By Kathleen McAuliffe, Guest Blogger
Because most flights out of Ireland fly from Dublin instead of my town of Cork, most of my flights have been prefaced by a three hour bus trip through the Irish countryside to Dublin airport. Although it adds 30 euro and 6 hours to every trip, I enjoy Aircoach rides because I’m able to relax into a relatively comfy seat and watch scenes of picturesque rural Ireland fly by my window. With quaint farmhouses nestled among an unending expanse of gently undulating green hills, sheep and horses ambling through their fields, and tree topped mountains towering in the distance, it's a classically Irish image that will forever remain etched in my heart.
On this particular aircoach journey, I'm even more transfixed by the scenery than usual. I'm using every cognitive resource necessary to fix these sights into my mind, knowing that my next Aircoach will be the one to take me away from Cork for the foreseeable future. Throughout this quarter, class registration at my home university, my summer internship search, and contact with my friends from home all served as subtle reminders that my time in Cork was temporary. However, I didn't fully absorb the reality of my impending departure until arriving home two weeks ago to realize it was now December. Turning in the last of my papers only compounded my grief.
Thankfully, I only have one exam during UCC's two-week-long exam period, so I've been able to spend aimless days enjoying the city that has so quickly become home. Window shopping at the city centre's decked out department stores and niche shops, wandering through beautiful wooded paths along the riverside, and even just taking in the magical festive atmosphere of this Christmas-crazed city has been a really peaceful way to celebrate my quarter here.
This downtime put me in a reflective mood, both about my quarter in Ireland and about the next chapter of my life. As much as I'm looking forward to seeing my family, friends, and favorite hockey team, I'm reluctant to end this amazing experience. I used to roll my eyes at people who "found themselves" in Europe, but I've been truly transformed by the experience of moving to Ireland and exploring Europe. By separating myself from all of my relationships and obligations, and by exploring new cultures and places, I've been able to view my life with a broader mindset.
Though I'd always known on a rational level that my self worth isnt defined by getting a 3.xx or getting "that" internship, being away from the endless tide of weekly midterms made me realize that without all that work, I didn't know who I was anymore. Certainly, I'm proud of my academic success, but my hyperfocus on staying on the constantly-accelerating hamster wheel that is my school’s atmosphere has kept me from taking chances, going out, and actually living
Only moving to a foreign country and traveling across Europe gave me the confidence to do so. Probably because my school attracts very intelligent, wealthy, and glamorous people, I've automatically approached opportunity with trepidation, constantly dreaming up things that could go wrong. Once I realized that my insecurities could keep me from seeing the places that have haunted my dreams for years, though, I stretched my comfort zone and now feel more able to chase my dreams
One of those dreams, even more than before, is traveling the world. I had imagined that weekend trips to Europe would calm my wanderlust but it's only amplified my desire to explore new places and see the world. I've been to four, soon to be five countries, this quarter and each one has broadened my mind and given me memories I’ll cherish forever. I've already found myself looking at my school's graduation trip to Europe and fantasizing about the next adventure.
Let's Chat! Have you ever been on a trip that changed your life? Where did you go and how did it impact you? Tell us here!
Kathleen is a psychology major living in Chicago, her favorite place in the world. Aside from writing, she is obsessed with the news and social media, as well as running and overall fitness. She dreams of living somewhere on a beach once she graduates, but after studying abroad in Europe she wants to explore everywhere.
image via Cadoan