There is no greater feeling than the sensation of coming home after a long trip. “Home” can be the actual house you live in, or it can be a familiar place where you feel comfortable. I expected this feeling when I came back to the U.S. after studying abroad for four months in Ireland and traveling around Europe. What I did not expect was having that same feeling when I returned back to Ireland just one year later.
I studied abroad with AIFS in Limerick, Ireland in the fall semester of my sophomore year. I studied at the University of Limerick for four months while also traveling the rest of Europe on the weekends. My life was a dream come true.
It was the first time I really had a chance to go out and travel on my own, and I could not believe I did not try it sooner. But I also knew that this was not just a really long vacation. I enjoyed learning about the wide variety of cultures across Europe, listening to all of the different accents and languages, and meeting people from all over the world. I never wanted to leave.
The feeling of “home” first hit me when I stepped off the plane over a year later, felt the mist-like Irish rain on my face, and saw the Irish language (underneath the English) on every sign in sight. I could not help but smile all the way through immigration and the long hallways that make up Dublin Airport. I smiled even more when I found my best friend who had come to meet me at the airport. This was what I had missed so badly. I could not believe I was back so soon, but at the same time, I do not think I would have been able to stay away for much longer.
In my semester abroad I made many Irish friends at the university I attended, and I was able to stay in contact with them over the last year. On my return trip, I went from house to house to visit all of them. I got to see where they all lived and met their families who took my in like I was family as well.
I also got to visit my own relatives. I have quite a few relatives still living in Ireland, and I first met them when I studied abroad. I developed a good relationship with some of my cousins who I could not wait to go back and see. After travelling around Ireland, my cousin, two of my best friends from Ireland, and I boarded a flight to Paris. I cannot even explain how good it felt to be out on an adventure to a foreign city again. I was exploring with some of my best friends, and it felt like I had never left.
Ask any study abroad student how they feel about their home away from home and I am sure most of them will say the same thing and continue on to tell you about their upcoming travel plans. There is something about going abroad and fully immersing yourself in the culture that changes you. Not everyone will want to move abroad, but I have not met one person that has not loved their experience and said that it changed their perspective on the world for the better.
I loved my time studying abroad in Ireland. I have known ever since then that this is where I want to be after graduation. Whenever I think about my time in Europe, I smile ear to ear because I know that it’s my home.