There Once Was A Girl In Chicago…My Adventures Studying Abroad in Limerick, Ireland

September 6, 2016

By Mary Alice Maloney

Everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. I should’ve expected Murphy’s Law to hit me hard on the day I officially started my journey to study abroad Ireland. On Saturday, August 27, I finally found myself making my way to O’Hare International Airport for my flight to London, where I’d be spending a few days sightseeing and getting to know the other people in my study abroad program before we all jetted off to Limerick, Ireland for our four month stay.

So there I was, driving north along on I-294 with my mom, dad and brother, checking off a mental list of all the things I knew I had packed, hoping I didn’t forget anything. My family had to help me pack, unpack and repack my luggage at least four times to ensure my suitcase was under the 50-pound weight limit. There were jeans, bottles of shampoo and heavy pairs of shoes being thrown around my house. Fitting my life for the next four months into a suitcase, a carry-on and a messenger bag was a daunting and stressful task.

We parked at Terminal 5 and my dad and brother began to unload my luggage. It was 3:30 p.m., and my flight was scheduled to take off at 6 p.m. “Okay,” I thought to myself as I began to situate my bags, “Suitcase rolling along on this side, carry-on over this shoulder, messenger bag on… wait… where’s the messenger bag?” I instantly burst into tears as I realized my laptop, money, ID, passport and, most importantly, my coloring books for the flight were nowhere in sight.

As my tears continued to fall down my face, my dad was swearing like a truck driver who recently switched careers and became a sailor, running back to the driver’s seat saying he’d go home to get the bag and be back in half an hour. The only problem what that it definitely takes at least 45 minutes to get to my house from O’Hare. It would take almost two hours for him to get back and that wouldn’t work, AND I’M GONNA MISS MY FLIGHT AND I’LL NEVER GET TO IRELAND AND-

My mom, the beautiful quick-thinker she is, had already called my uncle who lives a block away from us to get the bag and he was already on his way to the airport. Phew. My family and I were then free to stand outside the airport in the sun, waiting for my savior of an uncle to roll through, my emotions flip flopping between being mad about my bag and sad about leaving my family. As we were standing there, people from all different cultures and backgrounds were hustling and bustling around us, hugging and kissing family members or waving hello or goodbye to loved ones.

That made me excited. I was about to embark on a journey to far-off places that I had never seen before. At that point, I had never left the United States and the farthest west I’ve ever been is Iowa. Technically, I couldn’t be sure Europe even existed because I had never seen it in with my own eyes. But I was about to find out.

The bag disaster was just a blip on the scale of my entire trip and, honestly, the blips and bumps and backups are what make things interesting. Like Murphy said, what can go wrong will go wrong, but a smooth sea does not a sailor make.

A semester abroad can be one of the most challenging times of one’s life, but the way you handle those challenges determines the experience. Let bad things happen, let everything go wrong – and then find a way to fix it. Don’t let every little thing get under your skin or end your world; realize it’s a part of reality. It’s uncomfortable, and studying abroad is all about expanding your comfort zone and pushing yourself to handle brand new situations, surprising yourself, rolling with the punches and having a great time in the process.

I made it to London without a hitch and explored all the great sights there. On Monday, the day Dominican started classes, I was laying in the grass outside Kensington Palace with the English sun on my face and a few new pals all around me. What a life.

I’m settling in to the University of Limerick now, exploring campus and finding shops to purchase all that stuff I threw out of my suitcase. So far, Ireland has been a beautiful dream come true and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for me this semester. Stay tuned!