When home isn’t ‘home’ anymore

There’s a proverb I recently read that states, “Change is the breath of life.” I don’t necessarily like cheesy quotes, but there is some truth in this. There comes a period in life when the only thing constant is change. There is no backwards, only forwards. 

As a twenty-something (I really hate that term), I’m finding my world shift around me the in the most drastic of ways. I’ve always been the the type to cycle through different interests and passions, but within the past few years, I’ve felt myself stabilize.

Travel. Books. Adventure. These are the things that make me feel most alive. 

When you move across the world, not only do your surroundings change, but so does your mindset. The place where you grew up isn’t home anymore. Yes, your roots are there, but your life is somewhere else. Your feet are planted firmly on the ground, without uncertainty. You have established a life for yourself. There are people that love you in your hometown, but they must understand, it’s time to move forward.

Going back to visit is an odd sensation. People are waiting with eager smiles to hear about life overseas, but you find that even with practice, words won’t do it justice. 

Family members ask, rather urgently, “Do you think you’ll move there? Permanently?” 

The answer of course is yes, but only in time can these sorts of plans be revealed. 

I think my bags have been packed from the day I was born. After seeing so much of the world at a young age, I felt somewhere deep down that I was supposed to be somewhere else. For years, I thought I’d end up somewhere like New York. I didn’t know I’d find love and a home in Dublin, Ireland. Now that I’m there, in that great Somewhere, I feel myself exhale for what feels like the first time in a while. 

I worked hard to be where I am now. I should celebrate once in a while. 

Coming back to your hometown after living abroad is always an adjustment. Your world feels smaller again. Yes, there are the ones that love you unconditionally, but things change. Life doesn’t stop for anyone. At some point, even the ones you loved struck out on their own. It’s your turn, too.

I don’t believe that your twenties are your “selfish years” like that popular Facebook posts asserts. At this age, we care deeply about our loved ones and the places we leave behind. It’s not that we are selfish, it’s that people my age who uproot themselves so wholly and completely want a life that’s their own. 

Personally, I want one that’s not defined by who I was years ago. I want to be the person I was meant to be, even if that means putting distance between the present and the past.

The place you called home for years isn’t home anymore, and that’s okay. You may feel like a stranger in your own bedroom. It’s a sign of life moving forward. Nothing is meant to stay the same. 

One of my favorite quotes from my favorite book reads, “the only way out of the labyrinth of suffering is to forgive.” Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Let yourself grow, and don’t hold back. 

5 Reasons to Date a Girl Who Travels 

There are many advantages to dating a girl with a serious case of wanderlust. Someone with a free spirit will always keep you on your toes, while they take you by the hand and show you the world. Here are the top five reasons to date a girl who travels. 

She’ll Keep You Guessing

A girl who travels is someone who is always moving and on the lookout for the next adventure. You can never truly read her mind,  because mentally she’s always dreaming of somewhere else. She’ll surprise you with her stories of adventure, and inspire you with her well-thought out plans to see new and faraway lands. Your significant other who travels will be the first in line to try new things, and take you along for the ride. 

She’s independent and strong

A girl who travels is headstrong and confident. She has seen corners of the world, traversed new cities by herself, and is capable of exploring new and exotic locations. She’s not the kind of girl that will be clingy and needy, because she has her sights set on goals. You won’t catch a girl who travels waiting around hopelessly for a call or a text– she can hold her own, but show you her world, too. 

She’ll teach you new things

A girl who travels has seen many sights has so much to share with you. Whether she’s gotten hopelessly lost in Russia, or eaten a every cheese shop in Amsterdam, she’ll have stories that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat. A girl who travels wants to show you the world that she’s so excited about seeing. She can tell you phrases in new languages, and guide you with her impeccable sense of direction in a foreign city. 

She’s not into material things

A girl who travels cares more about memories than things. She knows that life can only be measured in moments. No need to spend money on her or buy her a fancy dinner, time with you is more than enough. 

She’s passionate 

A girl who travels is passionate about more than just travel. A girl who travels has genuine intellectual curiosity and wants to learn new things. Most importantly, she’ll care for you deeply. She will love you fiercely, as she catches both flights and feelings in new places. 

The ever-changing concept of ‘home’ for travelers 

For some, seeing the world is not just an option– it’s a necessity. 

Through the past few years of traveling, I have determined that the concept of home is always transforming. For adventure-seekers like myself, the very definition of home doesn’t necessarily exist. When you’re constantly in motion, you learn to make a home within yourself, the people you meet, and the new places you fall in love with. 

We hear all the time that home is where the heart is. The reality is that I’ve left my heart in so many places in the past few years of studying abroad. I have seen over 15 countries in three years, and would argue that I’ve left a little piece of myself in each one, with some pieces larger than others. Ireland, for example, has served as my stationary constant for the past three years. It is where I fell in love with learning again, as well as the place I became inspired to see as much of the world as I can. I feel most alive, secure, and confident in Ireland. I am prepared to make my return to my favorite place, with plans to stay indefinitely. 

Cliffs of Moher, September 2015

When I studied abroad for the first time three years ago, I was truly a lost soul. I spent my time controlled by my anxiety, obsessing over small details and having difficulty making friends. Making the leap to study abroad in the summer following my freshman year of college took all the courage I’d never know I had within me. This of course led to a second round of study abroad, this time, for a full academic year.

In these transformative times of adventure, I found that each city or country I visited reminded me a little of home. I had the privilege of seeing mothers playing with young children in Portugal, watching families leave places of worship together in Italy, and dancing along the shores of France among families and couples alike. No location is the same of course, but wherever you find yourself most captivated will stay with you, even long after you depart. If you’re lucky, you become a part of this place, even just for a second. 

Sligo, Ireland, November 2015

This changing definition of home is undeniably beautiful, but also terrifying. To those that don’t embark on a nomadic existence, even temporarily, the idea of securing a home within yourself and new lands will sound daunting. Eventually, this becomes second nature. The goodbyes before you depart are no longer scary, they are a part of this life you chose. There will always be strong connections where you leave behind, but your bags have been packed since the day you were born. You know you were never meant to stay in one place. 

Six honest feelings you have before moving abroad 

In exactly one month from today, I will be arriving in Ireland to start a new chapter– graduate school. Of course, I am excited, but there are a number of other emotions that accompany a transatlantic move. There are many joys of starting a new adventure, but there are a few anxieties that arise, too. Here are six honest feelings you’ll have before moving to a new country.

Slight Panic

I’ll admit, some days the panic feels more than “slight.” There are immigration forms to fill out, visas to apply for, and currency to exchange. You’ll have to find health insurance, a place to live, and so much more. Even though you knew this change was coming, it suddenly feels like it’s approaching quickly. In my years of abundant travel, I have learned not to necessarily believe in fate. However, I believe in good things happening to the right people who take the right chances. Your situation will fall naturally into place, if you work for it. 


Moving to a new place is undeniably thrilling. There will be new sights, smells, and food to try. You’ll get to know differentpeople, cultures, and ways of life. This is a wonderful time, and it’s important to savor every minute of it. On the days when you feel most excited and looking forward to the future, hold onto those feelings. They will come in handy during times of panic and anxiety that come with the territory. 


This is the first time you’ll truly be on your own. You’re going off into a whole new world, and it’s unlikely you’ll have the same guidance you received at home. This is both wonderful and can truthfully be downright terrifying. You’ll be in charge of yourself, and you won’t have people to answer to. Moving is a true test of your responsibility, your drive to succeed, and your ability to adapt in new situations. If you take the necessary steps to adjust smoothly and safely, you will surely thank yourself in years to come.


Before you leave, everything at home or wherever you are will sparkle a little brighter. You’ll spend more and more time reflecting on happy memories, and on some level, how hard it may be to leave them behind. Not only this, but you’re acutely aware of the goodbyes to come. Don’t let this overshadow your excitement. The cliche states that when one door closes, another opens. Try to remember that no door is truly closed, as your loved ones will always be there to support you in whatever adventure you decide. Each ‘goodbye’ could lead to another ‘hello.’


As much as moving abroad can be frightening, you are filled with hope that the experience will be everything you dreamed of. You walk with a little more pep to your step. Your dreams are filled with visions of new friendships and a fulfilling life in an exotic location. For every anxiety about moving, you are likely feeling equal parts hope that your experience will be joyful and lead to happy memories.


As much as this is an independent quest, you know that you could not do this without the support of others. This is your family, who have always believed you are capable of incredible feats. You know that without your friends to lean on, you would not have made it through the many trials and tribulations it took to get you to this pre-departure point. You know that if your professors hadn’t taken the time to talk with you about the upcoming changes, you would not have been able to stand on your own two feet during this process. Thank the ones that love you most before you go. 

5 Books to Inspire Your Wanderlust 

Suffering from summertime wanderlust? Are you in need of a little “staycation?” Here are five books that will take you across the world. You will explore new countries, mountain ranges, and discover a little piece of yourself in each one. Each of these reads, whether fiction or nonfiction, will leave you inspired. 

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

At age twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed embarks on the over 1,000 mile hike across the Pacific Northwest Trail after her mother’s tragic death. Devasted, lost, and reeling from her divorce and loss of her mother, Strayed embarks on a beautiful and heartbreaking journey of self-discovery. Strayed’s writing is full of gorgeous introspection. She states as she ascends a mountain, “I didn’t know where I was going until I got there.” This book will truly break your heart, and then put it back together again. 

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

For anyone looking for a young adult journey through the romantic city of Paris, Perkins has got you covered with the exciting first installment of her travel-themed trilogy. At age sixteen, Anna is sent to boarding school in Paris, much to her chagrin. Through a series of twists and turns, Anna discovers the true meaning of friendship, love, and adventure. Not only is Perkins geographically accurate throughout the novel, she compels emotion from the reader by portraying an accurate picture of the human condition during a period of change.

Just One Day by Gayle Forman 

How much can one day change you as a person? Protagonist Allyson discovers that the answer is an incredible amount. After a summer of cautiously traveling Europe, Allyson spends an exciting day with a Dutch nomad named Willem. After he disappears the next morning, Allyson is devastated, and certainly not the person she was before she met him. After months of soul-searching, Allyson returns to Europe in search of Willem. Along the way, she finds herself. 

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

Perhaps the king of travel writing, Bill Bryson decides at middle-age to embark on a hilarious yet tumultuous journey through the Appalachian Trail. Bryson introduces us to fascinating history and ecology, while remarking on the unique characters he meets along the way. In his true fashion, Bryson introduces readers to a new world with entertaining wit and honesty.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Perhaps the most well-known and sought after inspirational travel book, Elizabeth Gilbert’s poignancy and honest reflections of her many adventures will leave you craving more. Her talent for descriptive detail has inspired millions of readers to pursue a life of creativity and adventure. After a bitter divorce and a series of heartbreaks, Gilbert embarks around the world, from Italy to India in order to find herself spiritually. Gilbert’s thought provoking insight and humor will inspire both laughter and tears. 

Why I Keep Choosing Travel (…and why travel keeps choosing me)

As a child, I would never have thought to describe myself as “adventurous.” I was most comfortable at home, or taking familiar vacations and talking to familiar people. Three years ago, this all changed when I packed an overweight suitcase and hopped on a plane to Heathrow Airport. This one decision, to embark on Semester at Sea when I was coming out of my first year of college, changed my life irreversibly.

It wasn’t a slow, careful, or deliberate decision to start traveling for me. It was a complete and total leap of faith. 

First port of call- Lisbon!

The decision came quickly. I had vague memories of a childhood babysitter discussing Semester at Sea with my parents when I was much younger. I had parused the Semester at Sea website, after hearing an upper classman discuss her fall voyage one March afternoon. The summer voyage application deadline was approaching: Northern Europe and Scandinavia.

As silly as it sounds, my first thought was, “I’ve always loved that Norway ride at Disney’s Epcot.” 

Once I’d applied and received my acceptance, not to mention frantically applied for the proper visa, reality set in. I would be traveling Europe for a whole summer. I would be trying different food, meeting new people, and living on a shipboard cabin the size of a typical bathroom. It didn’t hit me that I was truly on my own until my parents were dropping me off at the airport, wishing me a great summer. 

I went in with zero expectations. I had such little knowledge of the continent, seeing as I didn’t even know rain was likely in London. I had packed shorts and t-shirts, and was not prepared for cool breezes of Scotland or the damp nights in Ireland. I didn’t bother flipping through guidebooks, for some reason I’m still not sure. Perhaps this was due to nerves or uncertainty, or perhaps both. Now that I’d classify myself as an experienced traveler, I like everything planned out in detail. 

London, June 2014

I didn’t realize then that three years later, I’d be reflecting on each adventure, both large and small. I didn’t know that things I would miss out on, or time wasted with people who didn’t have my best interests in mind, would catch up with me. I look back now and regret not being brave enough to travel to Sintra Palace in Portugal. Lisbon was our first port, and I was not yet ready to travel somewhere remote by myself, even though I knew I wanted to see the colorful palace. I could make more excuses, but the reality is that I just didn’t know I’d think about it so much in years to come. 
The lesson here is to jump. If something scares you, you’re probably traveling right. As long as it’s safe and healthy, proceed with caution, and go forth. Someone famous said to do one thing a day that scares you, and looking back, I wish I’d done more. 

It took a couple of ports and some soul-searching to come to the understanding that I didn’t just choose traveling, but that traveling had somehow chosen me. No, I wasn’t in love with every second on the ship, there are of course ups and downs. However, by the time we hit Ireland in early July, I knew something was calling to me. Specifically, I knew that one adventure wasn’t enough. Three years later, I know now that no amount of adventure isn’t enough, life can’t be quantified. Life can only be measured in moments. I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list. 

Amsterdam, April 2016

I left Semester at Sea with a heavy heart, pretending to embrace a continued life at my home institution with a smile. The facade didn’t work, because within days of arriving back to the US, I was back in the familiar chair at the study abroad office asking how we could make it possible so I could spend my junior year in Ireland. I was told I’d have to raise my grades, write powerful essays, and be on the receiving end of glowing recommendations. It wasn’t impossible, but a whole junior year at Trinity College Dublin, I was told, was unlikely. 

I took yet another leap, and landed comfortably in Ireland for a whole academic year the following September. I have professors, friends, and family to thank for study abroad round two. I’d like to say that mine is a story of bravery and perseverance, which is partially true, but it is mostly a story of falling through the right set of cracks. Much of my journey around the world has been possible because of the chances I took, and the people I’ve met along the way. 

I chose Ireland because of how solid I felt when I got there. I based my future off of a gut feeling, which of course, I highly recommend. It has paid off and then some. Because after a year at Trinity, full of adventure and joy, I came back to the US for the second time with a vengeance. I fell in love with seeing the world, but I also fell in love with academics. I needed to go to graduate school, and I needed it to be in Ireland. I am beyond lucky to state that I’ll be calling University College Dublin my home in a matter of weeks. 

I choose travel because of the friends I’ve made along the way. These people have left a long lasting imprint on my life, and I would not be the same had we not seen the world together. I am lucky enough to have made lifelong friendships with my study abroad cohorts, both in Ireland and on Semester at Sea. 

Friendship at Blarney Castle, Ireland

I choose to go abroad (for the third time) because as cliche as it sounds, I found myself on the other side of the world. I found myself through books, adventures and misadventures, and I can’t wait for the opportunity to practice my navigational skills in a new city once again. It took getting horribly lost in a small Scottish city, with my heart pounding in my ears, to be able to understand what my capabilities are as a traveler and a person. It took wandering Amsterdam, aimlessly, for hours with someone I’d confidently call a best friend to understand the very definition of trust and a true spirit of adventure. 

I choose travel because I caught both flights and feelings in Ireland, almost two years ago, and I can’t wait to be reunited with my better half. 

I am choosing travel because I would not be the same without it. I would not be the same had I not improperly packed for Europe there years ago. I would not be the same had I not learned my lesson by not going to Sintra Palace. I would be a much different person had I stayed at my home institution, and didn’t take a risk by spending two semesters in Ireland instead of one.  
I am choosing to find a place for myself abroad, for the third time in three years, because I don’t know who I’d be otherwise. 

Barcelona, February 2016

This is how you prepare to start over

It’s time to shake things up, and you’re starting a new chapter. The rhyme or reason doesn’t matter, but for the first time, you’re about to be truly on your own.

This is how you prepare to turn a new leaf.

Mentally, there’s a checklist. You realize, as you’re sitting down to dinner, that this could be your last Tuesday afternoon in July watching Gilmore Girls with your mom. You think to yourself that last week was possibly your final road trip to see some long-time friends. You know, deep down, that you will perhaps never see some of these people again. Some things aren’t meant to last forever. You’ll find that the important things will continue, long after you depart. 

The word ‘closure’ takes on a whole new meaning. You know there’s some people you won’t see again, at least for a while. Yet, you’re at peace with it. Goodbyes don’t scare you. Ceremonial activities like graduations feel final, and it’s something you’re comfortable with. Your bags have been packed since the day you were born. 

Even though the goodbyes don’t scare you, the ‘hellos’ sometimes do. You’re about to make a name for yourself in a new place. There are new people to meet and do good by. The person you were in the city or continent before isn’t the same as the person who will step off the plane into a new universe. Logically, you know that the timing has never been better to become a new person. Better yet, the timing is where it needs to be in order to become the person you were always supposed to be. 

It’s easy to be scared leaving the world you’ve always known behind. It doesn’t matter how many adventures you’ve had previously, starting again somewhere new is frightening. If you’re fortunate, you have people that believe in you. If you’re even luckier, you believe in yourself. 

Here’s what you do in the mean time:

As cliche as it sounds, you cherish every moment while still looking at what’s to come. You hold onto each hug a little longer, and smile a little brighter. As much as you want to make a mark on somewhere new, leave a stronger mark on wherever you leave behind. 

Three years ago today…

Three years ago today, my “home afloat” (Semester at Sea) docked in Dublin, Ireland. I had my first sighting of what would become my home– the place that I would fall irrevocably in love with. However, I don’t believe in love at first sight. I believe in pathways leading you to where you’re supposed to be. My first journey through Ireland began exactly three years ago.

I’ll admit, when I first saw the dirty port, I wasn’t impressed. It was the only port that Semsester at Sea forbade us from walking on unsupservised, due to the dangerous construction surrounding the ship. Instead, we had buses drop us off around George’s Quay in the city center.

I came into the country on an emotional high from a joyful experience in Scotland. I had just completed a challenging hike around Loch Lomond, despite being admittedly overweight and out of shape. Most importantly, I took my first solo-journey into the city of Glasgow to meet a family friend, giving me my first real sense of confidence that only travel can provide. For the first time in years, I arrived somewhere new feeling accomplished and capable.

A successful hike in Scotland
Ireland was a shock to my system. Dublin felt too industrial. I have Irish heritage, and I thought I’d feel at home right away.

I still read my travel diaries from that summer occasionally. On the first day in Ireland, I wrote, “I don’t feel as though I belong.”

I had signed up to take a field trip to the Cliffs of Moher from Dublin, the day after our arrival. A four hour bus journey to rural County Clare led us to an indescribably cloudy vista. I remember putting my hands out in front of me, and not being able to see them, or the Cliffs. I didn’t do a superb job of hiding my disappointment, as I thumbed through the vibrant postcards in the gift shop that day. I had looked forward to seeing such an iconic landmark, only to be let down and put on another four hour bus back to the city. I returned to the ship in Dublin with a bad attitude, thinking to myself that I’d spend the next day buying souvenirs for family, and I’d be onto Norway.

Cloudy day at the Cliffs of Moher
A tiny spark in me insisted on seeing Trinity College. My cousin studied abroad there, and something told me I needed to see it. It was in the city center, not far from touristy souvenir shops. I thought I’d give myself one more chance to enjoy myself. The sun was setting on a gorgeous summer day, as the tourists started to filter out. I took one look at the school, and knew I was home.

I’ve always been a reader, but never dreamed that loving literature is what would take me across the world. I love my undergrad institution, and I am a proud alumni. However, as a first year, I was still deeply unhappy. I felt isolated and unsure of myself, and didn’t identify with the party culture. I didn’t really know where I saw myself fitting in the school and the world as a whole. The first thought that came to mind while walking into Trinity’s main square is, “Well, it’s time to shake things up.”

No metaphor quite does it justice– the feeling of loving somewhere new, or more specifically, feeling as though you are “welcomed home” somewhere you haven’t been before. I knew, certainly and instantly, that I had to go to Trinity, and it had to be for longer than a semester. Thus, when I returned to the states in August, my first mission was to bother the study abroad office and tell them my new plan. Lucky for me, my ever-supportive parents were on board.

Trinity College Dublin
As mentioned, I struggled in my first year of college. The first real success story I had academically was an English class my second semester, and the grades I earned on Semester at Sea. My grades weren’t where they needed to be to even apply to the school of my dreams. I would like to say that this is a story of perseverance, but mostly, I found the kindness and encouragement of others to get me on that plane to Trinity. I would not be the same person without the help from those professors who believed in me, when I did not quite yet believe in myself.  I remember getting an email from the former director of the program, saying, “You can apply, but I have little faith that you’ll get in.” I guess a little reverse psychology was what I needed to keep persisting, because I received my acceptance letter just a few months later.

I am thankful for each day of that academic year that I got to spend at Trinity College Dublin. Not only did I make new friends, I found my passion: academics. I didn’t have any idea that I wanted to be a professor, or go to graduate school. I didn’t know that reading David Foster Wallace or studying 19th century Irish literature would change my perspective on everything I had learned previously. I had no clue some of my work would be accepted into academic conferences, and that I’d love every second of presenting.

I had no idea I’d fall in love with a person, as well as a place, while I was studying there.

When I returned to Elon University in the fall, I walked around with a heavy heart. A month into the school year, after a celebratory birthday dinner, a professor asked if I was thinking about graduate school. Without thinking, I said yes. The fire in me that invigorated each step while I was abroad seemed to spark yet another change in me– I had future goals. Of course, those goals would lead me back to Ireland. I couldn’t see myself studying anywhere else, other than the place that had changed me so remarkably.

Of course, my first thought was I would need to return to Trinity. It made sense, because I had been happy there. Upon further research, it seemed that UCD would have a program directly aligning with my interests: modern and contemporary literature. The same thought that came to me three years ago reappeared. “Well, it’s time to shake things up.”

I received my acceptance letters from both the programs at Trinity and UCD by January. After visiting UCD, and envisioning myself happy there, but most of all happy in the program, the decision was easy. Trinity will always have my heart, but it’s time to start something new.

All roads have led me back to Ireland. The change in me within the last three years has been drastic. When I seriously traveled for the first time with Semester at Sea, at age 19, I will admit that I began my journey a bit entitled and dramatic. I am grateful and humbled to have seen and engaged with so much of the world at a young age. I just wish that I’d appreciated it more at the time.

I am learning now that it’s never too late to start over. I am looking forward to a new, yet somewhat familiar life in my favorite place. For the past three years, Ireland has been my stationary constant. I am ready for my next big adventure.

Semester at Sea… Three Years Later

One of the major caveats of study abroad is once you return, you truly never stop talking about it. Three years after Semester at Sea, I continue to share memories with loved ones, or just about anyone that will listen. 

Three years ago I left the country without my parents (for the first time), and with a buddy who I can confidently call a lifelong friend. Three years ago this summer, I packed what I thought would be appropriate for a trip around Northern Europe (shorts and t-shirts) into a giant suitcase. I put myself and my ever-growing heart on a red-eye to London, and hopped off the plane to what felt like a new world.

I had never been to Europe before. My knowledge about the continent was so slim, I didn’t even know it would be likely to rain in London. More importantly, I didn’t know that the memories I would make on Semester at Sea, would be so impactful nearly three years later.

I was a shell of a person before I started traveling- anxious, obsessive, and afraid. I feared excitement and human connection, I worried both would be taken away all too quickly. This is the reality of who I was before traveling Europe in sixty days.

Of course, not everything came easy. There were days when I thought the comfort of my bed at home, or even the safety of the library on the ship, would be superior to exploring a new city with new faces. Study abroad was what healed me, but I had to work for it. 

Little memories are what I find to be most impactful. I remember the crew members knowing my name, even though I frequently ate breakfast alone with a book and didn’t always engage much. I remember the first time I felt like a new person had “broke through” to me. I had wanted to see a fortress in Finland, and secretly feared going alone. By the time I had voiced my concerns, a crowd of girls with similar interests wanted to go with me. 

I of course loved the sunsets, but they were not my favorite memories. My favorite moments on Semester at Sea were the ones I felt most alive. I think about dancing on a table in Portugal (…after having my first mojito.) I reminisce treading the water in France, or feeling bold and unafraid in Russia, despite being horribly lost. On my worst days today, these are the moments that are giving me extra reasons to smile. 

Semester at Sea taught me to be honest with myself. I knew after traveling, trying new foods and customs, and making new friends, that the change had to come from within. If you asked me today what my favorite place in the world is, I can still say after seeing 16 countries in three years, my favorite place is anywhere. If I haven’t been there yet, it’s on my list.

I believe in an unfolding chain of events, that everything has a consequence. My consequence for Semester at Sea was studying abroad again. This time, I studied in Ireland, for a whole year. My next consequence starts in August– graduate school in Dublin! If I hadn’t done Semester at Sea, I don’t think I would have made it through college. I say this not to be dramatic or extreme, but because the person I was back then needed to see the world and get perspective. 

If I hadn’t done Semester at Sea, I wouldn’t have found Ireland. I wouldn’t have found love. Most importantly, I would not, in any circumstances, have found myself.

I’ll end with a quote… “I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” 

Five little ways to make the most of study abroad

Everyone’s advice before studying abroad is always, “Make the most of it, because it all goes by too quickly.” But how exactly do you do that, and what are the easiest ways to make your experience more meaningful? After three semesters abroad, here are my top tips on making the most of this special experience.

Travel If you’re in Europe, budget airlines, trains, and bus systems will take you around the continent for a discounted rate. See as much of the world as you can, chances are, you’ll only have this opportunity a handful of times.


Spend time in your host country That said, it can be easy to spend every weekend in a new city when you’re abroad. Focus your energy on the country you chose to study in. Getting to know the culture, people, and environment of your chosen study abroad location is an experience you’ll always treasure.

Eat local Skip McDonald’s! One of my personal guidelines for being abroad is to never spend money on a meal that you could get at home. If you’re on a budget, try some street food in your new country. Between haggis in Scotland, and stroopwaffels in Amsterdam, the local street cuisine is always exciting and top-notch.


Put down the phone Yes, it’s tempting to Instagram every meal or major tourist attraction, but life is only measured in moments. Looking back, you’ll be glad you seized every opportunity for new adventures instead of worrying about the amount of likes on a photo. Be sure to be living for yourself and not your social media followers. Be wholly present in your new surroundings.

Engage with locals It’s tempting to stay comfortable within your group that you studied abroad with, and only travel and socialize with a familiar cohort. In order to maximize your study abroad experience, it’s crucial to get to know the local people and customs. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.