Earlier this semester during a meeting about her Honors project, I half-joked to Emma that it would be incredible to talk with students about their study abroad experience… at the end of their study abroad experience… in the place where they had their study abroad experience. Little did I know that what started off as a joke would manifest itself in to a whirlwind, extended weekend trip to the Emerald Isle where Emma would do just that! The trip also gave us the opportunity to gather more content for this blog and our Travel Instagram.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, studying abroad as an undergraduate had a major impact on the direction my life took after the experience. Here I am, a decade and a half later, working with a student who shares the passion of discovering what it is about this experience that is so transformative!
That’s the beauty of experiences like this: Seeds are planted. You may not fully comprehend the fruits of your abroad experience until weeks, months, even years after it’s happened. What seemed inconsequential at the time may turn out to be more significant in your life as you have time to unpack (literally and figuratively) and make sense of things.
No matter the duration of your trip, you’ll feel pangs of longing to be back in the experience, of not fully being able to explain things to friends and colleagues who didn’t experience it with you, and of readjusting to a life that’s a little slower and more removed from the “exotic” nature your host city/country provided. I mean, the Mount is beautiful in its own right, but Emmitsburg isn’t really a thriving metropolis, #amiright?
But you can and should take solace in knowing that the experience had its impact: You are forever changed even if you can’t quite put your finger on how. Perhaps you were pushed outside of your comfort zone: On my first trip abroad as an undergraduate student, I was challenged with very limited Italian and German language skills, but needed to communicate with people who didn’t speak English for my most basic needs. Maybe you were pushed to your physical limits: I was literally awake for over 30 hours our first day in Dublin and barely slept for the duration of our trip thanks to the hopping night clubs on site at our hotel, but I still made the most of the experience!
I don’t know that I have had time to fully reflect on and process this trip to Ireland just yet: I was back in the classroom within 15 hours of returning to the United States and haven’t really stopped since the semester is coming to an end and final projects, papers, and exams are on the horizon. Despite it being Dublin in November, we had 3 days of mostly sunny skies. We did everything we set out to do and more. We drank Guinness, had important conversations with Mount students about their study abroad experience, and even got to catch my favorite D.C.-based band, Scythian, at the tail-end of their Ireland tour. I know that the sheer amount of things we did (see Monday’s post for a recap) and the people I encountered have planted the seeds of transformation in my life, even now as a professor, and I’m excited to have the opportunity to really reflect on this experience… probably once the semester ends!
Make sure to check back for reflections from Emma and all of our bloggers over the next week or so, and look for previews of our upcoming spring semester trips to Cuenca and Florence!