This semester, I learned a lot. I learned how to navigate foreign cities without speaking the language. I learned Irish toasts and plenty of drinking songs. I learned how to hitchhike. I learned how to cook for myself (kind of). Most recently, I learned how to say goodbye.
I’ve never really had to say a goodbye like this before. When high school ended, I knew I would always come home and see old friends. The same will go for college- I’ll always be able to come back to Hopkins for reunions and meet up with friends across the country. But this time, it’s different. I’m not only saying goodbye to a city I’ve come to love and call home. I’m also saying goodbye to a culture that I identify with completely. And most of all, I’m saying goodbye to people, both my American friends from the IFSA program and the Irish that I’ve met along the way. How do you say goodbye to a group of people you love, a place you call home, an experience you’ll never forget? Up until a few days ago, I didn’t have an answer. But after my last 24 hours in Galway, I think I finally figured out how to say goodbye. Here’s how:
– Spend the night before you leave with as many friends as possible. Relive memories, take lots of pictures, hug too much. Go to all of your favorite pubs and maybe make one last night-time trip to Galway Bay. Don’t go home until the wee hours of the night.
-Head downtown and window shop with your friends the next morning. Try not think about how you won’t walk these streets, with these lovely people, for a long time. Instead, think about how nice the weather chose to be on your very last day in Galway.
-Watch the sun set over Galway Bay one last time. Half of your American friends will be there, blasting songs that will always remind you of your study abroad experience. Thoroughly indulge in nostalgia and get ready to see some tears. You might just cry yourself- sunsets will do that to you.
-Later that night, on your way to your last trad night at Monroe’s, take the time to climb over the barrier on Friar’s River onto the Wishing Rock, even though it’s pouring rain and very slippery. But you take the chance of falling into the river because you’d never forgive yourself for skipping a Galway tradition, especially on the last night. Make your wish count.
-Once you’re at Monroe’s for traditional dancing, get pulled onto the dance floor by a sheep farmer from the Burren and spend the next half hour dancing a set with him. He’ll notice how you and your friends dance together and tearfully say goodbye. He’ll then tell you that these classic Irish songs were played over a hundred years ago as old friends bade farewell to one another before emigrating- and he’ll say you and your friends are carrying on the tradition.
-Walk home in the rain. After all, it’s Ireland- it’s only fitting.
-Say your last goodbyes as you pile into a cab to catch the 2:15 AM bus to the Dublin airport. Be too tired to even feel sad. Board the plane and leave your Galway home. Finally feel the sadness, but know you’ll someday return.
-Spend Christmas with your friends and family. Love the snow, love your Christmas tree, love the people you’re surrounded by. Love sleeping in your own bed. Miss Ireland, and hope everyone you left across the pond has a very merry Christmas. Always keep adventuring. Feel happy. Be thankful for the past four months, your home in Ireland, your home in Pennsylvania, and all the wonderful friends in between. Be thankful for the whole wide world and all its beautiful people and places. And it goes on…
“My hear is quite calm now. I will go back.” -James Joyce