Erin and the Emerald Isle (Ireland): Erin Trouba, ERM Major, INTAG & Environmental Soil Science Minors


Posted: October 24, 2013

With every new day and every new experience I discovered that not only could I do things on my own, but that life demanded that I do.
Erin in Dun na Ri Forest Park

Erin in Dun na Ri Forest Park

Much of what is said about Ireland I found to be true.  All the good stuff at least.  The Irish people are hospitable and kind.  The landscape possesses more shades of green than you can imagine.  It does rain a lot.  But there is absolutely no talk of leprechauns.  My goal in studying abroad was to cross off my bucket list dream of living in another country.  Ireland was the natural choice for me since I have some distant relatives there and I didn’t have to learn another language to go.

I am not ashamed to admit that I did not do much studying when I was studying abroad.  If I traveled across an ocean just to take classes that might not be worth the time, money, and stress of it all.  The best memories and most educational moments of my four months abroad were all outside the classroom where I learned so much about the culture, the people, the history of Ireland, and where I learned so much about myself.

TroubaIreland2.pngA challenge of studying abroad was finding out what I could actually do on my own.  When I left for Ireland I was intimidated that I did not know anyone waiting for me on the other side.  At first, I had very little confidence that I could create solutions to my problems all on my own.  With every new day and every new experience I discovered that not only could I do things on my own, but that life demanded that I do.  Luckily, it did not take me long to make international and Irish friends and work them to learn how to adjust. 

For spring break I decided to plan my own trip throughout the European continent.  I started from scratch, looking at a map of Europe and connecting the dots between cities that I thought would be interesting to visit.  The ten day journey I took challenged me in ways that I could not have predicted.  A friend and I took a plane to Budapest, Hungary and then hopped trains from city to city, steadily moving west to Vienna then Prague then Munich then Zurich and ending in Paris.  Planning the trip gave me confidence in my independence.  I learned that I can do things on my own, make my own decisions, be effective and efficient, consider multiple options, weigh the benefits and consequences of those options, while keeping safety and cost in mind.  The extensive preparation beforehand still did not give me the proper idea of what that week would be like.  TroubaIreland3.png

Taking the trip taught me the valuable lesson that you cannot plan for everything.  For instance, I did not plan for snow.  While my fellow Penn State study abroad students sunbathed in Spain I jogged in place while listening to tour guides give me the history of their city.  In hindsight I would have planned the trip differently, but now I can benefit from my experience.  I value every miserably cold moment because I am so much the better for it.  I honed my communication skills while traveling through six countries speaking four different languages. Not everyone spoke conversational English so I got by on hand motions and the patience of the poor soul trying to explain something to me.

It is harder to explain what living in Ireland taught me.  I got used to walking to the grocery store and bringing a re-useable bag (some stores charge for plastic bags).  I got used to seeing eighteen year olds in bars.  I got used to the slang and having tea four times before dinner and walking to class everyday in the rain and paying six euros for a tiny load of laundry and seeing everyone go home on the weekends and hearing soccer called football.  I got used to it.  I loved it.  While Ireland never felt like my home there are some things I wish I could bring back to America and integrate in our culture.  That’s kind of the point of studying abroad though, isn’t it? You get to see how other people live life and you get to try it out for awhile.  The greatest gift Ireland gave me was the passion to see new places, even if they are just around the corner.