Budgeting, traveling, exploring: Learning how to thrive abroad

Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh, Scotland

Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh, Scotland

After almost 2 full months here I find myself becoming sad to leave this wonderful place I have grown to call home. When I look back to my first month here and my initial feeling of being overwhelmed confused and homesick, I now feel that living in Ireland has become my normal life. I know the best places to get the best breakfast or where to find the cheapest meal and feel at ease of everything in Galway. And while life here has become somewhat of the norm there are still things that are so different from back home, especially the classes. First of all the classes are very different then Saint A's. Not only are all my classes in huge lecture halls, but all my assignments and exams are at the end of the semester, and with the semester already halfway over I am now swamped with deadlines and exam dates looming overhead. I have found myself missing the structure of Saint A's classes and the small initiate class setting. I have also found myself at a lost of what professors are looking for in classes and miss knowing exactly what is expected of me like at Saint A's.

Yet one of the biggest challenges I have found is trying to balance schoolwork on top of traveling and trying to explore Galway. I always found myself getting frustrated when I had to be in the library doing homework or staying in to study for an exam, when all I wanted to be doing was exploring Galway and hanging out with my friends. But since everything is due at the end of the semester staying on top of your work helps you to not get stressed when the the deadlines finally come, and it is so worth it even if it means having to miss out on a few things here and there. Although doing schoolwork in another country can be stressful, asking professors for help is key, for they are often very helpful and understanding!

Giants Causeway

Giants Causeway, Northern Ireland

After being in Ireland for 2 months I have been so fortunate to have gotten to travel so many amazing places. I have been to Belfast in Northern Ireland, Edinburgh Scotland and London, and each place had something different to offer that I loved for slightly different reasons. The Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland was one of the most unique and spectacular places I have been and London there was so much to see from going to shows to exploring each neighborhood. But my favorite country I have been to so far was Scotland. Every building in Edinburgh was old and medieval and the city was filled with so much history and unique things like ghosts stories and was even JK Rowling's inspiration for Harry Potter! It was such an amazing city and the reason I went here was because it was one of my excursions through API and if it haven't been apart of my program I might not have gone. Considering Edinburgh was my favorite city, I would have been so sad if I hadn't gone there so my best advice is go the places you might not have considered. Of course everyone wants to go to Paris and see the Eiffel Tower or Big Ben, but also try to pick less known places and visit them to because they could end up being your favorite place! However some of my favorite places were in Ireland, such as the Ring of Kerry in Killarny and even some of the smaller places I visited in Ireland that were too beautiful for words. It is easy once you are in Europe to want to travel everywhere and see all the famous landmarks, but don't forget to explore your own country too! Even if it is as simple as exploring places around your city or visiting places close by, you want to be able to come back and tell everyone about all the amazing places in the city and country you studied in because it will soon  become your home away from home!

Budgeting can also be hard when you are abroad especially at the beginning because everyone wants to explore and go out to eat and try all the local foods. However I have found that if you budget during the week then you will have money to spend for the weekend on any trips you go on, which is so worth it! I normally spend about 200 or more a week depending on if I am going somewhere expensive and so far it has worked out great. When you go new places you want to try new foods or buy a memory to bring back with you so sometimes not spending that little extra during the week is definitely worth it. Trying to budget isn't always easy abroad but if you plan trips and think of how much you want to set aside ahead of time it will save you so much stress. When you do go new places, make sure you try to see what they have to offer for tourists whether it be a bus or museum pass to help save you money. Most places have free walking tours which are also nice because they are a great way to help you see the city you are in. Don't be afraid to ask people in tourist offices what they have to offer or research what other people say are the best things to do in the city you are going, not only will it save you time but money as well, which is ever study abroad student's goal!

Wicked, the Musical, London

Wicked, the Musical, London

While traveling to new places all the time is exciting and fun, not everyday abroad is going to be something extraordinary. You still have to go to class and do homework and some days are just pretty ordinary. At first this would frustrate me and I would feel like I was wasting my time, but I soon realized that studying abroad while extravagant as it is; it still is your everyday life which a lot of the time is just a normal day. But I discovered you can still make each day exciting by doing your work in a cafe, trying a nice place downtown for tea or just taking a walk after school. Whatever you may be doing when abroad, it's amazing you get to be studying in a different country at all so live it up everyday, and even the days that feel ordinary can feel extraordinary.

 

Figuring out how to be a Galway Girl

View from Galway bay in downtown shopstreet

View from Galway bay in downtown shopstreet

Wow, my first week in Galway has been a world wind filled with so much excitement, non stop going and sometimes confusion. Getting on an airplane for the first time by myself was overwhelming, but all the crew had Irish accents which definitely made me feel at ease. After stepping off the plane, my API director Kevin was waiting for us with a big smile and API sign. We then boarded the bus and Kevin talked our ear off telling us all about his favorite places in Ireland as we drove through the scenic landscape. Everything is very different here especially how everyone drives on the opposite side of the road and not to mention very close to the other side of the road, some cars keep inches away from people and street light! The first day Kevin brought us to a store to buy our "bed in a bag" (which consisted of a pillow and duevt) and  showed us around the university and Galway, showing us the best places to eat or hang out with locals. Kevin and his wife, Finn, the other program director, have been amazing and meet with us frequently to check in on us and see how we are doing.

Long Library at Trinity College Dublin

Long Library at Trinity College Dublin

The first two days were very difficult and jammed packed with orientation at my university NUI Galway, and we had so much information thrown at us that I have truly never been more overwhelmed. But Finn meet with us everyday explaining the logistics about the school and how to register for classes (which is much different then back at Saint A's) and kept reassuring us we were all doing so well and she was our proud "Irish sister". Adjusting to life in Galway was much harder then I expected. The heating is different, the groceries and brands they sell are different, and they hardly have any snacks; I still have yet to find any goldfish or Cheezits, which are my staples back home. Even figuring out how to cook a frozen pizza was challenging and it took a lot of getting use to. However by far one of the biggest challenges was getting use to was the cold. While New Hampshire snows more then in Ireland, it is  cold and wet all the time in Ireland and even when you walk in a building it is still cold, which is very different from the states. The lifestyle here is also very different; at restaurants you go and pay at the bar or you have to ask for the check, they won't bring it to you. Everything here is very relaxed and people are less in a rush then in the US. The night life here is also very different then in the US and students socialize during the week, but go home on the weekend so the city is actually most lively during the week, which is much different then life at Saint A's! The first week here I was so overwhelmed and trying to figure out how to find my place here in Galway. However being around the Irish people made everything feel so much easier, especially when Irish locals will come up to you ask you where you are from and strike up a conversation about how much they love Boston or ask you if you are having a good "craic", which is the Irish way of saying a "good time". In Ireland there are many of these strange sayings that I have learned along my journey, such as learning that the words "I love you" don't exist in the Irish language, who would have thought! One of the most interesting things I did realize was how easily people knew you are an American because we "travel in packs" and apparently have bad posture,  strange sayings like "wicked" and "could you believe it", and I began to wonder if I had US tattooed across my forehead. Yet even though people always knew I was from the states, I was so surprised about how welcoming everyone was and how they wanted to treat us like family, which made my whole transition easier.

Kylemore Abbey

Kylemore Abbey

After my first week I definitely got more use to cooking, finding stores that had American brands and finally began to feel comfortable crossing the street without the fear of getting hit. After being here now for two weeks, Galway is being to truly feel like home, and I think it is because of all the traveling I have done already. My first weekend here I saw the beautiful country side of Connemara and Kylemore Abbey, walked the promenade in Galway and visited the downtown markets on shop street. I checked out many of the local pubs, joined clubs and societies at the university to meet Irish people and tried Cupan Tae in downtown Galway. This past weekend I even had an excursion to Dublin and got to see sights from the Wicklow mountains to Trinity college and the Dublin Zoo. Finn told us the best way to fight being homesick and feel a part of Galway is to plan and she couldn't be more right. Having seen and gone so many places as made me more confident in Galway and helped Galway to feel like home. After a weekend in Dublin, i I felt myself yearning for Galway, the city that now felt like home. And although it wasn't always easy, I am being to see what it takes to be a Galway girl.