I cannot recommend highly enough a semester abroad at University College Dublin. It was hands down the best time of my life. Ryanair offers unbelievably reasonable flights all around Europe and I was able to travel to England, France, Spain, Switzerland, Belgium, and Italy all for very reasonable costs. These international trips were a blast and I got to see so many incredible people and places that are difficult to get to from the US all in a weekend trip (which was quick but I really got to do a lot)! However, that much is available from any study abroad program pretty much. What made UCD an especially amazing experience was the beautiful campus, the people I met and the trips that I was able to go on thanks to UCD Reslife. I would highly recommend living on campus to anyone traveling to UCD - accommodations were comfortable and extremely safe. My abroad experience started off with a full week before classes started going to Reslife events. I met the hilarious RAs who told us all about the aspects of living in Ireland that you don't get from a tourist website or book. I met tons of international students while doing stuff like learning some Irish dance, trying out Irish food and drink, and they even planned really useful practical events like trips to Ikea. Through the semester I loved the nights spent busing into the city to go out and enjoy the clubs in Dublin, many of which had great live music and such fun crowds.
Despite getting the unforgettable chance to see so many countries I'd never seen before, my favorite part of being abroad were the trips I got to take around Ireland. One weekend, the International Student Society hosted a three day trip to Galway, the Cliffs of Moher, and Connemara National Park (for less than 150 euro - housing, transportation, admission everywhere included - it was an incredible deal). I spent the weekend with a group of students from Italy, France, Germany, and the US and had an absolute blast seeing some of the most beautiful places I've ever been with fun people. Another weekend I got to go on a windsurfing trip with the windsurfing club out to Castlegregory, near Dingle. That one had more Irish students (but still a good dozen international students or so out of like 30). I had never windsurfed before. The first day the conditions were too rough so all the beginners took a road trip over to Dingle. It was stunning, and so cool to get to drive around those narrow Irish roads among the hills and cliffs and greenery. Then the next day I got to go windsurfing for the first time, which was so fun. The Irish students I met were some of the nicest and funniest people I've ever known, and they made the trip an absolute blast.
If you are thinking about going abroad, do not let yourself convince yourself that it's not the right move. For me, it was the best experience I've ever had. Every single weekend I would look around me and say to my friends "I can't believe this is our life right now" and when I look back at pictures I still can't. I came back to campus with a much greater appreciation for my own happiness. When I get stressed, I catch myself and ask myself if I'm happy doing what I'm doing and if not what I need to change, because I was able to see how insanely happy I can be. No, I can't just be a student traveling every weekend forever - but I can look for a path that brings me the same kind of joy and fulfillment. I also have so much more confidence in myself. At home, I would regularly defer to someone with more experience and avoid confusing situations like navigating the unreliable bus system. Well after a semester of managing to find my way around Paris and Rome where I do not speak the language, that's no longer the case. Whenever I'm uncertain I remember that I took a trip to Spain completely on my own and had a blast. If I can do that, I can figure out how to navigate most of the challenges I face at home. But that's not something you can learn by being told, you have to feel the uncertainty first hand and feel the relief and pride that comes when you make it out alive and better than ever. Obviously, not everyone has quite so incredible experience - I was very lucky. However, even the friends I know who didn't have the time of their life consistently say that they are glad they gave it a shot, and they too come back with a greater sense of perspective and a greater confidence in themselves. UCD was amazing and if I was choosing again I would make the same decision without a moment's hesitation, but even if it's not specifically UCD that appeals I can't recommend highly enough going abroad somewhere and getting to see another part of the world.