In the weeks leading up to my departure, I found myself approaching my upcoming semester in Ireland from a very negative point of view. I had selected the Cork program over a year ago, and my criteria for what I was looking for in an abroad program had changed significantly since then. Instead of looking forward to this adventure, all I could think was that I chose the wrong program, the wrong classes, the wrong country. Now that I have been in Ireland for a week, I’m starting to realize that this semester -and program- is an incredible opportunity. I have always been an overthinker and tend to waste energy worrying about things I can’t change, and this semester will be my chance to develop a more positive mindset. In order to make this actually happen, I have thought hard about my concerns about this program and made plans to alleviate them.
My largest concern about Ireland had been its relative distance from the places I’d like to visit in continental Europe. Last semester I watched my friends travel to a new country every weekend, and I’ve realized that I don’t have the time or budget to do what they did. I now see this as a good thing; instead of traveling at every opportunity, I have the chance to visit local sites and engage with the Cork community. My past traveling experiences have always been whirlwind tours where I, along with my family, jam pack the itineraries with as many cities and attractions as possible. I like to be busy, but I think being forced to slow down and appreciate the things around me will be a good experience, and give me the chance to ‘know’ Ireland on a deeper level. Ireland is a beautiful country, and I’m glad I’ll have time to see as much of it as possible.
Living in Cork itself was another large concern. Again, I had been comparing myself to others and began to worry that Cork might not be the right fit. As an Art History major, I was kicking myself for choosing a city that has virtually zero museums. (Why hadn’t I chosen Paris? Or Rome? Or Florence? Or…?) While there certainly are benefits to living in large historic cities like those, I’m actively focusing on the many advantages of living in a smaller city. In the first place, it’s less expensive. This semester will be the first time I’ve ever lived in an apartment and had to buy my own groceries, cleaning supplies, and every other essential. The cost of living in Cork is significantly lower than in other European cities, and this will allow me to save more money for weekend trips and cultural experiences instead of day-to-day basics. Furthermore, Cork is an incredibly safe city. As a 95 lb female runner, it’s really important that I’m able to go off on my own without fearing for my safety. I’ve already found a few running routes nearby that I feel comfortable on and am now very grateful that I choose a smaller city like Cork. While these things might seem trivial, forcing myself to find the positives has been really helpful, and is the first step to becoming a generally happier, more positive person.
While I’m not expecting to love every single moment of my abroad experience, I am much more excited about this semester now that I’ve been here for a week. I’m really looking forward to making the most of my time in Ireland and challenging myself to be more present and positive.