The time has come to say goodbye to the Montréal and return back to Kircubbin, a tiny village in Northern Ireland. Going from living in a city with 3.6 million inhabitants to returning home to a country with a population of 1.6 million, I couldn’t help but fear the change in culture and lifestyle that I would have to face. I struggled to imagine where I would fit in, back in Northern Ireland.
And it is true, I guess I don’t quite fit in at home. My relatives ask me about my time abroad and ask me if I am fluent in French, yet before I can answer them, they talk over my response and claim they can speak the only useful language, English, and “ach sure” that is enough. I sit there and smile, because I have had the opportunity and privilege to learn that yes, English is enough, but oh how much more you learn about people, the world, cultures, life, when you take the opportunity to travel and, in particularly, learn another language. I smile because I have had a year full of opportunity and that smile grows even fuller when I remember that I took each and every one of them an open heart and mind. Those opportunities that I decided to take will stick with me wherever I am in the world and will forever be a part of who I am. No matter how many pictures you take, no matter how many souvenirs you have, no matter how many memories you have, that will all fade one day.
We will grow old, forget the names of the friends we made from all over the world, forget the times we laughed until we cried, forget the first time we felt temperatures of -40, we will forget how to make the Brazilian cakes and Chilean sandwiches we learnt to make, our proficiency in a language may fade… This seems like a pretty depressing idea and you might think then why bother?
The memories of all those things you experienced and the opportunities you took may not last forever, but each one of them become an interior part of you, your attitudes, your confidence, your character, your smile. And you get to wear that smile everyday for the rest of your life and show it to others, even when your health is poor and you vaguely remember studying abroad for a year. How wonderful.
I guess what I am trying to say is for all of you who have your year abroad ahead, just go for it. Go all out. You are going to have opportunity after opportunity thrown in your face and you’re going to have to answer yes or no. I didn’t turn down one opportunity when I was abroad, and that is the only reason I can be happy, being home here in the UK. Yes, it is over and yes, it went way, way, way too fast, but, I can’t be anything but overjoyed and thankful when I reflect on my time in Montréal because I know I grabbed every opportunity with both hands and gave it my all and that is how I met the best people, found the best places, discovered numerous new hobbies and have no regrets.
What a great chapter of my life. I could just sit and reread this chapter over and over again, but instead I choose to write it and take it with me in my heart, letting it shape the next adventure of my life. This is just the beginning. I have truly discovered my sense of adventure and I look so forward to seeing where that leads me. Thanks for a great chapter Montréal and thanks for the opportunity U of G! Here is to the next chapter.
Thanks to those of you who have read these blogs and I hope they have answered questions and opened your eyes to how fabulous exchange can be (especially in Canada, I’m biased) and no matter when you’re reading this, you can always contact me @ firstname.lastname@example.org
I would be so happy to help you all experience what I had the opportunity to experience.
P.S. During Spring Break all my friends went to soak up the sun in Cuba and Mexico, but I fancied more of the Canadian winter. I headed West to the Canadian Rockies on my own and had the best time. I even had my first ever ski lesson. I couldn’t go to the Rockies and not ski! Here are some snaps which don’t do it justice. 10/10. Would highly recommend.