“You can plan a pretty picnic, but…”

“…you can’t predict the weather,” laments Andre 3000 on OutKast’s classic record, “Ms. Jackson.” Three Stack’s iconic line made me chuckle during one of my runs along the River Lee, a favorite route to lose myself in miles of music and Cork’s desktop-background-worthy landscapes. Had, in an alternate universe, Erykah Badu’s mother been Irish, and the song titled something like “Ms. Murphy” or “Ms. O’Connor,” I doubt Andre’s verse would have read the same—you can predict the weather in Ireland; it will rain.

Though I’d been wise enough not to plan any picnics, OutKast’s song made me reflect on the joys that came with the Irish climate: the un-planned picnics (or your outing of choice) that accompanied the unexpected sunny days. A blue sky was not taken for granted. Parting clouds immediately summoned flocks of undergrads to lay out at Fitzgerald Park and coaxed researchers to abandon their pipettes and lab coats for the outdoors. In my case, a blue sky spurred me on my much-loved distance runs throughout Cork.

After hearing it on my run, I had planned on blogging about Andre 3000’s verse to harp on the unexpected joys I’d grown to love throughout my time in Ireland: Cork’s vibrant English Market where I discovered glorious Gubbeen cheese, UCC’s International Student Society where I’d made dear friends, warm and upbeat trad nights at Sin É. But boarding a plane to JFK from Dublin, on the city’s quietest St. Patrick’s Day in recent history, it struck me that Andre’s memorable line perfectly encapsulated the feeling of leaving Ireland four months early in the face of the global pandemic.

It was a timely year to pursue a Master’s in Public Health. I did not anticipate that, weeks after my Infectious Disease Epidemiology modules at UCC, I would be hearing about attack rates and case-fatality rates again as countries around the world enacted public health measures of varying efficacy to contain the spread of COVID-19. If it wasn’t clear before, the need for effective and organized public health leadership has been laid bare in the wake of preventable suffering at the hands of coronavirus.

While I’m heartbroken to have left Cork so early and abruptly, I am lucky to have fallen in love with a city that made leaving so hard, and am endlessly grateful to the Mitchell Scholarship for a life-changing year. I’m going to miss reuniting for one last adventure with my fellow Mitchells in Tipperary, but I know that in them, I’ve made lasting friends. Though the future seems especially unpredictable, I’ll be back, Ireland—no matter the weather.

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