Returning home from studying abroad in Ireland involved a lot of emotions. On one hand, I was thrilled to be going back to see my family and my friends, to be back in my house, and all that sort of stuff. On the other, I was leaving some amazing people and a place I had grown to love.
The night before I left my friends in Ireland I had a bonfire. Saying goodbye to them was rough. Unlike saying goodbye to my friends in Indiana, I don’t know when I will see them again. I usually take a long time to make really good friends, but somehow I was able to make great friends in a very short time-span.
The next morning I said farewell to my host parents, which was very sad. But, they gave me a key and made me promise to return! So, that helped. I also have a strong dislike of airplanes and airports, so that also meant I was nervous for a good part of the day. And then, of course, I finally saw my family in person for the first time in nine months! All in all, an emotional day.
Now that I’m back, everything feels slightly different. You miss a lot in nine months. For starters, all of my siblings are a lot taller now! And they have all grown and changed in other, more subtle ways as well.
Studying abroad has undoubtedly changed me. The experience has taught me to be more relaxed, to look at the big picture instead of the tiny problems, to celebrate small victories.
I feel more confident, more secure in myself, and I have more self-esteem. I don’t know what I want to do in life, but studying abroad showed me that I want to see the world, meet new people, and experience other cultures. I know I want to study abroad again in college, and this experience has given me the courage to maybe go to a country where English isn’t widely spoken.
Long story short, after an experience like this one, I’m pretty sure my life will never be the same again.
So what now? Well, I have one more year of high school left, and I’m excited to see what I make of it. I graduate next spring, and go to college next fall. Reverse culture shock has not really affected me yet, beside things like forgetting how to work the shower here and where we keep the plates. But, I imagine that once I start school again it’ll hit me.
As I mentioned earlier, I now know that I really want a career that allows me to live around the world. This has helped me narrow down my college search and explore new possible majors. Likewise, I will also make sure the colleges I apply to offer affordable study abroad programs.
Right before I left for Ireland, I had an online orientation with a few other American students and a program manager from Greenheart Travel. One of things we did was read aloud different pieces of advice from former study abroad students.
My favorite was something along the lines of, “Say ‘yes’… Say ‘yes’ to everything”.
This is the phrase I constantly reminded myself of while studying abroad, and it allowed me to find the courage to do new things and explore new opportunities. Doing those things has allowed me to build my confidence.
Now, thanks to this newfound confidence, I find myself able to say ‘yes’ to anything! Applying to jobs I wouldn’t have considered previously, finding opportunities to shadow careers I never thought about, trying new things I would have bypassed earlier, and so on and so forth.
Kayla Trowbridge is 16 years old and lives in Zionsville, Indiana. Her goal during her study abroad program is to “create relationships that will continue throughout my life and develop a new understanding of the Irish culture.” Follow Kayla’s adventure in Ireland on her blog post updates throughout her program.