Guest post: Caela Provost Throughout the course of my undergraduate years, postgraduate years, and later years leading up to the present, I have written many a blog listing reasons to study in Ireland. A significant number of those blog posts spoke about my favorite places to visit in Ireland; others honed in on the more abstract reasons for studying in Ireland – cultural, historical and the like. This blog post is going to take a slightly different turn...Fear not: I won’t send any of you off the “metaphorical blogosphere road”. Instead, it is my greatest hope that, through the words below, you will gain a better understanding of just how much studying in Ireland can change any given individual, no matter what path of life he or she is on at present. Without further ado, here are my “Top Five Unexpected Reasons to Study in Ireland”!Studying in Ireland will help you…1. Chill out… a ton.I seriously can’t even fathom what my mindset or “sense of the present” would be like today had I not chosen to study in Ireland. I’m going to level with all of you, because even though I may not know you from Adam, I tend to have a compulsive need to tell the truth… especially when I know it can help those around me.I am your classic over-achieving, talkative, go-getting, perfection-seeking, passionate, goal-oriented, dreamer who can’t help but get in my own way sometimes. Okay, more than sometimes. Before I went to Ireland, I found it very hard to chill out, take a breather, relax, however you want to say it. I was in constant motion, which in many ways was good, but in more ways was, to put it bluntly, over-kill. When plans I made fell through, or I was a bit behind planning a paper or project or proposal, I would get angry at myself. I knew intellectually that I needed to find my “inner Zen”, but I had no idea where to start.Then something incredible happened: I accepted a place in the study abroad program at the University of Limerick, and everything started to fall into place… without my incessant planning, I might add. Ireland is a peaceful place. It is a welcoming place. It is a place that allows visitors to look at the world around them and take it all in, instead of only sneaking an occasional glace once in a while. Things aren’t as rushed, people are genuinely happy to talk with others, and life is more about the voyage as opposed to the reaching of one’s personal terminus. While studying in Ireland, I changed from someone who lived and breathed planning and deadlines, to someone who uses plans in beneficial ways without letting them control me. Ireland taught me to see life in a different, more beautiful and open, kind of way. That, in itself, is a gem I will always cherish.2. Gain a better appreciation of history.You may not think about it all that much, but the United States of America is, compared to other countries, very much akin to a toddler. At the ripe age of 237 years old (almost 238), we are a very young country. While the Republic of Ireland is also fairly young, having gained independence from Great Britain in 1922, the land and culture of the country is rich, enduring and deep-rooted. I mean, seriously, there are forts, castles, ancient tombs, breathtaking rock formations and notable landmarks EVERYWHERE.While I was at the University of Limerick, I had two castles (King John’s Castle and Bunratty Castle) within a 20-minute drive from me. The Cliffs of Moher were a 35- to 40-minute drive away. I could get to Dublin to visit the Famine Ship and the Guinness Brewery via the train in two hours. The express bus to Galway City, where I got my lovely claddagh ring from Thomas Dillon’s Claddagh Gold, was a 45-minute ride. Cork and Blarney, both with beautiful sites and a plethora of stories to go along with them, were an hour and 30 minutes away by bus.As you might have guessed, I could go on forever. All I can say is “bored” will be a word that you can completely remove from your vocabulary while in Ireland. So delve into that history… if you dare! 3. Look and feel healthier.You know all those really gross additives and artificial flavors and colors that we hear so much about? You know how, despite hearing about all these really gross “items” in our food, we still eat a lot of them anyway, usually because we have no idea they were even in our food in the first place?Good news… Throw high-fructose corn syrup, dangerous artificial products and harmful preservatives out the window, because in Ireland they are ridiculously hard to come by.I’m not saying that they’re completely non-existent, but I can tell you that, in Ireland, you won’t feel the need to read the fine print on every single label just to make sure you’re “eating right”. Between the wonderful farmer’s markets found in the major cities and on the campuses of colleges and universities, to healthier options found in local grocery stores, Ireland boasts a land of genuinely healthy food options. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself feeling healthier, looking healthier and becoming less prone to illness. What a triple treat!4. Become a time management champ.I feel as though this reason is semi-obvious. While studying abroad, you’re going to want to explore, go out, travel, get involved on campus, and, you know… study. All of this is very achievable as long as you get to grips with time management, fast. While this life skill is one that isn’t “Ireland specific”, I felt as though I would be doing all of you a huge disservice if I didn’t include it, even briefly. Basically, budgeting time for all of your study abroad endeavors IS POSSIBLE in Ireland… and I’m not just saying this as the “pre-Ireland me” spoken about in reason #1. I’m saying this because there is no more peaceful, beautiful, safe and welcoming environment than the Emerald Isle, if you’re looking to refine your time management skills, identify your passions and hone in on your strengths. Fáilte go hÉirinn!5. Discover your hidden strengths and passions.I kind of gave a few mini-spoilers to this final reason while writing the other four, but I still feel that it deserves its own slot. Simply put, my time in Ireland allowed me to discover strength and potential inside of myself that I had neglected to notice until my time as a study abroad student. Studying in Ireland:Forced me to embrace change, and the fact that life doesn’t always go as planned.Helped me understand my greatest assets and those pesky weaknesses.Afforded me the independence I so craved since, well, birth.Showed me that making mistakes isn’t a fatal flaw… It’s human and necessary for growth.Allowed me to see clearly for the first time who I was (and am now) and what exactly that meant for my present and future.Showed me just how open my mind could become, and how many wonderful adventures I could fill it with from day to day.Gave me to tools to write my own story, and share it with others.So, I ask you, what will your study abroad story be? That is yet to be written. I do know, however, that should you choose to study in Ireland, your story won’t be boring. It won’t be predictable. It won’t be simple. It won’t be a carbon copy of anything else you’ve ever read or heard.Your story will be a page-turner, someone else’s literary addiction, a bestseller… and I can’t wait to read it someday.