The Pitfalls and Rewards of Studying Abroad

I am slowly gathering together the things I need for my awesome June residency in Dublin, Ireland. The cost is insane, but the reward will be priceless. The opportunity to write and learn in one of my ancestral homes has been a dream for as long as I can remember.

My process for getting ready has been slow (due to money issues), but as a first time international traveler I have jumped one major hurdle….THE PASSPORT.

I have finally applied for my passport. Most friends and family advised I  do it almost a year in advance to ensure I received it. I could have been super cautious, but the truth is that if you know the system, you don’t have to work that far in advance. Typically in the off season (not Summer/vacation times) it will take about 2 to 3 weeks for your passport to be processed and arrive (according to the guy at the post office). With that in mind, I am confident that applying only a few months before my departure will allow ample time for my passport to arrive.

It was a hairy process to start as many people already know. For those that don’t I will give you a run-down.

1) It’s expensive, so before you begin save at least $150 to cover the costs of getting the passport.

2) Documentation is the most important aspect of this process. If you have all your ducks (papers) in a row, then the process will go by a lot smoother. You will need first: your birth certificate (and if you don’t have that you’ll need to research the alternatives) with raised seal/lettering and both your parents’ names. For Pennsylvanians, this new rule has posed a huge problem. Until somewhat recently, birth certificates in PA did not require the names of parents, which makes the passport application process more difficult. Next, a photo ID (driver’s license usually) will have to be photo copied front and back on one page to prove you are who you are.

3) That damn picture is one of the most difficult parts of the process. If you do it yourself, there is a list of parameters you must follow before it is accepted. And if you don’t do it yourself, the cost of having the post office or acceptance facility will cost you. $40 with the U.S.P.S. to be exact. It may seem excessive, but if you want it done right, then you’re bound to pay the money if you can’t do it yourself.  Although I know that Rite-Aid (drugstore chain) has been known to do passport pictures, as well as AAA for a LOT cheaper.

4) Filling out the application should be the easy part. One thing you must be careful of when filling out important papers is to use pen with care. Read carefully because your responses must be placed correctly or it will not go through. I found that for U.S. citizens, the passport book will let you go anywhere, but the passport card is mainly for traveling just to Canada, Mexico, Caribbean, and Bermuda. Be careful about which one you pick because it will save a minute of your time.

5) Finally, paying the fees. Ensure that you have the money set aside and what forms of payment are accepted. If you can figure out how much and who to write the checks to it will make the process go by quicker. Just be sure to have to money in there because they will charge you tons of extra money if you don’t have sufficient funds.

With all of that said, I am looking forward to receiving my passport. I have dreamed of the day I could leave the country, and travel to some of the most exciting places in the world. The postal service employee was intrigued to know why I was going to Ireland, and when I said writer he was surprised. It was nice to received such an optimistic response from a stranger. Some people don’t have respect for the craft, and automatically assume you’re a dumb, starving artist roaming the world for some useless inspiration.

At the same time, he encouraged my dad to get a passport in case I was “hit by a shalelie” and I needed my parents to come get me. Not that I disagree with younger kids going on trips, but I’m 22. Anyway, he continued his monologue by saying that he could easily change my name on my passport if I happened to, you know, get hitched while I’m over there. I was flattered at first by the assumption I was enough of a pretty young thing to attract all of the eligible Irish bachelors.

However, I am not the shallow, insensitive type to fall for a guy with an accent. It is a disgrace for women from America to fall in love with men they don’t know just because they’re from a foreign country. Yes, I’ve just described hundreds of harlequin romances, and every hopeless romantic girl’s dream. I just can’t see it happening. For me, going to a new place is fantastic, but it truly takes longer to know and love someone.

As much as any young woman would be swayed with a drink or two and a crooning Irishman: I have a prince charming already, so hitching a foreign guy would be a waste of a perfectly good relationship right here at home.  Too many women make rash decisions with their fleeting emotions, regretting them soon after. It is easy to feel like you fall in love, but the lasting flame of a strong relationship will overpower the allure of a foreign country. I wish all of the single ladies good luck with their dream to make P.S. I love you come to life, but there is a comfort knowing I will have a devoted man that I know to come home to after my trip is over.

So, the first step in my preparations has been completed. I await the arrival of my passport in a few weeks in addition to saving necessary money for the plane ticket, and the trip. The excitement grows with every mention of Ireland, the writers, and the places we will see. It is the epitome of my life so far, and I will be glowing as I reach the most beautiful place in the world (in my mind).

Dublin, Ireland will be beautiful no matter what anyone says and I'm not even there yet!

Now I must get back to my paper, which is due two days before St. Patrick’s Day.

Happy reading and writing all!

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “The Pitfalls and Rewards of Studying Abroad

  1. I spent two to three days in Dublin, that wasn’t enough time to look at everything so I will definitely be back! Enjoy your stay, and good luck studying abroad!

    • Thanks! I get to go back next year for another residency, so I will get a chance to go back, too. I wish I could stay for longer because I already know I will love it 😛

      • You definitely will love it! You should visit Scotland while you’re abroad! You will love it there as well.

      • Regrettably, travel to other countries will have to wait. Funds and time management force me to hit the books while I’m out and about. 🙂 I look forward to my career in the future where I will never be at home, and I will get to travel to the best places in the world. Scotland will definitely be one of those places. 🙂

      • I’m basically in the same situation, I work in the summers to afford where I travel and what I do throughout the year. Unfortunately, the best time for me to travel is in the summer too! Anyways, studying is definitely more important, especially if you want to come back the next summer!

      • The world has plenty of time for us to study. Eventually we will get out there and wow those amazing countries with our personalities! Good luck saving up the money! What place have/ do you want to travel?

      • Well, I’ve been all around the Uk/Ireland except Northern Ireland.. and Germany, Hungary, Czech republic, Slovakia, Poland, Canada, and Iceland. I hope to get around to more of Europe and back to Ireland/Scotland soon! Where have you been/plan on going?

      • I wish I had a travel list as long as yours, but I have barely left the state of PA let alone the U.S. I haven’t traveled out of the country, so my trip to Ireland will be the first of many. We’ll be staying at Trinity College in Dublin, and I am SO EXCITED! I have wanted to go to Ireland for so long. I’m Irish in ancestry, and I love the culture. It will definitely be a trip I will never forget. I hope to get to Scotland, England, France, Egypt, Greece, and Italy someday. However, I am perfectly content for Ireland right now with the money situation. I am so jealous of your travels! I long for the chance to fly away from the nest so to speak haha.

      • Well, once you travel once, you will want to continue to travel so you will go wherever you desire! I visited that college when I was in Ireland and it was beautiful! You will fall in love with it, I’m sure of it. It’s also great feeling the connection with the foreign culture, especially if its of your ancestry! You should also consider traveling domestically, there is so much to see in the US as well!

  2. How exciting for you! Think of all the experiences you will be able to draw upon for stories once you get home (and even while you’re there)!

    Distance can put a strain on relationships, but if you have a strong foundation and the love of a good man, he will wait for you. My future hubby had to cross the border countless times to visit me while I went to university in the U.S. Nowadays, they might suspect him of drug-running, the number of times he crossed the border in those 3 years!

    This is an opportunity most dream about. Congratulations and have fun!

    • Thanks! I think that the experience will be good for me, and distance always makes the heart grow fonder. It will be such an excited trip. I definitely look forward to how I will change and grow from this trip. 🙂 I’m sure it will make my writing a whole lot better!

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