by: Marisa Ruggirello
Song of the Day: Good Life // OneRepublic
Before this trip, the farthest I had been away from home was when some friends and I drove down to Dallas, Texas this past winter to watch Michigan State, sadly, get annihilated in the College Football Playoff Semifinals. The only time I had left the country was on occasional day or night trip to Windsor in Canada. So one could imagine that traveling to the United Kingdom and Ireland would have been a culture shock to me, and to say that it was would be an understatement. Suddenly, I was thrust into a situation where I didn’t know anyone, didn’t have reliable cell phone service, and was in a foreign country. However, looking back, I cannot imagine what my life would be like had I not participated in this study abroad. The lessons I learned and the experiences I gained could not have been accomplished in a classroom. Every city and country we visited, I learned things that I can take with me for the rest of my life.
To Belfast, Northern Ireland: thank you for teaching me that time heals all wounds. Your perseverance for peace and solidarity has taught me to never give up. I will always love your street art murals and the messages behind them give me hope for better times. In my career, I can take your determination and hard work ethic and use that in everything that I do. You taught me the importance of respecting other people and their differences because without that respect, there is absolute bedlam. You taught me that you do not have to have the same beliefs as someone to respect and value their opinion. Respect is crucial with working with others and no matter what sort of work I find myself doing, I will need that lesson to be successful.
To Dublin and the beautiful countryside of Ireland: thank you for your rolling, lush, green hills and your countless adorable lambs. Thank you for teaching me that, yes, I can survive three days without wifi. Thank you for Guinness and the unbelievable amount of advertising history there. I learned more about my major, my future. You taught me to handle a situation that is outside of my comfort zone. That is a lesson that I can take with me for the rest of my career and use it to push boundaries and make myself a better employee.
To Cardiff, Wales: thank you for your beautiful weather, live music bars and marina. Thank you for letting me meet with Golley Slater, the advertising agency that made me feel like graduating wasn’t the end of the world. You taught me that I have a future, and it is very, very bright. You were the place that made me realize that although I may not know exactly what I want to do after graduation, there will be a place for me in this world.
To London, England: thank you for your bustling streets, unique boroughs, and historic monuments. Thank you for your diversity and for allowing me to experience that big city life, even though it was just for two weeks. I learned from you that I can be in an extremely unfamiliar place, and with a little practice, can still navigate my way around. That sort of confidence is unable to be found in a classroom. You taught me that different cultures and classes of people can coexist and work together in harmony. That taught me that although I may be very different from people I work with in my future, we can get along and get our work done effectively and efficiently.
To Edinburgh, Scotland: thank you for your rainy, windy days and your plethora of wool scarves. Thank you for your castles and your kilts. Although it was blustery and cold the entire week I was here, you were absolutely beautiful. You taught me to make the most of the opportunities that I have. I learned from you to look at the bright side of things, even if the situation I am in is less than ideal.
To my beautiful classmates and fellow travelers: thank you for experiencing this with me. Thank you for the laughs and the sleepless nights. Thank you for your wonderful smiles and constant encouragement to try new things. Because of you all, I now can go into any work situations with strangers and still am able to accomplish great things.
As I pack up my bags to head back home, I am astounded by how fast these last five weeks have flown by. Overall, this has been the trip of a lifetime and I strongly recommend it to anyone who thinks that this could be something that they might be interested in. The people and experience alone is enough of a reason to push your boundaries and travel. At this point in your life, you have the least amount of responsibilities that you will have for the rest of your life. Take advantage of that and do something that makes you uncomfortable. Test your comfort zone. Be brave. You’ll be glad you did.