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Study abroad: questions, answers and lessons learned

June 14, 2017 | By | No Comments

Thinking about studying abroad but have a million questions racing through your mind? Already applied, been accepted and now thinking “what next”? Kristen, our IT Sligo and Canadian Ambassador, can relate. Check our her never-ending list of things she has learned in during her study abroad experience… 

Flights

Travelling to Ireland from Ontario, Canada?

The best non-stop flight for me was Toronto to Dublin with Aer Lingus. Great prices, great flight times and slightly above average leg room! Air Canada would be my second choice, but book early as this airline likes to jump their prices sky high as the departure date approaches!

Round-trip or one-way?

If you don’t know when you’ll expect to return home, I still encourage you to book a round-trip flight.  For me, I booked a round-trip flight as it was the cheaper option. Even if I had to reschedule it, the fee to do so still left my trip cheaper than it would have been had I booked two separate one way tickets. I realise the prices will be different depending on where you are flying from, but to put it into perspective for you I got a round-trip flight for only $150 CAD more than I would have paid for a single one-way ticket.

Getting around Ireland

Renting a car? Did you read travel blogs?

Well let me tell you first hand that they aren’t kidding when you tell you to rent a SMALL car. You may think, but I drive an SUV back home and I’m comfortable with it so that’s what I want in Ireland too. Do not do it. Irish roads are nothing like the roads in North America. Picture this… a coach bus takes up almost the entire width of the majority of Irish roads. Still think you’ll be okay in a large vehicle? Irish roads do not have paved shoulders. They literally have NO shoulders. Not to mention, you may be in a road with no shoulders and stone walls. Okay, so. Not to completely scare you off of driving on Irish roads – the main motorways are much better. Wider lanes and yes, there are shoulders. But the main motorways don’t get you into the towns, not to mention the beautiful country driving which cannot be missed.

So I’ll leave it up to your imagination if a large transport truck comes barrelling down the road in front of you and you have nowhere to go but a stone wall to the left…

Money

Don’t forget to factor in the exchange rate

If you are heading to Ireland from Canada or the US, you will want to understand the Euro exchange rate. On paper it doesn’t seem too bad, but you will come to realise how different it really is when you look at your bank statement! My first mistake was not factoring it in when I set up my initial line of credit. With rent payments, flights, groceries and the initial apartment shop those funds will deplete quickly!

What to pack?

A girl’s worst nightmare

I paid for an additional suitcase on my flight because I didn’t want to leave any clothing or shoes behind that I thought I would want to wear. I figured it was cheaper to bite the bullet and make the one payment then it would be to purchase additional items I didn’t pack once I got here. Well mistake number one. Even though I brought every single article of clothing I expected I would wear while I was abroad, I am not wearing 50% of it and I am adding new pieces to my wardrobe as well! As soon as I got to Ireland I hit up a number of charity shops. The clothing is different than that back home and I found so many pieces I just couldn’t pass up – wool and cashmere for such great prices especially! So now I’m stuck with an overflowing wardrobe, and I’ve decided to donate any article of clothing which I haven’t touched the entire time I’ve been here to a charity shop before I leave!

Homesickness

You miss home a lot, but is it worth the emotional tease to venture back for the holidays?

My situation was a little different. I had a previous engagement to attend – my best friend’s wedding in the Dominican Republic! So, my trip back home for the holidays was extended to a month and a half rather than a few weeks. Of course it was great when I was there and I couldn’t have been happier. Something crazy happened – I actually missed Ireland! I missed having my own routine and my apartment had become my new “home”. I even missed the friends I made here. But the family and friends I have back home filled that void for the most part. Fast forward, coming back was okay – I got on the plane and wasn’t even worried. The difference was that there was no longer an “unknown” in Ireland for me. I was going back to an apartment that was familiar, friends and the college and town I had been wandering around everyday. But even though I had all that comfort, I still found it really hard to be back. That’s when my new best friend came to the rescue. A little home away from home. Lesson learned the hard way. Sometimes it’s just easier to stay away than it is to go back and have to say goodbye all over again!

Before you know it, you’ll be gone..

Take it all in when you have the opportunity to do so. As hard as it may be for you to be away from your friends and family back home, just take a deep breath and embrace this risk you are partaking in. Before you know it, the school year will be over and you will be on your flight headed back home.  You don’t want to be concentrating on all the things you didn’t do, rather reminisce on what you experienced during your time abroad!

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