3 Tips for Staying Positive During Your Study Abroad Experience

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foreign-correspondent badge finalToday I finished my classes in Maynooth. After one study week and two weeks of finals, I will officially be on summer vacation!

Lately, one common theme of conversation among my fellow Saint Mary’s study abroad students is how we are handling the experience of “hitting the wall.” It is hard not to hit the wall while studying abroad. Many of us have not seen our friends and family in several months, and with the end of term being “so close, yet so far,” we view the next few weeks with mixed emotions.

I love Ireland and leaving is going to be hard because I have made such great friends here. Leaving means I will never see some of them again. At the same time, I miss my family and friends back home and it will be amazing to see them again after being away for so long.

The end of the study abroad experience is an emotional mind bender filled with indescribable feelings. When you live somewhere for several months, you get into a routine and you adjust. But then, suddenly, you leave and are forced to readjust back to the life and culture of the place you first left.

However, there are so many ways for the study abroad student to avoid these feelings.

1. Enjoy every minute of the experience. Go to those places you said you would in the beginning of the semester, but never did. Eat that food you cannot find back home. Go out and have fun.

Just last night, my friend and I went out to one of our favorite pubs and danced as though no one was watching. This is not an exaggeration; everyone gave us tons of space because of our obnoxiously awesome dance moves. It was one of the best nights out I’ve experienced while in Ireland and it is a night I won’t forget. Make these kinds of memories. Your last weeks should be full of happiness and fun, not homesickness and anxiety.

2. Realize that the time will go by too fast. I only have a few weeks left, and I am shocked at how fast the time went. It feels like I just got here, and yet, all of a sudden, I’m preparing to go home. It’s a strange sensation to say, “I’m going home” because I can’t begin to recall the countless times my friends and I have said, “when we get home” in reference to Maynooth, not the States.

3. Spend your time with the right people. If you’re with the right people, even the worst parts of your trip will be better.

The Saint Mary’s women I came with to Ireland have made the experience here so much better and made the adjustment to living in foreign country much easier.

Just this past weekend, our class took a trip to the Aran Islands. These islands are stunning and anyone who is planning to go to Ireland should try to make it there. It is traditional trip for all of the second semester Saint Mary’s women in Ireland. While the trip itself was great, the ferry ride back was not.

We headed back home in a tiny, dingy ferry boat and experienced very rough seas. While the boat tossed around the water like a ragdoll, many of the women became seasick. However, what made this whole experience better was the fact that we took care of one another.

I was one of the women who became seasick, and my fellow Saint Mary’s women took care of me. When I thanked them for holding me while I hung over the side of a boat dry heaving, they responded, “You would do the same thing for us.” And it’s true.

Everyone who needed to be taken care of was, and it made me so proud of our group. Saint Mary’s women stick together, and there was no further proof of that than on that ferry boat.

While not an experience I want to relive, it was a bonding experience like no other. Even in the worst of times, traveling with the right people makes things better.

About Kiera Johnsen

Kiera JohnsenKiera Johnsen is a Southern California native who is majoring in political science and communication studies with a minor in intercultural studies at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana. She is currently studying abroad in Maynooth, Ireland at the National University of Ireland Maynooth for the semester.

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