Farewells, Friends, and Lots of Feelings
Holy cow, this post is a long time coming! I’ve been home for a little while now, but I’ve been procrastinating on writing this final post because it means that the semester is officially over. I’ve completed my finals, flown home, received my transcript, filled out the surveys, and begun preparing for the next semester. This wrap-up post was the last thing I needed to do as part of my time abroad and I was not ready.
The end of the semester was pretty crazy! Though I only had one final exam, I also had three papers to write, all due over the course of a few days. Meanwhile, I was also trying to check off everything from my Belfast bucket list and say good-bye to as many people as possible. And if you read my last post, I also made a quick trip to visit friends in Switzerland. By the time I arrived back home, I was exhausted. Jet lag hit and it hit me hard. I could have easily slept for a week straight.
Towards the end, all of our emotions were out of whack. We were stressed about finals, wiped out from traveling, excited to go home, and upset that we had to leave. I kept thinking the end of the semester would be like any other at UVM where I say goodbye to my friends. However, I seemed to be forgetting an important factor: this time I wasn’t coming back for the fall semester; this time I’d be leaving people I’d probably won’t see again in a very long time, or ever; this time I’d have to readjust to life back home and possibly experience reverse culture shock. This time was different.
I still don’t think it has fully set in yet that I’m back home. After getting off the plane, checking all of my newly uploaded text messages, hugging my family, petting my pets, contacting my friends and sleeping in my own bed, I was thrust back into activities. My family was really busy with all of my brother’s senior activities and graduation. I was easily distracted by all of the TV shows I missed and the gossip I had not been updated on to really process this experience. Then, after graduation my mom had surgery and we were housebound for about two weeks while she recuperated. That’s when I had a bit of a meltdown.
Suddenly, I had gone from traveling to different countries on the weekends and constantly exploring and socializing during the week, to doing not much of anything. My friends had all started their jobs and internships while I was still abroad and I wanted to stay at home to take care of my mom, so I had a lot of time on my hands and not much to do. I went from one extreme to another and it took a toll on my emotional state one day when I had a lot of time to think. Soon, it really sunk in how much I miss Belfast and all of my new friends. I miss going to karaoke every Thursday night, walking through the Botanic Gardens on my way to class, eating too much Boojum, and jamming out to remixed pop songs. I miss meeting new people and hearing about their different cultures and traditions. I miss visiting castles in my free time and drinking milkshakes from Maggie May’s. I miss Norn Iron!
All of my memories came flooding back to me and I became a blubbery mess. After texting with my friends and finding out they had experienced similar emotional rollercoasters, I was quite relieved. While wallowing in my nostalgic stupor, I shared with my mom how I was feeling upset and sad and every emotion in between. While I was saying all of this out loud, I suddenly realized, why am I so upset? I should be overjoyed that I just came back from the experience of a lifetime! I lived in another country for five months, traveled with strangers who became friends for life, and had too many adventures to count!
Of course I’m sad that it’s over and I miss my friends, but I’m still in awe about how incredible this experience has been. What started as a tiny fantasy at admitted students’ day became a reality, and now it’s over and done with. My credits have been transferred, the sweets I brought back have been devoured, and my souvenirs have been passed out to friends and family. What remains are the snow globes I added to my collection, the 99p prints of Belfast I bought at the market, the hundreds of pictures I have posted to Facebook, and most of all, the memories I have of the most amazing experience of my life.
The days leading up to my flight in January were met with nerves and excitement. I was afraid of not making friends and cooking for myself. Now I can confidentially say that I did not starve, but that I’m a little sick of eating roasted sweet potatoes and avocado every week. I can also report that my friends truly made the experience 100 times more amazing. Their companionship and desire for adventure resulted in trips to Scotland, England, and Belgium as well as spontaneous trips to local parks and clubs. We shared many meals, laughs, and class notes with each other. We experienced a Northern Irish St. Patrick’s Day and learned to play a few Gaelic games. We supported each other while climbing up poles and while belting out tunes at the Bot’s karaoke nights. We bounced together at We Are Vertigo at danced at the Speakeasy. We bonded over Norn Iron.
Going into this semester, my only goal was to have the time of my life. Reflecting on the past five months, I believe I was successful. I am so incredibly grateful for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I highly encourage anyone who has even the slightest inkling to study abroad to pursue it. (you’ll thank me later)
I’d like to end this final post with a quote from my Belfast friend Colum: “You can redo the exam, but you can’t redo the craic.”