From September 2015 until this past Tuesday, I was an international Bachelors of Arts undergraduate student at Maynooth University in Kildare. When I was 18 I took a one way flight to Dublin and started a new, extremely important chapter. It was just something I wanted to do and I can’t explain much more than that. I’m not quite sure what I’d be like if I didn’t. I am not going to go on about this like it was all roses and now I’m fantastic, haha, it was much, much harder than that.
With living abroad, there is some seriously unbearable days and moments where you crave the comfort of home. But when you go to your actual new home after a shit day, your building’s community washing machine is locked and will continue to be locked with your wet clothes in it for two entire weeks until the janitor eventually fixes it. You lose the entire set of clothes and then can’t wash other clothes for those two weeks. You proceed to enter your kitchen and find your roommate has taken the last of your milk and is most definitely stealing your food. Living with new people is a shock to the system, especially when you don’t mesh with them.
The hardest experience I had along the way (there were plenty) was when my first boyfriend dumped me out of nowhere, told me he was using me and didn’t care for me at all (charming, I know) after I decided to stay in Ireland for the summer. I spent that whole summer trying to find a job and couldn’t. I was lonely and sad and quite simply, heartbroken. At the end of the summer I had to repeat a few exams from first semester of first year and I put all my energy into my studies and passed. At the time I was so embarrassed I didn’t tell anyone. I nearly left it all and went home! Looking back, I’d give younger Laura a big hug and say it’s okay to mess up and then slap her and ask why the hell she invested time into someone so obviously cruel. But again, we mess up, I’m human. My advice is to look at the tough stuff which can be like the simple examples above, or something much more serious, as an opportunity to learn.
I’ve learned some fairly valuable lessons from my university experience abroad and thought I’d share them in honour of closing this chapter! I also hope this helps anyone who may find themselves in this position.
1. You are your best friend. Friends come and go and at the end of the day, you only have yourself so you may as well take really good care of yourself. I used to take myself to lunch or coffee in the village once or twice a week when the budget allowed.
2. Be selective. You’re in charge of the way you feel so choose who you surround yourself with carefully. Bad friends are a waste of time. That’s harsh but when I look back at younger me, I become frustrated about how much I let ‘friends’ push me around. To reiterate, friends come and go! Not everyone is meant to stay and that’s okay. Wish them the best and carry on. I have a good attitude about this now but maybe about a year ago, I didn’t. Don’t go out with bad boys or bad friends. Just don’t.
3. Some people are just people to party with. A tough lesson it took my first two years to learn. They might be good fun and you have your laughs together but they’re not there for you when something goes wrong.
4. Don’t blow all your money. You seriously do not need a GHD everything. I don’t really know why I thought I did. Also, if I could do those three years again I’d join babysitting apps and/or some kind of hospitality agency that would allow me to earn and be choosy with my hours.
5. No one loves you more than your family. Treat them kindly <3
6. Call home when you feel down and then do something productive to distract yourself. Do something small to make yourself happy. For me, sometimes it’s self care like a face mask and painting my nails.
7. Make exercise regular. Motion is medicine and you’ll be able to settle into a place more if you have a regular routine and feel good about yourself!
8. Know when to say ‘nah, not for me.’ Walk away from stuff that doesn’t feel right. You don’t need to stay anywhere you don’t feel good.
9. You won’t gain any success by comparing your very special unique self to someone else’s looks, grades, economic background, etc.
10. Keep trying. Nothing comes naturally (well maybe some things do). Effort is necessary in all aspects. I did quite well at university in the end but I can openly admit I could’ve spent a lot of more of my free time in the books.
11. Don’t worry. Easier said. I wasted an insane amount of time worrying about boys, what people thought of me, how I looked, whether I’d get a job, etc. It’s really natural to worry but I always remind myself it all works out. I encourage you to not give a damn about this stuff. By being yourself you attract what’s meant for you.
You will change and grow and learn more about yourself than you ever thought! Wishing those going to university far away or moving abroad the very best on their adventures😊 Congratulations on making a very exciting choice. You will thank yourself later!