Cultural Experience | Dublin

Going Home: What It’s Like to Go Back to Where You Studied Abroad


It’s nothing and everything like you expect it to be

Leaving Dublin, Ireland in May of 2016 was truthfully one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. At the time, I was leaving the place I’d spent a year calling home, people I loved, and a city that welcomed me with open arms for an unknown amount of time. When I left Dublin in May, I had no idea when I’d come back.

trinity college dublin, study abroad image

Trinity College Dublin, where I spent 2015-2016 studying abroad

At the time, I was also leaving behind my significant other, someone I’d become especially fond of and attached to. It felt like I was entering a new dimension, and a new era of uncertainty on that plane ride back to the states. The reverse culture shock that followed when I got back to the United States was more painful than I anticipated. I spent hours tearfully pouring over pictures and mourning the life I thought I’d left behind.

I’d become much more adventurous and independent in Ireland. I got around the city by myself, went on day trips, even left the country on my own. But returning to the states, I felt more confined and unsure of myself. The era of stretching my travel legs felt incomplete, like I had unfinished business there. My adventurous spirit was left behind on the tarmac in the Emerald Isle on that rainy May morning. I had also left behind the great love of my life, unsure if and when I’d see him again. I’ve never been very good at goodbyes, or even “see you laters.”

However, months later, I got very lucky.

In September of 2016, I nervously called my parents, totally unsure if they’d go for my proposal. In the few months since I’d left Ireland, my boyfriend had come to visit, which was a million blessings rolled into one beautiful week. Still, I was ready to see Ireland again, and return to the place and person who mean so much to me. Luckily, my parents were in full agreement. I was to return to Ireland in mid-December, for a full eight days.

More: 50 Things Every College Student Needs to Know About Dublin

Arriving to the Dublin Airport brought on tears of happiness. Seeing all the familiar signs in Irish, the drizzly rain upon landing, and the arms of someone I love felt so comforting and certain. This was where I was meant to be.

Walking around Dublin’s city centre and seeing the familiar landmarks, the familiar smells, and the busy streets felt like more of a home than I could have imagined. Instead of feeling isolated, and reminded that I was not actually from here, I felt greeted with open arms. The bridges reflected off the River Liffey, and the whole city felt like mine to take in once again.

Dublin, Ireland, study abroad image

Christmas lights on Henry Street, Dublin, Ireland

A month or so before, I had been heartbroken in my dorm room in the US that I was missing the lighting of the Christmas lights in the city centre, a tradition I’d attended a year before. However, my boyfriend very kindly taped the lighting for me. Now, I was seeing my favorite city all lit up for Christmas with my own eyes. The feeling of being welcomed back home, to the place where I belong, is one I will never forget and something that will keep me happy in the months to come.

Dublin, Ireland, study abroad image

Christmas lights on Grafton Street, Dublin, Ireland

The eight days I had in Ireland were exceptionally beautiful. Returning to where I studied abroad is an experience I will be grateful for always, and it provided me with memories even more special as the ones I made while living there. I am so fortunate to love and be loved by a person and a place that matter so irrevocably to me.

More: 7 Best Day Trips to Take From Dublin

Returning to where you studied abroad is everything and nothing like you expect it to be. Instead of feeling sad that the experience is over, I felt welcomed, happy, and content that I was at home in my favorite placed again. Friends warned be that it would be harder to leave a second time, but this could not have been farther from the truth. Going back only reinforced my knowledge that I am supposed to be there, and that I will be back again in no time. Studying abroad truly changed the definition of home for me. Sometimes home is a place, other times it’s a person, and sometimes it is two in one.

Going home: what its really like to return to where you studied abroad

Mary Sheehan

Elon University | 8 stories

I am currently a senior at Elon University studying creative writing. I participated in Semester at Sea in summer of 2014, and spent my junior year abroad in Dublin, Ireland. I enjoy reading, writing, and of course, traveling.


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