As I write this, I am exactly halfway through my time at University College Cork and have completed all three of my midterm essays.
I feel as though I have learned a lot about myself so far, especially in terms of how I work as a student. The midterms here were very different from what I am used to back home. I became very used to learning so much in class that you basically have your thesis ready and just can easily get started on finding articles to back it up. I’ve found that it is pretty different here. I had to really take the time to completely build my own ideas and not rely on prompts and lectures. Before coming to UCC, I did not realize just how guided our learning really is at universities in the US.
I have spent most of my time here so far, really immersing myself in Cork and taking day trips here and there. These last two weeks were especially taken over by my midterm assignments. I am planning to (with some trips official and some still in the works) do a lot of my further travels during this second half of term. Partially to keep the excitement alive, partially because I really wanted to take my time exploring Cork City and partially because it was quite the process to receive my immigration card so that I’d be able to travel in and out of Ireland.
I have also begun to realize that making travel plans is not exactly my favorite activity. At home, I never really had to deal with public transportation often and I never went on trips without my family that weren't an easy drive. So it has been an interesting experience taking on that responsibility for myself. It sometimes feels like homework, but I know the payoff will be great.
This weekend is the famous Jazz Festival here in Cork City. I am so excited that such a huge event is right on my very own street. There will be musical events happening all over on this bank holiday weekend. This is definitely the pick-me-up that I needed.
As I hit this half-way point and the stress midterms started to get to me, I began getting into a bit of a slump. I began missing the simple comforts of home. While I always miss home a bit, the end of my midterms and the excitement of the lively city have really helped me get back into the spirit of study abroad and wanting to go out and explore.
I’ve been very lucky that one of my best friends from Arcadia is going through this with me. I’m also grateful for the friends I have made while here so far. I am more than ready for a weekend of purely enjoying myself before work for finals starts to begin.
This Jazz Festival feels like the well-deserved break I really needed. It is too easy to put a lot of pressure on yourself while abroad. There are new class-structures to maneuver as well as this need to feel like you are getting the most out of every second. But I am learning it is important to take a step back and let yourself breathe. The city will still be there tomorrow if you need to take a minute just for yourself.