December 6, 2016
By Mary Alice Maloney
I’ve had my breath taken away so many times this semester, I’m surprised I’m not dead. The sheer beauty of Ireland and Europe in general has not ceased to amaze me, and each time I see a new monument, Cathedral, Basilica, tower, island, mountain, body of water, my mouth drops open, my eyes light up and my lungs stop working. I cannot believe that in less than two weeks I’ll be back home, and this dream of my abroad life will be over.
I’m so grateful for all the travels I’ve been able to make on my semester abroad. I’ve seen so much of Ireland, and I was able to make it to London, Edinburgh, Barcelona, Berlin and Paris as well. Each new city and country has taught me so much and I’ve seen so many things that I never thought my little old eyes would see.
On my first day in Paris, I visited Notre Dame Cathedral. Talk about breath-taking. My tour group and I were walking the charming, tiny Parisian streets when all of a sudden the buildings faded away, and when I looked up, there it was. The grandeur of the place practically slapped me in the face and I think my mouth was hanging open in awe for at least five minutes straight.
Of course, wandering these wonderful European cities provides it’s fair share of challenges. In Barcelona, I got pick-pocketed by a woman in front of La Sagrada Familia (I was staring up at the basilica, you guessed it-mouth agape, lost in the moment, when it happened). I had at least 80 euros stolen from me and I didn’t even realize it until an hour and a half later. I was really upset about it, but I mostly just felt stupid and embarrassed. Rule #1 in Europe: don’t let yourself get pick-pocketed. Looking back, I’m honestly impressed with the impeccable skill of that pickpocket, and I’m glad it was only cash that was stolen and not worse.
A less threatening challenge is the task of navigating the public transportation systems in countries in which you don’t speak the language. I know maybe 6 words of German and French combined, but I was able to zip around both Berlin and Paris like I’ve spent more than 36 hours in each city.
It sounds so cliché, but I’ve really learned a lot from both the awful and triumphant moments I’ve had while abroad. I’ve learned that getting pickpocketed sucks and I’ll do anything to avoid it and that I can rely on myself to make my way around a foreign city. Pretty cool stuff.
I’ll spare you the rest of my stories for now, but if anyone out there is debating on whether or not to study abroad, I beg of you, please do it! I know it’s scary and daunting to think about going somewhere so far away for such a long time. I know finding the money to fund a semester abroad isn’t easy. But the beauty about studying abroad is that you’re legally obliged to come home eventually (unless you love it so much that you want to extend your stay), and there are study abroad scholarships available to help you make it possible financially. The doubts and fears you have about studying abroad are the exact reasons why you should take the plunge: face those fears and see where the world will take you and what you will make of the world.
I feel like I have so much more to tell you guys, but alas, this is the final issue of the Star for the semester. Thanks to all of those loyal readers out there who religiously read every single one of these columns (Mom and Dad, I’m talking to you, love you guys). I hope they were fun, interesting, informative and enjoyable to read. I’m so sad to be leaving Limerick but I’m beyond exited to see all you guys back on campus in January. If you see me around and have any questions at all about studying abroad, please ask me! I’ll be so happy to talk for hours about my experience and encourage you to go on your own adventure.
I leave you with this Irish blessing:
“May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.”