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Falling In Love With Ireland

Last Spring Semester I had the opportunity to live in Ireland for four months through Aquinas College’s study abroad program.  I can easily and honestly say that it was the best four months of my life.  I’m not sure how anything else will ever top it, and I’m not sure if I want anything else to.  It’s hard to explain to others who have never been to Ireland or on a study abroad trip just how wonderful and life-changing it can be.  People are able to recognize the beauty in the pictures you post on Facebook and the sadness you probably feel having to be back in America, but they aren’t able to truly understand.  It’s by no means their fault, it’s just the way that the studying abroad culture works.

Studying abroad is very much like being in a new relationship.  Throughout my whole study abroad experience, I couldn’t help but feel similar feelings to what it was like to date someone new.  When preparing to go to Ireland, I talked to people who had gone on the trip before about what it was like in Ireland and what I should know.  This aspect of studying abroad was like when you ask friends for advice on dating.  Preparing for Ireland was like preparing to start seeing someone new.  You found people that had more experience than you did and have more insight to give you and you ask them questions and try your best to gain as much knowledge as possible.  When I was preparing for Ireland, I was also continuously feeling nervous and excited simultaneously much like how you feel when talking to someone new or going on a first day.

Once I was in Ireland, I was trying new things and re-defining myself.  I went and explored new views, ate different foods, and lived a different way of life.  When you’re in a new relationship, you also go out and try things you may not have done on your own.  You may try a new sport or eat food you normally wouldn’t eat.  Your life is influenced by who you’re dating, just as my life was influenced by living in Ireland.  While I was in Ireland, I was also becoming a different version of myself.  I wasn’t the same person I was when I left for Ireland.  I was growing and changing.  The same happens when you date someone.  You become a different person and a part of you changes.

Leaving Ireland was the worst.  Leaving Ireland was like breaking up with someone you love very dearly and want to be with, but you know that it has to end for the good of you both.  When I said goodbye to Ireland, I felt the most extreme kind of emotional pain.  I desperately wanted to stay and continue on with my Irish life, but I also knew I had to leave because I had a family and friends and other goals waiting for me back in America and life just has to go on.  This felt like a break up that you didn’t want to happen, but knew it was inevitable.  Like with any typical break up, I cried, ate lots of ice cream, and tried to move on as best I could while still holding onto the great memories of the past.

It’s been 5 months since I had to break up with Ireland.  I’m still adjusting to being back, and I still miss it everyday, but the most extreme of the pain has subsided.  I’ve moved on in a healthy way.  I’ll never forget my experiences in Ireland, and I eventually do want to move back and live there, but for now, I’m coping and enjoying the time that’s in front of me.

All this being said, I’m the kind of person who would never go back to someone that broke my heart.   I think it’s too painful and you end up just trying to re-live something that can’t be re-lived in the same way.  I’m the kind of person who guards my emotions and tries to experience the least amount of pain.  I do my best to prevent myself from getting hurt.  However, I would leave my family, friends, and everything else in my life if it meant I could experience Ireland all over again.  I would gladly experience the worst kind of pain I’ve ever felt a second time just to be with the country I love.

I encourage any in-coming and current students to heavily consider studying abroad.  It really is an adventure unlike any other and it’s something that you’ll never regret.  It takes a lot of courage to leave your family and your comfortable life and go immerse yourself in a new country, but you come out of the experience a new person that you’ll appreciate it.  Go out and get your heart broken, because it will make you love yourself and this world a whole lot more.

One Response

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