I cannot believe that I am just days away from my first day of school at NUI-Galway. It seems to have snuck up on me with all I had going on this summer. I finished my field school two weeks ago and have been traveling around Ireland, the UK, and Norway for the last week and a half. Perhaps I should rewind and let you know about my summer adventures, so this will be one of three posts exploring my first eight weeks abroad.
I had left the United States at the end of June, heading to Achill Island, an island on the west coast of Ireland. I had said my goodbyes, ranging from the easy ones to the very difficult ones. I had all my bags packed and my mother and I headed from my small hometown in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Feeling great, I went through security and, later, boarded my plane. I suffer from the inability to sleep on planes, so I sat and watched movies as our plane chased the sun across the Atlantic. Being so close to the summer solstice, the sun never fully set on my redeye flight. Instead, a sliver of the horizon was always a brilliant array of pink and orange that crept into the inky-black that surrounded the plane.
We landed in Dublin in the early morning and, disheveled and exhausted, I got money, a coffee, and a bus ticket to the city center to get a SIM card for my unlocked phone. Lugging my heavy bags around the city was difficult and waiting for the phone store to open was a nightmare. I just wondered from coffee shop to coffee shop, trying to stay awake while drinking my weight in coffee. Finally, with a functional phone in hand, I made my way to Heuston Station. My final destination was still ten hours ahead of me and the waiting game was taking a toll on my mental welfare. I boarded my train to Westport and three hours later I was on a train platform heading to a grocery store (like I needed more bags to carry). Eventually, with all my bags, I was sitting at the bus stop, ready for bed. The bus finally carried me to Achill Field School, having the mercy to drop me off right at the front door.
To describe Achill Island as beautiful seems to do it an injustice. Even being sleepless for 30 hours did not hinder the awe I felt when I looked around. Sheltered by mountains on one side and caressed by the ocean on the other, the island seems like it rests, secluded, right at the end of the world. The green landscape is only disrupted by pockets of villages and field walls. Sheep wander the island like they own it and, during the summer, people from all over come to enjoy the open sea air that Achill offers. This place would become my home for the next six weeks and what a wonderful home it was.