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Study Abroad Blog

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Growing Up: Study Abroad Edition

As much as I don't want to admit it, there comes a time when I'll need to grow up. I'm beginning to realize that the time is now. When I boarded my flight from Boston, I had no idea what type of effects studying abroad in Dublin would have on me. I never would have guessed that I'd be making dinner for 6 people, navigating a country without the use of a cell phone, or setting a budget and actually sticking to it. But, months later, here I am, doing all those things and then some.
 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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