My First Week as an International Student

Many college students seize the opportunity to spend a semester studying at a university overseas. Studying abroad is an exciting but overwhelming process. For me, studying abroad has always been a big goal of mine. Even though I've always been confident that this experience was something I wanted, I was extremely nervous to leave home and the university I have grown with for the past five semesters. I would have to start over completely in a new school, city and country thousands of miles away from where I have spent all of my life. I chose to study at the University College Dublin (UCD) for the spring semester of my junior year. Ireland has been at the top of my travel list for years as my family is of Irish descent. About halfway through the fall semester, all of my paperwork was in order and settled. It began to hit me that this was really going to happen and I was actually going to achieve my goal. The application process helped me to learn that no matter how intimidating, you can achieve your goals one step at a time.

My new school!

Leaving home was much more difficult for me than I anticipated. I am normally pretty independent and confident in new situations, however as I began to think about what a big step I was taking I was very overwhelmed by how much my life was about to change. I was absolutely terrified to get on the plane by myself. I had never traveled alone and had never been to Ireland before! While the nerves were strong, I reminded myself how hard I worked for this experience and boarded the plane bound for my new home. 

The O'Connell Bridge over the River Liffey

After moving through immigration and collecting my luggage, my next goal was to find my program. An affiliated program works with your home university as well as your university abroad to help you with the application process, settling you in and plan trips/events. Studying abroad with an affiliated program has been a huge help for me. Upon arriving in Dublin, I found my program director as well as the rest of the students in my program. Once I was with the group and no longer on my own anymore, I felt much more confident. Our director gave us a tour of Dublin and helped each of us purchase items that we were unable to fit in our suitcases.

After a long travel experience we were all excited to arrive on campus and check into our housing. I live on campus at UCD in an apartment. Living on campus as an international student is very helpful as I am able to walk to all of my classes. While studying abroad I rely on public transportation as I am still not used to seeing cars on the other side of the road or steering wheels on the other side of the vehicle! Finally being able to unpack and settle in for a good night's sleep was such a relief. The first week in Dublin was spent participating in many orientation activities. My program ran orientation that helped us adapt to a new lifestyle. The university itself also ran programs for new international students. Through these events the other members of my program and I were able to meet many other international students from all around the world. Being thrown into such a crazy experience gave us all a way to connect with one another. 

One of three (yes three!) lakes on UCD's campus. In the background is the science center where I have most of my classes as a biology student.

After about a week, classes began for the semester. At home, I am a biological sciences major so I am enrolled in the College of Science at UCD. One of the most difficult things for me so far has been understanding my class schedule and finding my way around campus. UCD is a huge school with over 32,000 students. The campus is able to accommodate the sheer number of people that are on campus every day. In addition, class schedules here are very irregular. The time, location and day of the week that each class meets can change from week to week. This is something I am not used to and has been confusing, but so far I have always managed to make it to class on time! While the walk to class can sometimes be long, I tend to enjoy it as the campus is so beautiful. There are many sculptures and pieces of art around, as well as lots of interesting architecture on many of the buildings. There are also three lakes on campus at UCD complete with fountains that are home to swans. 

Hiking in Killiney

During my time in Dublin so far, I have been able to explore a good amount of the city and surrounding areas. From shopping on Grafton Street to hiking Victoria Hill in Killiney, I have been able to experience so much of the Irish culture in such a short time. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to experience another culture so fully for four months. This week has only been a taste of what is to come and I am so excited to see what the rest of the semester has in store for me. I have been pushing myself to do something every day that I would not be able to do at home. While I do miss the beaches of Rhode Island and living somewhere that appreciates Tom Brady, I can only grow from spending time in a new country and learning about hurling, Gaelic football and rugby. Thank you to everyone who has supported me in getting here. Leaving home was so difficult because I am surrounded by incredible family and friends who support me and push me to grow and achieve my goals.