Before I went on my semester abroad to Dublin, everybody kept telling me how lucky I was to get this experience, and to enjoy every second because “before you know it, it will be over.” I’d heard it before and I knew they were right, but I had no idea my abroad experience was actually going to be over before I knew it.
It was March 19th when I found out my time in Dublin was coming to an end. I don’t think I will ever forget getting that email. I was sitting with a group of people who I didn’t know existed two and a half months ago, but had somehow become my best friends. I remember sitting with them silently for a minute, none of us knowing what to say or how to react. I remember being confused and angry at the universe. It was this overwhelming feeling of desperately trying to hold on to something that was slipping right out from under me, and there was nothing I could do about it. It broke my heart. But it also brought me perspective. In that moment, it was as if everything else I thought I had a reason to be stressed about in life, had gone away. Things that gave me anxiety, stress or a reason to be upset seemed minuscule. All I could think about was exactly where I was: in this wonderful city that had so quickly become a home to me, surrounded by people that were once strangers, who were now my best friends. Call me crazy, but in that moment when everything I knew seemed to be going wrong, something in me couldn’t help but feel immense gratitude.
You see, I had been dreaming of studying abroad since I was a kid, and getting sent home early because a global pandemic was obviously never something I planned on. But in a way, that’s the beauty of life. You never know. And on that day I found out, I was sitting at a table with a group of people, aware that none of us knew what tomorrow, or next week, or next month would bring, but we were all together in our city in that moment – and that became all that mattered.
COVID-19 has brought so much uncertainty to our world, and it’s scary to not know what is coming next. But if studying abroad during all of this (and getting sent home during all of this) has taught me anything, it’s that all we can do is be here, right now. Enjoy where you are. Enjoy the people you are surrounded by. Enjoy everything that makes life hard, scary, annoying, exciting, rewarding, and beautiful. Studying abroad is all of those things and more, and despite how the current situation of the world has affected mine and so many others’ time abroad, I wouldn’t change any of it for the world. It was the most rewarding 2.5 months of my life, Corona Virus or not.
Now, as I sit here writing this at my home in Maine, I am thinking about all the experiences I did get to have in Dublin, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t smiling to myself. I made life-long memories throughout those ten weeks. I was challenged and pushed. I grew as a traveler, as a student, and as a person. My time in Dublin gave me perspective, strength and many new best friends. So, while we may not know what is coming next in this unprecedented time, I challenge you to be grateful for the moment you are living in right now. And when this is all over, I challenge you to take that trip, pursue that dream, and not let it get away from you. Because it is true what they say: before you know it, it will be gone.