It is not every day that someone can say they commute between two countries every day to go to school, but I can say with a newfound confidence that I have been able to navigate this challenge with only a few hitches along the way. I embarked on this study abroad with the mindset that I would reduce the costs as much as I could so that I could allocate money to seeing all of Europe. As I result, I am living with my Swedish aunt and her husband in a small village in southern Sweden and commuting an hour or more one-way into Copenhagen every day for class.
There are times when I still do not believe that I am here living the dream that I had only a faint picture of when I was a senior in high school. I have been saving money for the past five years to do something big with my life. I am doing just that, hopping on trains across countries, taking flights to countries that I had only ever seen pictures of, meeting people from across the globe, and opening my mind to the possibilities that are available to me. It felt surreal once my passport finally arrived with its maroon cover, gold crown pattern, and the words “Europeiska Unionen Sverige Pass”. All my new Swedish and Danish friends joke that I have a way to go before I am officially Swedish, but to me, this passport connects me to the side of my heritage that I do not know as well as my Irish heritage. It reminds me of how hard I worked to get here; all the frustration was worth it in the end.
Being here has allowed me to appreciate how much my parents went through as immigrants to the US. The cracks on their hands reflect the hard labor they have had to do every single day since their first day in the US, while my hands are less than half as cracked and aged as theirs. Every day I can see how they have sacrificed for my future success and happiness. Not too long ago, the idea of college was not a certainty. We were unsure if we were going to ever be able to afford it, but because of my parents’ immigrant attitude, “by god I was going, no matter what we have to do”. Ever since then, that spirit has burned within me and pushed me farther than I ever thought I could go. I am propelled by the efforts of my parents and the efforts of my Irish grandmother who raised 12 kids by herself after my grandfather died, propelled to be what they dreamed of being but were not able to fully achieve because life does not always go as planned.
I have traveled to Germany, the UK, parts of Denmark, and different cities in Sweden, and I have many more plans to visit France, Italy, the Czech Republic, Greece, Spain, the Netherlands, and explore Ireland even more than I have. I have learned so much about myself that has been buried underneath stress, self-comparison, and low self-esteem. Studying abroad is the best decision I have made in life, not just because of how financial aid relieved my worries about money but also because of the time I have granted to be a kid again and to be fascinated by the wonders of life. Here I can once again reconnect with my love for new experiences and most importantly reconnect with my love for myself. At home, the days go by so quickly that I do not get the time to do these things. I am so incredibly grateful to be here living my best life, and I will look back on this time fondly. Thank you LIHC for reminding me how wonderful the world and life really is, without this opportunity I am not sure I would be as happy as I am now.