Lessons Learned Living Abroad

My latest TNGG post, as originally posted here.

Over 80,000 American college co-eds study abroad each academic year, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Each year, more and more college students are participating in study abroad programs at their college or university — some study abroad for a semester, or even a year, and others have internships overseas. Below are some important life lessons that can be learned while living outside the good ol’ U. S. of A.

Lesson #1 — not all of Europe drives on the “wrong” side of the road
During a study abroad pre-departure meeting at Bentley College, the study abroad advisor asked 10 eager students excited to head to Ireland “which way to look before crossing the road?” Confused, they asked “left, then right, then left again?” or “both ways?” While this question sounded silly at first, the advisor was trying to make a point — even though traffic may drive on the opposite side of the road in Dublin, you still need to look both ways before crossing the street. Being well aware of this difference in Ireland, which like the UK, Japan, Australia, India, Southeast Asia, parts of Africa and other areas, drive on the left side of the road, it still came as a shock to be on a bus in Italy driving down the right side of the road. (And don’t forget, if they do drive on the left, it means the passenger door is where the driver’s door is in America). Seriously though, you learn more important things than this, but you need to remember to keep using your common sense, assuming you have it to begin with.

Lesson #2 — not everyone likes Americans
A business professor at University College Dublin asked her students to break into groups to work on a semester long project, the only requirement was that each member of the group be from a different country, with an exception that you could have two Irish students in the group if needed. Her logic behind this was that in the past she had seen Americans be broken into their own groups, partially of their own doing, but also because no one else wanted to work with them — they saw the Americans as lazy. Erasmus students tend to take a semester abroad somewhat more seriously than American college students. Erasumus students, while in a foreign country, are usually from somewhere within Europe and are more well-travelled then their American counterparts. American’s see studying abroad as more of a travel vacation and adventure than a time to be studying seriously. (Myself included — according to Facebook, I studied drinking pints and sightseeing while at UCD.) Not only are American’s seen as lazy, but we are also seen as arrogant and a whole list of other terms we tend to cringe at.

Lesson #3 — Take a breath, and slow down
There’s a reason a “New York minute” is not called a “Sydney minute”. American’s are driven and pushed to accomplish things quickly and now. Many other cultures are more laid back and people take time to enjoy what is around them. Obviously, you try to pack in as much as you can into your trip abroad, but don’t jam things in just to say you did them; allow yourself to truly experience everything around you. Experience the culture around you. Go to a local bar and listen to some live traditional music instead of hitting up the discotech or local bar with American music. And don’t forget to take pictures and videos to remember these amazing moments.

Lesson # 4 — English is not a worldwide language
While many people around the world speak English, not everyone speaks it, even in countries which have large English speaking populations. Getting lost in the alleys of Venice with no known Italian is not the best situation to be in if you are lost late at night. Even if others do speak English, it does not mean they will let you in on that tidbit when you are looking for directions. If you are going to another country for a semester, study their native language before you head over. Even if you are only going for a weekend adventure, at least try to learn some key words (perhaps “help”, “water”, “bathroom” and “do you speak English?” for starters). While it might not be mandatory to study a foreign language in your school, learning another language can also benefit you later in life.

Lesson #5 –Be open and allow yourself to change
Sticking with the norm is easy, you know it, it’s comfortable. Going abroad automatically changes your norm, so why not change it all? Don’t go abroad and pretend to be someone else, but be open to become who you really are. You will inevitably make new friends (who could become some of your closest confidants when you go home and keep going on in life), allow these friends to know the real you, not the you you think you should be. Don’t be scared to try new things. Try the local culture, experience it all — you might learn that you like these things as much, or more, than your old hobbies (I learned that I love art during my semester abroad, and I used to think museums were boring).

Lesson #6 — Don’t stay home wondering “what if?”
The most important lesson I learned — life at home will go on. Thanks to the internet and cell phones, we can be in contact with our loved ones back home as often (or as little) as we’d like. Let go of your fears and go “balls to the wall”. As I have always believed, it’s better to do something than regret not doing it.

Don’t forget to take the lessons learned abroad and bring them back into your American life when you land at the airport to be reunited with friends and family. What lessons did you learn studying or living abroad?

Photo by SLU Madrid Campus

last week of classes

Last week was the end of classes. I had my last class on Wednesday at noon and then I had a history exam at 6pm. I finished it within an hour but think I did fine. That night I stayed in at the apartment hanging out with the roommates.

Thursday I slept in til almost two in the afternoon…sad thing is, I was the first one at the apartment to get up. It was our farewell dinner at Blackrock that night. It was really nice, but made me sad to think that we are almost done with being here. Afterwards, we all came back to Merrion Square and then went out. We couldn’t get in anywhere as a big group, so I went to Porterhouse in Temple bar with two Notre Dame kids that I met that night.

Friday I slept in again, but this time only til noon. Then I went to Seamus and Marion’s for the weekend to hang out with Laura, Louise and Alison. On Sunday, they brought me to Margaret’s, which is where I am right now.

So this week is our week off. And I have tonsillitis. Yes – tonsillitis. Way to go me! At least I am with my cousins so I can sleep all day and relax and not deal with everything else. I’ve just been chillin here and studying. Yesterday I went out to the west coast to see my family out there for one last time before I go home.

Speaking of which, I changed my flight…I’ll be home on Dec. 21st. So now, I’ll be back in the ridge prior to Christmas. And then I have my shoulder surgery on the 28th….

Anyways – I miss you all!
Only two more weeks. xoxo

week in review

I spent last weekend with my cousins in Naas. They took me horse racing on Saturday and I babysat my cousins one night. Then I came back on Sunday and chilled in the apartment.

Monday night we spent most of the afternoon and evening pregamming and then some of us went out with Scott’s friends from home. We went to Redz with E2 drinks all night which was amazing. Let’s just say that night ended interestingly.

Tuesday I spent doing work. I finished my huge entrepreneurial management paper. Then on Wednesday I finished my last paper of the semester. Then a bunch of us left history early to hit up the bar on campus. When I came back, everyone was in the house drinking and we stayed in drinking til 7am.

And then there was yesterday; Thanksgiving. But they obviously don’t celebrate here in Ireland. So we decided that we would make our own dinner at the apartmant for everyone. Here’s the catch, there is no turkeys in the supermarket until closer to Christmas so we couldn’t eat turkey. So we decided to go all out for Thanksgiving, but make chicken instead of turkey. So we cooked 6 chickens, 34 pounds of mashed potatoes, 5 boxes of stove top stuffings, canberry sauce, turkey gravy and 8 loaves of garlic bread for 19 people. And for dessert, we bought 3 lbs of ice cream, 4 apple pies, mini elcairs and cheesecake.

We spent the entire day drinking wine and ended up going out to a pub called Buskers. Buskers had red, white and blue decorations and had the Thanksgiving football games on tv and it was great.

Irish House Party & Naas

On Thursday night, the school had another field trip. This one was here in Dublin at a pub called Toners. But before the night out, a bunch of us from Merrion Square (everyone not in Amesterdam) and some of the kids from Stephens Lane chilled at the apartment and started the night a bit early. To the left is a picture of all the residents of Merrion Square and Stephens Lane, plus Dorothy, that were in attendance Thursday night. Then we went to Toners for an Irish House Party. At the house party, we learned some Irish dances, a song in Gaelic and learned about the history of Irish music. After the party, I went out with Andrew, Mary and Andrea, three other kids in my program here. We met up with Mark and Matt who are also in our program. I ended up staying out really late with Andrea, Matt and Mark, but we all had a great nite.

So this weekend, I went to Naas to visit my cousins again. Naas is a town about 30 min. south of Dublin in Co. Kildare. I woke up pretty early to catch a train to Naas and I made it there before lunch. Margaret collected me at the train station in Sallins and took me back to her house. Then she took my to the Irish National Stud and Japanese Gardens in Kildare. We had a nice walk around and saw a bunch of gorgeous old race horses; however, I kept my distance as I didn’t want to have another bad allergy attack. The picture to the right is of me in one of the gardens. Friday night Margaret and Peter made a lovely turkey dinner – it almost felt like Thanksgiving.

On Saturday morning, I went to see Conor play in the Under-16 Hurling match, he scored a couple of points. His team won the shield; this was a match for the two teams that lost in the semi-finals, so in essence they came in third. Then we stopped by the house for a quick bite and went off to see Eoin in his football match, unfortunatley they lost. And this afternoon Conor had another hurling match. This one was the final for the Under-14 for the League. They won this game as well with a score of 4-19 to 0-7: thats a total of 31 points to 7 and Conor scored 3 goals and 6 points (a total of 15 points). The pictures below are of my cousins. The one on the left is from Eoin’s football match; he is the one in front in the blue and white shirt. And to the right is of Conor in his match today; he is also in blue and white.

this week

During the week I hung out around the apartment a bit and chilled with my roommates from Fordham and UMASS Dartmouth since my other roommates were all at Oktoberfest. It was pretty uneventful except one night we all cooked a family dinner, watched a movie and went to O’Donoghues for a pint. We had a good time talking and really getting to know more about each other.

Training for swimming started on Thursday night. Practice is only an hour long and you just swim whatever you want to. Even though it seems a bit disorganized, I like it since my shoulder doesn’t allow me to swim as much as others and I haven’t swum competitively since I was on Barracudas. After training, we all went to a pub for a couple of drinks. I ended up staying out really late with the boys’ captain, his girlfriend and one of the other girls from the team. It was a fun time and I liked hanging out with Irish kids. Plus, the girl I know from South Salem that is here studying abroad in the Arts program also is swimming for UCD this semester.

This weekend I had two field trips for school. On Friday we went for a walk of the Wicklow Mountains. It was pouring rain and everyone was pretty miserable hiking up the mountain. But it stopped raining by the time we got to the top and it was well worth walking in the rain since the view from the ride was absolutely beautiful. On the way back we stopped at a tavern in Glendalough for a really good dinner. And we were all sitting near the fire which was extra nice since it warmed us all up. Then yesterday morning, we went to Kilmainham Gael which is the jail that all the political prisoners were killed in during the 1916 Uprising. After the field trip, I walked with Mary and Andrew back to the City Center this was a very long walk as we were in the outskirts of the city and the is on the other side of Dublin. We grabbed a bite to eat and then hit up the National Museum of Artifacts and History. Even though I was there last weekend, I am glad that I went back again because I was able to see upstairs which was closed last weekend and I took another look at the Bog Bodies exhibit. We also went to the National Gallery, which I also hit up last weekend. But we saw a bunch of paintings I didn’t see last time as I wasn’t there for very long last weekend.

The boys have four girls from Bentley visiting now, so we went out the past two nights to Zanzibar. It is a pretty cool club; although it was pretty empty on Friday night. That’s really all for now. I’ve been feeling pretty crappy the past day or two, but I think it’s just from being in overdrive lately and I just need a break. The only things I have coming up this week are getting to meet two more of my cousins on Tuesday night and then going on a mystery tour Thursday night which is when we go to three clubs somewhere in Ireland and are out from noon to 3am. But that’s it. I’ll keep you updated….

week 4-5

So…an update since my birthday…………
Tuesday, 09/26
Very uneventful as I was recovering from my birthday

Wednesday, 09/27
After Irish History class, we came back to the apartment, ate dinner and then went out. We went to Tramco in Rathmines. It was the Erasmus student party and all the kids from Wake Forest were there so we had a fun time till like 3am when I came home.

Thursday, 09/28
This night we stayed in. Scott’s parents landed in Dublin and came over to say hi to everyone and see the apartment.

Friday, 09/29
Scott’s parents took all the boys and myself out for dinner at a nice Italian place (seeing a trend here?) Then we took them to Oliver St. John’s in Temple Bar. We met up with the girls there and had a great time.

Saturday, 09/30
Today was a field trip to Kilkenny. We left school around 11:30 and got to Kilkenny a bit before 2. Once we got there, we got soup and bread for lunch. Then we all went on a tour of the Kilkenny castle. It was amazing and I had a lot of fun. After that, we went on a walking tour of the city and ended up at the old witch’s house which is now a tavern and that’s where we all ate dinner.

Sunday, 10/01
Today I went to the National Gallery and saw a few paintings that I loved; one of which was the dinner at Emmaus. Then I went to the National Museum of Natural History which pretty much sucked as it is only dead, stuffed animals. So then I walked over to the National Museum of Artifacts and History. Even though most of it was closed, I was glad I went because I got to see the Bog Bodies exhibit, which is where artifacts and bodies that have been found in the bogs by harvesters are on display. It was very interesting. Then I bought a gold claddaugh ring for myself.

Monday, 10/02
I spent a lot of the day on campus today as we have no internet in the apartment. Tonight, I am enjoying a quiet night in since Dave and Kevin are at Amy and BJ’s apartment and the rest of the boys are at Oktoberfest.

week 3

the last week and a half….

Last Monday night was amazing. Jo and Moira came with me to see my cousin Tom Allen play his banjo at a pub called Hughes. It was such a great night cause it was a real irish pub with a great atmosphere. It was awesome to have a nice night out experiencing true Irish culture.

Tuesday night we all went out to celebrate Tom’s 21st birthday, which was Wednesday. We went out to this nice Italian restaurant in Temple Bar. Then we went to Porterhouse and since they close at 11:30pm, they gave us cards to get into the VIP bar upstairs for free. So we go upstairs and after I buy a round of shots at midnight and spend too much, we realize that Michael Jordan is in the club too. So all the girls and Tom ended up getting to meet him.

Then on Thursday night I went to Naas to visit my cousins. I had quite a wonderful weekend with Margaret, Peter and the boys. We watched most of the Ryder Cup and had a good time. When I got their on Thursday, Margaret and Eoin met me at the train station and when we got back to their house, Eoin asked me to help him decorate the front window for the Ryder Cup. On Friday night, Margaret and Peter took me out for dinner at a nice restaurant in Naas to celebrate Conor and my birthdays. On Saturday, we took a break from watching the Ryder Cup and Margaret took Eoin and me to the gym to go swimming. And then on Sunday, Seamus, Marion and their daughter, Alison, came to Margaret’s for the afternoon. We had a lovely dinner and played some baseball in the backyard. Then Seamus, Marion and Alison drove me back to my apartment as they live closer to the city center than Margaret.

On Monday night we all went out for my birthday. We went to another Italian place and had a good time.

But yea. Thats all that’s new here. I’ll update soon enough….

week 2

My first week of classes was last week. I have one business class a day, Mon-Thurs, plus Irish history on Wednesday nights; all my classes are three hours long. On Monday I have a Human Recourse Development class at 9am. On Tuesdays I have Human Resource Management and on Wednesday I have International Business at noon. After that class on Wednesday, I have a three hour break on campus and then have Irish history from 6-9pm. On Thursdays I have Entrepreneurial Management at 11am. In all of my classes I have at least three of the other nine kids I live with plus other American students that are here in our program. This is definitely nice as my roommates and I can share books as they look like they are quite expensive here. There are many international students here; in every class, there are many more international students, most of whom are only here for a semester or two, than there are Irish students. With the exception of my Irish History class, all my classes seem very interesting. I wish my Irish History lecture was more interesting, but the professor speaks in a monotone voice, reads off pages and pages of information without putting anything on PowerPoint or the board and does not allow us to ask questions during the lecture when we don’t understand her. It seems like she doesn’t know what she is talking about and only knows what is on the sheets in front of her that she reads from.

That being said, the Quinn School is amazing; the Quinn School is the business school at UCD. It is the best business school in Ireland, one of the best in Europe and has many accreditations. Quinn School is very much so like Bentley. The lectures are no larger than 35-40 students, classrooms are very high tech and the building is wireless. All of my business professors are very well educated and seem friendly.

Wednesday night was UCD student night at the Q-Bar, which is only about a 10-minute walk from our house, so we all went over after class. It was a very fun night. We met a bunch of Irish students from UCD there and we met and got to know a lot of the other students here in our program from other schools.

I had quite a wonderful weekend here in Dublin. On Friday, I went to Trinity College with the two girls who live in the apartment below me, Johanna and Moira. They are both seniors at UMASS Dartmouth and here in the same program as me. We saw the Book of Kells and the Old Library while at Trinity. The Book of Kells is gorgeous, but the Old Library is absolutely breath taking.

On Saturday, the three of us went to the Dublin Zoo. It is on the completely opposite side of the city from our house, but the bus ride was not too long. There were many different types of animals at the zoo, and about 10 different types of monkeys alone. The only disappointing part was that the lion, tigers and leopard were not out when we were there. But they had rhinos, hippos, penguins, giraffes and much more. Saturday was a beautiful day out and there was not a cloud in the sky, so it was great that we were able to walk around outside and enjoy the day.

Yesterday the program here had a bus tour around Dublin for us to go on if we wanted to. I went with the other 10 Bentley students and our friend Katie from Colorado. We ended up on a different bus than the other students in our program, but it was a fun day. It was a hop-on, hop-off tour, so we were able to get out and see what we wanted. We got out at the Dublin Castle and walked around on our own for a bit, and I plan to go back again and take a tour. We then tried to see St. Patrick’s Cathedral, but service had begun before we got there so there were no tours and we did not want to walk into service that late, I am hoping to go see the cathedral some time this week. We then went to the Guinness Factory and Storehouse. It was an interesting tour and we learned a lot about the company. The most interesting fact that I learned was about the creation of the Guinness Book of World Records: the book was actually put together in order for bar tenders to settle disputes over facts at pubs as one of the Gunniesses had gotten into a discussion over what game bird was the fastest twice. And coincidently, this fact was not published in the first book, but did get into the second edition. The best part of the whole tour however, was by far the Sky Bar on the 7th floor. When you get up there, the entire room has glass walls and, since the bar is round, you have an amazing panoramic view of all of Dublin; it was such a beautiful sight. After we were done with that, we got back on the bus tour and rode it out to the end and then walked home.

Tonight, my cousin Tom is coming to pick up Johanna, Moira and myself so we can come see him and his friends play at Hughes, which is a pub up near where he lives. I am quite excited for tonight as last time I went out with Tom, I had a great time, and this time I get to bring some friends with me so they too can experience a true Irish pub. I am hoping to get to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and/or the Dublin Castle one afternoon this week or next to take the tours. On Thursday after class I am going to another one of my cousin’s for the weekend to see all of them and we are going to go out for dinner one of the nights to celebrate another cousin and my birthdays as his is today and mine is next week.

I hope all is well with everyone, I miss everyone.

And for all of you who don’t already know…here is the link to view my pictures from Ireland: http://community.webshots.com/user/lamargotiatbent

week 1

So my first week here in Dublin has been very interesting. I flew in on Saturday morning and my cousins Margaret and Tom met me at the airport. After getting through security and such, we went back to Margaret’s house in Naas (about 30 min south of Dublin). At Margaret’s we had some food and I relaxed. I stayed at Margaret’s house until Wednesday when I moved into my apartment here in Dublin, right in Merrion Square.

On Sunday, Margaret took me for a walk around Naas and we watched the All Ireland Hurling Final. After the match, we went to their GAA club.

On Monday, Margaret took me to Ballybunion to go to lunch with Kit. While we were there, we stopped by Owen & Noreen’s house and I met them and their granddaughter, Noreen. They all are extremely friendly. It was raining a lot when we were there, so I didn’t get to see much of Ballybunion, but we drove past the golf course, the statue of Bill Clinton and drove down Kit Ahern Ave. Kit, Margaret and I went to lunch in Listol. After lunch we went into an old church to see an art exhibit that Kit wanted to see. Then we went across the street to some writer place to see another art exhibit that Kit wanted to show us, but it was no longer there.

On Tuesday, while the boys were at school, Margaret, Peter and I came into Dublin to see Margaret’s friend, Missy, play a basketball game as she plays for Great Britain and the GB team was playing the Ireland ladies team. When we got back, Eoin and I played baseball in their backyard and Conor came out to play with us for a little, then the boys taught me how to play hurling.

On Wednesday, Margaret took me grocery shopping, we went to look for desks for Conor, picked Conor up from school and then came into Dublin. After that, she took me into Dublin and I moved into my apartment. We got here, met most of my roommates, then went out to get some bedding so I could be comfortable in bed as the bedding we were given was not very nice. On the way back to the apartment, we stopped for a small bite. Margaret came back to the apartment with me for a little while and then went back home.

I live in the Merrion Square Manor. It is a very nice, old house that has been restored and apartments are in it. I live in apartment #5, it is a 6 person apartment, wth 3 bedrooms. 2 of the bedrooms both have 2 boys in them and I am in the 3rd bedroom with a girl named Alyssa. Alyssa and I have our own bathroom as well, and it is attached directly to our bedroom. Two of the boys, Mike and Mike, are from Bentley, and both live in MA. The other two, Dave and Kevin, are from Fordham. Two other boys, Scott and Tom, live in the same house as us and their room is 1/2 flight down from us.

On Thursday, the four boys from Bentley that I live with and two others that live on campus went out to a bunch of pubs. First we went to O’Donoghue’s, then John Kehoe’s. After that we found another pub and then went to BK for something to eat, it was a very bad idea. After that, we went to a bar called Captain Americas and had a blast. After that we found this one pub around Temple Bar and had an amazing time. We met these 30-year-old women who bought us a bunch of shots. We also met some girls from Missouri that are studying abroad in The Netherlands.

On Friday, we had orientation at UCD. That night I went out with my cousin Tom Allen. First we went back to his apartment to get his banjo, then went to a pub called Cobblestones at the end of his street. We then went to Hughes, which is where he plays his banjo on Monday nights. After that we came back here to O’Donoghue’s where he played the banjo with a bunch of other guys. It was such a fun time.

Yesterday, the boys and I walked around St. Stephen’s Green. It is beautiful. Last night, we went to Porterhouse and had a blast. After we left, Mike and Tom were trying to help one drunk guy we saw wandering in the middle of the street. The guy ended up breaking into our house and apartment. Tom and Scott were able to get him out and our landlord is due here momentarilly to fix the front door for us.