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Studying Abroad for the Year: An Adventure in Ireland

Even before I went to college, I wanted to study abroad. So when it came time for me to board the plane to Ireland, I was beyond excited. Although it meant that I would not be able to see my family until Christmas and most of my friends until senior year, I knew that this was the right decision. As I flew over the Atlantic Ocean, butterflies fluttered in my stomach in anticipation for the adventures that would occur abroad while I studied at Trinity College Dublin.

Trinity College Dublin

After arriving and settling in, I got to meet my new “flatmates” (flatmates = suitemates). They came from all over Europe and the United States. We were all different grade levels and different ages, but we got along and were curious about each other. Little did I know that over the course of the year, we would become very close friends sharing stories and creating wonderful memories.

My friends and I

For the first few days that I was there, classes had not yet begun, but there was an orientation for the Visiting and Erasmus (European students) Students and a general orientation for all new students, including the first years (freshman). I gradually began to get acquainted with the city of Dublin and loved it immediately. Despite the unpredictable five-minute rain showers, Dublin was fairly sunny and not too warm or cold. Its weather was fairly similar to that of Boston.

Over the course of those days, I began to figure out that it was cheaper to go to Dunnes for groceries than Tesco, but it was even better to go to Aldi or Lidl for certain things. While the bus was going to be one of my main modes of transport, I was going to have to walk most of the time to make the bus pass last longer. If I wanted something hot to eat at home, I had to cook it myself because there was no dining hall where I lived. These were entirely new concepts for me having lived on the school-dining plan for the past two years.

However, once classes started, I had other things to occupy my time. I was taking courses in the History department on the Early Medieval and Medieval periods both about history and archaeology (except one French Enlightenment and Revolution course) and one course in the Literature department about Irish literature. I was so excited about taking courses that fit my interests. I had taken as many courses as possible about Early Medieval Ireland and Britain while at Boston College, but at Trinity College, I was able to explore the history and, more importantly, the archaeology on these two subjects.

Sitting with the statue of Oscar Wilde and Edward Vilde in Galway, Ireland

Many of the courses were not in the same style as those at Boston College. Instead of assigning weekly reading, many of the professors assigned general reading, but expected you to keep up with the material by yourself. Instead of regular assignments, most courses had a large paper due at the end of the term (semester) and an exam at the end of the year. There were usually many choices for what to write on for the essay, so it was nice either picking a topic from a selection or deciding on an individual topic related to the course. However, even with the month set aside for preparation, the exams at the end of the year were not as nice. I was being tested on exams for classes from both the fall and the spring semester. Those exam weeks were a whirlwind, and I remember being thankful that Boston College had exams at the end of the course, not the year.

In addition to these courses at Trinity, I was required to take a course at the Boston College building in Dublin. Although I had learned about Irish history before, the course was absolutely wonderful combining history, literature, and other activities. Through the class, I was able to go to the Abbey Theatre, to play Gaelic sports, and even travel to Galway! I enjoyed being able to meet with other Boston College students who were studying at Trinity College, University College Dublin, and National University of Maynooth. It was comforting to have other people from “home” making the transition to studying abroad easier.

Standing behind the Cliffs of Mohr

While I did study and write lots of papers, I also had time to go out and have fun both in Ireland and throughout Europe. In Dublin, I went to various places, like St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the National Museum of Archaeology, and Grafton Street (where many scenes from the movie, “Once,” were filmed). I also had the opportunity to explore different parts of Ireland, including Waterford where I got to see remnants of Viking buildings and Medieval churches and to marvel at the pieces of Waterford Crystal, some of which were being made for the Diamond Jubilee for the Queen of England! However, the most wonderful opportunity was that I could travel across Europe. I got to eat at the Plaza Mayor in Madrid, to go see Dolly the Sheep in Edinburgh, to ride the Millennium Wheel in London, to explore the Catacombs in Paris, to have a tour of Belgium (Bruges, Antwerp, and Brussels) by myself, and to wander Belfast with friends. My goal was to make the most of my situation by traveling when I could (with European travel being so inexpensive within Europe), while at the same time not missing the opportunities to make memories in Dublin.

Standing next to the statue of Manneken Pis in Brussels

When it came time at the end of the year to leave, I had mixed feelings. While I did want to see my friends and family back in the United States, I did not want to leave Dublin, my friends, and everything that I had experienced. I knew that the likelihood of my returning to Dublin soon was not likely and the chance to be with the same people all together again was even less plausible. We had all scattered to our respective parts of the world ready to take on what life was going to throw at us next. I hope to be able to visit them all someday, but until then, I will keep in touch with them through Facebook and email.

I had an incredible experience abroad and would not change it for the world. I got to meet new people, explore new places, and create new memories. If anyone were considering spending a year abroad, I would definitely recommend it. I was just beginning to be able to navigate the city by the end of the first term, so by the second term, I could walk around Dublin and not get lost! I was also able to make really close friends, and time solidified our friendship just like my ones at BC. One day, I hope to return to Ireland either to attain a Masters or PhD program or just even to travel. Either way, I will return ready to begin a new series of adventures.

Danica is a senior at Boston College and is a History major with an Irish Studies minor.  She is originally from Greenwich, CT and moved to East Boothbay, ME.  She is also a member of Boston College Irish Dance and the Shaw Leadership Program.  And last but not least is a fiery redhead who lives in a dragon-guarded castle surrounded by a boiling lake of lava! But don't let that cool you off. She's a loaded pistol who likes piña coladas and getting caught in the rain. Yours for the rescuing: Princess Danica!  (And yes, that is a quote from Shrek...)
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