While most students probably have a list of things they want to see and do while abroad, it is important to keep your mind open to different possibilities. Rather than trying to mark every little item off of your study abroad bucket list, you should embrace other opportunities that arise. Otherwise, viewing the experiences you want to have simply as an item to be marked off of a list will take the fun out of it and may distract you from trying other things instead.
Personally, I knew that there was a very long list of things that I wanted to do and places that I wanted to visit during my program in Ireland. For a long time, I was very focused on those things and wanted to get them all done. After all, I only had a couple semesters to accomplish everything. While I did mark a lot of places and things off of my list, there were several items that were left over that I never got around to. This bothered me for a while, but then I realized that I was able to visit so many other incredible places around the country that I had never written down on my list, yet they ended up being some of my best memories. Sure, I never got around to visiting the Wicklow Mountains which are seen in the movie “P.S. I Love You,” but I did get to see Connemara, where the landscape was too breathtaking to put into words. Seeing this beautiful place had not been on my Irish bucket list, but it was one of my favorite places I visited and I will never forget how speechless the views left me. If I had only stayed focused on completing the list I had created for myself, I may not have taken advantage of such an amazing opportunity.
A lesson that I learned was that rather than focusing on those unchecked plans that never became a reality, I should focus on all of the things I DID get to do. Most people don’t get to have all of the experiences that I had and, truthfully, the greatest of them were the ones that I had never planned out ahead of time. I would say to pick out a few things you feel like you absolutely cannot go without doing, but then go with the flow and take advantage of opportunities that come your way. You may never have considered zip lining through a rainforest, visiting a certain historical building, or taking a surfing lesson, but if the chance comes up to do something like that, do it. Your study abroad experience shouldn’t be about trying to do and see as many things as possible, but rather to dive into new situations and to enjoy them as deeply as you can. Seeing every touristy landmark in a city may be an accomplishment according to your own bucket list, but it is likely that this would not be as meaningful and memorable as exploring an incredible place that many people don’t take the time to see. It sounds so cliché but, when it comes to your experiences abroad, it really is quality over quantity that’s most important.
Photos courtesy of Danielle Beam.
Danielle Beam is a junior at the University of Kentucky studying Psychology. Danielle participated in the Celtic Blue program at Arcadia University and National University of Ireland Galway during the 2014-2015 academic year.