It has been over seven months since I first arrived in Ireland and began writing this Ready, Set, Woah column. In some ways it feels like this timeline can’t be right, that I must have only arrived a few weeks ago, and yet, in other ways, it feels like I’ve been here for years.
When I first arrived in Galway in those long-gone early days, the Irish day-to-day culture really shocked me. Ireland seemed like it was stuck in a more interpersonal time, as if the age of social media, texting, and the internet hadn’t ripped the social aspects of everyday life from the Emerald Isle.
On most days, strangers might start a friendly conversation in the streets with me, locals might show up at my place for some craic without announcing it, or I might go for a walk and get to meet dogs running around without leashes whose owners eagerly waited to tell me their life story. All in all, it was a really cool way to live life and get to know people on an exchange.
One of the downsides of this lifestyle was that alone time could be hard to come by. I had some very introverted Canadian friends in Galway who couldn’t enjoy this constant barrage of conversation and mostly avoided mingling with the locals so that they didn’t have to adjust the way that they went about their daily lives.
So I know this lifestyle wasn’t for everyone, but I really enjoyed it and that’s what I think is most important for anyone studying abroad. Time is short, so you don’t necessarily have to do what others say you should do, but what you enjoy most.
One of the weirdest parts of any exchange is leaving this new home after one or two semesters. The more time you spend in a place, the more that it feels like it’s a part of your identity and the harder it will be to break the connections and friendships that you’ve made.
It’s a bittersweet feeling. On one hand, studying abroad means that you can make friends and build relationships all across the world, but on the other hand it also means that you have go back to the University of Ottawa and leave all those new friendships behind.
Don’t get me wrong, you can still keep those relationships and connections going after you leave your visiting university, but it does mean that you’ll have to come to terms with the idea that you won’t see those people as much as you once did.
Overall, I’m certain that I’ll miss the random conversations that I have had with Irish people on the street, or the sound of intrepid Galway buskers trying to make their big break, but I’ll admit it’s probably time for my next adventure.
Life is short and full of possibilities. In the end, whether it feels like I’ve been here for a few weeks or a few years, I wouldn’t change a second of it.