Just a few days ago, I landed back in Atlanta from Dublin. Leaving Dublin was bittersweet – I was sad to leave the friends I’d made and the places I had come to know but was still very excited to come back to the United States.

The first 48 hours did not feel real at all. I had my brother’s high school graduation right away so that kept me busy, but it didn’t really hit me that I was home for good now, and that it would probably be a very long time before I made it back to Ireland or Europe in general. Now, I’ve started to realize this and while it is disappointing, I am mostly just more and more grateful for the opportunity with each day that I spend being home. I have had much more free time to reflect on everything I got to see this past semester, and I think I am just now fully appreciating how amazing it was and how lucky I am to have been able to do it. The vast majority of people never get to travel around 6 different countries inside of 4 months. I don’t think you can fully understand the term “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” until you’re sharing your experience abroad to adults who are thirty-plus years older than you and they’re can’t hear enough about it, almost like kids listening to a fantastic story. Sharing my memories has itself been a humbling experience, knowing that I have done something I can talk about for the rest of my life.

There are things I’ll miss about Ireland and things I’m happy to return to in America. It’s only been a few days, but I do miss hearing the Irish accent. I never picked it up, but I have found myself using a lot of the words and phrases popular in Dublin. In the months to come, I hope to find myself still saying “cheers” and “that’s grand.” But wow did I miss Chick-Fil-A. And it’s nice to get free water and free refills at restaurants again.

All in all, studying abroad is an experience that takes a little while to fully soak in and appreciate. While it may take me awhile to go back, I do plan on it and want to go to Italy before anywhere else. This past semester inspired a love for travel that I did not think I had. And for that, and everything else I learned and saw this past semester, I am extremely grateful.