February 20, 2017
Before coming to Ireland, I consciously prepared myself to endure the culture shock and homesickness that so many returned students warned me would inevitably hit. Even if only in a mild form I figured this is without a doubt something I would have to stomach, considering my parents are two of my best friends (no shame, don’t judge until you’ve met them), I attend a University that is only an hour away from home and I surround myself with an extremely tight knit group of friends who are practically extended family. I was pretty much a shoe-in to be one of those students who would eventually have a momentary breakdown…but nope. Now over 2 months into it and I think it’s pretty safe to say that I passed the culture shock phase without ever feeling its effects and homesick? Please. Part of me feels like I am home. But despite all of that, I will say that in the last few weeks there has been a weird sort of dichotomy going on up there in my head.
Why? Good question. I came into this experience wanting to absorb as much of this experience as possible. Of course I didn’t plan on completely cutting myself off from communication with friends and family. That would be virtually impossible. But I did tell myself to make a solid effort to try and limit my interactions with them; to stay informed and engaged, but avoid getting caught up in the things that I was missing out on. On the one hand this has been an easy task. Simply choosing to check in with a quick phone call or text message on occasion, rather than the regular basis that I was so used to have not been a problem. Out of sight, out of mind right? With how busy I am, I’ve actually had to make notes to remind myself to do so. But then on the other hand, remaining partially detached has been practically impossible. Thanks to the ever-so-accessible social media outlets, nothing from back home is truly ever out of sight. Even without talking to my friends and family directly, trusty ol’ Snap Chat, Facebook and Instagram have allowed me to still see everything that has gone on since I’ve been gone. Success’s, failures, gatherings, reunions, the usual shenanigans…I see it all happening, but I am not there.
Some of you are probably thinking ‘then why don’t you just delete social media genius’, which is a viable argument and one that I did contemplate for a while (thank you very much). Ultimately I decided against it, even though a few previous abroad students also suggested to before leaving and even though I in no way consider myself a social media addict or one of those people who cannot survive 5 minutes without it. I decided against this for 2 main reasons: 1. Social media is huge in today’s day and age aside from just it’s “social” aspects, and as somebody who came over here trying to continuously promote an organization and pursing internship opportunities, it didn’t seem totally justified to do so 2. People over here like to stay connected too ya know, and exchanging snap chat usernames and Facebook info is just as common when meeting new people in Ireland as it is in America. Would I be doing myself any favors if I opted out of having that convenient option? No. So, in turn, my social media presence has prevailed. But this is where the weird dichotomy comes into play.
Don’t get me wrong, there isn’t anywhere in the world I’d rather be right now (not counting all of the places on my European checklist). I have been given the opportunity of a lifetime and am quite literally living a dream, and I am well aware of that. But at the same time, I’m one of those people who suffers from FOMO (a.k.a. fear of missing out) and am also well aware of the fact that many of my friends and family back home are experiencing things and creating memories that I will never be a part of. The so called “culture shock” and “homesick” feelings from being in a foreign country I can handle; it’s when I’m reminded of the things I’m missing out on back home that I start to see the not-so-glamorous side of studying abroad.
But life is all about perspective, and I just have to remind myself of that when I’m catching up on snap shat stories, scrolling through Instagram or refreshing my news feed. This is the one time in my life that I get to be a nomad; live in a foreign country for 5 months and travel around the world with next to no responsibilities. So many people, many of them the stars of those very snap chat and instagram posts that tease me daily, would kill to be in my position…I cannot allow myself to take that for granted. A dichotomy does exist, but I need to look at that as a positive thing rather than a negative. Every gathering I miss at home is another worldly destination I get to travel to, that I would probably never otherwise see. Every birthday I don’t get to help celebrate in Wisconsin is matched with that of a new friend’s that I would have never met if I weren’t abroad (and ironically there have been A LOT of birthday celebrations in the past week, so this is quite literally true). Every day that goes by without seeing my friends and family, just makes the eventual reunion sound that much better. Never out of sight and never out of mind, but home through a screen will have to suffice until I’m done with my in person exploration of the world.
SIDE NOTE: I went horseback riding through the Connemara this past weekend. Yes it was as cool as it sounds, and here are some pictures to prove it.