In my first study abroad article, I gushed over falling deeply and madly in love with Ireland. Since that initial blog entry in September, I have only fallen harder. Think The Notebook’s Allie and Noah kind of love. Allow me to briefly chronicle our relationship as it has unfolded.
September was our honeymoon phase. I got butterflies strolling down Grafton Street (Dublin’s Main Street), and blushed every time I took a run along the Grand Canal or through the famous Stephen’s Green. Come October, my relationship with Ireland went through the testing phase. I explored different cities in Europe, and other countries and cultures piqued my interest, but no matter where I visited, returning home to Dublin always provided me with a sense of comfort. I knew I made the right decision in committing to Ireland. In November, Ireland and I hit our stride. I developed a routine in Dublin, and we reached the major landmark of any relationship: meeting the parents. My entire family visited us for Thanksgiving, and allowed me the opportunity to show off the characteristics and qualities I love so much about Ireland. They unanimously gave their stamp of approval.
Now it’s December, also known as break-up month. On Saturday, I leave Dublin to return to my family for the holidays, and to head back to Georgetown for spring semester. I wish I could say I believe in long-distance relationships, but a long-distance relationship with Ireland may not be healthy for me (we will live in different time zones, after all). This will not be a clean break though. Our relationship is too meaningful to me, and Ireland has taught me far too much about love, friendship, my heritage, and myself to say goodbye forever. Ireland has left a permanent “handprint on my heart,” as the Wicked song “For Good” expresses.
Ireland taught me to embrace the unfamiliar and to accept vulnerability. I am usually reluctant to even admit I have a crush on someone because I fear that putting myself out there, even in the confidence of a close friend, exposes me to the embarrassment of rejection. Through Ireland, I have discovered the empowerment of taking risks. Ireland has shown me that personal growth is guaranteed through the emotional and terrifying risks of the heart, and more often than not, risks bring immediate joy and enrichment. I opened myself completely to Ireland, by befriending its people, traveling its land, and attending one of its universities. In return, Ireland exposed my strength, determination and sense of self.
My relationship with Ireland has also taught me the value of spending time alone. Sure, Friday and Saturday nights in Dublin “plubs” (clubs that have a mixed club-pub vibe) are wildly fun with a big group of friends, but some of my most memorable moments abroad are the times I claimed independence and spent time in solitude with Ireland. This peaceful and sometimes even lonely time alone allowed me to reflect on my life both abroad and at home, and I found parts of myself that lay buried under the chaos of daily life. Letting go of daily stressors and retreating on my own, rewarded me with moments of beautiful insight. My moments alone with Ireland revealed an independence and bravery I did not know I possessed.
The final lesson I have learned from Ireland that I would like to share (some are best left between me and Ireland) revolves around the concepts of hope and expectations. Often, it is terrifying to hope for something. Simply verbalizing dreams, desires, and goals makes them all too real, and again, exposes us to the possibility of pain and failure. Before moving to Ireland, I struggled with the idea of expectations. I think we all set certain standards for people and situations, and a lot of times these standards are not met. I was afraid to set expectations for Ireland, and wanted to experience life abroad with a blank slate and an open mind. Still, in the back of my head, I could not help but hope that Ireland would prove to be one of the best experiences of my life. Ireland has shown me that expectations can be met, and hope must prevail. To have hope and to set expectations is an act of courage. Yes, when people and places do not meet our expectations, it is crushing. We’ve all experienced that. But when people and places do meet our expectations, it is pure magic. Ireland exceeded all of my expectations, and has renewed my belief in the power of hope.
And so, the time draws near for me to say goodbye to my beloved Ireland. I am an emotional wreck every time I attempt to start packing my suitcases (which admittedly is partially due to the stress of not being able to fit everything), but I am trying to smile through my tears. Breaking up with Ireland is hard to do, but I will be forever grateful for the love it has shown me and for the lessons it has taught me. Ireland brought out the best in me, and I will carry that confidence in my heart when I return to Georgetown. I hope all of you reading this who have experienced your own study abroad relationships are smiling fondly as you reflect on the good times you shared with your “significant other,” and I hope all of you who plan to study abroad are smiling eagerly in anticipation of the relationship you are about to embark on. Studying abroad is a journey that will take you by surprise and leave you more whole than you have ever been.
Thank you Ireland for your unconditional acceptance and love, and for all you have given me. I promise to return one day to reminisce about our epic love story. Cheers to you Ireland!