Saying goodbye to life in Europe: What to expect on your transition back

Last day in Galway

Last day in Galway

It seems like just yesterday that I was exploring the beautiful country side of Ireland and beyond with all the amazing friends I had meet. Now I am already back to real life, working, and preparing for my senior year, and all the while I find that my time abroad feels as though it was ages ago. My last days in Galway were spent visiting my favorite places to eat, walking the "prom", sitting by the Claddagh and even jumping off the famous black rock diving tower as one last hurrah. I can still remember my last night in Galway, going to my favorite pubs for one last time with all my friends I have made that I now couldn't imagine life without. Saying goodbye to all my Irish friends was by far the hardest, since I didn't know when the next time I would see them will be. I went from not wanting to leave Logan airport to being at a loss of words after stepping on shop street one last time. My director told us not to be sad but to be proud of all that we have done and that we will all come back someday, but I found it hard to say goodbye to my life here and no longer living in Europe.

My last night on Shop Street

My last night on Shop Street

I expected adjusting to life back in America would be difficult, and I especially found it hard to explain to people what my experience was like or when people asked "what was your favorite part" not knowing how to pick just one moment. It almost seemed impossible to explain to people what it was like to travel all over the world, what a night out in Galway was like or all the inside joke all my friends had about certain memories. The saddest part for me was how easy it was to get through back into the hustle and bustle of American lifestyle, stressing about the future and what is to come. I missed the laid-back and carefree lifestyle of European life and how people were always content with their simplistic life and always enjoying themselves. With constantly working and other stresses, I find myself desiring to be back in the rolling hills of Ireland, where I always felt at peace and carefree. I missed exploring new places every weekend and venturing around shop street after class or on a sunny day. I often felt that my life would never be as exciting as it was during my semester abroad, and if there was such a thing as post abroad blues, I definitely fell into that category.

Jumping off black rock diving tower

Jumping off black rock diving tower

However the other day when I was hiking in a reservation near my house on one of my days off, I was reminded of the beauty that exists in our world. After studying abroad, I realized the importance of always finding life's adventure and exploring new places. I had to leave America to realize all the beauty that exists in our country and all the things I still want to see, and that's the amazing thing about studying abroad; it opens your eyes to all the beauty that exists in our world, even in are own backyard. And although I was sad to leave it all behind, I felt so blessed for the opportunity to gain a better appreciation for our beautiful world. Studying abroad has broaden my horizons to the amazing world we live in and has made me a more open minded person. While adjusting back to the States was hard, and I now have a new list of places I want to visit and places I want to go back to, as well as forever friends. My comfort zone is now greater then I ever thought it would be and I have little ole Galway to thank for that.

Eating your way through Galway: The best foods to eat in Ireland

My favorite thing to eat in Ireland: tea and something sweet

My favorite thing to eat in Ireland: tea and something sweet

Some of my favorite things about Galway is definitely is the food, which might sound surprising considering most people don't usually think of Ireland when they think of good food. And while Ireland may not have amazing pasta like in Italy or delicious macaroons like Paris, it does have some hidden finds that everyone should try when they come here. First of all, if you are in Ireland you must find a cafe and sit for some tea and a scone or croissant. In cafes here they bring you an entire tea pot just for yourself and you can sit for 1, 3 how many cups you want, it truly is great. And with this lovely tea, you must try a chocolate croissant or if your in the right place a raspberry scone. One of my favorite cafes is called the cafe on the river or Au Tolberan in Gaelic, they have great tea and the best chocolate chip cookies but they also have cream cheese bagels, which is a god sent when I'm craving things from home because very few places have bagels (much to my dismay). But whichever cafe you got to it is a must do when in Ireland, because it truly is the best way to sit and listen to the locals chat in their Irish accents or if you are lucky sometimes even in Irish.

My favorite place to get chocolate cake in Galway

My favorite place to get chocolate cake in Galway

Another one of my favorite things to do in Galway is to go to the market on Saturdays and Sundays and visit the doughnut man. For those of you who are wondering what a "doughnut man" is, he is a cute little man who makes homemade donuts, and they are the BEST donuts you will ever eat! They are warm, and dashed with cinnamon sugar and all my friends and family agreed they were the best donuts. And if you have any room after the donuts, you must try a bagel from one of the vendors and get it with cream cheese and Nutella. The market has so many great things from homemade honey to juices to fresh fruit and veggies, and it is such a fun place to walk around in. One of my favorite things about the market is that they have so many homemade items ranging from mugs and other ceramics to scarfs, jewelry and even paintings. The market is truly the best place to find true Irish keepsakes and is definitely a place I got most of my gifts for people back home.

If you are wondering the best food to eat in Ireland, fish and chips is definitely my favorite and there is one great seafood place in Galway that has the flakiest batter and great chips I might add. One of my favorite places to eat in Galway is Finnegans which has cheap prices and serves the best Bangers and Mash and my personal favorite Irish Goujon, which is an Irish version of chicken fingers and is the best chicken fingers you will ever eat. Sometimes when I am missing American food I got to this place called Bite Club that has something called cheesy pasta, which is the closest thing I have eaten to mac n cheese, and there slushies and lemonade don't disappoint! Another one of my favorite places is Griffins Bakery, which is famous for their sandwiches on sourdough bread and have some great desserts such a little cakes, eclairs and even gingerbread men! And while Galway isn't known for their desserts, they do have  great places for gelato, crepes and there is this one amazing place that is hidden down a side street and has the best chocolate cake I have ever eaten (they warm it and give it to you with butter, its heavenly!). Another famous place in Galway is the Gourmet Tart which is known for their desserts and of course their tarts! Yet my favorite thing to do will always be sitting in a cafe with some tea and a croissant listening to the locals talk.

Gelato I got to try while in London

Gelato I got to try while in London

While I wish I could go out to eat all the time and eat all this great food, most of the time I am cooking my own meals in my apartment. Most my days consist of me walking to school, having class, getting some homework done in college, eating peanut butter and jelly for lunch, cooking dinner and eating it before my night class. Most of my days are like this and many of my meals are the same, never really getting too fancy; chicken and beef stir fry is always my go to! However, sometimes I will go to my favorite cafes in Galway to do some homework, which is always a nice change in the atmosphere. On weekends I am in Galway I try to go into town for some dinner and treat myself to some gelato after a long week. And while I wish I could eat all the extravagant foods I love in Ireland all the time, getting to have them every now and then makes them so much more special. Trying new food during my time studying abroad, whether it be in a new place I am visiting or finding new places in Galway, is one of my favorite things. If there is one thing you must do when studying abroad it's splurging on food; believe me you won't regret it!

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.