As I wrap up my first semester of graduate school at University College Dublin, I am reflecting on what it means to be thankful for every gift and opportunity. Internally, I am calling 2017 the year of gratitude. I am grateful and humbled by the support of friends, family, and professors as I continue my adventures in Ireland— this time at a Master’s level.
I’ll admit, moving to a new country (though exciting and wonderful) isn’t always 100% smooth sailing. While I felt at home and comfortable in my favorite city once again, I wrestled (and am contributing to wrestle) with a fairly severe case of imposter syndrome in my academic work. That is, somehow I didn’t initially feel like I measured up to my classmates. Despite working diligently to raise my grades and filling out grad school applications in my fourth year of undergrad, I still didn’t quite feel like I earned a place amongst my classmates, who I immediately found to be much more articulate and knowledgeable than I am.
This fear of inadequacy brought on feelings of loneliness, but I am grateful that this feeling is improving day by day. I am thankful for new friends who brought me out of my shell, and for professors who are encouraging. I am thankful for the chance to improve in my classes, and for therefore for the opportunity to overcome my anxieties. Even though I am trudging through essay season, I am still honored to be here. When I get stressed and feel bombarded, I think it’s important to remind myself why I came here.
I am thankful for second chances. I am thankful that the universe brought me back to Ireland after a tough final year of undergrad. I am thankful that I got a “do-over” for my study abroad experience in Dublin from two years ago. Not that there’s anything I would take back, of course, but I know there is much more for me to experience here. I am thankful for the chance to prove myself amongst people with like-minded interests.
I am thankful to be able to fall in love with my best all over again, now that the gap of long-distance closed once and for all.
I am thankful to have found support from across continents. Whether this support is found in phone calls from old friends, messages to my parents, new friendships here, or support from loved ones in Ireland, I have not once felt completely on my own here. Instead, I know there are people I can count on world-wide.
I am thankful to have found a home in Ireland. This feeling of “home” is solidified by coffee shop owners who know my name and order, loving arms to come home to each day, and the chance to see the sunset from a different part of the world once again.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Congratulations. You’ve made the exciting and life-altering decision to travel somewhere new, and see beyond the horizons that you’ve become accustomed to. This is both wonderful and scary, but as someone who has studied abroad for three semesters, let me assure you that you’ll be alright. In fact, you will grow immeasurably because of this choice.
The months, weeks, and days before your departure will feel long and anxious. You’ll have many questions prior to this new adventure, but at the same time, you know you’re ready to see somewhere new in the world. You’re going to learn a great deal about another culture, and most surprisingly, yourself.
Spend extra time with family before you go, because they will miss you. You may not realize it now, but you’ll be thinking of the ones who love you most in every city you travel to.
It’s been three years since my first study abroad experience with Semester at Sea. Even now, I am still reflecting daily on the small and large adventures I embarked on during Summer of 2014. There are the obvious ones, like traveling to Europe without parents, and hopping off a plane into Heathrow Airport with an open mind and heart.
There are the smaller adventures, like my first stroll around a foreign city independently. I associate Stockholm, Sweden with utmost happiness. It was the first time I went on a non-English speaking public transport by myself. I went to all the museums of my choosing, and had ice cream and waffles for lunch. I was on my own, but never lonely. I walked miles into a park called Skansen, and pet some baby reindeer. The Academic Dean of the ship called me “intrepid”, a word I’d never thought I would be associated with.
During your time abroad, you will learn to rely on others. Your friends will be there for support, safety, and most of all, joy. Your friends are your fellow navigators, your biggest confidants, not to mention those who will leave a mark on you for life. I haven’t seen some of my Semester at Sea friends since we parted ways in Southhampton, England three years ago. However, I know with certainty that if I called one of them up, in need or just for a laugh, I could count on them.
You will absolutely make new friends, but you will most importantly find a friend within yourself. You may travel on your own, eat out on your own, and explore your new universe unaccompanied. Your senses will grow and heighten. You know to hide your passport in a different pocket than your cash, and your sense of direction will be ever-improving. There is no place for self-doubt in travel. You’ll grow in confidence, happiness, and contentment. Study abroad is transformative, by the very definition of the word.
You’ll find the little memories will add up, years later. I have the greatest joy in reminiscing a beautiful morning in Norway, sailing through the fjords three July’s ago. I’d forgotten my wallet in the coffee shop, as I’d insisted on getting a drink and almost making my cohort late for the ferry. By the time I’d thought to look for it, the kind shop owner had rushed it to the only boat leaving the harbor that morning. I remember the crew on the MV Explorer knowing my name, even though I ate meals alone frequently with a book propped up on the table. Most importantly, I remember falling in love with learning again, and seeing the world genuinely as my campus.
I remember hearing Pharell’s ‘Happy’ at every pre-port session and knowing that’s how I was truly feeling. You’ll remember small details like that, too.
There will be moments you miss out on, but know that every adventure is different. There is no “wrong” way to travel. Invest your time, energy, and money only on what you want to explore and experience.
Love every second of it, even when you’re missing home. You’ll find yourself looking back, three years later, wondering how sixty-something days could’ve gone by so quickly.
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.
Even years after you travel, the people you shared the journey with will always have a special impact on your life. When you travel, your buddies become your family and your support system. They are the people you rely on physically and mentally, in order to enjoy a new and exotic location– safely and happily.
Years after my summer traveling Europe, and a full year after studying in Ireland, I count the people who took the trek with me as important people in my life. I know if I truly am in need, I can rely on them, or at the very least reach out. Even if it’s just the occasional text, meeting for coffee, or “catching up” after a long time, I am forever indebted to the memories I shared with people I trekked across the world with. I am lucky enough to have made friends in different cities and countries, and the journey would not be the same without these important friendships.
Sometimes these relationships are short-lived, or they fall apart for reasons that simply can’t be explained. This is no one’s fault. Perhaps a close bond is sometimes just not sustainable for people who only have a physical presence during an adventure of a lifetime.
Other times, you are lucky, and these people are your closest confidants for life.
My fondest memories from the last two years include my fall break excursion to Italy, with two girls I shared some of the happiest days of my life with. We are still close, and I have no doubt that if we were all physically together, our laughter and adventuring spirit would be exactly the same. I shared tears and genuine smiles with these girls, and I can say with certainty I’d be a much different person if the two of them hadn’t enjoyed Rome and Venice with me. I can happily reflect on pictures of gondola rides, getting lost, and dinners by the Venetian canals. I count my lucky stars for friends like these- and so many more I’ve met along the way.
Study abroad friends teach you how to compromise. They teach you to live life to the fullest. They push you out of your comfort zone, and into the person you are genuinely meant to become. I am grateful for those I have traveled with. I am grateful to those I will travel with in the future. Even if we aren’t friends anymore after traveling together, I can say with utmost certainty, you are still valuable to me.
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.”