“Irish weather is supposed to be rainy year-round,” I told my family, trying to convey a certainty I didn’t feel. Truth be told, I had no concept of Ireland. I could only picture my destination as a haze of permanent stormclouds, and my suitcase, weighted with winter wear, was to be my sole companion across the ocean to this unknown world. I wondered whether I would be able to handle the cold.

But Ireland, as I’ve found over the past eight weeks, is so much more than I could have imagined — the gleaming pearl of cobblestones in Dublin, the blurry blue of sky-meets-sea in Howth, the deep emerald of mountains in Wicklow, the quiet wisps of rainbow in Derry. The climate is also friendlier than I’d assumed: it does rain regularly, but the sun shines almost as often. And even the chilliest forecasts are dotted with winks of warmth.

I’ve also been happily surprised to befriend my fellow Scholars. My adventures thus far range from making shakshouka with Zoha and bonding on buses with Zach to navigating out of the wilderness with Rabhya and hobbling to the emergency department with Allie. The best shelter from the Irish cold, I’ve realized, is not waterproof outerwear but the company of friends.

Frequently, I reflect on how grateful I am for this Mitchell year in Ireland, for the freedom to accumulate experiences that I never could have dreamed of otherwise. The weather here might be gray, but I delight in discovering new colors every day.

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