Day 111—14 Jan 2024

Me in San Felipe, with the beginning of a tan/sunburn.

“Don’t count yourself out this early, Daisy. You’re all sorts of things you don’t even know yet.” –Camila Dunne, in Taylor Jenkins Reid (2019), Daisy Jones & The Six.

New year, new me, same great island! The holiday break for my course began just after Thanksgiving and stretches to next Monday, 23 Jan. Since that time has been mostly free of coursework, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on my early Irish experiences, dig into new subjects for the fun of it, and reconnect with old friends. That’s a privilege for which I’m incredibly grateful, especially when I consider how busy I’ll be with new adventures in the coming months. I returned to Belfast yesterday, so I’m quite jet-lagged right now, but I’m feeling recharged, ever-more curious, and eager to hit the ground running this week.

Book Browsing and Fondue Slurping

I spent the first several weeks of my break in Northern Ireland, where I caught up on my curiosities. McClay Library at Queen’s University Belfast quickly became my second home, but not just because it’s open 24 hours on weekdays. It’s both spacious and brimming with great books, with reading nooks set against views of the university’s Botanic Gardens and the Belfast’s skyline. I mainly explored the European Union, political philosophy, and Latin American transitional justice—some of what I learned might come in handy this semester, some of it might not, but it was all fascinating and inspirational. I already got to apply some of that new knowledge to a podcast I recorded for my Transitional Justice module, in which I explored the pursuit of democracy in 21st century Mexico. I loved diving into these subjects because every hour I spent perusing further confirmed my strong interest in international affairs. Our world is hyper-connected, but tangled, and I feel a calling to apply myself towards smoothing and strengthening those bonds that bring us all together.

I only left Ulster for two adventures: to plunder the Trinity College Dublin gift shop for my family’s Christmas presents, and then to make my first ever trip to the European mainland. One of my lovely friends from Michigan State, Erin Mahan, is a postgraduate student at the University of Geneva in Switzerland. They invited me to the city in December so we could reconnect and participate in a local cultural festival called l’Escalade. I might not have understood the French-speaking reenactors, but certain parts of the experience easily overcame that language barrier. I felt my heart beat along with the sounding fifes and thundering drums, and everywhere I looked, Genevans took in the events with a certain, palpable wonder in their eyes. Other highlights of my trip included meeting Erin’s friends, visiting a couple of great museums, and trying authentic Swiss fondue. As far as first impressions of Europe go, Erin pretty much hit a grand slam—my raison d’être is certainly Northern Ireland, but I now feel very excited to explore other regions of Europe in the future… and, to stop dragging my feet when it comes to foreign language immersion. Spartans rule the world!

Beer in Mexico

I visited my hometown (Lake Arrowhead, California) just before Christmas to see my family and childhood friends. It’s always a pleasure to celebrate the year with them because we value the family, both blood and chosen, as our greatest support network. We applaud each other when we thrive, and when one of us trips up, the others are right there to help and dust them off. That never gets old, and having that kind of support is a privilege that I can’t see myself living without. I’m so happy that I can continue working to make my family proud here in Belfast, just as I’m proud of them.

My parents and I have a tradition of celebrating New Year’s Day in San Felipe, Baja California, Mexico, where they own a small house on the beach. If there were any words I could use to capture the way it feels to sit in the sand with nothing to do but share stories, sip on Coronas, and tan (or, more accurately, sunburn), I would. But that’s secondary to what I’ve long found most enchanting about San Felipe: the poetic tranquility of its shores. Outside the small houses along the beach, there’s nothing around us for dozens of miles. The house faces east, so we wake up every morning when the Sun’s warmth breaks over the ocean and fills our rooms. The only signs of life are the squadrons of pelicans who patrol the sky, and the pods of dolphins you might see in the water if you look closely enough. Almost like Killarney, it’s a “thin place” for me. I always come away from there with the sense that my problems are smaller and more mortal than often convince myself.

One Foot After the Next

The march goes on. It’s weird to think I’m technically halfway through my Mitchell year when I have so many new things to look forward to this semester. I begin my next set of modules next week, focusing on the Dynamics of Reconciliation and Mediation and Peacebuilding Skills, along with an internship placement at Shared Future News. I also get to start planning my dissertation project, for which I hope to research the political participation of migrant communities in Northern Ireland (subject to change!). I’m sure other exciting opportunities will pop up, and when they do, I’ll embrace them warmly. Between the good and the bad, the peaks and the valleys, I’m still happy to be on this path, no matter where it leads. And I won’t let anybody shake that.

If you’re on Instagram and wish to follow along with my Belfast adventures more closely, please connect with me here. If you’re an avid reader like me, and want to exchange book recommendations, add me on Goodreads here. If not, no harm and no foul!

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