All smiles and full of gratitude for a wonderful year.

As the weather has turned brighter and warmer—not necessarily drier—I’ve had more opportunities to explore this city that I’ve come to love calling home. Last weekend, I took a long stroll through Fitzgerald Park along the Lee and was struck by a profound feeling of gratitude for this place, my time here, and those who have made it possible.

My time in Ireland has been formative in many ways for which I had hoped, and for others that were more elusive during my initial months on the island. The remark was made by a fellow Mitchell early in the year that Cork seemed like a crockpot—it has lots of good ingredients, and when it has time to stew, it creates a wonderfully-delectable meal. After nine months with the crockpot set to high heat, I’m starting to enjoy the treat.

The most important component of this meal has been the relationships I’ve made here. Whether through shared travel or conversation, my time in Ireland has fostered deep friendships that I know will last beyond my time here on the island.

Engaging this place on such an intimate level has been another gift of the year. Living amidst the Irish milieu has encouraged me to confront challenging issues inherent to the Irish context—mores of belonging and community in a rapidly changing society, efforts to work for justice and equality informed by a national history replete with systemic oppression, and the duties a state has to its young people—that have helped me reflect critically on my own beliefs as an American. They will surely color and enliven my work once I return.

I’m also quite thankful for encountering the craic, or perhaps better yet, the Irish custom of generally being chill. To sit for two hours in conversation with a friend down at the local over a pint of Murphy’s or Guinness isn’t lost time and it doesn’t need to be planned—it’s friendship and it should happen on a whim. Things will get done, but maybe not in the next ten minutes. Some business hours are broadly defined. The schedule is often not quite helpful in determining when a bus will actually arrive—or the national bus system just shuts down for almost three weeks and few people seem to care. These are not necessarily American traits, but they can be quite valuable ones at times! Things move at a different pace here. I was frustrated by all this at first. Nine months of slow acculturation, however, have encouraged me to take a step back, chill out a bit, and enjoy the good times.

Through new friends and many memories, Ireland will always have a place in my heart. For that, I am most grateful. Thank you.

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