I have been anxiously planning my return back to Ireland only days after taking my first step on “Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shores.” I knew fromthe first few days living in the rural west of Ireland that I was meant to return. This past spring of 2014 I was blessed enough to be given the “once” in a lifetime opportunity to study abroad in Ireland for 3 1/2 months. It was very much a learning experience for me, I’d go as far as to say I learned more in that semester in Ireland, than a traditional semester in Duluth, Minnesota (shh…but don’t tell anyone). Although classes may have been only held from 9am til noon, Monday through Thursday, the learning not only did not cease at the end of class, but rather began. I learned so much about the landscape, culture, people, and places, as well as many things about myself. As hard as I tried I simply could not get enough. When the 3+ months had passed it wasn’t just trying to say goodbye or “see you later” to new friends, places, or the best hospitality I received, it felt like I was physically leaving a part of myself there. There was a tremendous amount of pain in leaving especially not knowing the next chance I would have to get back, if I would ever.
Harder yet was adjusting back into “normal” American life and society. Our professors tried to prepare us for the return before we left Ireland. They told us that we would go through a cycle of re-adjustment back home, and would most likely be depressed for a while (cheery I know), but eventually things would go back to normal. If you know me at all, you would know that I am not one who deals with stress well. Traveling from Ireland a place I would consider one of the most relaxing sharply back into the constant hustle and bustle, slave to the grind atmosphere, that I was used to before at home was near impossible. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to return home and visit with friends and family who I haven’t seen in months, but it was not simply the same.
While life at home for myself was on a pause for those 3 1/2 months, it continued on for everyone else. So when I returned home I perceived everything as very much the same as when I left, but it was oddly different for everyone else. Many chose or were forced to move on. Many friendships were not the same as when I left, and I would go as far to say that I lost a few friends while being away. I am not sure if it was jealousy, anger, or just miscommunication, but it was tough to readjust, and accept. I cannot blame anyone; it would be difficult for me too, to have someone I am close to leave for that amount of time.
Most of the people who promised to hear all about my adventures in Ireland, and pictures either didn’t care too, didn’t have the time, or after a few stories or photos changed the subject. I am not trying to slam people, for I have done much of the same thing to others, since it is hard to realize sometimes that the person who most cares about your trip, is yourself, and it may be hard for others to comprehend. I was able to do a presentation of my photographs to our local garden club, who wanted to learn more about the landscape, flora and fauna, as well as show off some of my work at a few local art shows. It was still hard when all I wanted to do was tell a story, with nearly no one to listen, or who cared the same. I survived the summer and some of the school year by purchasing my own dart board and darts, Barry’s Tea, Irish music, as well as getting the entire Father Ted collection (pathetic I know).
As I said in the first line of my blog post, I’ve been planning on coming back to Ireland for over a year. When I told people of my endeavors many laughed, other tried discussing the financial consequences behind returning, but most wished me good luck (whether in good taste or not).
Most people did not believe that I would return to Ireland, or return to so soon, and why should they? No other St. Scholastica student has ever gone a second semester to Ireland for the entire 35 year program. There has been plenty of students who have gone back to visit, and even to stay. There has been 7 marriages between the Irish and the Americans from the College of St. Scholastica over the years, but nobody has ever gone back to study another semester.
So this begs the questions that I have been asked hundreds of times: Why go back?, Why return to some small town?, Why not save your money, or go to a different place?, Why be the first, there must be a reason that the others haven’t returned?
The best answer I have to those questions is Why Not? Why not be the first?, Why not return to see my friends?, Why not return to the place I fell in love with?, and have been dying to get back to since the moment I left,Why not go and experience while I still can?, Why not go, take the chance and just live for the moment?
As you may have guessed by this point I am back writing to you from one of my favorite places in this world Louisburgh for another semester of school. I feel completely at peace, and ecstatic being back home. Although I may be unsure where my future lies, it is great to get back home at least one more time, and live. I am not here for any boy (sorry to disappoint the rumors and you guys at home), or for any other particular reason other than just to experience life, and live. The next step in my story will be trying to figure out how to get back over here again, (a third time), hopefully for an extended stay or to work.
Thank you to all of the people who believed in me. Thank you to all who have supported me on either trip, and helped to make my dream a reality. It isn’t easy or cheap to spend a semester away from home, but I believe the experience, learning, and smiles makes up for that. I am so extremely blessed to be back to a place I love so much, and to be supported both in the United States and in Ireland, by some truly amazing people.
The only other thing I can say is, Sláinte (Cheers) It is so good to be home!