My Family Is the Reason I Studied Abroad In Ireland
I am and always have been a very nervous person when starting something new. After starting college three years ago and it seemed to take forever to settle in, I figured that studying abroad would never really be an option – because by the time I was over the shock of being in a new place, it would be time to leave. However, my family has always been adamant that I should study abroad. Both of my aunts had studied abroad in college and my mom studied abroad during high school, despite being close to family as well. All three of them claimed that studying abroad was worthwhile because it taught them to be independent while remaining a member of the family – even without the assortment of social media platforms and video calling options available today! After much deliberation, I decided to look into studying abroad, but because I had put it off so long, I had no idea where I wanted to go. In order to decide, I once again turned to family. Since I have ancestors from both Cork and Waterford, I decided that I would apply to University College Cork and visit some of the sites that had the most meaning to my family.
As the time advanced toward my departure from the United States and arrival in Ireland, I began to feel completely overwhelmed with the sheer number of days I had until I would be in a different country than my family. For this length of time, I had no idea what I was going to do without my family; however, my grandmother became so elated that I would finally see Ireland that she excitedly began mapping out the streets and routes to places that she listed as her top spots that I must see.
In addition to being a nervous wreck in new situations, I have always been someone who is very close to my family. Before starting college, I would attend extended family dinners weekly and we would be at my grandparents’ house for hours – it all seemed so easy, but it was all I knew. After being in Cork, Ireland for two weeks, I was homesick at times. When family is a large part of your life, you miss things like talking with your family over dinner and your family’s home-cooked recipes. However, I can say from experience, that if you give yourself time to adjust to the rhythm of a new country and you try to keep busy with activities, you’ll end up having fun. For me, allowing myself to have fun and experiencing all the advantages my new home for the semester had to offer outweighed some of the turbulent emotions that came with dealing with my first weeks in Cork.
When I’m not with my family, I look for little reminders of them. In Cork, I was treated to a delightful surprise when arriving right after Little Christmas; there were Christmas decorations still scattered around the city. I’ve always heard that lights are a beacon, guiding lost ships and people home, but I don’t think I understood the power of the symbolism behind the stories. My family always decorates for Christmas so the lights made me feel comforted and gave me a sense of belonging. These Christmas lights served as that little bit of comfort to remind me that being away from my family doesn’t change the fact that they will always be my family. Even after a month in Cork, Ireland, I still smile as I pass the icicle lights that dot the trees in Bishop Lucey Park, across from the English Market, and I think of my mom keeping our Christmas lights up on our back porch until I get home.
Studying in Cork, Ireland has given me the opportunity to both truly appreciate the time I do get to spend with my family, but also has helped me to appreciate the value of trying to make my own way without always being able to rely on my family.
Kiely Goss is a Psychology Major and Elementary Education Certificate Candidate at Connecticut College and studied abroad with IFSA at University College Cork, in Ireland during the Spring 2018 semester. She is an International Correspondent for IFSA through the Work-To-Study Program.