One of the wonderful things about Ireland is just how easy it is to see so much of it. I remember leaving for Galway on my second weekend here, watching the lush countryside fly by my window. I didn’t really notice until I looked at my location on Google Maps, but in a short 3 hours by train, I had gone from one coast of Ireland to the other. To get to nearly any landmark, city, or other attraction, I’ve spent no more than 3.5 hours getting there. This has filled my weekends with coastal cliff walks, seaside markets, and cities and towns from all over Ireland. When you know you only have 4 months in one place, it really makes you take advantage of each and every day. This is something I want to bring into my life in the states: to take advantage of all the amazing places near where I live.
I’m fortunate enough to live an hour train ride away from the third largest city in America: the windy city of Chicago. It is an absolute epicenter of culture and art, boasting some of the world’s most beautiful architecture and an incredibly thriving poetry scene. I’ve learned during my time abroad that surrounding myself with art is essential to my happiness and something I value greatly, and I now have no excuse to not hop on a short train ride and experience its beautiful art galleries, museums, and buildings. Not many people are as fortunate as I am to live so near a place that is so remarkable, and one solace I have for when I return to the states is that I will have this city to explore.
Beyond the modern marvel that lies to my east, Illinois is filled with beautiful natural landmarks as well. Though we are teased for our miles and miles of flat land and corn (and I can’t disagree with that assessment), there is a beauty to be found in the seemingly never-ending highways of the Midwest. I definitely took being able to hop into a car whenever I want for granted before I came abroad, and one of the first things I’m looking to do when I am home and over my jet lag is to have a long car ride, music loud and winds down with no particular direction in mind. Wandering has become a sort of hobby abroad, and I have a feeling it’s something I won’t be shaking.
An especially lovely example of Illinois’s natural beauty that is a short one-hour car ride from my university is that of Starved Rock. Covering an impressive 10.64 km² area, the park is known for its sandstone canyons and plentiful waterfalls. I’ve been once before, but just going once isn’t enough. You could walk for hours and barely cover any of it, always leaving something new to be discovered. It’s comforting to know that when I get back to school, I will still have that little oasis to escape to when I’m missing this green that has become like home to me.
One of the biggest lessons study abroad has taught me is that it doesn’t matter so much where you are, as much as your mentality while you are there. There is wonder to be found on every corner of this vast and beautiful globe; I thank Ireland for teaching me that.
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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>