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10 Things You Should NOT Take For Granted

I have been in Belfast for almost five months now. I am more than halfway through my time here and it does not seem to being slowing up at all. I am just about cured of my most recent outbreak of home-sickness. This last occurrence has by far been the worst and longest of any homesickness I have had since arriving in September. I would probably say it was because I was in America for three weeks and just forgot how much I missed being there. But I had long heart-to-hearts with friends back home and abroad and I am starting to realize that my time here is limited and that I need to utilize it as much as possible. It is just hard leaving the only place you have known as home for the last thirteen years of your life.

Being homesick, you start to think about the things you miss most in life so I decided to compile a list of things that I miss most. Hopefully future study abroad students (or anybody for that matter) can learn from this and possibly be more appreciative of what they have (I know I could be!). These are in no particular order and they are only 10 of the many things I miss.

  1.  A pantry full of food: I cannot begin to explain how nice it is open the door to the pantry and just see all of the foods you might be desiring at that time. In my little cupboard in the kitchen, I have rice, pasta, and peanut butter; in the fridge, I have soy sauce, Magners, and jelly (or jam as the Irish would call it). I could easily go out and just buy loads of junk food but the point is when you live at home with your parents, you do not really think about all the extra food they buy you (thanks Mom!).
  2. Unlimited supplies of Dasani water: In our house, we drink bottled Dasani water. My dad and I swear that we taste a difference compared to the cheap store brand water AND the plastic is firmer so you do not spill water all over yourself when you are trying to take the cap off. It is so nice being able to grab a water on the way out or when you get home. Something about foreign tap water just does not cut it for me.
  3. A vehicle waiting to be driven: I have been driving since I was 15 and have had my license since I was 16. Not being able to have the freedom of going wherever you want, whenever you want is quite unbearable. Sometimes I daydream (or night-dream for that matter) when I am in the front seat of a taxi about having a steering wheel in front of me.
  4. Adequate water pressure: This may sound like an odd thing to point out but it really bothers me. Back in Graham, our house has amazing water pressure – all of the taps flow perfectly and the shower water hits you just right. Here in Belfast, it is not the same. The sink taps have water coming out at weird angles and uncontrollably fluctuate in the amount of water that is released. And the showers do not spray hard enough so when you are trying to wash, you constantly hit your hands on the walls because you are forced to be so close. Yes, I know… this is strange. But you never really think about how perfect your own water pressure is until you have to live with something less superior.
  5. 3G / 4G LTE: First world problems, right? I never realized how attached I was to my phone until I came here. Because of my phone plan, I am forced to use WiFi if I want to connect to the internet here. And like most places in the world, WiFi is not available in every place you want. Luckily, the two places I am at most (Elms and Queen’s) have decent enough WiFi so I try to utilize that as much as possible. It would just be nice if I could use my phone to lookup the best places to eat on a night out or the bus schedule when I am in the city. The upside to not having instant internet access is that you actually get to live. You get to go out and experience everything on your own. It can be challenging at first but not being restricted to electronics is a great feeling once you are used to it.
  6. Xbox: I have been playing Xbox for about six or seven years, and over that time have gotten pretty close with a couple individuals (this is where my inner-nerd comes out). I have been playing with the same three or four people the entire time I have been on Xbox, so when I am stripped away from them, it is just the same as being taken from your real life friends at home. Fortunately, we have Facebook and can still communicate that way.
  7. Skiing: My dad got me interested in skiing when I was only five or six years old. Since then, it has become more than just a recreational activity; it has become one of my most cherished passions. When I am up on the mountain, whether it is at the peak of Crystal looking out towards Mt. Rainier or in the bowl at Schweitzer gazing out over Lake Pend Oreille, I feel at one with the world (that sounds pretty funny and a tad cliché but whatever). That is my sanctuary – where I feel most comfortable and at peace. Nothing else matters when I am up there.
  8. Silence of the night: I describe Graham as being on the border of civilization and the country. It is one of the last “towns” before you start being able to drive endlessly for miles into heavily wooded areas, and eventually to the mountains. I love where I live and would not trade it for anything. One thing that I never really thought about before I came to Belfast was how quiet it can be in Graham. At night, you can step outside and actually hear nothing. Sometimes you can hear trees rustling in the wind or coyotes howling in the distance, but besides that, it is silent. And the view is incredible. You can look in any direction on a clear night and literally see hundreds and hundreds of stars. When the moon is visible, you can clearly make out the outline of Mt. Rainier in distance. Here in Belfast, I live close enough to the city that you cannot achieve that level of isolation and solitude. It is really quite depressing when you think about it.
  9. The company of your best friends: This may sound obvious but the relationships you have with your friends is sacred. I have a good amount of friends back home but my three best friends are who really matter. I think this experience will teach me to enjoy the time we have together when I get back because you start to realize that everybody eventually goes their own ways and that they may not be there forever. If Eric, Matt, or Nick are reading this, I want you to know that I love you all and cannot wait to be reunited. Keep holding down the fort until I get back!
  10. The limitless love and support for two caring parents: Being an only child, I get an inconceivable amount of attention from my parents. Many of you already know this, but the truth is I am a “momma’s boy” and I have a “like father, like son” relationship with my dad. Last year when I went to college, I never really got homesick to the extent I have here. I could call home whenever I wanted and tended to drive back every three weeks or so. It was not until I got here that I finally felt alone. At first the freedom was nice and I loved it. But as these five months have passed, I have come to the realization that I do not show my parents enough how much they really mean to me. They truly are the reason I am the person I am today, and without them, I never would have been able to see the things I have seen or do the things I have been able to do. They are the most important people in my life, and no amount of distance between us will ever change that.




4 Responses to “10 Things You Should NOT Take For Granted”

  1. Brian Says:

    Could not agree more with point 8. I am currently in Delhi with Laavanya, and I miss seeing stars and the retaliative silence of where I live.

  2. Nancy Westergaard Says:

    You probably don’t remember me at all because I haven’t seen you since you were a little boy, but I have known your parents since before you were born. I enjoyed reading your blog and especially loved your point #5 – “The upside to not having instant internet access is that you actually get to live.” Building personal, face-to-face relationships is something we cannot live without. Like water to our existence. Restricting our knowledge of someone to a technological relationship, i.e., internet, prevents us from ever knowing them as the whole person they are. It removes the intimacy. As you pointed out in #10, your parents have given you an inordinate amount of attention, and love I would add. That is such an extraordinary thing in our society today! And a great privilege to have two parents who stand together, united by love, fully supporting their son. I am certain your mom and dad consider it a gift that they have given themselves :) Enjoy your stay abroad; the peace and quiet, moonlight and stars of Graham will be waiting for you.

  3. Gail Downs Says:

    Well written! Wonderful insights, enjoyed every word.

  4. Olivia Says:

    Hey Zach I’ve been looking around for blogs to read on studying abroad in Northern Ireland. I am hoping to be going to Ulster University- Jordanstown in the fall of 2014. I would love to hear from you so I can learn more about what to expect if I get accepted to go.

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