Feeling overwhelmed or scared about studying abroad in Ireland? Allow our Brazilian ambassador and NUI Galway student Jade Caminha Carvalho Cestari to put your mind at ease with the lessons she has learned.

For most international students getting the opportunity to be able to study abroad is a huge privilege. For me it certainly feels that way — it’s like a dream come true! But like most things in life, it came with certain responsibilities and challenges that needed addressing. I wanted to share my five grand (because as we all know by now everything in Ireland can be described as grand!) lessons I’ve come to learn while doing my MA at NUI Galway.

Everyone’s day has 24 hours. Don’t panic, instead learn how to focus

When the semester first started, I was overwhelmed with all of the readings and essays I had to do — even more difficult when you have to juggle living with other people, adapting to a new country and time zone, making new friends and being away from the people you love. So, to say I panicked would be an understatement. But as I faced up to my new reality I reminded myself that everyone’s day has the same amount of hours, therefore it was not impossible to do everything that I had to do. Time spent in a panic would be better invested by focusing on my assignments. It worked, and now I am much better at balancing everything I have to do.

Don’t let the grading system get to you. Learn how it works now!

My first essay grade was a lovely 62. And that scared me! I was on the verge of tears — in my home country anything below 70 means you don’t pass. And while a 62 in Ireland may not be the same as an A for example, it certainly was no reason for tears. It was also my first essay written in a foreign language. So, I decided to ask my professor how the grading system worked, and quickly learned that what in my country is the minimum, in Ireland is considered an excellent performance. So, before getting scared or thinking you are a failure, ask about the grading system. It will help you feel less stressed!

group of female friends with arms around each other smiling

Making friends is easier if you allow yourself to come out of your shell

I am the first person to admit that I’m an introvert. Combine this with the fact that I always put my studies first and you can see that it can be a bit of an issue to come out of my shell and make new friends. Of course, you are in Ireland to study so this should be your main priority, but you have to make room for new experiences and friendships as they will be a core part of your experience abroad. In order to do this, you will need to learn to say yes more times than no! Sometimes that will require you to step out of your comfort zone.

The best adventures and moments are those unplanned

I love to plan. My type A personality thrives on structure and rules. But the best adventures and moments I’ve experienced have always been completely unplanned. It’s those “out of nowhere” moments, in which had I chosen “option a” instead of “option b”, or even tried to plan it, it would not have happened. Be responsible, of course, but allow the unknown to surprise you, or follow your intuition and see where it can take you. For me, it led to meeting some of my favourite humans, best friends and to live moments I will never forget. And I’m so grateful for that lesson.

It will be grand as long as you give your best

My fear levels when arriving in Galway were at their maximum. I was so terrified everything would go wrong. I never thought that all I had to do was to give my best and that would be enough. Academically, I was scared that my English would not be at a good enough level to be able to understand my classes — even though I had the right grade to enter the program. I was also worried that switching to literature after years of studying marketing was a big mistake. I was so scared I forgot for a moment that the university had chosen me. I know I am here doing this course to grow and to learn and in order to do that I just need to give my best every single day. Even if I am tired, sad or homesick, I always try to give a little bit more.

I hope that my top five tips will be helpful if you are feeling overwhelmed or scared while studying in Ireland. Stay positive, work hard and enjoy yourself. Keep that mindset and it will all be grand!