It might seem like an over exaggeration, but this past weekend may have be the best one of my life. Mt fellow writer’s program students and I were treated to a weekend Writer’s Retreat, which our teacher promised would give us time to read, write, unwind, and live a weekend that was beautifully devoid of obligations or the need to rush around.
The twist was, though, that our ultimate destination would be a secret. We were sent a basic packing list of things to bring, which included, among other things, “a book that you can depend on in all weather conditions,” “your sense of adventure,” and “your sense of humor.”
And so we hauled ourselves out of the warmth of our beds on a cloudy Friday morning, our bags filled with things that may or may not prove useful and a jittery excitement in our hands. Our RA met us outside of our apartments, handing us our first golden ticket on the journey: a round-trip train ticket to Cork. I turned it over and over in my hand, imaging the places we could be going.
Once we were dropped off at Heuston Station, we met up with the rest of our class and our teacher. We were each handed a large brown envelope, our names marking them in scrolling black ink. It felt like the treasure hunts of childhood, with a giddy excitement and the promise of the unknown.
The train itself was a lovely experience, as I always find them. Something about that space is so relaxing to me, and so conducive to the act of writing. That ride alone gave me pages and pages of poems, spurred on by the blurring images of trees and green fields speckled with sheep. The three hours blurred together beautiful, making me more than excited for all the writing, reading, and meditating that this weekend so lovingly promised.
Once we arrived in Cork, we were informed that was the first and longest leg of our journey; next, we would hop into a bus and arrive at our mystery destination in about an hour.
The road was winding and hilly, curving around to the coast soon enough. Sea front houses speckled the road, lined with beach chairs and potted plants and brightly colored front doors. It was altogether lovely and reminded me of my many summers spent in Rhode Island among houses like these. Our journey seemed to be promising us one of oceans and beaches; the prospect of being able to sit and listen to the waves again made this weekend seem all the more perfect.
For the sake of future program goers, I won’t disclose where exactly we went; having it be a surprise was something that we all really enjoyed, and on the chance it will be the same destination next year, I don’t want to disclose too much.
But regardless of where we went, I know that I would’ve had an amazing weekend either way. When you’re studying abroad, everything is always on the move. You days are packed with experiences and itineraries, rushing around from one place to another. There is a beautiful rush that I get from this, but I’ve learned that it’s essential to also take time to just be. I like to think of myself as someone who is very in touch with my own feelings, and I’m proud to be an emotionally vulnerable and aware person. What I didn’t realize was that by not taking time to process this incredible experience I was going through, and by not processing all of the emotions that come with this much change, I wasn’t really understanding everything that I was going through.
I hadn’t been writing as much as I would have hoped, because I felt like I didn’t have time. But the minute I allowed myself to slow down, the words flowed out of me in a way they hadn’t in a long time. I feel very lucky to have had this time with myself this weekend, and I will work to make more spaces where I can just take time.
Even though study abroad is the time to go out and make memories, having more quiet moments can be just as invaluable, and they only serve to make you appreciate and understand your experiences even more.
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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>