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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Marymount chapter.

Fall semester of my sophomore year of college… I was a mess.

I was friends with the wrong crowd, toxic people who didn’t care for me, people who hurt me and triggered a deep depression. It was like I had fallen into a deep dark well, yet I didn’t even realize it. There were so many things going wrong in my life that I couldn’t imagine making it out alive. I had one especially traumatic experience and everything completely unraveled. I completely lost who I was, I hated myself and forgot how to be me. I turned into a sad, insecure, mindless robot who didn’t know how to smile or talk to anyone, someone who was afraid of everyone. Absolutely terrified of every single person I passed by. I would avoid eye contact, put headphones in so I wouldn’t be forced to talk to anyone, and I stayed in my room most of the day. I couldn’t understand why I had become this way.

Halfway through the semester, I applied to study at University College Cork in Ireland, which had been a dream of mine for as long as I could remember. It was all I held onto during those 3 months. I planned, researched, and planned some more. I dreamed about it, counted down the days and kept my eye on the end goal of getting the hell out of here. I didn’t have faith in myself though, I was convinced I wasn’t good enough to get into UCC, and I convinced myself that even if I did get in, I wasn’t strong enough to actually leave. I was ready to transfer schools if I was rejected, I had everything planned out. By some miracle (or not a miracle so much as I was actually worthy to get in, duh), I was accepted to UCC, got an apartment and kept my eyes on the prize. I had an end date in mind, a goal to survive until then, and then I would finally be in the clear. I packed up my life into two suitcases and flew a full day, from Dulles Airport to Heathrow in London to Cork, took a taxi ride to my apartment and, without fully knowing it, began my new life.

If you ever want to find out who you are, I fully recommend dropping everything and moving to a foreign country where you know absolutely nobody at all. It scared the living hell out of me, and (at the time) seemed like the worst thing that could happen, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I was forced to break out of my self-imposed shell. I had to open up, and really put myself out there. I began taking chances I would never dream of, and talking to everyone I saw. I danced like no one was watching, went on spur of the moment trips, and had crazy, spontaneous nights out. I made amazing friends from all walks of life, lifelong friends that will always hold a special place in my heart. I learned about other cultures, experienced those cultures in intimate and personal ways that I could never imagine back home. I had the chance to defend myself and my country to strangers in pubs who picked a fight with me, and was really reassured in my beliefs. I was reminded that there are good people out there, people who are worth knowing, people who will love and cherish you as much as you do them. I learned that it’s okay to love, and to trust, no matter how hard it is at times- people may break your heart and hurt you almost beyond repair, but you can’t shut everyone out just because you’re afraid.

I learned valuable things about myself that I will hold onto for forever. I learned that I am fearless, fierce and outgoing. I am confident, strong, adventure seeking and loving. I love to laugh, and to meet new people, make new friends. I am fully capable of taking care of myself, and I am able to handle being on my own, but I also enjoy having loved ones surrounding me. I’m not afraid of life, or being seen. I am not the self-hating girl who hid in her dorm room and cried herself to sleep, I am, however, the girl who drinks wine, eats a pound of gelato and then twirls around the streets of Florence. I’m the girl who illegally picks flowers in Pompeii, and dances in the Irish rain. I’m the girl who is in love with herself- wholeheartedly in love with myself, every perfectly imperfect and beautifully flawed part of who I am.

Living in another country saved my life. The plane ride was sort of like a CPR for my soul, and my heart began beating again the moment I stepped foot on that tiny green island. I will cherish the memories, friendships and lessons learned while I was there for the rest of my life. I will be 80 years old talking to my grandbabies about the beautiful girls I lived with, and the laughs we shared and the beautiful landscapes that surrounded us. I will live by those lessons as long as I am alive, because we should treat every day like an adventure- life is the greatest adventure there is after all, so we should act like it.

Be brave. Be bold. Be you, and don’t let anyone tear you down.