On returning from abroad

Last semester, I traded Foss grilled cheeses for Irish scones and Maine hiking for exploring the Cliffs of Moher. I was surrounded by Irish brogues everywhere I went, and butter became a fifth food group. Spending five months in Cork, Ireland was absolutely incredible, but my pace of life was a stark contrast from my days at Colby. Suddenly, I had just two 50-minute lectures each day and hours on end of free time. My roommates and I would test out new recipes each night and make elaborate brunches on weekdays. We spent afternoons wandering into new parks that speckled the city, and made it our personal quest to find the best cappuccinos in all of Cork. Needless to say, my stress level was at an all time low.

But I also realized there were aspects of my crazy Colby schedule that I missed. Tutoring in the Farnham Writers’ Center gives me a sense of fulfillment (along with a helpful income) that I craved while abroad. I realized that my dance team here makes me feel like I’m part of a community that I lacked when I went away. I began to try to replace these commitments with equivalents at University College Cork: even though it was uncomfortable at first, I joined dance classes and clubs on campus. Filling my days this way made me feel like I belonged at the school, but I still relished the free moments I had to myself.

Back on campus, I am finding that this year’s transition has been the hardest yet, and there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s because of the time I spent in Cork. I forgot what it feels like to have back-to-back meetings, classes, and extracurricular activities all day until I can barely keep my eyes open. I was so excited to have a kitchen this year and try out new recipes, but on more nights than one I’ve found myself making frozen dinners. In my first week back on the Hill, I realized something had to change. Though it’s hard to say no to opportunities and quit clubs I’ve been involved in for years, I realized in Ireland the absolute necessity of having open spaces in my schedule. With that said, I sent a few e-mails and cleared out my schedule with the intention of slowing things down this semester.

I also had to adjust from living in a bustling city to coming back to Waterville. In a lot of ways, I missed the quiet, peaceful Maine life. COOT was a great way for me to dive back in to all the beauty this state has to offer. At the same time, living in Cork was exciting because everything was so accessible: I could go grocery shopping on the way back from class and meet my friends downtown within 15 minutes. Just navigating a city on my own each day gave me a sense of independence that sometimes gets lost on Colby’s secluded campus. Nonetheless, hearing the birds from my window this morning and being able to see the sun rise from Cadillac Mountain in Acadia last weekend have reminded me why I chose to come to this school. As much as I loved city life, this feels like home.

While I still miss my friends from last semester and the way of life I adopted abroad, I can only be grateful that I had that experience because it showed me the importance of slowing my life down here at Colby. I’m moving forward into the semester with the intention of devoting myself as fully as I can to the clubs I’m involved in on campus and letting go of what no longer feels fulfilling. This afternoon, I’m planning on making some Irish tea and reading for a few hours. Tomorrow, I think I’ll finally dust off my recipe for orange-cranberry scones. While Ireland was certainly chaotic and messy at times, it ultimately left me with a sense of tranquility that I’ll continue to keep in mind even during the busiest days.