Semester Abroad, Global Correspondents

Four Lessons from Four Months

December 23, 2019
By Emmie Gocke, CAS '21

Emmie Gocke is one of the Semester Abroad Global Correspondents, writing and sharing her experience abroad during the Fall 2019 semester. Follow along with the group of correspondents on our blog and look out for their student takeovers on the @pennabroad Instagram beginning September 23, 2019.

Semester Abroad
University College Cork

1. Time moves with surprising stealth and speed. Four months in a new country seems like a long time, but you’d be surprised by how quickly that time will fly by. Make the most of every weekend, evening, and free afternoon. When I first got to Ireland, I made a list of things I wanted to see and do, and made sure each weekend I was doing something, from climbing the highest peak on the Island, to a bike tour of one of the national parks. Even if your friends are busy and you have a free day, don’t be afraid to explore on your own. One day I rode the city bus to the last stop and found myself at a charming village perched over the sea. 

2. Don’t underestimate the value of a good cup of tea. The weather in Ireland is notoriously gloomy and rainy. Before my time here, I never appreciated the power of a steaming mug of tea to help me feel cozy and warm. If something about your host country is particularly difficult, make an effort to find what makes you feel comfortable despite it. In any new environment, it’s important to have something to come back to that ties you to home, or grounds you, even if it’s as small as a cup of tea and a good book. 

3. Always pack light. Both literally and metaphorically. You’d be shocked to find you can fit everything you need for a three day trip to Scotland in a small backpack. But in a metaphorical sense, study abroad is a unique opportunity to leave behind any old habits or troubles that you want to separate yourself from. It’s almost like a fresh start in which you can reflect and experiment with who you want to be. My time in Ireland gave me a wonderful sense of clarity about things that I had been clinging onto in my life and allowed me the time and space to think about what I wanted for my future, academically and personally.

4. The first rule of improv is to say yes. As a pre-med student, I didn’t think study abroad would even be a possibility for me. But traveling was something I always dreamed about, and I figured I could make it work if I really wanted to. A few days before the deadline, I decided to submit an application to go to Ireland for the following semester. It was one of the best spontaneous “yes” decisions of my life. We are always going to be confronted with unexpected opportunities, whether it’s the chance to move across an ocean for a few months, or simply a friend asking if you want to investigate an unknown music theater for an evening. I’ve found that by taking a chance, and saying yes, by catching an opportunity and running with it, I have gained the best experiences of my life. Even if every step of the path isn’t laid out perfectly in front of you, don’t be afraid to just say “yes” and go for it. The beauty of life is that we’re all just making it up as we go along.

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The Semester Abroad (SA) program offers undergraduate students the opportunity to study in a new global community through extended study for a semester or year. Penn Abroad partners with top institutions around the globe and collaborates with Penn’s undergraduate schools to offer programs for students across academic disciplines.

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