A Collection of Firsts

By: Emily Stakem

Meet the Author!

Hi there! My name is Emily Stakem and I am currently a junior at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland. This semester I have the wonderful opportunity to study abroad at UCC, so this blog will follow my trials and tribulations while trying to navigate the many new and exciting situations abroad. I’m an English major, equestrian, vegetarian, feminist, baker, and knitter, among many other things. Enjoy!


Emily 2.1


“Have you ever been to Ireland before?”

I’ve just gotten off my second and final flight of the day with only one thing standing between me and my luggage: passport check.

“No, sir. First time!”

Not only have I never been to Ireland, I’ve never even been out of the United States. The officer gave me a string of instructions to follow, and then with a few stamps into my fresh passport, I was officially in Ireland.

A saying I’ve heard a lot recently is, “do one thing every day that scares you”. Never have I been more scared to do something than this week, when I flew out of my Maryland home and landed here in Ireland. I consider myself a creature of habit, and I thrive on having a set routine. Heck, I hardly ever change my Dunkin Donuts order (medium caramel iced coffee, plain bagel, and hash browns, in case you were wondering). Just the thought of leaving my routine and the familiarity of home was frightening. Since I’ve never been out of the country, I’ve never had a passport or even a good piece of luggage. Everything about this trip is a first for me, down to almost every detail. At home, I tend to be familiar with areas around me, but if I get lost, I have full data service on my phone in order to find directions. But here I have chosen to only use Wi-Fi, so I must plan out my directions in advance. I think this will be both a good thing and a bad thing. The good news is that I am forced to follow my sense of direction and rely less on my phone to navigate. The bad news is that I have a terrible sense of direction. Another first experience will be public transportation. In Maryland, I don’t live in an area where public transportation is common, so I’ve never had to plan a bus or train route.

During my first night here, I was lying in bed reflecting back on my freshman year of college. I had gone to orientation knowing no one, thinking that maybe I should have gone to a school with at least one former friend. I was terrified of going into this situation alone. Despite my worries, I quickly met my first friend, Allyson, and she continues to be one of my closest friends to date. As I thought about this and remembered my initial feelings, I realized my semester abroad isn’t so different from my very first semester at college. When you are in a new situation it is easy to do something everyday that scares you. Just like any new and unfamiliar experience, things will always seem scary at first. But with time, everything becomes more familiar. So am I nervous about my upcoming semester full of firsts? Absolutely. But am I excited? Even more so.


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