I talk quite a bit about my semester abroad, but so much happened in those four months that it is hard to believe it was only a short chapter in my life and not an entire book.
Before I left New York, and even as I rode the bus from the airport to my student village in Limerick, I imagined I would be living with maybe one or two other Americans and at least a couple of Irish people. It was foggy and cold that morning, but once we received our housing “assignments,” everyone headed off in their own directions. I walked into the daunting gray building labeled with a “44” alongside one other girl. We weren’t sure if anyone had returned from winter vacation, so we quietly made our ways upstairs to find our rooms and begin unpacking. Not too long after, our French roommate from downstairs came to meet us, and within three days, I had met the rest of the roommates as well.
There were eight of us: three Americans, two French, one Canadian, one South Korean, and one Austrian. (Not one bit of Irish in the bunch of us!) Everyone besides myself and the other two Americans had already spent the first semester in Ireland. I worried that I would feel like an outsider the whole time, but that feeling didn’t last long. Soon, we cooked together and drank together. We watched How I Met Your Mother and Big Bang Theory on our TV (for as long as it worked). We took naps after class and took turns distracting each other from writing papers. We shared in the misery of the same 8am Monday Irish history class and cleaning our filthy house for inspections. After our various weekend trips, we spent Sunday nights sitting in our bedroom doorways and catching up. We went grocery shopping and ran errands together. We ran around the courtyard with bubbles and cozied up on the couch for Marvel marathons.
The last week or so of our time in Ireland was particularly difficult. We had spent so much time with each other that leaving felt like the worst thing in the world. At the time, it was. But right up until the very end, we were there for each other. We woke up far too early and stayed up far too late just to see each other off to our respective taxis or buses. Each time I turned back toward House 44, I felt lucky that the gentle-yet-sturdy gray home had been ours. I left in the wee hours of the morning on a Wednesday and the three roommates who were still there sat with me in the cold and dark until I boarded the bus. They stayed there and waved to me from the road until the bus drove away and I could no longer see them. And I felt so full at that moment–so incredibly content and complete. I was, of course, heartbroken to be leaving everything in Ireland, but I had an enormous amount of gratitude. There were four months of breathtaking travels and irreplaceable friends and unbelievable memories tucked into my suitcases and heart though. That was enough.
As we had all been dreading our impending departures, we promised each other that we would meet again–somewhere, somehow. It was not goodbye; it was “See you soon!” It is difficult though, for everyone to pause their lives at the exact same moment and reconnect in one exact same place. You think about how wonderful life will be if, one day, you have friends from all over the world. Places to travel and people to stay with and glimpses into other cultures. You don’t think about how difficult it is to keep up and catch up and see those friends from all over the world. One year after I had returned from Ireland, Nicole (an honorary House 44 roommate) and I flew to Canada to see my roommate Meggan and her fiancé Gerald. We spent one glorious week exploring national parks and beaches and Toronto and Jack Astor’s. We even kept up our ritual of falling asleep on the couch from sheer exhaustion while trying to watch Marvel movies. Then another year passed and everyone’s lives continued to spread in various directions.
And then two weekends ago, by a little bit of chance and some finely detailed planning, I was lucky enough to welcome Meggan and Catherine (one of my French roommates) into my home for a few short days. We wandered and walked the mountains and the city. We splashed in the pool and dried ourselves on the hot rock patio. We napped in Central Park. We recalled many ridiculous antics from our time abroad and filled each other in on our lives now. It was far too short a reunion, but a reunion nonetheless, and a lovely one at that.
That’s the thing, you see. Distance and time can keep you apart only for so long. You will always find your way back to the people who you’re supposed to, no matter where in the world that is.