As one door closes, another opens...

Gemma's time in Brussels is coming to an end...

It is with a sad and heavy heart I find my time in Belgium has come to an end. I never thought I would be writing this, for the majority of my internship I wanted to return to Ireland. I hated living alone without my family and friends. I felt like nobody understood me, the city lights and constant sirens played tricks on my mind, dreaming of the peaceful Killeshandra countryside. When I first moved out here, I remember writing about how each plane I saw brought tears to my eyes – my close proximity to the airport making this a frequent occurrence. Every little thing was a reminder of home and what I was missing. It’s crazy how the mind works. What once brought tears to my eyes now makes me smile. When I see a plane in the sky, I think of all the destinations it could be going to – the possibilities of course are endless.

I can’t say there was one massive turning point when I suddenly started loving my life out here. I didn’t wake up one day and decide I would start liking it. Like everything, it took time - time to adjust, time to source where I wanted to live, to find my favourite cafés and shops, to locate the best parks in which to go for a walk and, ultimately, to find the right people to surround myself with. The latter I have come to realise is one of the most important things in life.

At the beginning of my time abroad, I completely closed myself off to meeting new people. I didn’t want to make new friends. Why should I bother? I remember saying to myself frequently. I had friends at home whom I loved and I wanted to be with them. What would I have in common with somebody who wasn’t from Ireland anyway? What would we even talk about? I was so afraid to put myself out there. I was meeting people who have lived away from home for the most part of their lives. Their conversations revolved around travel, be it solo or with friends. I could never relate, I couldn’t see myself suiting this lifestyle. At the time, I couldn’t even use the metro. How on earth was I supposed to make a life for myself away from my home?

I guess I reacted how your stereotypical Irish person would; I went and found an Irish pub. I thought I needed to meet more Irish people, so I could relate and talk to them. They are more like me. I find this mentality really funny because I know it’s something a lot of Irish people experience. My friend who will be coming to Malta with me in February rang in a bit of a panic last week. She is extremely nervous about leaving Ireland. I could empathise with this, saying goodbye to my family and friends when leaving for Belgium was torture.

She then said something, which made me smile. She had asked the university for a list of other people from the college who would be joining us in Malta. She didn’t know any of them because they are from other courses but, the knowledge that there would be other Irish people, put her at ease. The same mentality led me to the Irish pub. I laughed and responded that it was amazing to hear there would be other Irish students. However I also reminded her that we could meet people of other nationalities too. Speaking for myself, my fear of meeting other people was never borne out of prejudice. I don't think that Irish people are better than anyone else. For me, it was simply a comfort thing - to know that there would be no embarrassing moments where I would have to explain myself several times due to my thick accent; to talk about home with people who would understand.

What I have come to realise is that meeting new people is amazing, Irish or not. I can speak about home to people who are not from Ireland. The wonderful thing is, they in return can speak about their home. I can learn about new cultures, how things are different or similar to our own traditions. I have met people here who, geographically, we couldn’t be further apart but we are matched in our hobbies, outlooks and values. I have come to realise that we all have a place we call home, each of us have families, friends, hobbies, worries, experiences and dreams to share. Although we may have been raised on opposite ends of the world, we really aren’t that different.

This experience has shown me how our minds can limit us and how important it is to take advantage of every opportunity. Leaving here is hard for me, I have met some of the most amazing people and I will miss them with all my heart. However this also excites me for the future, excitement for all the people I have yet to meet and all the experiences I have yet to have.

* Gemma Good is from Killeshandra and a third year journalism student in University of Limerick


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