Sarah Smaby is a student at Michigan Technological University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She studied abroad with ISA in Limerick, Ireland.
My semester has come to an end, and with that comes the time for study abroad students, including me, to go back home. There’s just one problem with this: while I’m heading back to my home, the place where I’ve grown up and where my family and friends from my first eighteen years of life are, I’m also leaving Ireland, a place that I now call home.
When I first came here there was a distinction between home and the place I was living. I didn’t know what to call my housing. At the end of the day, I’d say I was going back to my house, or back to the village, but I consciously refrained from calling my housing “home,” believing for some reason that I was betraying my “true home” if I let my house in Ireland become home. Sometime in the past four months this has changed. I first noticed this when sitting on a bus coming back from spring break and thinking to myself, “I can’t wait to get home.” Since then I’ve caught myself not only thinking about Limerick as my home, but also calling my on-campus housing home, talking about going home for the night, and just casually and subconsciously throwing around the word “home” in my everyday conversations.
I love Michigan Tech, my school back in the US. However, it has always been a part of my life, and I have been going to it for as long as I remember. In my mind I’ve always associated it not only with school, but also with family vacations and with relatives who live nearby. My college has felt like an extension of my home, like a part of who I am. Coming to the University of Limerick felt like coming to a complete new world, and I had no ties or connections.
When I got here, I also felt like I couldn’t fully share my experience with my family or friends, because despite how much I could try to describe Limerick, they wouldn’t know the city. If they weren’t familiar with the location, how could I share this with them? However, over the semester, I’ve come to realize that a home doesn’t just have to be somewhere you have a past or you have connections. It is more a state of mind and a feeling of belonging. What was once strange and unfamiliar slowly integrated itself into my life, and now I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I hadn’t come to Limerick, and in many ways I don’t want to. Limerick, a place that I had never heard of as recently as a year ago, has now become my home. While I once would have felt guilty calling Limerick my home, I’ve come to realize that it’s possible to call multiple places your home, and that they can all have a special place in your life. I know because of this that even though I’m leaving Limerick and will be separated from it by time and distance, I will always consider Limerick my home.
Tired of Netflix marathons and ready to get out and explore the world? Yeah, we know. Here you go.