My personal abroad-blog was titled “Proceed with Caution.” With this post, I give you the same advice. Please proceed with caution if you choose to read.
Before departing for study abroad, I was continually asked ‘why Ireland?’ To be honest, it was a little frustrating. But for the past month with a similar uncalled for frustration, all I hear is my own voice asking ‘why did I have to leave Ireland?’
As many study abroad stories go, I completely and full-heartedly fell in love with my home abroad. My stomach aches at the memory of the last days and nights; I cried like a little baby because I was just not ready to leave. There was absolutely no ounce of me that was ready to say the goodbyes, no ounce of me that wanted to face the dreaded final walk through the white awning in Dublin airport.
Sure sure, I get the logistics – there’s that whole illegal immigration thing. I have no classes to take and no visa. I understand, I legally could not stay in the country. I would say all good things inevitably come to an end, BUT if my pre-departure plan to marry an Irishman had only been successful I could still be frolicking around those fields….
Kidding. Sort of. (No, I’m definitely maybe kidding.)
Anyway, I’ve already adjusted back into my state-side reality. But of course, it took me a while to be okay with being in Loyalsock and not Limerick; I was really bitter when I came home. It was hysterical because I remember laughing at whatever the hell ‘reverse culture shock’ was. I now know it’s a real, evil, living thing. All the while, I spent a few weeks genuinely appreciating my quiet, home-town; with my incredible 10-person family and my life-long friends by my side. Now I’m moved in, working, and taking classes in my favorite city – Boston. And life is way too wonderful.
These days, friends prompt me with ‘How was Ireland?” When I begin to tell them about my trip, I jump to share all the visuals that flood my head. I talk about staring off the Cliffs of Moher and swaying from the wind; catching foam from the waves at Giant’s Causeway; climbing abandoned ships in Inis Oirr. The incredible weekend in Glendalough paired with the beautiful souls I met; walking toward an incredible sunrise through the streets of Limerick on a rainy night. I share the happy moments where I proudly heard the difference between a Cork and Kilkenny accent, and the inevitable joy of hearing the same (exact) playlist every Friday night from our favorite middle-aged DJ. Sigh.
Amidst my rambling I noticed how that frustration and bitterness within me readily disappeared; my face is covered with a smile and my voice moves a little too fast. I share all these pretty stories with absolute contentment. But on rare occasions, friends have asked ‘what did you learn in Ireland?’
And that is entirely different. That opens the door to share so many of the emotional lessons that overtook my heart. Over these few weeks of debating and reanalyzing my answers, I realized that the answer to what I learned goes hand-in-hand with answering that spiraling internal thought: why did I have to leave Ireland?
I learned way too much about the tin whistle, rugby, beer, and how to get a free beer. More deeply and irrevocably, I gained an entirely new mindset, built by an emotional understanding of honest relationships, embracing simple beauty, and having an unshakeable confidence. I learned how immensely important each of those things are for contentment, and how each of those things really do exist – in all their childish glory – everywhere. Everywhere meaning, yes, everywhere – even beyond Ireland’s coasts.
I had to leave the place that built this mindset because if I had never left, there would be no true test of authenticity to the things that I swore I learned. If I stayed in that fairytale any longer, I would go on naively professing that these things exist only in the magical world of Ireland. What a silly thought.
So here I am. Drinking a really poorly made cup of tea, trying to put sense into what I learned and why I had to leave Ireland. And those few reasons, the few things I learned, are painfully simple.
I learned that trust and gratitude is in the core of all good relationships. And I had to leave Ireland to see that.
Studying abroad forced us to delve into new relationships far more quickly, deeply, and honestly than we naturally feel inclined to. Those very first conversations stemmed by nerves and excitement held the potential to build into the most meaningful of friendships. These friendships were full of complete risk – but we all chose to trust instead. These friendships were full of stressful plans, missed busses, and sloppy nights – but we all remained entirely grateful that we had someone by our side. As we choose to completely trust someone and we choose to express gratitude daily, good friends and amazing people were so easy to find.
But okay, if you think America is evil and those type of people for those relationships just can’t exist here…get over yourself. Because I promise they do. Throw your pride away and go find them. If you continue mistrusting the world and proclaiming it’s filled with bad people who ‘just don’t understand you/woe is me..’ you’re never going notice that stranger that’s trying to.
I learned that beauty is not bound by geographic location. And I had to leave Ireland to see that.
All of Ireland is filled with this sense of purity – of untouched beauty and complete simplicity – and it made us all wonder how it’s real. There were moments where nature’s overwhelming beauty made us cry; where I couldn’t bring myself to place my eyes behind a camera to separate myself from the view. I can’t begin to explain how deeply some of these moments moved me. Still sometimes, these moments existed in our apartments, in our lecture halls, or sitting at bus-stops. Some beauty ended just as quickly as it came forth in the most mundane and the cloudiest of scenes. None of those latter memories have anything to do with being abroad.
But in order to notice such beauty back home, our attitude is the thing that needed to be adjusted; not our world. I’m reminding myself of that every day. We all habitually refuse to see beauty and we push it away in our normal lives in hope for something better…which is honestly so wasteful. Because surprise, you don’t need a passport or Eurorail to experience whatever beauty or truth your hipster soul is devoutly pining after. The grass is actually greener in Ireland, yes, but it’s just as soft in Boston. Go outside, walk a little slower, and eliminate your useless complaining. Beauty is flourishing everywhere, even if those beloved accents aren’t.
I learned a lot about confidence. (Ugh. How cliche.)
I learned that the confidence you build in your heart and mind during study abroad wasn’t just your country or that breathtaking view talking; that was actually you. And, I had to leave Ireland to see that.
While we’re in such a non-judgemental, new environment during study abroad, we got rightfully inspired to talk about grand ideas that were only ever meant for our own mind. We shared ideas of changing lives; of what we fear, of what faith means to us, of who we were, of who we want to be. We were brave enough to share our heart with people we met 3 hours ago and with people we’ll never see again. We were brave enough to unapologetically dance in an empty pub, unapologetically say yes, unapologetically scream no. We were brave enough to do brand new things in a brand new place. What good would it be to forget that confidence we built upon our arrival home? The answer is none; no good at all. So hold onto that, and always forgive yourself in the times you don’t.
Self acceptance and confidence is absolutely not limited to wherever you found it. Just don’t pretend like you left that lively person back in Turkey or The Netherlands or Rome because there’s really no use for them there.
Arriving in Ireland I was a little scatterbrained, wide-eyed and jetlagged on a rainy day. I departed Ireland feeling completely scatterbrained, teary-eyed, and (shocker) it was was raining. Aside from a few extra pounds on my hips and luggage, the scenes of arriving and departing seem identical; but nothing about it was the same with these endless ideas and memories crowding my brain.
I’ve learned that if I can just work to combine these ideas together and hold them in this new state of mind, my entire world seems a lot like Ireland. There’s a lot more trusting, a lot less cruelty, and there’s a lot of more laughing is to be shared. I fell in love with every part of the world Ireland gave me and I shamelessly fell in love with myself, too.
And now, I fully realize that I had to leave Ireland in order to continue appreciating every ounce of reality wherever it may fall or distort itself…because even amongst many of those literal rainy days, I learned how.
And I guess that’s my long winded answer as to why I had to leave Ireland.
I blame – no, I applaud, Ireland for changing my eyes to recognize a sense of truth and humility in my life; to be confident enough to reveal its existence in a world where so many swear it is absent. Respectfully, dear reader (hi, mom/dad), you may replace Ireland with whatever home-away-from-home you’ve had and I am sure it’d fit beautifully as well.
But for me, it will always be Ireland.
Sure, maybe the Irish drink a little more than we do. Maybe I detest their Adidas sweats and Hollister hoodies. Maybe I’m just an excitable, melodramatic, basket-case of a 20-year-old who was optimistically enthralled by their culture.
But all craic aside, the Irish love a lot more; so from here on out, I intend on doing the same.
I would say I’m sorry for the mess I just spewed out – that this is a little too much like a diary entry, that it’s a little too sappy and a lot too scattered. But if you scroll back to the top…I warned you, ya eejit.