Well, it crept up on me pretty fast, but I’ve just recently returned from my Fall semester abroad in Dublin, Ireland. Despite the pandemic and other complications that kept my time abroad uncertain, I’m honestly very happy and surprised with how much I was able to do. Unlike some other students, I don’t think I’m experiencing too intense of feelings of missing my host country as I actually extended my time abroad into next Spring, but I made some great friends along the way that unfortunately will not be returning with me next semester. There is certainly a good deal of my experience to process and reflect upon.
The final leg of my time abroad (for Fall, at least) saw some last-minute excitement for sure. I had the privilege of going on a few more host university-sponsored hikes (like the scenic view I got high up at the Glendalough Park in Wicklow County, pictured above), and Ireland’s national lockdown ended which allowed me to get out and experience some Irish culture in person (safely, of course). Final exams quickly came around the corner though, and before I knew it, I was on my flight back home for the holidays.
Though my time in Ireland is just on a quick hiatus and far from over, there were a few things I picked up along the way that I’d like to share with any future study abroad students. First of all, I’m not sure if this is consistent with all of Europe, but for Ireland, I didn’t quite get the memo on how different their higher education system is from the US, and I found myself constantly learning about how things are done different there. Most differences are ultimately harmless, but the one thing to watch out for is how final exams are structured: they’re often much harder than your average exam here at UA, and worth a lot more of your total grade for the class. So, while going out and exploring things in Ireland is important, please do not neglect your final exams, as they are something you do not want to screw up. On a lighter note though, I found Irish people to be among some of the friendliest I’ve ever met and the area around UCD to be incredibly safe and welcoming. I would gladly recommend studying abroad at UCD in Ireland to anyone interested, and I look forward to a hopefully even more promising Spring semester there.