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DUBLIN, DOOR STEPS, AND DUFFLE BAGS: REFLECTIONS ON STUDY ABROAD

Posted by on Wednesday, March 29, 2017 in Intellect, Many Voices, One VU.

Hannah Laskey,  ’17, Peabody College, Student VUceptor

Hannah Laskey

I first wanted to go abroad for the places; I never wanted to leave because of the people.

Yes, our weekend trip to Barcelona was awesome. Hitting up Rome, Athens, and Warsaw during reading week was once in a lifetime. And nothing could beat the scenic Irish countryside. While studying abroad, I experienced beauty and history—and got some killer Instagram pics—at some of the most incredible cities in Europe. But it was the people: my roommates Evie and Elda from Detroit, Rosa from China; Maria from Spain and Kristine from Norway, both members of my Marketing group project; David, Laura, Ruairí, and the rest of my Irish posse… They are what made my study abroad a transformative experience.

I owe those relationships to door stops and duffle bags.

As he walked past our first-floor apartment window, we serendipitously made eye contact again. Evie, Elda, Rosa and I glanced up from our game of Bananagrams (one of our favorite word games and another great tool for making friends at home and abroad). “Hey, isn’t that David, from the bus stop?” Evie asked. Indeed, it was none other than David McLaughlin, the charming, Irish-as-can-be first-year student from the 39A stop a few days earlier. After a stiff wave and a few awkward seconds, Elda yelled out our front door (which was conveniently propped open by a makeshift door stop), inviting him in to play the next round. Unbeknownst to us at the time, the vulnerability of that propped open apartment door would lead us to the friendships that taught us much about Ireland, broadened our understanding of the world and ultimately defined our study abroad experiences.

Through David, I met Laura Kelly, another University College Dublin first-year student. One rainy Thursday evening in October, Laura invited me to venture home to Co. Donegal with her. I packed up my duffle bag and headed off for a bona fide Irish homestay weekend, complete with an Irish mum and a full Irish breakfast. Up until that point, Laura and I had only hung out a few times; tea and biscuits, a few study sessions in the library. However, because I was brave enough to pack up my duffle bag and step outside of my comfort zone, our friendship became nearly a sisterhood as we, together, waded through a heartbreaking family emergency that unfolded that very weekend. Laura’s openness and my willingness to engage brought us to a level of friendship that we nevercould have otherwise achieved.

Just like my University College Dublin apartment complex, The Ingram Commons is filled with remarkable people. Prop your door open. Invite your neighbors into your story, or pack up your duffle bag and enter into theirs.

Your Davids and Lauras are out there waiting for you.

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