By Mia Wallace
May 24, 2016
After spending an incredible week and a half in Ireland and Northern Ireland, it is time to say farewell! I may be leaving but I certainly will not be letting go of any of the wisdom, maturity, or cultural understanding I’ve gained from it. It’s incredible how such a short span of time can change you so significantly for the long run. I’ve encountered a number of realizations that I don’t think I would have found without traveling to Ireland.
So…here is what Ireland has taught me:
- Don’t be scared to talk to strangers! Growing up you are taught, for the most part, to avoid talking to people you don’t know for your safety. In a sense, yes this is true and obviously, you shouldn’t go talking to every person you happen to sit next to. But I’ve realized that for the most part people are just like you and are kind beings just trying to get by and be happy. Getting to have conversations with people at pubs, who in the United States I most likely would not have talked to, has encouraged me to stop being so damn shy and closed off. So, next semester at school instead of ignoring the person next to me or waiting for them to spark up the conversation, I think I’ll be the first one to give it a go and make a new friend.
- “Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values”. After reading this quote by Gandhi on the Peace Wall in Belfast, it opened my eyes. I grew up in a household where religion was not a part of it. I’ve also never really understood the dedication people have for their religion. For a long time, I only saw that people who were passionate about religion were sexist, hate mongering, and homophobic because all I ever saw in the media about religion was the hatred and war that it seemed to harbor. I would watch the news with my parents and just see all the conflicts going on that were fueled by religious differences or people being killed in health clinics by people who were against abortion (check out this article about how media tends to focus on the ominous side of religion). But after meeting so many
wonderful people who are also devoutly religious, it’s changed my mind. I used to think that they wouldn’t be accepting towards discussions of sexuality or women’s rights towards their bodies, but this trip has changed my view completely. After reading this quote I kind of realized that I can hold on to what I believe in and think is right but still accept their opinions and views, though not necessarily agree with it. And most of the time, if I open my arms to change and the voices of others, I will be happily surprised by what they have to say.
- The world is a big, big place. It’s hard growing up in a small town with the same group of people you’ve known since you were 5-years-old. You tend you make your social circle fairly small and concentrated on who is similar to you with the same views and personalities. But when you travel and step out of that bubble, you come to see how truly giant the world is. I’ve had an incredibly difficult year in the sense of personal issues — family moving half way across the world, having to say goodbye to one of the most important and caring figures in my life, and being dumped by someone I really loved and cared about — it’s hard to focus on the positive things in life. But so far this trip and especially Ireland has shown me how much the world has to offer. I know my grandmother would be so thrilled and proud that I’m traveling and experiencing the world because I know how much she loved to do exactly that. Stepping out of my bubble and doing something that makes me slightly nervous and uncomfortable but also extremely excited has helped me to realize that the world is a big, caring and (for the most part) a giving place that is meant for exploration. So, why dwell on the past and never look forward when the world is literally waiting for you to come discover it and yourself in the process.