At last, I near the end of my experience in Ireland. My semester of a lifetime is 'going out with a bang' with the arrival of my dad, Uncle Tom, and cousin mike tomorrow around 1 pm Ireland time. The celebrating begins upon their arrival and we are going to be playing 6 days of golf in a row! I know, I cannot believe it either! The specific courses we are playing are the best in the world, including La Hinch, Ballybunion Old Course and Cashen, Tralee, Waterville, and Old Head. I am very lucky and thankful that they are coming.
Back in December 2012, I arrived in Dublin with my father by my side on December 29th, 2012. We walked out of the Dublin airport to notice the cars driving on the other side of the road, and signs of the Celtic language where ever we looked. Soon I would learn that the correct label of the language is "Irish." "Celtic" is the culture and not the title of the actual language, for example we do not speak "American" we speak "English". After a crazy new years eve in Dublin, one I will never forget (or remember...), we traveled to Galway at 9 am sharp on January 1st, which I once said was only fitting to begin the new year in my new home. Galway was unfamiliar and uncomfortable, and I cried as I said goodbye to my dad while reassuring him that I would be ok after I had some time to adjust. After my National University of Ireland at Galway orientation, I quickly was welcomed by friends who understood that my dad had been there and distracted me from fully introducing myself sooner.
By mid January, I soon become familiar with a new school, new apartment, and new schedule. Settling into my classes and class schedule gave me a lot to do and a lot to think about. My professors were very welcoming, however it was a big adjustment getting used to the 'Irish' mentality towards school work which is very different from what I am used to. Everyone in the USA should value their education and the resources given to them. This is something I am forever grateful for after my time spent in Ireland because of the differences that apply here.
I finally felt comfortable enough to leave Ireland and travel to another country by February 1st. My first trip was to Rome where I knew I could feel a taste of home from staying with some of my best friends from Penn State. They reminded me yet again how lucky I am to have such a great support system. Also, I was reminded just how much fun I was doomed to have this semester in Europe. It seemed that after I returned home from Rome, the time began to fly. My mom and Yiayia came to visit shortly after and we had a great week together touring Ireland. By then, I could not believe that I had been in Ireland for almost 2 months already. The time flew even faster when I said goodbye to Reilly, my boyfriend, who visited me March 1-8th. After our amazing week together, I was coming to realize that my time in Ireland was half over, although I had many wonderful experiences ahead of me.
All of my friends agree that our semester feels like it was three months, January, February, and May, because March and April were the fastest by far. March was extremely busy because it was the last month of school. Also, we celebrated St. Paddy's day in Dublin which was an experience I will never forget. How special to be in the heart of the holiday- Dublin, Ireland, which was shared with best friends, new and old. After St. Paddy's Day I was somewhat grateful for my friends to go home because I felt like I had had visitors for 2 months- which was true. I buckled down on school work and did what I do best, write papers and study! Easter was early, and was a nice break from everything and I really enjoyed spending the day in the Galway Cathedral. I have decided that despite all of the cathedrals I have visited in the world, the one in Galway is my favorite. It contains just the right amount of "wow" factor as long as a home-y feel. And I will never forget the warm feelings I felt inside of it.
After handing in three 10 page papers on April 7th, I was excited to pack all day for my big spring break trip to Paris, Barcelona, and Lagos, Portugal where I celebrated my 21st birthday. This is a week and birthday that will always be dear to my heart. One of my favorite moments in life will forever be standing underneath the Eiffel tower watching it sparkle on the hour on Monday, April 9th. Barcelona and Lagos met my expectations and beyond, and I felt the same feelings at the "end of the world" sunset as I did standing underneath the Eiffel tower. You are always in the place you are supposed to be in.
After a fairytale of a week, I returned home to study very hard for my final exams. To this day I hope I did well and will not find out for awhile, but I am thankful for the opportunity in the first place. That brings us to May, which I celebrated the end of exams in Munich, Germany and London, England, which were fabulous to say the least. The last two weeks in Ireland I have seen all my friends go, but I have absorbed all that Galway has to offer for the final time. I have spent time by myself walking around the whole town, taking time to think and contemplate my journey here for the semester.
From the beginning, I have asked myself, "What am I doing here?" but I now believe that I have been truly on a journey meant for my soul. This is reassured by many small moments constantly, whether it be a total stranger asking me to have a 'cup of tea' with them, or a Guinness, or watching Irish children in their Catholic school uniforms run out of school at the end of the day, or listening to the old men at the golf course laugh about their round of golf. Ireland has many special things to offer, but I will say that their people go straight to the top of the list. I will defend the Irish who may be known by others as people who "don't give a damn" about anything. Let me tell you that the Irish DO give a damn, they just have their priorities straight. The moments they cherish the most are often overlooked or misinterpreted by others. To welcome one is as important as making money or going shopping or going to class, and the Irish have shown me hospitality like no one else. Besides hospitality, the countryside offers a unique experience which is not necessary 'glamorous', yet realistic. To be realistic is to be in tune and conscious, and the Irish are open about their optimism towards a happy future no matter what the future may bring.
Overall, I am not only thankful for my experience in Ireland, but continuing to grow from it. I truly believe that I have grown a lot since I have been here and have especially learned to be independent. When stressed, I will always think of the Irish who can read it on your face. When having a bad day, I have always had an Irish person off the street ask me, "what's wrong?" They can tell and I do not know how. I am hopeful that I can take my experiences from Ireland home with me and I continue my journey throughout college and life.
To be on the golf course is probably the most special place in the world for me and is beyond reflective. It is only fitting that I end this experience on the golf course where memories are always resonating for me while constantly being made. Thank you everyone who read my blog this semester. To Penn State students, I hope your experience abroad was just if not more meaningful to you and your growth as a college students. Where would I be without my parents. Thank you so much for making this experience possible for me.
I look forward to seeing my family and friends and home.
For one last time, Cheers! J