When my friend Ruth told us about a student trad night, we knew that we could not resist going to check it out.  But as we walked past the familiar sights and sounds of Galway’s Latin Quarter and into its West End, unfamiliarity began to settle in.  I did not know Shop Street even stretched this far!  What if the recommendation had been a mistake?  What if Google Maps was lying to us?  It would not be the first time.

At last, we reached our destination: The Crane Bar, a tiny pub with an unassuming façade away from the hustle and bustle of the city center.  We made our way up a set of stairs and onto the first floor, and we were greeted with one of the coolest sights I had seen yet: the entire landing was packed with student musicians, at least twenty in total, all gathered with their respective instruments to spontaneously perform together.  From fiddles to flutes to banjos and more, each instrument complemented its neighbor in a beautiful symphony of improvisation.  The start of a tune was like diving under a wave and finding an entirely new world underneath; it was experiencing a shared culture in high definition surround sound.

I never would have encountered this—one of my favorite experiences to date—had I not pushed myself to explore somewhere new.  I have found this to be a recurring theme abroad.  Whether it is trying my hand at archery, having pizza with cloistered nuns, or going on a weekend trip with acquaintances who turned into friends, the greatest rewards have come with a little risk.  So, if you are hesitant to do something new and daunting (like studying abroad), push yourself to do it!  What you gain will far outweigh the cost of facing your fears.