If you follow in the footsteps of many previous international students, chances are your weekly schedule will consist of minimal school and as much free time as you can manage. It is so easy to spend that extra exploration and adventure time laying on your bed cuddling your computer. I am telling you, as cozy as it is, the amount of memories you will make out of your bed will make crawling back into it that much sweeter. Here are a couple things that, if you are like me, you will never regret leaving the warmth for:
If you have ever read about this place in James Joyce’s Ulysses, then seeing its majestic beauty in person will inspire you to capture it in any way you can. For those of you who have yet to read his lovely prose, be ready to get the wind knocked out of you. My roommate and I made a spur of the moment decision to go to Howth on a Saturday afternoon. It was around 3 pm and we found out that it took just under an hour to get there by bus. We ended up arriving just as the sun was setting (around 4:30), which I would argue is one of the best times to see such a place. Howth’s Head is a cliff towards the edge of Dublin, along the Irish Sea. It has beautiful mountainous hikes—depending on your level of ability—and amazing views from wherever you stand. If you’re like us, you will take a million pictures and not one of them will live up to what you see in person. Fortunately, they will stand on their own, still beautiful and a reminder of what you experienced.
- Tea Time and a book after a long day
Sometimes, when you are in a new place, you forget about all of the books you wanted to read during all of that free time. Most people would say, why are you reading when you could be exploring? My answer; if you have time for Netflix, you have time to read. And guess what? You can kill four birds with one stone! Just grab that book that has been sitting on your shelf since the beginning of college and walk out the door. Then go to that cute little café you’ve wanted to try, order tea for one, and delve into that book. You just checked four things off of your list in one afternoon: participating in an Irish cultural practice that you won’t find easily in America, making a dent in that dusty novel, getting out and exploring your new home, and trying that delicious looking pastry you’ve been dying to stop for. Sometimes studying in a new place can be stressful and intense. A nice cup of tea and your chosen method of relaxation (weather it be a book, a good playlist, or maybe a sketchpad) can easily put you in a better mood.
- Go to Brunch!
Chances are you were out until an obscene hour on Saturday night, so why not grab some friends and commiserate over those headaches with some amazing food. Dublin has a slew of restaurants that serve brunch until 4 pm at the latest. Brunch is a great way to get out of the house with some good company on a day you would normally spend in bed. You can go for a traditional Irish breakfast or get something a little more close to home like Huevos Rancheros at Odessa. Brunch is always a good time and rarely disappointing. Make it a weekly tradition and try to find your group’s favorite Sunday spot!
- Be a tourist in your own city
I am sure it won’t take any of you very long to get comfortable in your new city; you’ve probably found your favorite nighttime spots and become regulars at those awesomely cheap restaurants but you may not have gotten as much sightseeing in as you thought. Take a day and go to those nearby monuments that you have neglected for so long because you would get to them eventually. Get some photos from inside that castle that is on your way to school, go into that church that you’ve admired from afar, or go to those museums that everyone’s been telling you about. Try to hit as many spots in a day as possible and make sure you know your new city at least half as well as you knew your old one by the time you go home.
- Go to some local markets!
The best way to find those one of a kind gifts for all of your friends and family back home is to find some of the local markets that happen regularly around your city. Go to the weekly farmers market and get some genuine Irish food products or go to a flea market to find some unique Celtic jewelry. The best souvenirs are those that have a back-story and an identity. Nothing says you care more than a handpicked, culturally specific gift that is perfect for that special someone. Every new place has new things to discover and enjoy; if you want to make the most of your time abroad, you have to push yourself to go find them and make a few memories.
Want to read more about Ireland? Check out “5 Reasons to Study Abroad in Ireland”