International Student Life: 5 Important Lessons I Learned

If you’re reading this, you’re likely an international student or considering leaping borders. As someone who took that very leap, swapping the colourful streets of India for the bustling lanes of Dublin, I can tell you it’s been quite the whirlwind. 

When I packed my bags in September 2023, I had no idea what was in store for me. While my friends and family could not contain their happiness, I had questions of all kinds that made the 14-hour journey almost seem unending. How will I make friends all over again? Will I be able to make healthy food? How long until I get to go back to India? Where do I find a job? Did I choose the right course and country? Will I be able to make this a home? 

I kid you not, I still do not have answers to most of the questions. And I think that’s the biggest lesson I learnt – you do not need to figure out everything, all at once.

This journey from India to Ireland has been filled with ups and downs, laughter and tears, but it’s been a journey of self-discovery. From experiencing a new culture to making lifelong friendships, each day has been a lesson in growth, resilience, and discovery.

Dublin is now my second home. But let’s be real—life as an international student isn’t always sunshine and rainbows – especially when you’re in Ireland! There are challenges to overcome, things to learn, and a whole lot of craic (that’s Irish for fun) to be had along the way.

If you’re ready to go on an incredible journey or simply curious about what life as an international student in Dublin entails, you’re in the right place. Here are five life lessons, and a bonus one, that living away from home has taught. Trust me, you won’t want to miss this!

1. You can roll with the punches

Picture this: you’ve just touched down in a new city, away from home, wide-eyed and ready to conquer the world. But guess what? Things won’t always go as planned, and that’s okay. Whether it’s dealing with accommodation issues, going through the visa process, or facing academic hurdles, problems are a part of the package. 

However, living in Dublin taught me the importance of resilience and problem-solving. The key is not to panic but to approach each issue methodically. Over time, as an international student, I’ve learned that there’s a solution to almost everything, and often, the experience of tackling these problems head-on has led to stronger self-reliance and confidence. Embracing the unpredictable has turned into a valuable life skill.


2. You can fit 24 hours’ worth of living into a single day

Managing time, as an international student, efficiently is critical, especially in a bustling city like Dublin where there’s always something to do. Initially, balancing studies, part-time jobs, and social activities seemed daunting. However, I quickly realised the power of planning. Allocating time slots for different activities and sticking to a schedule ensured that I was not only keeping up with my studies but also enjoying what the city had to offer. Effective time management often means being disciplined but flexible enough to rearrange plans as new things come up.

3. The friends you make here, eventually become your family

Moving away from home means leaving behind a support network of family and friends. In Dublin, the friends I made soon became like family. From sharing meals to travelling together on breaks, these relationships have provided a sense of belonging and comfort away from home. Holidays, especially, could have been lonely without this new family. The bonds formed here have been a source of strength and joy, reminding me that family isn’t just about blood relations; it’s about who stands by you when you need it the most.

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4. There are joys of cooking (even when you’re lazy)

Back home, I never cooked, relying on mom or local eateries. Living alone, as an international student, in Dublin meant I had to fend for myself. From going to buy groceries to understanding what takes the least effort – I had to figure it all out on my own. Initially, cooking seemed like a tedious chore, especially after long days of study or work. However, I soon realised that cooking isn’t necessarily hard; it’s about the effort you’re willing to put in. Preparing my meals turned into a therapeutic activity, one that reminded me of home while allowing me to explore new cuisines. It became an enjoyable part of my routine, proving that the only thing making cooking difficult was my laziness.

5. Be yourself, the version you have always wanted to be

One of the most liberating aspects of being an international student or studying abroad is the chance to reinvent yourself. Away from the familiar judgments and expectations of home, Dublin offered me a clean slate. Here, I could be whoever I wanted to be, explore facets of my personality previously hidden, and express myself in new ways. This city has taught me to embrace my individuality and to be the person I always aspired to be. As an international student, you can too get to experience that for yourself.

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Bonus Lesson: Prioritise health and wellness

Dublin’s weather can be quite a shift from the sunny climes of India. The lack of sunlight led me to realise the importance of taking care of my health, especially maintaining vitamin D levels. Staying healthy has been crucial, ensuring that I’m at my best both mentally and physically.

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These lessons from Dublin are not just about surviving in a new city but thriving while embracing every bit of the journey. The city has taught me more than I could have imagined, making me a better-prepared individual for whatever comes next.

Vrunda Upadhyay
Vrunda Upadhyay

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