Receiving my acceptance letter from Notre Dame ranks first on my list of life-changing moments. Getting my decision letter from Trinity College Dublin comes in a close second.
To be honest, I didn’t think I would be accepted. It wasn’t until I read “Dear Meghan: I am pleased to inform you…” that I allowed myself to realize how much I wanted to go to Dublin.
The catch was that while my friends would spend either the fall or spring in London, Angers, Toledo or Salvador da Bahia, I would leave them and my home under the Dome for our entire junior year.
It wasn’t easy. Tears streamed down my face as I pulled out of the parking lot in August after helping my friends move in. Watching the first home game from my room at home instead of the student section was painful.
By the time I boarded my plane in September, I was eager to distract myself with the excitement of living abroad and forget about what I was missing. My worries dissipated when Louise, a member of the O’Connell House staff, greeted me with a hug at Dublin Airport and continued to fade as I befriended the other ND Trinity girls as we explored the city and shared meals together.
The real turning point came when our Irish roommate, Lauren, arrived. Tiny, bright-eyed, fast-talking Lauren became our guardian angel. She and her friends immediately accepted us into their social group, which made our transition to Irish life nearly seamless.
Had I only studied abroad for a semester, I might not have bothered making friends with local students, but being there for the year gave me a different attitude. Instead of picking easy classes to boost my GPA, I chose courses that fit my academic and personal interests. Always busy with activities at Notre Dame, I got involved in VDP, Trinity’s branch of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, which helped me solidify friendships and learn about Irish culture.
Rather than jetting off to a different country every weekend as some of the semester students did, I balanced traveling with getting to know my own city. Having chats with friends over tea and digestives gave me more insight into the country and its people than any book or class ever could. Before long Dublin felt like home. Thankfully, I had another entire semester to enjoy this feeling.
The night before my return flight in May, I reacted as I had leaving Notre Dame the previous August, but this time I wasn’t alone. Huddled in a giant circle with my new Irish friends singing “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” the tears flowed as I promised to return and offered them a place to stay if they ever came to Chicago.
When I stepped off the plane at O’Hare Airport, clutching the collage, bracelet and notes my Irish friends had given me to commemorate the year, I remembered a little sign my mom had mailed me for St. Patrick’s Day: I left my heart in Ireland.
Meg Morrison ‘13 spent her junior year at Trinity College Dublin through Notre Dame’s Office of International Studies Dublin program. She is the magazine’s summer and fall intern. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org