By Megan McGinley
It’s funny how things turn out so differently from what you originally expected.
For as long as I can remember it had been a dream of mine to go to Ireland. However I didn’t want it to be a short vacation; I wanted to actually live there for an extended period of time which is why studying abroad was my best chance to make this dream come true.
The application process didn’t seem real. Even after I was accepted and had my tickets to get to Ireland it never really “hit me” that it was actually happening. It wasn’t until the week before leaving that I finally started to feel the pressure. I say pressure because, although I felt a large amount of excitement, I also understood my friends and family were expecting me to have the experience of a lifetime. I was going to grow; I was going to come back a changed person. But what if that didn’t happen? What if I didn’t become best friends with all of my Irish classmates? What if I didn’t get to see every single place on my list? What if I didn’t have the experience that everyone was expecting me to have; the experience I had dreamed of for years?
Well, I didn’t. I don’t have a large group of Irish friends. I’m not going to make it to all of the places on my list. I’m not having the experience that I had imagined or that my friends and family imagined.
Instead, I have a couple close Irish friends and an absolutely amazing group of American friends that I met through the program. I’ve seen so many other places that I never expected to see and have had so many fantastic moments that, although small, are some of my favorite memories. I’m having the experience that I never anticipated; the experience that I needed.
The bond that I’ve made with my new friends is one that I will never be able to describe to anyone; it is something that I can’t even begin to understand myself. There are no words to describe the love that I feel for them, or for Cork. This city has become my home and these friends have become my family.
The memories that I’ve made here are amazing. From the Giant’s Causeway to playing with Peach Rings, they range from grand to seemingly miniscule. But each of these memories and moments has brought so much happiness to my life and has taught me to see the beauty in every moment.
Without a doubt I can truthfully say that this experience has made me realize just how brave, strong, confident, and genuinely happy I can be when I let myself live my life. I am a changed person, even if it isn’t noticeable from the outside. Various people have told me about their experiences abroad and almost all of them say that they “discovered” things about themselves. For me though, I feel like I always knew I had the potential to be brave and strong and confident and genuinely happy; I just needed something to unlock the door that they were hiding behind. This experience, the one that I never expected to have, is a defining part of my young-adulthood.
I find it best to bring things back to the beginning, so I’ll leave you with one of my first memories in Cork:
A bunch of soon-to-be-friends sitting in a strange apartment, in a strange city, in a strange country, watching Frozen as the words to “Let It Go” flood the room,
“It’s funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can’t get to me at all
It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me,
Let it go, let it go…”