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The Hardest Part: Saying "See You Later" to my Life in Galway

The first time I wrote about Ireland, I was seven years old and it was for a school project. There was a black piece of paper with a shield divided into four parts in front of me, and I was supposed to color in what I considered to be the most connected to my family and to myself. One section had a big pair of Mickey Mouse ears, as my mother loved Disney and we had been multiple times throughout my childhood. Another section had a soccer ball representing the five years I had played up to that point in my life. The third had a drawing of a picture of my family, complete with my parents, my younger sister and I. And finally, the fourth section was filled with the three colors of the Irish flag and a shamrock outline over the flag. Something about this country has always spoken to my soul, and I knew I would be here one day.

  Looking back on four months in Galway, there is so much I've seen and done. I have made friends here I will have for years to come, and I have grown and changed so much as a person. There's no way for me to put it words how I feel; a fresh new me will be stepping off the plane into Seattle and I can never revert back. Which I'm glad about, after four months of finally having my own life I got to become the me I wanted and had always pictured in my head. It feels liberating to think about that, and I hope it lasts. One of the most important lessons I've learned is to not hold back from doing what you want while abroad. See a lovely pastry through a window shop? Eat it. Want to talk to the bartender about where she bought her shirt? Ask her. Find yourself ogling a beautiful scarf when you're out with your friends? Buy it. There's nothing wrong with saying, "You know what? This is for me." So often I used hold back from doing what I loved from fear of being judged, but now I know there's too many things to say yes to that the no doesn't matter anymore.

  Traveling on your own can be scary when you haven't done it before, or there is a language barrier. One of the most rewarding feelings is that you completed something entirely on your own without the help of your parents, and stepping off the plane into a country for a trip you organized is liberating. You really feel like you accomplished something! During my time in Galway, I keep having that feeling. Travel to Scotland and Spain alone? Check. Get myself across the country to meet with friends? Done that. I love this because now I can tackle things at home that would have scared me before, and all thanks to studying abroad. This wonderful experience is one that I will never forget, and in fact, it inspired me to look into further education choices in Ireland! As an archaeology major, there is so much to do and learn here in Europe, so I'm very excited to come back this summer and see all my friends and the land I love again.


Coming to Galway was a blessing in disguise. I not only learned so much about myself, but what I want to do with my life. I laughed, I cried (and will plenty more of this when I'm heading home), I loved the people and every waking moment I was fortunate enough to spend in this beautiful country. Thank you, Ireland, and to all my friends: I will never forget you, and remember that this is not goodbye, but only see you later.

Carrie Stinogel is the Fall 2014 CEA MOJO in Galway, Ireland. She is currently a Junior year at Western Washington University.

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