Five months ago I was on this same airline, leaving my home and comfort zone for a far away land. I didn’t have friends or family to meet me when I got here. I was going to a completely new country, and to say that I was terrified is an understatement. I left my mom kicking and screaming, unaware of what would await me.

But Ireland welcomed me with open arms, and became a home I would have never imagined it could be. These past five months have been a rollercoaster of emotions as I figured out who I am, the people I want to surround myself with and who is deserving of my time and love.

From the moment I arrived in Cork, Ireland, where I would live and study during my five months abroad, I instantly knew what everyone meant about the Irish being really friendly, despite their tendency to drop the “F  bomb.” Cork is a quaint, quintessential Irish city. On my daily commute to university, Cork’s city center would always surprise and entertain me. There were lone musicians and bands playing anything from popular hits of today to traditional Irish music on every corner. Shops would blast music welcoming in anyone who happens to be walking by. African drums, Spanish tunes playing amidst the truly Irish identity of the city reminds you just how cosmopolitan Cork is. The faint sound of the Echo boy (well, now more like “Echo Man”) shouting out the local papers, incoherent to any tourist walking by, became a comforting reminder of home.

Cork, Corcaigh in Irish, meaning marsh, is an appropriate name for a city divided by the ever winding River Lee. The city boasts over 30 bridges, and excitingly enough, I was able to witness the building of a new pedestrian bridge just before leaving. The Lee gives Cork character, and the bridges that lined the body of water added a romantic touch to Cork City.

It was a beautiful city to call home for my time abroad, but it wasn’t just the city that made my stay so comfortable, but also the people who I met along the way. My roommates quickly became my best friends. I know not everyone is so lucky to become close with their roommates, but we became inseparable from the beginning.

I met so many amazing people in my study abroad experience, and a couple of my friends already have plans to come visit me in the U.S. Overall this experience has shaped me in so many ways. Learning in an Irish University was completely different from learning at home. It taught me to be more independent in my education. There was a lot less hand holding. It took some adjusting to, but ultimately it has taught me to take charge of my education and to be more on top of my ambitions.

Now, on my way home in this same airline, I feel ready to come back to my family, and grateful to have been able to study in this gorgeous country, but a bit sad knowing that a piece of my heart will always be left behind in this little marshy city.

Slán Corcaigh.

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