The Parabola of Homesickness
Just in case I decide to write a memoir about my semester abroad that launches my career as a critically-acclaimed travel writer, I’ve been brainstorming possible titles. Here’s what I’ve got so far:
How the Hell Do I Flush This Toilet? – a memoir of my study abroad experience
These Hand-Dryers Are Garbage – a memoir of my study abroad experience.
Weird Places I’ve Fallen Asleep in Europe.
You Haven’t Truly Lived in Ireland Until You Get Caught in a SLEET MONSOON in the Middle of Your Run.
Somehow it’s been almost a month since my arrival in Cork. This reality slaps me in the face almost every day. How did this happen? Everything feels quick in hindsight, but it’s a weird sensation to notice the days disappearing as they pass.
On our first day of orientation, our study abroad coordinator showed us a slide about culture shock. It looked like a parabola from eleventh-grade math class. (Bad memories. I cringed when I saw it.) The gist was that, upon getting to a new country, you’re on a high. Everything is the best. Then that wears off, and it’s a little tough for a while, but it won’t be long before you’re on the rise again. I was no exception; my spirits definitely parabola’d in the first two weeks here.
The first three days were nuts. I landed, everyone was incredibly kind and welcoming, and I barely slept or ate. I said no to nothing, collapsed into my bed every night, and fell asleep with my phone on my face. I was in IRELAND. About halfway through my second week though, I hit a wall. The realization that I wouldn’t see my family for five months sat heavy in my chest. Perched on my uncomfortable mattress one afternoon, I thought, I’m not sure if I can do this. (Mom, I’m sorry for not realizing I’d miss you this much before I left.) I told myself that it would pass, and lo and behold it did.
A few weeks ago I was in the window seat of a bus going from Cork to Galway. People told us that Galway’s countryside was what you pictured when you thought of Ireland, and it was. Impossibly green fields, stone walls that are basically piles of rocks with little rocks shoved between them that are somehow still standing, and SHEEP. If I hadn’t been in a moving vehicle, I would have tried to get a picture.
I was on the bus, and I was tired. I’d gone to a ball organized by my school the night before, which was like prom only a lot more fun because there was an open bar. I could have slept, but I didn’t want to miss the view. For a second I remembered being a sophomore in high school, around the time when my classmates started going on school trips to Europe that I couldn’t afford. It was the first time that I realized I hadn’t seen most of the world.
I started reading articles about travel and saving change in a meager travel fund. I had this image in my mind, that one day I’d be in the window seat of a train, somewhere in Europe, dead tired but refusing to sleep, unwilling to miss the view. That was six years ago, and nine days ago I lived that fantasy. Sorry to get all cheesy on you, but that’s what I think about now when I miss my little sister or my roommates or American Netflix. This whole semester is nuts, and I’m one lucky college student.
Now I’m one month in and I’d dare say I’m comfortable. I can make it from one end of the city to the other without getting lost. I’ve tried all three locally brewed stouts. (They’re Guinness, Murphy’s, and Beamish, and you’re supposed to pick a favorite, but they all taste the same to me. Oops.) I’m still useless at the accent, but I can understand it approximately 30% more of the time. I’ve learned a few phrases in Gaelic and I’m no doubt butchering the pronunciation. Baby steps.
I’ve decided that the new format for my posts will be words followed by an avalanche of pictures. These are from weekend trips to Galway, Blarney, and Cashel. Happy Monday!
We almost rented tandem bikes in Galway, then realized that would have been the worst mistake of our lives. Hilarious, but torturous.
I’m going to start an album of “Pictures I Meant To Take/Pictures I Meant To Take Featuring Tobin”
And one #badlycroppedselfiesinfamousplaces