Goodbye, Ireland. Hello, USA.

So I’m back in America. And I hadn’t finished my blog entries yet (because I already graduated and I am not good at keeping my journal up to date). But I think the real reason was I knew that if I finished my last blog entry, my time in Ireland would be officially over. And that was both scary and sad to me. So I apologize in advance for the recent posts that lack any sort of charisma or insight. Some memories I would like to keep special to myself.

The first and only question that I have been asked since I have been back is “how was Ireland?” The only response I can say is “great, I had a wonderful time,” and then I change the subject. How on earth can I describe the experiences I had in a way that people will understand? Nobody can fully understand how special and unique my experience was. There’s just no way to adequately explain the life changing moments, lessons, and experiences I had. I’m a different person and I have changed. My thought going into the program was that since I’m a senior, I’m graduating, and I’ve traveled before, this trip would be a fun way to end my college semester. But it was more than that. It was a challenging, life changing, beautiful experience that I can’t picture who I am today or what I want to be without it.

Sometimes I cry for no reason. Like if a song comes on the radio that was a song we listened to frequently, or I find a picture I forgot about, or a letter someone wrote me. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I actually was there, because it certainly doesn’t feel like I did. Sometimes I avoid people. I want to tell people “don’t ask me about Ireland, but let me sit you down for hours and tell you all about it.” It’s a love hate relationships of wanting to go into extreme detail of everything that happened….but also knowing that even if you talk about it, nobody really quite understands. I remember when the pilot announced we would be landing in Grand Rapids shortly, we all made eye contact across the plane. Every single one of us had a look of fear on our faces. We landed on the runway and we thought “did we even go? Were we even there?” We all stood outside the gate for a while holding hands in a circle. Someone said, “what happens when we go through those doors? What’s going to happen to us?” It was a bizarre feeling (and I’m sure as you are reading this you probably are like….uh, okay dramatic much?) but I wanted nothing more than to run through the terminal to see my best friends but also run back onto the plane and demand we go back to Ireland.

All of my receipts, stickers, brochures, and tickets are sitting in a bag in the corner of my room. Since I didn’t keep a written journal, I think I’m just going to put everything in chronological order in the journal and write down locations and dates. I haven’t done that yet. I am kind of scared to, but I also want to lock myself in my room for a week and look over everything. I also developed the pictures I took on my disposable camera. They are beautiful. The friends that I made are beautiful people and I am so lucky to have them. Ireland is beautiful. My favorite pictures are of me and my roommates on our last night in Ireland, all crammed into Emma’s small room, escaping the party in the living room because we wanted to have a moment to ourselves. My other favorite is one I captured at Glassilaun Beach during sunset. It’s my favorite place in the world.

To sum up this final (and slightly depressing, sorry) blog entry, here are my top things I did while I was in Ireland:

1) I ran the London marathon! It was a challenge I set for myself and to execute and succeed in that goal was life changing. Thank you to all for your unwavering support right from the beginning. A special cheers to my dad, who from the minute I told him I wanted to do this, sat down and helped me make a running schedule, gave me a marathon advice book to read, and emailed me motivation and support every day until the marathon.
2) I traveled by myself to London for the marathon. Everyone should travel to a foreign country and travel on their own. It was liberating, it was incredible, it was badass.
3) I climbed Diamond Hill! It was a tough mountain to climb (and you all know how much I hate hiking), but at the top the view was unforgettable. We stood at the highest point of the mountain and looked down over the green hills and the ocean…unforgettable.
4) I got engaged!! Taylor Seale (star, stud, and best friend) came to visit me in Tully Cross and then we made our way to Dublin. He got down on one knee in front of Dublin Castle at midnight of Paddy’s Day. My engagement anniversary is on St. Patrick’s Day….like, what? I am so lucky and I am so excited to be starting this journey with my best friend.
6) I sang Danny Boy for my parents in a pub in Ireland. Cross that off my bucket list.
7) I ate freshly caught oysters and drank Guinness with old Irish fisherman at a pub.

Thank you, Mom and Dad. I couldn’t have done this without your support. I remember when I first told you I was thinking about studying abroad, you supported me right away. Thank you for this life changing experience.

And finally, we sign off officially. Slainte!


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