Ireland, I’m coming back for you

The realization of coming back to the United States was a lot harder than expected and while it is said to be common for there to be more of a culture shock when coming home, it’s difficult for a lot of reasons. Study abroad is a such a unique experience in the way that you are thrown together with a group of people from all over the US and the world, creating deep relationships at an accelerated speed all while creating memories that will last forever that is now attached to these individuals. During the last few weeks of the semester, all of my friends and I would talk about how we couldn’t picture not seeing each other every day, not being able to easily see this new home of ours, and overall, ever have the chance to live how we did during those four months. While many of us want to move to Ireland in the future, this experience that we created will never have the opportunity to be replicated. While these conversations often had us crying over not wanting to leave one another, there is also a unique type of gratitude in this feeling as we were able to make those memories, have those feelings, and be able to share that with one another. These feelings were even more powerful in my case as this was my final semester of senior year of college. While we all went through this experience together, my friends were going back to college, they can go back to their schools, see their friends, and live in similar situations for at least another year. While I am excited to start this new phase, I was going back to my college friends living in different states, working full time, and leaving “college life” behind. I was dealing with the feelings of leaving these last four months while preparing for life to change in a completely different way.  

Ireland became my home, changed me completely as a person, and has become most of my thoughts since returning home. While a lot of this is very cliche to say, I went to study abroad expecting to see and experience new places, but I never expected to change in the ways that I did. I have always said I am not a city person in any way, but Dublin captures a part of you that you never expect. Even in this large city, the people make it feel like a small town as the people often talk to you like they are your friend. Ireland brought me some of the best people that I have ever met in my life, people who continually root for you, make fun of you, and love you unconditionally. I learned what it felt like to be so blissfully happy in yourself, and in an environment, where it felt too good to be true. This situation has taught me what it truly means to be on “Ireland time”, the JOYS of public transportation (Irish rail, I miss you), and how to be welcomed by every person you meet. This country truly changed my life in the way that it has made me second guess everything I had planned for the future. While my career is mainly in the United States and just starting to expand to other countries, I am constantly trying to plan ways to bring it to Ireland. Every day I am looking for ways to get back to Europe, to continue to travel, and to find a way to move there. There is not a day that goes by, that I am not thinking about this experience and the moments that I lived through the last four months.  

My biggest advice to study abroad students is to take in every single moment and be completely present. Take photos, be the stereotypical study abroad kid vlogging your adventures, find your one small token you want to get for each country, but also try to live as a local as you will gain so much culturally. With social media and expectations of this type of traveling, studying abroad might feel like you must jam pack your days, fit in every tourist attraction, and be constantly on the move. One of my best tips is to find a few things that are your “have to see’s”, and then honestly, get lost in the city and do not have set plans. Most of my favorite memories were ones of places we stumbled along as we just started walking around without a clue of where we were going. We often took day trips to countries, where we didn’t know anything till, we googled what to do in the city as we walked on the plane that morning. Lastly, one might feel that you have to travel every weekend to experience study abroad but remember to enjoy your host country and all it has to offer of living as a local in this environment.  

With all of this said, my study abroad chapter is officially closed, but Ireland can’t get rid of me that easy, I’ll be back.