I’ve known for the past 16 months that studying abroad for my final semester of college was going to happen. I didn’t know how, but I had faith that it would. Despite what certain authority figures told me, I knew deep down that a pandemic wouldn’t stop what I knew was the best decision for me. The way I looked at it, my last semester as a senior in college was going to be spent in another country learning and adapting to a new way of life, not working 3 campus jobs with a full-time course load.
That’s what brings me to the University of Limerick in the western parts of Ireland. Ireland has different types of COVID-19 Restrictions than the United States has. I grew up in a rural town called Benld in Illinois, and there were a lot of wakeups when I arrived that even my preparedness couldn’t stop. Ireland is on a level 5 restrictive movement lockdown currently until March 5th, which means only essential businesses are open and all food is takeaway. There have been protests, mostly in Dublin, over these rules that come with the lockdown. Despite not being able to go and travel as much as I hoped to before COVID, here’s how I’ve been living my best life since coming here.
Here’s why you should study abroad even during a pandemic:
- You’re not home anymore
Now you might be thinking to yourself, well yeah…duh, but think about it – if you’re going to be under COVID-19 restrictions, why not do it in another country? Now, granted, the United States doesn’t have as many restrictions as Ireland does, but I’ve found ways to have fun and see the parts of Limerick that I can that are within the 5km radius of my apartment. If I would’ve stayed home this semester, I’d have done almost the exact same thing, since I don’t have a car on campus. When studying abroad during a pandemic and not being at home anymore, you’re surrounded by other students just like you, who want to get either away from mom and dad, who traveled through ERASMUS, or study abroad to experience something close to the college lifestyle.
2. New People
Now that you’re in a new area, you will meet new people from all walks of life. You’re going to be able to learn about their lifestyles and nationalities. I’m housed with three wonderful French roommates, and one from Hungary, and I’ve been able to learn how our educations differ. It’s not a shock to American students that our education is a very expensive process, so learning about how other countries handle college education is pretty fascinating in my opinion. Besides, people will tell from your accent what country you are from, and they’ll want to ask questions and learn about you as well. This opens up a door of communication and a branch of friendship you might not be able to achieve at your home university. I come from a predominantly white institution, with mostly American students. It’s been a rewarding and educating experience meeting new people… and tasting delicious foods.
This could have been my first reason because I love food. There’s a thing called garlic sauce here for fries, and it’s amazing. Shoutout to Brew Bros who I order UberEats from, who give me the best garlic fries and fried chicken sandwich I’ve ever had. Not only that, my French roommates make crepes every other week, and they are absolutely delicious. I had my first one on my third night here. In addition, we traveled into the city and stopped by Wildberry Cafe and I got a Cream Cheese Fantasy crepe that had sugar, syrup, marshmallows, pecans, and cream cheese on it. It’s a good thing it is a €2.40 trip away because if it was my next-door neighbor, Id be there every day. Limerick has many different types of cuisines available, like Italian, Chinese, Indian, Japanese, French, and American. There is something to be found for anyone’s taste buds. Is it suitable for vegetarians? Yes! My two vegetarian roommates have no problem finding meatless options anywhere we go. There is quality fresh food available at the local supermarket.
4. The Weather
Coming from the Midwest, I am so used to snow and the dry cold of winter, but here in Ireland, there’s an average 45-degree F weather. The weather can be wet and rainy, with random moments of sunshine, but I enjoy it. As a reader, the best way I can describe it is Forks, Washington (for my Twilight readers), just without the snow.
When you go to study abroad, you will encounter a different type of climate and weather that you are not used to. You’ve got to make the most of it and find ways to adapt and enjoy it. I learned quickly to keep my windbreaker in my bookbag when I left the apartment when the sun was out, for any rain that came out of nowhere. A way I have adapted to the lack of sunshine is by getting small plants from the local Aldi’s, and having some greenery in my room.
5. Growth & Healing
A huge reason you should go study abroad is to grow as a human. When you leave home and choose to study abroad, you are developing cultural competence. You will learn new things and some of it may change you. I decided to leave home to grow and heal, and I have found it, and so have others who I have spoken to. There is something healing about choosing to study abroad in another country, to focus on yourself and your education. This is the moment in college where you should “take chances, make mistakes, and get messy,” in the words of Ms. Frizzle.
This is my last semester of college and honestly, there is no better way to end my undergraduate journey than to be in another country. I believe people should travel and leave their small towns and lives to see the bigger picture. There are a lot of things out there that you need to see – the more you learn about the world around you, the more you become aware of the problems and lives of those around you. COVID-19 exists and it is a deadly disease, but following the COVID-19 procedures of ISA and your new university, you can safely travel and study in another country.
The world awaits…discover it.