Samantha – Semester Exchange to Mary Immaculate College, Ireland
Semester 1, 2017
I’m going to be perfectly honest here; my first few weeks were tough. I had been touring Europe for two months prior to settling down in Limerick and so I had become accustomed to traveling with and being in the constant company of my closest friend, seeing amazing new places every couple of days and being inundated with new and exciting experiences the entire time. And then I arrived here and the first few days lived up to expectation. I was finally in Ireland after years of dreaming about coming here, it was as green as everyone says and the international department took us to a pub on our second night and they played live Irish music and I was as happy as could be. And then the gloss started to wear off a little bit and it dawned on me that I was in fact, quite lonely. My three other flat mates had been here for the first semester as well, so I was the only new one in the apartment and felt the pressure of trying to fill the shoes of their close friend who had been the fourth person in the apartment before I arrived and the only one of them to leave for good come Christmas. They weren’t doing anything by any means to make me uncomfortable or unwelcome, it was all in my head, but of course it’s your head that is your biggest challenge when you’re feeling a little down! Uni classes were not as exciting as I had imagined they’d be and I didn’t actually get to do much socialising with the Irish students. I had no homework and my usual routine at home of part time working or attending various rehearsals or visiting friends in the evenings, obviously wasn’t applicable here and I found I had an overwhelming amount of free time. This was great for the first few days while I could finally relax after backpacking for two months and I binge watched a lot of Netflix, but the appeal of it didn’t last long! This headspace lasted for about two weeks, I just couldn’t get out my funk, I wasn’t making friends as easily as I usually do and I was far more homesick than I had ever anticipated being. I had to do something about it.
Come clubs and societies day I signed up for literally every one of them (except the rugby club because I’d rather not make a huge fool of myself)! Most of them never got around to organising anything but the few that did, have become what’s made exchange turn into the wonderful time I had been expecting. I auditioned for the play and got in which means more to do and making friends with actual Irish students. I invited my room mates out for drinks and taught them some card games – we all now socialise on a far more even level now. I focused on what was making me happy and did more of it. I bought fairy lights and decorated my room, put up my Christmas card from home and a few souvenirs from travel on display and made my room appealing to me. A trip to Dublin in the first weekend was so good that it’s up there as one of my entire trip highlights. I started planning more weekend travel, I planned my semester to see how many places I could visit in the time I’ve got. I took a ‘just sort of close acquaintance’ up on her offer for a coffee run – we spent hours at the café and we’re great friends now. My point is, if you’re not happy with how things are – which when you move to the other side of the globe, away from the people you know and love and the routines that you didn’t realise were such an integral part of your life, is quite possible – do whatever is in your power to change it. If you’re into sport, join a sports team – I’m in the process of setting up a Gaelic Football team for the international students, because – why not?! If you’re into performance, audition for a local school or town show, join a choir, find a way to perform. If you like to write, write a blog about your time. If you want a coffee, invite your roommate along for the walk – you never know how that extra alone time with someone can develop a friendship! Exchange was not what I was expecting; it took a lot of attitude adjustment and time on the phone with friends from home to get me through my first few weeks. But I refused to let my attitude stay that way and now I’m so looking forward to what the next few months have in store. So if you arrive at your new place of living and its not all rainbows and sunshine and its not as amazing as you built it up to be in your head, don’t worry. Work on it, change little things at a time and it may take a little while, but you’ll end up having the kind of amazing experience you thought you would!