When first deciding to take a year to study abroad, instead of going straight into a PhD program, I was…nervous. There was endless worrying about whether I was making the “right” decision. How would the year affect my career plans? Would I even want to stick with the same PhD program upon my return to the USA? Will I like living in another country, and how will I deal with missing holidays at home?
These were all things that I didn’t need to stress over, however I couldn’t help thinking about them. Looking back on my year in Ireland, I can say that taking a year to come here was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Last year, I was completely burnt out. I spent 5 years in engineering constantly pushing myself without taking a break to recharge. This year I did a Master’s Course in Leadership for Sustainable Development. In the first semester, none of my classes were in engineering. I will say that it was nice to not do math all of the time, but writing essays was a lot harder than I thought. I now have more of an appreciation for my friends majoring in English, because it took me about four months to get the hang of writing essays again. By that time, I had already turned in a couple of assignments and it was clear that, while I was passing all of my classes, I would not be at the top of the class. I know math, but words just seem to escape me. On one of my essays my teacher wrote that I “write too much like an engineer.” No matter how hard I worked on an essay, it seemed like I could never score above average. I am an overachiever by nature. Coping with my best not being the best, was hard to learn, but necessary. Luckily I met other international students who were also adjusting to the new education system.
Without my international friends I do not think I would have enjoyed my year here, as much as I have. Cooking parties, traveling for the holidays, movie nights, gym workouts and walking aimlessly around the city have made this a fantastic experience. I have had the opportunity to learn about other cultures, which I could not get by staying in the USA. Through this I have come to understand the truth and fiction behind some of the stereotypes that surround different countries. Being away from home is hard, but the people I have met have made it a lot easier than I expected. It also helps that I have great friends that come and visit me from time to time.
Now that the time is approaching to leave Ireland, I am getting a little sad, but I am excited to start the next chapter of my life. I will miss the people I have met here, and I am so happy I did not give into my fears about studying abroad. This year has been an amazing experience.