Having to say goodbye or leave something behind is an experience that everyone will encounter at some point in their lives, and it is inevitable that it will happen more than once. Throughout my life, there have been several turning points in which I have had to leave aspects of my life behind and take on new experiences. For the past four and a half months I have been studying in Cork and having to leave behind something that has made me so happy has been difficult, to say the least. However, I have learned a great deal about myself and the world throughout the duration of my study abroad experience, including how to cope with leaving behind a city that I have made wonderful memories in.
What makes leaving Ireland so unique for me is the fact that it may not be feasible for me to go back any time soon, if at all. While leaving the United States to go to Cork for four months was, without a doubt, one of the times in my life where I’ve had to say goodbye, I always knew in the back of my head that I would be coming back. In other words, there was really no permanence to my absence.
Leaving was not nearly as much of a struggle because I was looking forward to new adventures ahead and excited to experience life in Ireland. However, leaving Cork to go home was definitely different, not only because I had so much fun during my time there, but because I know that I might not be able to return.
Readjusting and Reflecting
Not only had I become accustomed to the ways of life in a foreign country, I had also established a routine for myself that would be difficult to break from. Again, while I had been in this same situation when I left for Cork back in August, it all seemed very different. It was as if I had to return to reality after waking up from a dream.
I found myself realizing that I would have to experience several “lasts” in Ireland, which is something that anyone would, naturally, find difficult. As a result, the past few weeks have been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster for me. However, I’m choosing to look at this situation as positively as I can.
The phrase “don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” has definitely applied to this aspect of my experience, because I am truly so lucky to have had an experience as wonderful as this that has made saying goodbye so hard.
What I think I’ll miss most about my time in Ireland is the people I’ve met along the way. Over the past several months, I’ve had the privilege of meeting people from not just the United States and Ireland, but from all over the world. Being able to hear different perspectives on certain topics is something that has definitely opened my eyes whilst studying in Cork.
I’m confident that I’ve become a much more open-minded individual as I’ve had the opportunity to get to know my peers from across the globe. I’ll undoubtedly miss everyone I’ve met in Cork and the memories we’ve made together, but I am so grateful to have been able to get to know such wonderful people.
Living, Learning, and Adapting
Despite the difficulty of leaving Ireland, I have chosen to view my study abroad experience as a learning opportunity and to take as many life lessons as I can from it.
I know that I’ll have turning points in my life where I’ll have to find myself readjusting to whatever it may bring, and this experience is something that has definitely prepared me for whatever curveballs my life may throw at me. Adaptability is likely the skill that I have honed the most over these past few months, and having the ability to adjust to a different lifestyle is something that will be invaluable to both my undergraduate and post-graduate life.
Needless to say, I’ve learned a great deal about Ireland as well. As a history major, I definitely found myself interested in hearing stories of Ireland’s past as well as Cork’s local culture.
Above all, what I think will stick with me the most in the years to come is the happy memories I have made with wonderful people in a wonderful place. This past November, I visited The Irish Emigration Museum in Dublin, and I noticed a sign that said “Ireland never leaves you”. I know for a fact that this is true because, as difficult as it was to bid Ireland goodbye, the memories of this experience will live on forever. I will always be grateful for this wonderful opportunity, and I will never forget the memories and the knowledge that I have acquired over these past few months!
Sarah Kraus (’24) is a European History Major and Cultural and Historic Preservation Minor at Salve Regina University studying abroad at University College Cork in Cork, Ireland.