Monday 29 August 2016

Why I am grateful for my Year Abroad

I am back in the Emerald Isle after one amazing whole year in (in my opinion) one of the most beautiful countries, Italy. I have travelled to the north, to the centre and to the south, I've felt the cold snow on the slopes of the Appennines and I've relaxed under the hot sun on the beaches in Puglia, I've been in the country side of Umbria, to busy cities like Rome, Florence, Bologna, Naples and Venice. I've climbed Mount Vesuvius and seen the ruins of Pompeii, I've been so far north all the way to Bolzano where they speak German and I've even travelled to the island of Capri. And this is just to name but a few, then I have seen a lot of the smaller beautiful cities in between (as you have most definitely seen in all my Blog posts this year).
But I have much more travelling to do in Italy before I see it all. It's so big and beautiful that each city is like entering a new country because the north, centre and south are so diverse from one another.
I may have moved back to Ireland but this year abroad has changed me so much as a person and now I can also call Italy my home.
The first feelings I had after returning to Ireland were that I identified Bologna/Rome as my home. I would think, I need to go home, when in reality I was in fact at home! But what is it they say? Home is where the heart is?
They say returning from Erasmus can be quite difficult, and in fact every ex Erasmus student has told me this including my Italian teacher who did his Erasmus in Dublin! You have to consider whatever country you go to on Erasmus, they have different cultures and societies. For me I am accustomed to the Italian way of life not the Irish so returning here was a slight culture shock for me,
I also remember the first 2 weeks I had in Italy I also encountered this culture shock and an overwhelming sense of homesickness. But when i settled in I was loving every minute of it. So as you can guess I'm homesick for beautiful Italy.

The people I met on my year abroad hold a very special place in my heart. I now have friends from all over the world, America, Germany, Turkey, Australia, Brasil, England, Scotland, Italy (of course haha), Iran, Poland, New Zealand, Ukraine, I began to learn about their cultures too which has really opened my eyes and opened my mind.
As I said in one of my posts before the Ciara of today is definitely not the Ciara of last year. I have grown in so many ways. I have only realised how much I have changed since coming home to Ireland. I am so grateful for this because I realised I was living an ignorant life, I am now so open to other cultures and learning and accepting their ways of life and knowing that if you don't like one aspect of your own society, it probably isn't like that in another society. So don't feel the pressure of your countries social norms, life is not about doing what others do, life is about what you feel comfortable doing. As I had a group of friends from different ethnic groups we never felt the pressure from each others social norms, as we all accepted each other for who we were.

I am grateful for the memories I have made with everyone I have encountered from the first semester to the second semester. I am grateful for becoming closer with the people I came on Erasmus with. I'm also grateful I continued friendships with my Italian friends I met while they were on Erasmus in Galway last year. Through all of these amazing friends I have made the best memories I will treasure forever.

As well as making amazing friends, I am also so grateful to have had the chance to maintain the relationships I already had in Italy. I have already done 10 months long distance with Davide before moving to Italy so spending a year abroad gave us the chance to live the life of a normal couple, we are both so grateful for that. Due to the fact I have become very good in spoken Italian we can also comunicate in two languages now! It's great! 

Every Sunday I attended an international dinner at a friends house, each week a specific country would cook their traditional food. It was probably the highlight of my Erasmus because there, I met people I will never forget and friends I will never lose.

So here is a few points on why I urge everyone who has the opportunity, to go on Erasmus! If not at least just live abroad for a year:

1. You will learn about a whole new culture.
2. You meet amazing people and will make friends for life!
3. You have the ability to travel the whole country and discover beautiful cities.
4. The food!! (That's if you're lucky enough to go to Italy haha)
5. You will learn the language.
6. It will change you in ways you could never imagine (don't worry this is a good thing)
7. You will return home feeling less pressured by social norms.
8. You will have a place to stay in so many countries (international friends are great for this)
9. Independence and maturity.
10. It looks amazing on your cv, imagine being able to work abroad in the future due to the experience you have living abroad and learning that language!

I will miss everything but I know I will be back to live in Italy again.


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