It is always hard to move on from a home, but there is something especially difficult and jarring about having to do so at a moment’s notice. Unfortunately, our experience in Ireland ended abruptly for many of the Mitchell Scholars due to the ongoing pandemic. Faced with the prospect of being isolated in our tiny UCD dorm rooms for months on end and the prospect of closing borders and further travel restrictions, Annabel and I decided together that we needed to return to the US. Within 36 hours, we were both on flights back to America.
Being in self-isolation has felt like a state of limbo. I left my life in Ireland behind—I even cancelled my housing contract with UCD as it looks unlikely that I will be able to return to Ireland over the summer. Despite the permanence of my departure, I left with so many loose ends that my time in Ireland feels unfinished. Classes are continuing online, meaning that while I will still be able to earn my degree it will be without the intellectual engagement and access to academic facilities that is necessary to thrive. My classes had just fallen into the steady balance of participation and professor facilitation that is the hallmark of any good seminar, and I am disappointed that our time in the classroom has been cut short. I have scaled back my nascent thesis project to account for the fact that I can’t be in Ireland to do my research. Blossoming friendships with my Irish classmates now feel stuck in purgatory—Facebook messenger and WhatsApp are poor substitutes for the quality time that is needed to forge a closer bond. Trips—to Croatia, Liechtenstein, Wicklow, Isle of Man, and the south of France—that were being planned just two and a half weeks ago are now dreams for a nearly unimaginable future in which we can go outside, board a plane, and frequent rooftop bars and quaint wineries without fear of getting sick. The pandemic also means that I am unable to go through the motions of returning from a stint abroad—no reunions with friends or family, no meals at my favorite restaurants in my home town. As a result, it feels like life has been put on pause, like I am stuck between life in Ireland and whatever comes next.
When I find myself in the midst of a quarantine malaise (which is often), I think about one of my favorite weekends of the entire year. Annabel, Rohan, and I had travelled to the Isle of Man for a weekend spent hiking and imbibing in the charming environment of Foraging Vintners, a local winery that we had long admired via Instagram. After a catastrophic hike that ruined Rohan’s hiking boots, we finally reached Foraging Vintners, and despite the day’s many misadventures we felt contented, reassured that yes, it is possible to make friends like this after college. Although our time in Ireland has been cut short, we can now rely on our friendship to get us through the dark days ahead. I’m thankful for the many friends and memories that have filled my heart over this last year. I’ll see you soon.