Jennifer Jopson: Lessons From Travels Abroad

Ever thought about traveling abroad after high school? Sometimes it’s nice to get a new and fresh perspective on life. I love to hear from my readers and to share their successes. Jennifer is one of them. I follow Jennifer’s blog Turning the Tide partly because I traveled abroad in Ireland myself when I was a freshman in college and love reading her stories and checking out the beautiful scenic pictures. I also read it because it’s exciting  seeing high school and college students finding their passions and doing something with them.  So without further ado…

Lessons from Travels Abroad

Author’s note: Last week fellow Blogger Jered Blanchard asked me over email if I would like to do a guest blog for him about my experiences traveling overseas during my post-secondary education. I was happy to hear from him and said yes right away. I enjoy seeing what Jered’s up to on Live Declared. His college advice is very relevant and written in a cogent style. He always asks his readers to consider two sides to a situation and to contribute to the conversation. If I were in high school now reading his Blog, I am sure I would be more informed about decisions related to third-level education, such as test scores and my vision for the future. This is my first guest blog, and I’m honored that Jered asked me to write for him!

Jennifer's Travels

Feeling adventurous at Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge in North Antrim, Northern Ireland.

Why is overseas travel important during your college years? There are multiple answers. First, travel gives you the opportunity to experience the world with all your senses. While you initially take in an unfamiliar city or country with your eyes, the sounds, tastes, smells and the things you touch all contribute to a unique memory of the place. At the beginning, your senses are more acute until your body and mind have time to adjust. Travel is very tactile. Second, you get to go beyond the confines of the classroom and the textbook and apply your knowledge. For example, learning Chinese in lecture is restrictive because it is not always possible to get instant feedback on your language skills. If you travel there, on the other hand, you’re forced to use the language to communicate, and you get to take part culturally as well. Third, you learn a lot about yourself–your preferences, abilities, and beliefs. I decided to travel overseas because my parents instilled in me the desire to understand and appreciate new places. I wanted the chance to travel independently of them through my college experience, and so I chose to study abroad. Are you thinking about traveling overseas while you’re in college? The goal of this post is to give you ideas for your future travels.

Before I left for Ireland, I bought a Frommer’s guidebook and read it since I knew that I’d travel extensively around the country. I hoped to arrive there armed with useful knowledge. This is how I discovered the seaside towns of Dalkey and Skerries, as well as my favorite pub in Dublin, O’Neills. The book was well-written and organized, which made it easy to find the information I needed later. I used the tear-out map that came with it nearly every time I went out in Dublin, which helped me learn the streets. I also watched videos on YouTube related to typical cultural experiences in Ireland, and looked at Google Street View so I would know what to expect.
Over time I became better at asking people for help if I was lost. The great thing about Dublin is that nearly everyone is willing to give directions, and they’re usually right. It is much easier and less painful to ask instead of wandering around thinking you know which way to go. Just ask with a smile on your face and you’ll have more time to explore. Naturally, being in a friendly environment, it was not too difficult to strike up a conversation with the locals at the pubs or on the street. I talked to an Irishman about politics (he brought it up) and a bartender about the best places to find live music, but it wasn’t until my second to last night in Dublin that I had an intellectually stimulating conversation. The man from Belfast taught me to set my mobile aside and talk to people sitting by themselves–there’s craic (“having a good time “) everywhere, you just have to look for it.
Two other things I made sure to do were to take photographs and share them online, and tours. I loved capturing my experiences on camera and letting others see it as I did. I also did three-day coach tours from Dublin: one called the Wild Wicklow Tour where I saw Glendalough and surrounding areas, and the other two by Wild Rover Tours to Galway and Belfast/Giants Causeway. I highly recommend these tours, as the guides are very knowledgeable and make sure that you have a memorable experience.

At Edinburgh Castle.

During the semester I traveled to Paris, France and Edinburgh, Scotland. What these trips have in common is that they were short getaways from college, and were also eye-opening experiences. When I went to Paris I had the mindset that the French are rude, arrogant people. It turns out that several people said ‘Bonjour’ to me, and I said ‘Merci’ a lot in two days! I realized the stereotype I placed on them was not fair: people are kind everywhere, and that the way we perceive others based on cultural norms create rifts in society. Enter a foreign country with an attitude of respect, as you are a guest, and be generous with others even if you do not understand them. My friend and I also had a few funny tourist moments, as she thought we actually needed more Metro tickets and we thought the Bastille was more than a simple monument. Don’t take yourself too seriously when you travel; it’s a lot more fun to laugh about things.

I traveled to Edinburgh and the Highlands for my program’s sponsored trip in March. My friends and I happened to meet at the airport, and so we made the journey together towards our hostels once we arrived. One thing I remember doing was taking in my surroundings and committing them to memory. Edinburgh isn’t a large city, but it is easy to get lost if you’re by yourself and it’s late at night. Particularly if you are female, it is important to stay in bright, public areas and travel with people you trust. Stay alert and know the area you are in. If you’re uncomfortable for any reason, retrace your steps and ask for help. I was lucky to travel with such a sensible group of girls. They insisted on walking with me to my hostel before they went off to theirs. I very much appreciated their company, especially as I would have passed the sign for the hostel if they hadn’t been there.
I’m grateful for travel opportunities I’ve had so far. While I’m not sure if I’ll be going abroad again any time soon, at least I can reminisce on my happy moments in Ireland, Paris and Edinburgh!
Thanks so much for reading. What are your thoughts about overseas travel after high school?
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3 thoughts on “Jennifer Jopson: Lessons From Travels Abroad

  1. Thanks again for writing this Jennifer. I can’t wait to get back to Ireland someday!

  2. Reblogged this on TURNING THE TIDE and commented:
    My guest blog for Jered on Live Declared.

  3. No problem Jered! Adventure awaits you–go experience the things you missed the first time!

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