Tag Archives: Study Abroad

Missing Ireland.

7 Nov

Ireland-Summer 2012

I’ve been missing Ireland recently, and with that strong sense of missing I am filled with a sense of hope….hope that I found another place I love and hope that one day I will return to a place that showed me what it is to feel truly alive. My 5 weeks studying abroad in Ireland this past summer were the hardest and best 5 weeks I’ve ever had. Heck, I made the decision to spend 5 full weeks in a foreign country where I didn’t know a single person beforehand. Thankfully, I could speak the language, though at times the accents took some getting used to (no matter how much I loved them). I experienced things I never dreamed: I climbed to the top of an Irish castle, I sat in numerous pubs and enjoyed traditional Irish music, which the locals called “trad,” I experienced the horror and excitement of having to remember which direction traffic was coming from, I enjoyed Bulmer’s Hard Cider to my heart’s content, and I made some of the most incredible friends. For the first time, I really did take a bite out of life. Actually, I ate the whole dang cake!

A quote from Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy sums up my experience perfectly:

“Sometimes the briefest moments capture us, force us to take them in, and demand that we live the rest of our lives in reference to them.”

Let’s talk about the weather.

14 Aug

When I was in Ireland for my summer study abroad program earlier this summer, I took an Irish language class that met twice a week. I was hoping to learn some Irish phrases so that I could come back to the States and impress my friends and family with some Irish, or maybe an accent. Unfortunately, I came back with neither. However, I did learn one interesting thing: The Irish love to talk about the weather. One of my language professors said that in Ireland it’s typical to spend about 15 or 20 minutes every day just talking about the weather, as if it is as important as something that happened at work or an interesting conversation you overhead while standing in line at the grocery store. I found the importance of the weather as a conversation piece very interesting mainly because that’s not how the topic of weather is viewed in the States.

Here if someone brings up the weather as a conversation topic, they’ve done it for 2 reasons: 1. The conversation is so boring or awkward that they’ve settled for discussing the weather or 2. Something big is happening in terms of the weather (i.e there’s a severe storm coming their way or it’s been unseasonably hot). Normally, I think that if the weather is brought up as something to genuinely discuss, the conversation has already been shot to hell. However, imagine how things would change if we put the same emphasis on the topic of the weather as the Irish do. Though we normally view the topic of the weather as a mundane discussion, taking the time to actually sit down and comment on the weather could help us slow down a little bit. It could give us a break, even a small one, to discuss something that seems as simple as brushing our teeth in the morning. When I was in Ireland, I noticed the slow and overall relaxed nature of the Irish. They don’t rush. If the bus is 15 minutes late, it’s not a big deal. The earliest classes begin at 9am rather than 8am. However, forbid them to go into their favorite pub as soon as they get off work at 5pm, and you’ve got trouble.

I know that if I took a few minutes every day to talk about (or at least observe) the weather, it would be a daily reminder to slow down. Though I know that it is a common saying to “Stop and smell the roses,” how many of us really stop and take the time to notice the little things? Maybe today each one of us could try to connect to our Irish roots (that we may or may not have) so that we can be reminded to take things just a little bit slower.

Ireland detox: not as hard as I expected.

29 Jul

I returned from Ireland late Thursday night, or more accurately, during the wee hours of Friday morning. Even though I wasn’t quite sure how I would adjust to being back, I’ve drifted back into my life in North Carolina pretty nicely. However, at this point I’ve also realized that it’s only been a few days. A week from now I could be longing for Ireland in every fiber of my being. For now though, I’m loving being back.

I think it also has something to do with the fact that I’m jumping back into routines soon, so it’s not as if I’m sitting around for a few months before really getting back to my life. For instance, I start back at my internship with Lark Books (a book publisher in Asheville) tomorrow, I move in to my very first apartment on the 15th of August, and classes of the fall semester and my first day back to work at the bookstore both begin on the 20th of August. Therefore, I have things to look forward to and prepare for, which I’m thankful for. If I came back from Ireland with all this time to sit and think about what I was missing, I think it would be a lot harder to adjust to being back.

I also just love where I live, so it’s not as if I left the beauty of Ireland to come back to a place that I didn’t like. I absolutely love living among the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, and I’m even more anxious to head back to Asheville so that I can be among my friends again. However, there are definitely things that I miss, most of which are the people who I met and got to know. Even though I know that I won’t keep up with all of the people who I met in my study abroad group, I know that there are a few that I’ll keep up with just because we connected so well when over in Ireland. In terms of smaller things, it’s a bummer that I have to go from being able to drink in Ireland to not being legal yet in the states. However, when I was Ireland, I talked to this Irish guy who said that he went over to the US when he was 20, and it sucked that he had been able to drink for 2 years in his home country only to come to the US and not be able to. Yeah, I agreed with him that that would have been much harder.

Despite knowing that there will be things that I’ll miss about Ireland, I know that I’ll find a way to go back one day if it’s something that I really want. However, during my time in Ireland, I also realized how many places there are in the United States that I’m longing to visit too. Therefore, maybe when the travel bug bites again, I’ll settle to head somewhere in my home country. I’ve got so many options regarding terrain though. I think that’s what’s so great about the US. There are so many different places that are a relatively short distance apart, especially compared to the distance between the US and a place like Ireland. Now that I’ve been to Ireland, I have no doubt that I’ll want to explore all the different areas in the US as much as I can.

When in Ireland, hurl yourself into experiences.

21 Jul

Today I went to Dublin with my study abroad group, and it was a blast. Even though my favorite thing we visited today was definitely the Book of Kells at Trinity College, the highlight of my day was sitting with my study abroad program director, Finn, after visiting the Book of Kells and just talking.

I told Finn about my writing, my home, and just gave her a bit of a look into who I really am. She has been a wonderful person to be able to count on while I’ve been in Ireland, and I know that I wouldn’t have enjoyed myself as much if it wasn’t for how comfortable she’s made me feel and how accomadating she’s been. Anyway, during our conversation she said, “A few days ago Kevin [her husband] and I were talking, and we both mentioned how we hope that one day our kids can grow up to be just like you. You are a true inspiration.”

Cue tears. No really. It made me feel so so amazing, and I’m still in shock. I’ve heard numerous people tell me over the past few months and years and practically my whole life how much of an inspiration I am…not just to kids with disabilities, but people in all walks of life. No amount of words can express how touched those compliments make me feel. Most of all, however, it’s hard to know how to react since in my mind, I’m just being myself.

Finn went on to say this: “Amelia, not everyone in your situation would go out and take life by the balls. I know people who would just sit inside all day and list all the ways that they are limited. But Amelia, in my eyes, you’re not limited. You’re doing this…full force and without hesitation. You’ve broken down those limits a while ago.”

Though I understand what Finn is trying to say, I know deep down that I still have limits. However, even though I am limited, I still go out and do as much as I can for as long as I can….here in Ireland and in life in general. However, in terms of Ireland itself, there hasn’t been a choice. Sitting around and missing out on things isn’t even an option. I don’t know when I’ll get this opportunity again, so I’ve got to take it while I’ve got it. So I’m going out and doing as much as I can so that I can get the full feel of this experience. Opportunities like this don’t come around every day. And even though I know that one day I’ll be coming back to Ireland, I’ve got to experience as much as I can now. Right now, I want to completely hurl myself into these experiences. It’s what I’ve done so far, and it’s been absolutely amazing.

When in Ireland, visit the Aran Islands.

15 Jul

I just got back from a lovely day at Inis Mor, the largest of the three Aran Islands. “Inis Mor” actually translates to “big island.” Even though I didn’t get to see the popular fort that many people visit when going to Inis Mor because the trek was quite steep and had lots of rocks, but it was still a great day exploring a cute little island. Since I had some time to myself while the rest of my group headed up to the fort, I snapped away with my camera (and got some great shots) and did some pleasure reading. And of course, my day was complete when I ended my time on the island with a double scoop of chocolate ice cream. No harm in that, right?

To Grace (Part 3): Accepting Love.

10 Jul

To Grace. To Grace (Part 2): Walking Through The Fire.

Dear Grace,

I don’t know what it is about writing these letters to you that makes me feel better, but they do. Even though I know that you aren’t in the same place as me in terms of your CP, simply being able to say that I personally know another girl with CP who has faced what I have makes me feel that much closer to you.

I’m in Ireland right now, and I love it. It’s been such a wonderful experience. However, it’s been so hard too. Physically and emotionally. I’ve walked more since I’ve been in Ireland than I have in a long time. Though I know that it’s making me stronger, it hurts. It hurts physically and emotionally because there’s no one here that understands. There’s no one that can say they know what I’m feeling. I know that I said in my previous letters how hard it’s been on me that no one can understand what I’ve faced, but it’s just so so so hard, Grace. I know that you know this.

Having no one who understands is almost as if I’m walking down this dark corridor with all these different doors. The doors lead to people who want to understand, but can’t. The need to go through each door and cry is so strong. The only thing worse than not having anyone who understands is knowing that there are people in my life who want to understand but aren’t able to. I can see it in their eyes. There isn’t pity there. There is just the desire to want to know me on a different level, and the degree that I want people in my life to be on the same level as me is stronger than I ever imagined. It’s close to impossible though, Grace.

I know that you understand. However, I also know that it’s not something I’d easily be able to discuss with you. I’d like to imagine that one day when we are older we could try to talk about it. Right now though, it’s too fresh for both of us. It’s too true, too real, too close for comfort. You’re closer to it now than I am. You’re still having to go to PT and face the pain that I’ve been reliving over the past few months through attempting to write my memoir. Even though I’m not facing that pain in the same way that you are right now, I’m facing it in my own way. Saying it’s emotionally painful doesn’t even come close to what I have felt over the past few months. Recently, I really have wondered why I keep putting myself in this position. When you think about it, it’s as if I’m bulldozing myself with all these really painful memories that I never wanted to think about again.

Over the past few months I’ve had multiple people ask me why I have openly placed myself so far deep into my past that I feel completely and utterly stuck. I don’t know how to answer that question because I myself don’t know why. At first, I stuck to the reason that it was because I wanted to reach a point where I could accept myself. However, now that I think about it, self-acceptance is something that every single person struggles with. I don’t think I’ve ever come across anyone who can openly say that they completely and totally love themselves. It’s not an easy thing to do. It’s hard to block out all the negative feelings you have about yourself, even if you do feel like it would benefit you if you didn’t dwell on them.

So as of right now, I’m walking down that dark corridor…feeling alone and yet realizing that there are people who reside behind the doors who are ready and willing to take me into their arms and simply hold me. Because sometimes, no matter how many times we try to be strong, the only thing left to do is sit down and just let the tears come. I used to hate giving in to the tears. It used to make me feel weak. But Grace, we’ve faced so much. We’ve been through pain that people can’t understand. So I guess the thought of walking down a dark corridor and feeling completely and utterly alone isn’t as depressing as I’ve made it seem. It’s just accurate, especially when we realize that the people that we care about aren’t as far away as we imagined. They’re close…patiently waiting…waiting to try to feel what we’ve felt….even though that feels close to impossible right now. It shows love, Grace. It shows a strong emotion that I’ve been so nervous to let in. Nervous because of the strength and power of love. But also nervous because I feel like I’ve been walking through my life recently not knowing how to accept love from people who want to give it to me. I just don’t know how. I’m trying though. I’m trying so hard.

I’m thinking of you. Please know that.

Love,

Amelia

When in Ireland, burst into poetry.

9 Jul

This past weekend when I visited the Dingle Peninsula with all of the Irish studies summer students, we went to the Blasket Islands Interpretive Centre (which had the stained glass wall installation that I posted a picture of in my last post). Anyway, while there, I saw such a great quote that mentioned “bursting into poetry.” I thought I’d share.

When in Ireland, explore the Dingle Peninsula.

8 Jul

I just got back from a trip to the Dingle Peninsula with the students of the Irish Studies Summer School at NUIG. I thought I’d share some photos. 🙂

Bunratty Castle. My roommate, Alex, and I climbed to the top of it.

Window from inside Bunratty Castle.

At the Blasket Islands Observatory.

Wall installation made of stained glass and metal at the Blasket Islands Observatory.

When in Ireland, go see the NUI Galway campus.

4 Jul

I can’t remember if I’ve shared this photo with all of you already, but here’s a picture of the quad of my campus. It’s so gorgeous, and I absolutely love the ivy everywhere. When I first came on campus, my first response, “I’m taking summer classes in a castle!” Well, it’s not quite a castle, but I love the stone and the castle-y look that the buildings have.

Pretty, right? I love it!

When in Ireland, write through the uncertainty.

2 Jul

I have yet to sit down and write since I’ve been in Ireland (not counting this blog). I really do hate to admit that, even though I do have a pretty solid excuse of: I’m in Ireland. However, over the past few days, that hasn’t really felt like a reasonable excuse, partly because there have been snippets of days that I’ve just sat at my computer wondering what to say.

Attempting to work on my memoir while I’m here feels out of place and very foreign. And yet, at the same time, I hear that voice in the back of my head asking why it seems like such an impossibility. Truthfully, I can’t see why it is. Maybe it’s connected to the fact that I’m doing something huge right now and I want to enjoy every minute of it. Though I have no doubt that that may be part of it, I also know that my strong need to write has increased since coming to Ireland. I don’t know if it’s the beauty, being in a completely different country, or just being surrounded by so many different people. However, either way….I feel it. I feel the wheel’s turning in the way that only a writer’s mind can work, and I’m done ignoring it.

A few years ago, if someone would have told me that I’d be sitting outside of an Ireland university typing a blog post, I probably would have just smiled nervously and pushed it out of my mind. Come to think of it though, not much has changed…except for the fact that I am now in fact here, sitting outside of an Ireland university typing a blog post. The thing is, I’m still scared. I love it. It’s exciting and new and wonderful, but I don’t think I’ve ever been more scared. Not of anything in particular really. Just the uncertainty. The uncertainty of not really knowing what the next few weeks hold, all the while realizing that I’ve just got to grab it by the hand and run like hell with it. I don’t really have much of a choice at this point.

Uncertainty can be truly terrifying. Though I know I’m not to the point of “terrified,” this trip has tested my limits in ways I’ve never been tested before. Though I am with a group of students, I knew no one before coming over here…meaning that no one knew anything about me until they saw me on day one. There’s something wonderful as well as scary about that…having people around me who don’t know my history, my past, what I struggle with. Though I have only mentioned my CP to 2 people so far (my roommate and a guy in my group who asked last night), sometimes I have the urge to scream it from the rooftops while other times I’d rather just sit in silence. It’s hard to not say anything when I’m sure people are wondering why I’m lagging behind the group a bit or why I’m not staying in the same housing as the rest of the students in my group. Yes, a huge part of me is screaming, “It doesn’t matter!!!” but another part of me is wondering, “Would it put me at ease if I didn’t constantly have the worry about my group leaving me behind?”

My program directors know my situation, and they have been sure to include me in everything and make sure I’m an integral part of the group, which is good. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t sit and worry about the group leaving me behind. Thankfully, it’s not a new worry, though at this point I don’t know if that would be considered good or bad. However, it is something that I’ve had to consider every time I’m put in a situation where a group of students is going somewhere, especially when it’s a kind of walking tour. Oh, walking tours, they are the bane of my existence. Okay, maybe not quite that extreme, but they still suck. So, that being said, the worry is not a new kind of worry, but I guess it’s at a new level, especially considering the fact that I’m in a new country with people who I don’t exactly know exceptionally well.

Realizing that this is something that no one else in my group is struggling with is hard, but it’s not a realization that is new to me. However, sometimes it would be nice if my worry was more “normal,” like worrying about cultural differences or staying in touch with people. Even though those worries have been on my mind, my mind is primarily reeling with the thoughts of trying to enjoy Ireland as much as I can without overexerting myself and trying to step out of my comfort zone to the point of where it gives me a thrill of excitement but not to the point of being utterly terrified.

So yes, the writing…the words…they were there. I guess I just need to sit down and sort through them, even if they don’t exactly flow. But you know, sometimes writers need disorder and chaos and confusion, and above all, uncertainty, to get back on track again…to feel somewhat in control again.