My journey to what would be the best experience of my life was somewhat unconventional. I was not one of those people who began planning to study abroad the moment I entered college. I’m not a big planner person to begin with, but other than being a distant dream, studying abroad was not even on my radar.
Many of my weekends from grade school through high school had been spent traveling the U.S. for volleyball tournaments. I came to university as a committed Division I volleyball player and for as far as I could see, that is how I would be spending the next four years of my life. But life’s funny. Two years into college, I learned I would no longer be (competitively) playing the sport I had dedicated more than ten years of my life to. The end of one sport saw to the beginning of another. After dabbling with another D1 sport at my college, rowing, I decided I was not happy with the way I was spending a massive amount of my time.
Enter post-athletic career depression. This is something I truly believe is a reality. Though I never sought treatment, my first semester sans competitive athletics brought with it free time I did not know how to fill, a lack of structure I had never experienced, and hours worth of solitude never before allotted to me. However, I had made myself an internal promise. If I decided to forego my college athletic career, I needed to do something else big (because I’m radical like that lol). Cue studying abroad! Something I’d always dreamed of doing but never had the opportunity to even THINK about.
I had more support from my parents than I could have ever imagined. I think this largely stemmed from their understanding of the now gaping hole in my college experience without sport. They know I’m an extroverted, willing-to-do-anything type and encouraged me to follow through with the promise I had made myself. Plus it didn’t hurt that potentially having a daughter in Ireland would be as good an excuse as any to go visit. Cue me applying to head to Dublin, Ireland for the following semester - in classic Geena fashion… a.k.a. much closer to the deadline than desired. (I’d go on to become a peer advisor, advising other students against my own procrastinating tendencies.) Within a few weeks I was accepted and committed to journeying across the pond and out of the country for the very first time. Not to mention my first flight sans-sport competition!
I, along with the five girls also going (none of whom I knew preciously), attended a pre-departure meeting to go over the nitty-gritty things and get to know each other. Following winter break, packing, and a mental breakdown or two from the thought of leaving for so long, I flew across the Atlantic and started one of my greatest adventures to date.