The last few months of 2023 were full of travel: I visited fourteen different cities and towns across Northern Ireland and the Republic, including visiting other Mitchell Scholars in Dublin and Galway. I went caving in Fermanagh; hiking in Letterkenny; and searched for the best beef and Guinness pie in so many local pubs. The Mitchell Scholar girls went on a trip to Berlin; I saw one of my favorite artists perform in Amsterdam; and I visited a dear friend in Estonia in December while the streets were still buried under piles of snow.
As the year came to its end, though, I realized I was homesick. But not for Washington, DC, where my family lives, or Williamsburg, VA, where I went to college. I was missing Belfast, my new home.
I love this city so unbelievably much. The softly-lit pubs crowded with trad musicians; the slow coffee shops with their deep couches; walks along the water at Titanic quarter; getting fresh vegetables on the weekend at St. George’s market; morning jogs through the Botanic Gardens. I wasn’t really anticipating this much affection so soon, for a place I had never visited before I moved. This 2024, my resolution is to explore more of Belfast. My pins are dropped and labeled on Google Maps; my running shoes are tied; and my suitcases are nestled in the storage compartment under my mattress, where they’ll rest until June. I’m not ready to leave this place for a weekend trip anytime soon. Instead, my weekends will be filled with walking tours (see some political street art below); new releases at Queen’s Film Theatre (I saw a 35 mm Scottish film there earlier today, about a Pakistani immigrant family in Glasgow); weekend potlucks with new local friends (they taught me a Céilí Irish dance, the Siege of Ennis, in a small kitchen/dining room/living room, and I made them Pakistani dessert); book club meetings on Thursdays (I finally joined one!); and a regular (hopefully) morning routine as classes begin for the semester.