I have officially been home in the United States for a month after four beautiful months living, studying, and growing in Dublin, Ireland. Sitting in my bed, binging new episodes of Kimmy Schmidt and eating handfuls of Pringles, it can sometimes feel like that entire span of time was just something I made up in my head. It’s crazy to think that a little over a month ago I was laying on the beach in Nice, watching people stroll by on the Promenade des Anglais. That a little over a month ago I was standing in the middle of the awe-inspiring Slieve League mountains, the entire place the culmination of a trip that was filled with too many Lord of the Rings-esque backdrops to count. That a little over a month ago, I was living the life I had dreamed about living for so long; a life where I was free to travel and soak in this vast globe I live in, learning about the world around me and, in turn, learning more about myself than I ever thought I could.
And because I had dreamed about it for so long, had bought all the books and packed all the gear and read all the blogs, it can sometimes be hard to believe that it ever actually happened.
Before I went abroad, I always sort of idealized those who had gone abroad before me. The thought of uprooting yourself and moving across the world for a whole semester seemed like the scariest thing in the world to me; those people I knew who left before me were like voyagers, venturing out on their own to claim this world around them. And yeah, it was scary to leave, scary to be so far away from family and friends. But most of all, what I feel when I look back at my home in Dublin, was the way that it wasn’t scary at all. I felt so at home in those streets, so at home in my own skin even when surrounded by hundreds of thousands of strangers. For someone as perpetually scared as me, the fact that I was so totally okay makes the thing seem even more surreal.
When people go abroad, they don’t tell you about quiet moments. About how walking into a grocery store thousands of miles from home can feel just like walking into the one down the street from you in America. How you don’t wake up in awe every day; you wake up to the light streaming over your bed, old tea mugs littering your bedside table, with an inexplicable feeling that you are home.
I could make a list of all the things I miss about Dublin. But there’s no way to encapsulate that feeling in a set of words, no way to itemize each little thing that stamped itself on my heart and refused to let go.
Whenever this corner of the world I inhabit starts to feel too small, I take out the countless memories I’ve accumulated over my four months abroad. Receipts from Lidl, tickets to Spain, pebbles from Cork. I lay them out delicate and beautiful like petals, spreading over my sandy yellow carpet I’ve stared at since I was a child. It is staggering how something as small and inconspicuous as a receipt can take you back to an exact time and place, suddenly smelling and seeing and hearing every inch of that place that felt so far away just a few seconds ago.
The girl that I was abroad can sometimes feel so far away. Sometimes, I stand in front of the mirror and look myself in the eyes, and remind myself it is the same person staring back, that this is the same face I saw reflected so many times in Dublin, in Amsterdam, in London, in Seville, in Barcelona, in Prague, in Nice, in Aix-en-Provence.
So, one month later, I feel a myriad of things that I can’t find a way to sum up in one neat little post. I want some divine revelation, some story about how everything makes sense now and my life has been colored with wisdom and meaning. But mostly I feel a vague longing, a melancholic but grateful filter over the days of my life back at home. I couldn’t tell you how I changed abroad, or one moment that made everything in my head click. But I think that’s okay. Life is a series of questions; if you aren’t confused, you aren’t learning. I like to think that I’m still learning and growing from my time abroad everyday, even when I'm back in the middle of Illinois.
So, again, and always, thank you for everything, Dublin. Thank you for confusing me and challenging me, for accepting me and embracing me.
Thank you for making this post so difficult to write. Thank you for being impossible to truly say goodbye to.
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<p>I am a junior English major at Illinois Wesleyan University studying in Dublin, Ireland. I love the rain, which is a good thing, since it never stops here. You can find me sitting in a café reading Sylvia Plath in my down time, as any good English major would. Poetry, the sea, and finding the best ice cream in any given location are just a few of my passions.</p>