more than your stuff.
  • A budget would probably be useful (I didn’t make one so I can’t really lecture on that subject…)
  • It is possible to like coffee & tea even if you swear you hated it before. (Written while drinking a mocha)
  • Call/Skype your parents. They like hearing from you.
  • International cell phone plans are your friend.
  • Nothing beats relaxing & laughing with friends in a pub while listening to traditional Irish music (any night of the week).
  • Just because you’re in an English-speaking country doesn’t mean you won’t struggle to understand people sometimes (Cork accents are STRONG).
  • RyanAir isn’t the worst thing in the world, just so long as your bag is the right size and you print your boarding pass before going to the airport. (They boast low FARES, not low FEES.)
  • No one knows where Iowa is, so don’t get offended if people think you’re from Ohio.
  • Time really does fly when you’re having fun. Enjoy every moment of your time abroad. It’s really a special experience.

I’ll leave it there for now! Thanks so much to everyone who has followed along with my adventures this semester! I may post a couple more accounts of my travels once I’m back in the States but in the mean time, Nollaig Shona, Happy Christmas!

Cheers,

Alyssa

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