Life Abroad: Leaving & Expanding Your Comfort Zone

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Hi, all! My name is Oliver McLellan, and I am a third-year Geology concentrator studying abroad at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland this semester (Fall 2014). Not interested in reading about Irish rocks or paleontological studies? Too bad! Not a problem! Through Life Abroad, I plan to share all types of experiences— academic to recreational— with you. 

There are no skyscrapers in Dublin. Sure, the Convention Centre on the Liffey is taller than your average American brownstone, but the fact of the matter is that most buildings here do not rise above ten stories. To a self-proclaimed “city kid” who grew up a few minutes outside of Manhattan, Dublin initially seemed relatively tame and almost a little too slow-paced. For the most part, Dublin is devoid of honking cars, wailing sirens, and shouting pedestrians—city sounds. Drive twenty minutes out of City Centre and even the hum of engines and murmurs of confused tourists all but disappear. At first, being so far out of my comfort zone—the bustle and noise of New York City—made me a bit nervous. After a few days, however, I realized that by focusing on the differences that made me uncomfortable, I had managed to overlook something that has now become an integral part of my happiness while abroad.

Dublin—as well as the rest of Ireland—makes a tradeoff: Forsaking skylines packed with countless high-rises and the general rowdiness of many American cities and towns, Ireland boasts simplicity and order complemented by natural beauty. For example, in the quiet town of Trim in County Meath, each quaint, pastel-colored house displays huge window boxes or flowerpots overflowing with greenery. Throughout County Dublin, the lampposts are decorated with stylized representations of shamrocks. Ivy vines grow up the sides of various brick buildings all over the country, making them much more appealing (the number of tourists that stop in the middle of the street to take pictures in front of each building is a testament to this fact). Saint Stephen’s Green, though it is across the street from a mall complex, is calm enough to take a nap in at any time of day. Though I grew up understanding that the general chaos and din of Times Square is one of New York City’s charms, I now know and appreciate that the charm of Dublin is the exact opposite: peace and quiet.

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Learning to recognize and welcome the differences between the environment I had been immersed in my whole life, and the new environment I am in now enabled me to expand my comfort zone. Over the past few weeks, I have worked to step out of this zone even more by exploring the more rural—and even uninhabited—parts of Ireland. In doing so, I have seen some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world, and met many great people. Personal growth, including the expansion of one’s comfort zone, is what studying abroad should be all about, a fact that I have happily embraced.

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I would be happy to answer any and all questions! Contact me at oliver_mclellan@brown.edu and I will respond ASAP.

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