|The first real meal I cooked in Dublin. Ground beef, sliced bacon, onions and garlic all mixed in with some pasta.|
During my first three years of college, I was lucky enough to have a meal plan and a cafeteria just a few minutes away that supplied me with sufficient meals each day. Coming here knowing that I wouldn't have a meal plan was a bit nerve-wracking. But, I assumed it would be baptism by fire and I wouldn't have any choice but to learn how to provide meals for myself. I was wrong for about two weeks. I found it much easier and relaxing to simply go out to eat, sit down, and order a nice meal. Unfortunately, that wasn't doing my bank account any favors (I'll elaborate on that later). Watching my money dwindle in those early days, I decided it was time to start cooking. I watched some of my roommates' and friends' cooking, and decided if they could do it, so could I. So, after one of my friends cooked us some pasta, I asked him for the recipe and told my roommates that I would provide dinner the next night. I couldn't stop thinking about it the whole day and was anxiously awaiting dinner time to put my skills to work. Long story short, dinner was a success (they even had seconds) and my cooking career was off and running! Now I'm just hoping to expand it to more than three dishes. Baby steps.
|My cooking debut for my roommates and I. To say I was nervous that day would have been an understatement.|
One thing I didn't expect to deal with was not having a working cell phone while I was abroad. My iPhone would have cost an absurd amount of money to unlock for a foreign plan, so I decided to forgo having a day to day cell phone. That meant I would have to figure out how to get to places before I went. No internet, no GPS, no calling someone for help. I actually had to go on my computer and find the directions beforehand! First time I've done that in about 5 years. It was difficult at first and I would sometimes depend on my friends for directions who had internet on their phones. As time went on and I began exploring the city by myself, I figured out the whole GPS-less navigating thing. I would research trains and buses to get me around Dublin and the neighboring towns. Just yesterday I organized a trip an hour south of Dublin with some of my schoolmates. We all boarded the commuter train (DART) at various stations on the line, so I told everyone to get on the third car. Three stops into it, we were all there on the third car, headed to Bray for a beautiful cliff walk. All without a cell phone! Can you believe our parents used to actually live like this?
|Lunch break on the Greystones-Bray Cliff Walk.|
|Overlooking the railway from the cliff walk this weekend.|
As I mentioned earlier, sticking to a budget was difficult the first couple weeks. I was sort of on a "honeymoon period" with Dublin and didn't really care what I spent money on. But, as I told you, my money was going fast. So, I checked my balance, divided it by the number of days I had left, and figured out what I could spend each day. Even with that, I did my best to stay under my budget to allow for the purchase of plane tickets and hostel stays for my weekends away. Each time I made a significant purchase, I would rework my budget for a new daily allowance. Then I would chart what I spent everyday and keep track of how much under my budget I was for the week. It has really forced me to validate the purchases I make and decide if I really need certain things, or not.
|Sticking to a budget means forgoing
the 3 euro dryer charge and
hang-drying my clothes.
As my time here passes the halfway point, I can already see my maturity level is leaps and bounds from where it was a short time ago. It has undoubtedly been one of the unforeseen benefits of studying abroad and I am extremely grateful for it.
Rory Finnegan is the Fall 2014 CEA MOJO in Dublin, Ireland. He is currently a senior at Virginia Wesleyan College.
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