By: Education in Ireland and UCC Student Ambassador, Elena Montes
To say it was like I never left is an overstatement.
Friends, I’m back to the States – specifically, the South. The good old land across the pond, where cowboys roam and a Dairy Queen is never too far away. It’s a strange feeling being back, but I’m pleasantly surprised by how well – and how quickly – I’ve adjusted.
The first week back was lovely. I stayed at home, relaxing. By which I really mean, frantically cramming a calculus review into my head for my upcoming summer class. But, now that I’m in the throes of said course, I can say it’s not quite as horrible as I imagined (we’ll see what I say when my first test happens).
My friends here have welcomed me back with open arms, which I am truly grateful for. I was afraid it would feel like the whole world had shifted without me, but I was pleasantly surprised by how little everyone I know has changed. Sure, a year’s worth of amazing and awful moments have altered their paths and generated many a story to catch up on, but at the core, they are still the same lovely humans I met and who helped me feel loved when I was a scared little freshman in a new and scary place.
Keeping myself busy has kept my mind off the place I left. Although there were certain reasons I felt ready to depart (e.g. the rain, the stress of finals), I was also disappointed. I met so many wonderful people in Ireland, some who were on the same path as me (studying abroad for a time), some who were just starting their university careers and were beyond excited for what lay ahead, and some who seemed to already have it all figured out and who were charging ahead with grand plans. For all those people, I feel privileged to have watched them go through these experiences and to have joined them on a small piece of their journeys.
We were all in this little city together, enduring the little trials of everyday life, laughing and cramming in computer labs together, sipping coffee and watching the rain fall, sitting at the pub and discussing the absurdity of the universe that brought us together at these particular moments in our timelines, often when we needed each other the most.
Our little corner of the world felt spectacular, like it was ours. We sat in the quad and soaked up the sun (on the rare occasion that it decided to grace us with its presence), and got pizza and pints at the Franciscan Well or hot chocolate at O’Conaill’s when it all became too much. I built a routine there, and I’ll even go so far as to say I had nearly started a life there. A few tweaks and touch-ups and it would have begun.
The “return from duty” date was always set, and my grand plan, although constantly shifting, didn’t allow for any lingering goodbyes. I had to fly back and start unraveling the giant mess of tangled yarn I had created for myself: course requirements and graduation dates and job opportunities and all the rest.
To all of my friends in Ireland and elsewhere: thank you for a brilliant year. I learned so much about myself and about life. I cherish the memories and I’ll repeat once more what I said to each of you upon our goodbyes: this isn’t the end. The funny thing about life is that it throws people together when they least expect it. So chances are, we’ll meet again in another corner of the world, ready to remember that one year we spent together on the Emerald Isle.