I’ve been abroad for almost four weeks. It’s been a crazy, fun, scary, exciting, and a learning experience. Among the lessons I’ve learned, by far the most important is to be prepared to be unprepared. Through my experiences I’ve come to know myself on a deeper level. I knew I was a planner before I left for my adventures, but numerous challenges abroad have taught me how to deal with the unplanned.
Regardless of your research, mapping, or planning ahead, unexpected surprises will come up during adventures abroad. You will get lost. You won’t understand everything. Confusion will inevitably arise. You may get frustrated; however, I encourage you to avoid this feeling. This was very hard for me at first. I’m a type-A individual. I’m organized, independent, and ambitious, but when things go wrong, I become impatient. I also hate asking for help or any direction. All of this I’ve had to overcome while being abroad.
Overcoming these obstacles is best described in the story of tackling tonsillitis abroad. I began feeling sick during my second week in Ireland. It is very common for visitors to become sick because of the damp and cold environment; however, I stubbornly insisted it was a typical cold until my symptoms were threatening a trip to the ER.
Imagine being lost in a foreign city with a 100+ degree fever looking for a non-existent address, while your head is pounding and your throat is so swollen you can’t even swallow. This happened to me. As it turns out, the doctor’s office had recently changed locations and they failed to put this information on their website. After a half hour of wandering the streets of Limerick, I pathetically stumbled into a pharmacy. Through tears I asked the pharmacist if she knew where the doctor was located. She was an angel. The pharmacists called me a cab and called the doctor’s office to let them know I’d be late.
This story was quite tragic and unfortunate for me, but in the end there was a lesson. The experience made me stronger. I learned that frustration only worsens the situation and it’s okay to ask for help when your resources are limited.
Additionally, being unprepared isn’t always a negative experience. For example, the weather in Limerick has been uncharacteristically warm and sunny since I have arrived. I found that I packed mostly fall and winter clothes and I failed to pack sunglasses. This gave me an excuse to check out the local shops to purchase more seasonal items. Being unprepared may be a bit stressful, but it’s worth it if you learn a lesson (or get new clothes out if it!).