I wasn’t expecting to be writing this now. Actually, I should’ve been writing this four weeks ago when I got home, but I couldn’t even think of reflecting on the experience that I had just had, or the upcoming plans I had that had to be canceled. Even now that I’ve been home for a bit, the thought of where I should be is no easier. And as much as the canceled plans and what-ifs and what-could-have-beens hurt, the time I had in Galway was the best time of my life, and I wouldn’t change that for the world.
I explored all over Ireland, from Connemara to Dublin, Kerry to Belfast, Galway to Limerick, Wicklow to Killarney. I went to the UK and met my favorite author, and found a local community that welcomed me with open arms in Parkrun. I met up with a friend who I hadn’t seen since I was eight. I found friends that have forever changed my life, as cliche as that may sound.
We found out we were being sent home on my birthday. It was 1 AM and we had stayed up watching a movie, counting down to my birthday just an hour before. And part of me wants to say it was the worst thing, but even though we were all sad, my friends really rallied and despite the sadness, it ended up being one of the best birthdays. We found castle ruins, traipsed through the most Irish looking fields, and went out to a pub that William and Kate had been at just the week before.
The next day, I got dinner with a friend from the Netherlands and held back tears the entire way back to my apartment after saying goodbye. The next day, some other friends and I went into town for brunch and then frantically bought gifts for people back home. I visited the farmers market one last time, and that night we took one last walk to Salthill before going out to a few more pubs. That ended up being the last night pubs were open.
I had been planning on staying an extra few days, to see some family friends and explore a little more of Ireland. But as I woke up the next morning to an even more rapidly escalating situation, my parents told me they wanted to switch my flight to have me come home the next day. Sometimes I do feel better that I am not the only one who had to go home, it was literally everyone, but nothing about a global pandemic is reassuring.
The past month I have spent completing my classes online and trying not to think about what I should’ve been doing in Ireland or other countries on any given day. I had a trip to London planned, a week-long volunteer experience at Camp Abilities Ireland which is something I have wanted to do since I found out it was a thing when I was 14, a half marathon to run in Connemara, a trip to the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany, and a trip with my family at the end to Scotland. I also had study weeks that I was waiting to make plans for. And I had friends I never got to say goodbye to, given how quickly everything happened.
This semester didn’t end how I’d hoped. And while I can and will return, I know I will never be in the same place with the same people ever again. I’m sad that it ended so soon, but I also have no regrets about the time I did spend in Galway. At first, I thought things like “Why didn’t I choose a different semester to go?” But as much as this semester and this experience being cut short sucks, I wouldn’t change the experiences I had for the world. Thankful is still the best word I have to describe how I feel about the experiences I had this semester. I am still so lucky.
So here’s to the best 2 months of my life that should’ve been four.To the friends, I’ve laughed with, explored with, gotten lost with, and looked like a dumb American with. Who accepted all of me and became more like family. To the pubs we frequented, the clubs we danced in, the fields we gallivanted in and the adventures we embarked on. To Galway, the city that will forever feel like home and own every single piece of my heart. The seaside wonderland is full of cobbled streets and colorful houses. The place with the friendliest people where I found myself, where I enacted my ability and finally learned to say to hell with everyone who ever told me I couldn’t. To Ireland, the country I have loved forever. The place that I have dreamed of for years where the grass really is greener. The country with a beautiful language that is incredibly confusing. The place with rolling green hills, and craggily beautiful coasts, the best food, and the wildest weather. The place that I promise myself I will return to.
Thank you. See you later. Go raibh maith agat. Slán go fóill.