Junior Katie Barsevich shares photos of semester abroad in Ireland.
I enjoy a challenge. Who doesn’t!? By stepping onto an international flight this past August, I accepted my biggest challenge yet: four months in Ireland: the land of redheads, shamrocks and Guinness!
For the semester, I was abandoning my family and friends; rusty, yet trusty Honda Civic; American junk food; beloved book collection; and my comfort zone. As I left America, the jet soared over my small town in Connecticut, and from my leather airplane seat, I gazed past the taunting emergency sick-bag and out into the sea of rolling peach and coral clouds. The sunset-streaked window fogged with my warm exhalations as I anxiously scanned the ant-sized houses for my familiar backyard. Realizing I wouldn’t see the Conn. Naugatuck Valley again until Christmas, I spontaneously considered skydiving and ditching the flight towards the University of Limerick. Then my ears released the pressure of the plane ascending, and logic thankfully kicked in.
Leaving New England and jumping into different cultures I’d previously only watched or read about has been the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Most of my time in Europe has been spent traveling everywhere I’ve been able to, meeting various travelers and locals, and swapping stories.
Like I said earlier, I love a challenge, and predictably, the obstacles I set didn’t end simply after arriving in Limerick; since landing, I’ve only spent a grand total of three weekends on campus. I’ve met my wonderful Irish family and attended my cousin’s wedding where we celebrated for a mere 17 hours.
I’ve taken seven trips around Ireland, been to England and traveled to four predominantly non-English speaking countries in the Czech Republic, Spain, Italy and France. I’m happily able to reflect that I’ve made the most of my travel opportunities.
While the relatively inexpensive and convenient traveling experiences are exciting and eye-opening, there of course have been some downsides: experiencing European health care and waiting eight hours for stitches, missing a flight and being re-routed to Germany during an 18-hour travel day, feeling the pang of periodic homesickness and of course, classes.
I’ve been able to come to terms with the fact that this semester was never meant to be solely about formal education, and it’s obvious I’ve learned much more outside the classroom. “It’s about the experience as a whole, not my grades,” I believe, but as Oscar Wilde noted, “Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes.” The school aspect has not been fun, to put it lightly, and my advisers will soon see that my transcript is dreadfully ugly, but hey, I worked hard to get here, right?
Now that my semester abroad is coming to a close, I realize I cannot properly describe the priceless experience of what I’d have missed had I chosen to leap from 30,000 feet rather than land in Ireland.
There are so many great places to see and awesome people to meet in the world that I fear I’ve contracted the incurable epidemic of traveling. Tours of famous cities don’t come with fun and fond memories unless the people along for the ride make it a meaningful experience. I’ve seen countless iconic cites and met absolutely amazing new friends, and the quote, “Turns out not where but who you’re with that really matters” from Dave Matthews Band, still stands true.
I honestly wouldn’t trade this semester for anything and will never forget my adventures abroad. Looking back, I’m so grateful that some inner burst of courage made me take the leap across the pond to Ireland.