haley is studying abroad through the same program, academic programs international as me. she lives just a few apartments away from me in galway, ireland. haley is one of the sweetest ladies around and writes an adorable blog about her experiences studying abroad. i am so lucky to have such an amazing writer guest post for me. thank you haley!
“Why did you decide to study abroad?”
It’s such an obvious question, but it has somehow gone unanswered thoroughly in all the while I’ve been in Ireland. Depending on the context in which it is taken, I suppose the question of why one decides to study abroad can be quite loaded. Or maybe that’s just in my case. Regardless, I decided to spend a semester abroad for a couple different reasons. As many other students would probably say, the opportunity to travel to, live in, and be part of the culture of another country is just too good to pass up. Realistically, when else are any of us going to have five months to just pack up, move across an ocean, and do whatever we please, the only stipulation being that we attend a few classes and write a few papers? Probably never. For most students abroad, graduation is impending in the year after their return home and after graduation…the real world. Yikes. So, the decision whether or not to come abroad – difficulties such as affordability notwithstanding – seems like a no brainer, right? But what about beyond the obvious answer of “I came abroad because I wanted to experience a new culture, travel to places I’ve never been, etc…?” For me, I wanted to be immersed in new experiences, create lasting memories, and meet lots of wonderful people, but I also wanted more than that.
Entering my sophomore year of college, a lot of circumstances changed in a short time, leaving me in what felt like complete disarray. The dissolution of what I considered a dear friendship, a change of academic majors, troubles with my rooming situation, it just seemed as if nothing was going right. I think it is extremely overdramatic to claim that I “lost myself” within the mess that was happening, but somewhere along the line, I definitely lost the confidence and independence that I had always felt before; it was almost like being stuck in redundancies and routine. When the school year ended, I took the summer to re-evaluate my life in terms of my education, my relationships, and my future plans. Going abroad had always been in the back of my mind as something that I wanted to do, and, suddenly, I felt like it was something I needed to do. I had nothing to hold me back from the adventure of a lifetime; I would stay on track for graduation by taking courses at a new university, I had money saved up from a summers worth of work, and my friends and family fully supported my wishes.
So the research began and by early fall I had applied to the National University of Ireland in Galway through Academic Programs International. Upon being accepted in October, I grew more and more excited about traveling abroad for five months because I knew it was something I was doing for myself, something that was all my own to experience on my own terms.
Arriving in Ireland, I experienced the same uncertainties and feelings of being overwhelmed as everyone else, but soon found myself feeling at home in Galway. Attending classes, nights out on the town, even playing rugby, became second nature. Over the past few months, I’ve been lucky enough to travel independently and in groups, meet lots of interesting people, see some of the most beautiful places in the world, and experience other unforgettable memories. Along the way, I’ve come back into my own, feeling more confident about all aspects in my life and looking forward to returning home re-invigorated with my semester abroad behind me and infinite possibilities ahead of me.
So, to answer the original question “why did you decide to study abroad?,” I think it is best to summarize my response as: I decided to study abroad because I wanted to be challenged, to learn to be content outside my comfort zone and then bring that knowledge back home to apply to inevitable challenges, failures, and successes that I am bound to face…all while experiencing a new place, new faces, new cultures, and new memories. While I still have over a month left abroad, I think it is safe to say that I have been and continue to be challenged in my experiences, but I am learning from all of them and really couldn’t imagine having spent the semester any other way.
If you are considering studying abroad, whether it is because you want to see the world, party for five months, live where your ancestors came from, or “find yourself,” just do it. While the reasons why you want to go abroad can be great and varied, there’s hardly a reason not to!
Love and good decisions,
if you’re lucky enough to have haley as a guest blogger, you’re lucky enough