I’ll begin with what has become a staple in my posts: I apologize for my long absence. Sadly, as I write this, I am not doing so from Ireland, but my last weeks there were wonderfully busy. I truly felt that I didn’t have much free time to write and when I did, I quickly filled it with seeing my friends, knowing I would soon leave.
The longer I stayed in Ireland, the more I enjoyed it, April and May were no exception. I had a few weeks of studying, filled with long days in the library (of course, the most beautiful days of the whole year happened to be those ones) and deadlines to meet. When I finished my last exam, I was shocked to realize that I had only a week left in Galway. Looking back now, I was hoping to have more to say about leaving by now, more realizations about how to put into words a summation of my whole experience, but still nothing seems quite right. My best efforts at honesty have come out a bit sappy for my taste and all attempts at making them sound more eloquent and less starry-eyed have failed, but I’ve done my best.
To be quite honest, I was skeptical about studying abroad. I was more than excited to go, but naturally nervous, too. I think what I feared the most was spending a semester being surrounded by Americans and trapping myself in a bubble of comfort, which I know can happen all too easily. I was determined not to follow that path, but I wondered how I would be able to have an authentic “Irish” experience. Despite my worries, I never could have imagined anything like what I gained from Ireland in just a few short months.
I found it strange how well I handled my last few days, full of goodbyes and packing. Of course I was sad, but I knew that there was nothing left on my list to do, my time had surpassed my wildest dreams. I had no regrets and not ready to leave but I was happy and at peace with my time there. I started out in a cold apartment, with one suitcase and 3 strangers but I left with a sense of place, countless memories, wonderful friends, some Irish and some American, with a few other nationalities scattered in there as well. I think Clare said it best when she said, “I hope someday I live somewhere permanently and I’m as happy there as I am here.”
I’m aiming to write a few more times, there’s a few more stories I’d like to tell and places I’d love to show you all. I learned so much through this experience, new settings, new cultures, and quite a bit more about myself. I will forever be thankful for this experience; thank you to Cornell for making it possible, for all of the amazing places that I was able to stand in awe of, and especially for all of the amazing people that made it the experience that it was. Thank you to the people at home, without whom I wouldn’t have been able to go in the first place and wouldn’t be so “at peace” with going home now. And thank you to all of the people in Ireland, who truly made me feel welcome more than I ever imagined I could be, and to those who turned into lifelong friends that I hope to see again someday soon.
If you ever get the chance, I strongly urge you to visit Ireland, not only does it offer some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever experienced (Galway, Aran Islands, and Connemara are a must if you can stop by!), but the people have an unparalleled kindness that immediately puts you at ease and makes you feel as if you have a home away from home. I realize this may all sound too good too be true, and I do realize I was in a bit of a bubble: living with friends, having the opportunities and time to travel and have fun when, had I been at home, I would have chosen to study instead, but it’s truly how I felt. I kept expecting the honeymoon period to end but it never really did. As I write, I am once again in surprisingly good spirits, but I know that when I left Ireland, it was not the last time that I will see everyone who came to mean so much to me. I am also so excited for what is to come in my life, how many more people and places there are to get to visit.
I am returning to the U.S. a more positive person, now more excited and a little less scared (although still a little bit, of course) for what is beyond my time in college, especially knowing that now I have even more supporters in my corner. I think it was important to get out of the Cornell bubble for a bit to reflect not only on how much I have grown in my time there, but also how different universities learn and function. I was able to see how easily I can get sucked into worrying about what’s inevitable: lack of time, grades, classes, money, but Ireland helped me realize that there are better things to worry about; friends, family, goals, and that there are more ways to learn than just through books. When I look back at my time at Cornell, I won’t be remembering my prelims or grades, all those times studying at the library or hiking through the snow to get to class (ok, maybe I’ll think of those times sometimes), but I’ll remember my friends, the times I laughed or cried with them by my side, the experiences and opportunities I had that I had never thought were possible, how much I learned in my short 4 years, and one of the biggest parts that I’ll remember: I’ll remember Ireland.