This post comes from student blogger Kristin Anderson from the University of Alabama, a Film Major currently studying in Dublin, Ireland
In the months leading up to my departure for Dublin, I rarely thought about what the next five months would have in store for me. I had no idea what my school would be like, what kind of people I would meet or how I would fair socially. I tried not to create an image in my head of what my life would be like because I knew the second I got here my expectations would be shattered. And indeed they were.
As a person with high-functioning anxiety and depression, routine is something that I heavily rely on. It’s been almost a month since my plane touched down in Dublin and I am finally getting some semblance of a daily routine. The key with routine is to not get too comfortable in it, especially while abroad. Many times I have forced myself to venture beyond my campus and apartment just to see something new each day. In an effort to keep things interesting I decided to join some clubs and societies on campus.
Back at home, I am a member of a sorority. At my school, Greek Life is everything and a large portion of the student body is involved in it. At Trinity College Dublin the scene is different…interestingly enough, they have nearly replicated the idea of Greek Life and created tight-knit clubs and societies that offer the same kinship and opportunities for campus and community involvement.
There were countless opportunities to choose from so I chose the clubs and societies that represent what I am most passionate about. The film and environmental society and the rock climbing club have offered me a chance to meet Irish locals and students that I wouldn’t have otherwise had the chance to meet.
As at any school, people can be just as unapproachable as Americans can be. In a few of my classes, people even steered clear of sitting by me because I’m the foreign kid and my roommates and I have made a special effort to talk to people in our classes… even if that means getting flack about American politics.
It is quite scary when entering into a city that you know nothing about. It took me a week or two to not get lost on my way to class and to understand the wildly confusing currency system. What I didn’t know is that when moving to a new city, it is good to get your wits about you first and then you can focus on getting involved in other ways. At least for me, I needed a little time before I jumped into the opportunities that were in front of me.
Getting involved in a new city is a daunting task and at times I still want to stay in my little social bubble with the other Americans. I’ve learned that making friends doesn’t happen immediately like it did in my sorority. Making a special effort is required.
When I feel overwhelmed with my new city I sometimes find it helpful to get out of Dublin and find a nice hiking trail or an old town out in the country. My experience isn’t just limited to Dublin; getting involved can mean heading to the west coast and meeting some great people on a cliff walk.
I would love for potential study abroad students to get some good information out of this post but it is also a reminder for me when I get complacent. So….
Get out of your comfort zone and get out there! Your campus and apartment will be there when you get back. You have an entire new country to explore. Get out and get after it!