A spoon of friends, a dash of fun and a pinch of homesickness. Ciara Enright, our US and GMIT Ambassador, give us her recipe for study abroad success…

Studying abroad, weather for a semester or for an entire degree, can be an invaluable experience. The knowledge you gain, the people you meet, and the memories you make are something to cherish. However, it’s important to know that studying abroad is not always “sunshine and rainbows,” even if we do get a lot of rainbows in Ireland. If you want to make the most out of your experience, you have to be willing to put in the effort.

It’s like following a recipe! You have the potential to make a great meal, but if you miss an ingredient or add too much of one, you also have the potential to walk away with something other than the best. That being said, you have the creative freedom to add your own spice here in there and make it fit your own taste buds! The same principle applies to creating your study abroad experience. Whether or not you have the experience you want, depends on what you put into it.

Of course there is no exact recipe for having a great experience, but here are just a few ingredients that I would recommend:

A heaped spoonful of friendships

In my opinion, the most important and valuable aspect about studying abroad is having the opportunity to meet a whole new set of people. When I first came to Ireland, I did not know anyone my age! It was nerve-racking, but it forced me to put myself out there, and in return I have made a whole new group of friends that I can’t imagine not having in my life.

Getting to know people from different countries has opened up my mind and given me new perspectives that I would not have gained at home. Meet as many people and make as many friends as you can, the more the merrier!

A dash of nightlife

Ireland, particularly bigger towns and cities, has a great nightlife that is popular amongst college students. There’s no shame in gathering up all those new friends you’ve made and indulging in a bit of craic! Going out is a monumental part of the whole “college experience,” no matter where you are.

Whether you want to explore an old-fashioned Irish pub or a modern nightclub, you’ll be able to find it! Of course, just remember to stay safe and smart. Always be with someone you trust and be aware of your surroundings. These nights make the best memories!

A pinch of homesickness

In keeping with the “recipe” theme, homesickness is to studying abroad what salt is to baking. If we’re trying to make something sweet, why do we need something so salty? Well, I’m actually not a baker so I couldn’t tell you! However, I know that as much as no one wants to feel homesick, there are times when there is no way to avoid it. You could be having the best time of your life and still be feeling a bit lonely or be missing home.

Don’t fret! It’s only natural to feel homesick, and I think it’s necessary for a fulfilling experience. Being able to tackle and overcome homesickness is a huge step in growing up and maturing, and will be a skill that you carry with you your whole life. A little homesickness is not a bad thing, but you don’t want it to overshadow your entire experience.

One way that has helped me to cope with homesickness, is staying in touch with my family. I use Facebook Messenger, which is easily accessible and free. Also, it’s OK to bring a few pieces of home with you to make you feel more comfortable. Finally, will yourself to be open to a new culture and to change. If you’re too focused on what you’re missing, you’ll miss out on what’s right in front of you!

A sprinkle of homework

Studying abroad can be fun and games, but by definition, you’re here to study! You might find that the Irish education system is very different than what you’re used to, so don’t be afraid to seek help from your lecturers and peers. My biggest recommendation is to ATTEND CLASS! We are all guilty of missing a class every now and then, but try not to make it a habit. Passing your exams is a lot easier when you go to class. Plus, it’s a great way to stay social and connect with people!

A load of adventures

It may sound cheesy, but have as many adventures as your heart desires. Is that not the reason we chose to study abroad in the first place? There is so much beauty in exploring a new land and culture, and if you put in the work, you’ll have an amazing, unforgettable experience!

Remember, there is no set recipe for having a great time, but you’re still the master chef! You’re experience is what you make of it, so get cooking!