My decision to study abroad in Ireland started as a whim but quickly transformed into a serious ordeal. I have a friend who earned a Master’s degree from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, and as I was nearing the end of my time as an undergraduate Psychology major, he off-handedly suggested I should apply to that school. I hadn’t taken the GRE—a requirement for me to attend graduate school in America, but not a requirement abroad—so I figured it couldn’t hurt to take the risk. It was free to apply and the only chance I had at going to graduate school. I applied to Edinburgh, the University of Glasgow (also in Scotland), Exeter University in England, and Trinity College Dublin in Ireland, assuming I would never get into them. These were, after all, extremely prestigious foreign universities. Imagine my surprise when I got into all four! I must have read the acceptance emails a thousand times, convinced they couldn’t be true.
What followed next was the most fierce debate I’ve ever had with myself in my life, and all my friends and family were involved. I was going to get to spend an entire year in a foreign country, but which one did I want to go to? I researched everything from the cost of living in each city to how much support they had for foreign students. In the end, the combination of Dublin, Ireland’s unique history, reputation for friendliness, and the lure of the gorgeous “emerald” countryside won out. Plus, when studying in Ireland, if you’re from America (among other countries), you are not required to obtain a Student Visa in order to stay in the country, and you don’t have to have Biometrics (fingerprints and face scanning) completed in order to enter like you do in the case of Scotland and England. Overall, it was the easiest country to get into, and that definitely had an effect on my choice.
The next step in my journey was figuring out everything I would need to go over there. Trust me when I say the list is a lengthy one. It’s not like you just buy a plane ticket and hop on over. No, I had to deal with quite a few issues: I wasn’t going to be able to use my phone over there, which meant I would have to get one from them to use locally and then use Skype to call home (Skype-to-Skype calling is free, and if you call a normal phone line, it’s only about $0.02 per minute. My phone company wanted to charge me $1 per minute!). I also had to figure out what to do with my car for a year. Sell it? Leave it with my parents? Cancel the car insurance? Just suspend the car insurance? I ultimately ended up just suspending it, which meant I still paid a fee, but it was considerably lower. There was also the issue of my debit and credit cards. If I’d started spending money in Ireland without informing my bank, they would have frozen my account due to the unusual activity. As it is, I have to call my bank every single month to tell them I’m in Ireland to keep my accounts open. Plus, I still have to decide what I’m going to take over there. I get two checked bags, one carry-on bag, and a personal item (in my case, a purse) and that’s it. That means I’m not going to have pillows, bed sheets, towels, dishes, or anything else when I go over there, because how could I possibly transport those things in just three bags? It’s going to be a very literal fresh start with just the clothes on my back, essentially.
And finally I arrive at the biggest decision of the whole thing. My Cost of Attendance—tuition, room, board, books, food, et cetera—is a whopping $60,000 for one year. I’ve never been in debt in my life, but I come from an exceedingly low-income family. Scholarships paid my entire way through undergraduate school, but I found them lacking when it came to graduate school. I was going to have to borrow the full amount. Was I prepared to do that in this economy? With the knowledge that I may not get a job after graduation?
In the end, I saw this chance for what it truly is: a once in a lifetime opportunity. Who gets to spend a whole year in Ireland? Irish people, and very few others. I decided that even with all the road blocks in the way, there was no way I could pass up this incredible experience. It’s just too rare and unique of a circumstance for me to pass on. I’m leaving in September. Wish me luck.