Mady Andreas Dublin
September 26th, 2018
“It’s like knowing you’re walking into a storm” – Donny Donny sums up study abroad well in this quote. There’s something exhilarating and terrifying about moving to a new country because on the one hand, you have the opportunity to experience new things and learn about a new culture. On the other, you’re far away from your family and are truly on your own.
I’m no stranger to this feeling; due to college and work I’ve seen my immediate family for a maximum of three weeks over the course of six months. But this isn’t a bad thing. Your twenties are exactly the time that you should be getting out of your comfort zone and adjust to living away from the security of your family.
In this reflection I’m going to share three lessons I’ve learned in my three weeks abroad at Trinity College, Dublin.
Lesson 1: Embrace “Fun B”
Alright a little bit of context:
Imagine the dampest, coldest place on Earth. It’s pitch black, right on the Atlantic ocean, and freezing rain is stinging your face. Then imagine that there’s a middle-aged Irishman lecturing on Northern Irish history to a bunch of freezing exhausted twenty-somethings. That’ll give you a pretty clear picture of my experience of September 8th/9th.
The professor? Kevin Whelan. The students? TCD and UCD students from Notre Dame. The place? Sheep’s Island.
And the mood? Freezing, windswept, exhausted, and generally overwhelmed.
Anyway, the point of Kevin’s talk that there are two types of fun in life. “Fun A” is the type of fun during which you know you’re having fun. Think of eating chocolate, watching a movie, or going to the British Museum with one of your best friends.
It took 2 hours for us to work up the courage to ask somebody to take this photo.
In contrast, “Fun B” is when you’re absolutely miserable during the experience, but you get a good laugh or story out of it. For me, that would be riding a rollercoaster, running, or doing calculus. I’ve gotten a lot of friends out of all those experiences, but I absolutely hated every second of BC Calculus.
Alright, now that the difference between Fun A and Fun B are clearer, flash forward to September 9th and the Great Monsoon of 2018.
There’s me: smack dab in the middle looking miserable. Bean Boots and a Helly Hansen can only do so much against Irish weather. At this moment, it’s as if God had sat down and said, “You know what Giant’s Causeway needs? A nice washing up! Let’s just dump a bucket of water on it and see what happens!”
But even though we had “Fun B” and were soaked for the rest of the day, the trip was pivotal in a lot of ways. We learned that unpredictability is the only thing you can predict in life. And that even though you’re walking into a storm, you have to just face it with a smile on your face and hope in your heart. Embrace “Fun B.”
Lesson 2: You have time
This is a mantra that I’ve been trying to focus on all this year. It may not seem like it, but there is always enough time.
Without going into the nitty gritty details, registering for classes at TCD was one of the most harrowing experiences of my academic career. I will NEVER complain about NOVO/Darting ever again. Basically you had to run around getting signatures from each professor for the class you wanted to take (half the time the professors weren’t even there). Then you had to see if all those classes fit in your schedule. If they didn’t, you had to run around getting more signatures and start the whole thing over again.
I’m pretty sure my blood pressure hasn’t recovered from that.
Anyway, what I’m trying to learn from this whole study abroad experience is that things take time and I need to let them take time. Let’s take another example from my recent trip to London. I got lost on the Tube, and due to massive delays and mechanical failures, it took an hour to get to a place it should have taken five minutes to get to. But it was ok! I eventually got to where I needed to go and had a fantastic night filled with pizza, prosecco, and Pimms.
The pest pizza I've ever had at the Southwark Market.
People in Europe just do things differently. And I’ve learned that no matter how much I stress out about it, things still get done. You get to where you’re going, the reading gets finished, and we all have a good time.
3. Just ask
When I was anxious about getting on the right trains/tubes back to Gatwick airport, my cousin Natalie offered me this sage advice: “Just ask. If you don’t know, just ask.”
People are going to think whatever they want to think of you. I was very self-conscious the first few weeks because I knew my accent was an immediate indicator of my (what I thought to be) ignorance. I assumed people would think I was asking questions because I’m a stupid American and don’t know anything about anything.
Turns out that most people don’t think that. And if they do, they can go pound sand. As long as you get the information you need, you’re grand.
But don’t ask why the exchange rate from dollars to euros is terrible. No one has the answer to that one.