This is a difficult journal for me to write, for it is time for me to leave Ireland and return to the United States. I’d say I am returning home, but it feels more like I am leaving home.
My community in Ireland are some of the most welcoming, kind, and sincere people I have met in my life. When I was leaving for my Spring break, the local pub owner sat me down and told me, ‘Don’t forget Laura, that if you get in any trouble, ever, you now have a family in Tully Cross (Ireland) to call for help. We will always get you back. Don’t ever hesitate to call.’ That comment hit me hard. They have fully welcomed me into their lives as a family member, and are willing to help me in any way they can. I’ve noticed this a lot in my travels abroad, that people are genuinely kind and caring. Yes, it’s hard to trust people, especially those you have known for so little time. But there is such goodness in people, despite the ugliness you may have experienced before. Sometimes it takes being the odd one out to notice this. It takes being in a place of need in order to accept help.
Traveling abroad can put you in many vulnerable positions, physically and emotionally. It’s the nature of such an open experience. I’ve been pushed and pulled in so many ways throughout this semester in Ireland, and it’s forced me to grow so much. ‘Forced’ may seem a harsh word for it, but it’s true. Sometimes, you don’t have a choice but to adapt to the situation at hand. There’s no home or parents to run too when you are an ocean away. I think there’s a point in many people’s study abroad experience where they have to take that first hard step, where they have to say ‘to survive this, I’ve got no choice but to do the hard thing’. After that moment, life becomes different. No, it doesn’t become easier, but it becomes greater. You realize the power you have in yourself to conquer any challenges life throws at you, and once you know this, you can do so much more. The world becomes so much bigger once you find confidence in yourself. I think the barrier that holds most people back from achieving the goodness they are made for is the absence of this knowledge that they can do hard things, and survive, even thrive!
Being in a place and knowing that I have to leave it, with no certain plans of return, it’s really difficult. I feel I am leaving a piece of my soul behind. And maybe that’s okay. It’s like leaving a heavy burden that you have been carrying for miles behind on the shore. It at once feels so freeing, but also so different. There’s been a loss of the reality you always knew. And now, when you leave this place, will the freedom remain, or will the burden return?
As I pack all my belongings and souvenirs to prepare for my journey home, it doesn’t really feel real yet that I am leaving forever. Yes, I may return, but never in the same way. It’ll never be my first time out of the country before, never my first time in Ireland, again. But I must not focus on what I am losing, instead what I have gained. I am stronger. I am confident. I am smarter. And most importantly, I am loved.
I’ve included a picture of the village of Tully Cross, where I have lived for the last four months.
The Irish playwright Eamon Grennan writes in his play Emigration Road: “Always some dream of home comes knocking at your sleep”
Ireland, forever be in my dreams.
Until next time my friends,
Remember the strength within you.