The promise of excitement and adventure drew my application for a semester abroad in Dublin, Ireland this spring. Tales of new found perspectives and geographical treasures sounded unlike anything offered at Berkeley; I was fascinated by elaborate stories of personal growth and different types of challenges people faced being away from everything familiar. While I’ve fallen in love with the Bay Area and Cal over these past few years, it could never offer me everything.
This January I set out for another adventure across the small pond we call the Atlantic Ocean in search of another dimension of learning. While Ireland is culturally similar to the U.S., there were still some nuances that I had to adjust to – different brands in the grocery stores, how to flag down a bus, social etiquette, and english equivalents for Irish-isms! I loved experiencing that learning curve because it brought back fond memories of when I first stepped onto the Berkeley campus.
Over the next few months I had a jam packed schedule of school and travel. On the weekdays I would attend my classes and practice for the trampoline and gymnastics club I joined. It was exciting to take classes I would never otherwise have an opportunity to take at Berkeley. My favorite class was my EU-China Relations class, which I’m almost sure there is no equivalent at Berkeley! It was also nice learning a new sport that isn’t especially popular in the U.S. You may not think it, but trampolining is physically exhausting, and putting together a competitive routine was way more difficult than I imagined!
On the weekends, I experienced a taste of European life throughout the continent. I travelled to 9 countries in total (and hope to return and finish off more countries on my to-do list!). However, my favorite city was Paris. It was so easy to get lost and wander around for hours admiring french architecture, eating fresh cuisine or stumbling into a plaza to relax. As someone who studies art history, it was especially rewarding to see some of the most iconic works of art in history – seeing them in real life doesn’t compare to the textbook images I’ve been looking at for all these years!
While I’m sure that my semester abroad was unlike anything else I will experience, I left Dublin with two big takeaways: one, I am self sufficient and can enjoy experiences alone and two, nothing compares to multiculturalism I’ve experienced in the U.S. Sometimes, we find ourselves looking towards European culture to shape how we should conduct ourselves or our society. But I don’t think I appreciated my life here until I left. We lead a life with so many conveniences and innovations – especially here in the Bay – that we can often take for granted. On any given day for lunch we can walk down the street and be met with cuisines spanning across entire continents. This is something pretty special, and I hope I don’t forget it!
I am excited to return to Berkeley this fall for one final marching season and a renewed fervor for all the aspects of my life I hold near and dear to my heart – my relationships, my studies, and of course, the Cal Band!
Go Bears, see you this Fall!
– Sam Yen, Snare ’14