Céad míle fáilte


 When you move somewhere, especially somewhere so far from home, everything is new. I can remember being so struck by the differences I observed in everyday life, in school, and in language when I first got to Galway. I guess it was so surprising because I grew up in an Irish-Catholic neighborhood, and I assumed we carried some sort of authentic Irish culture. And to an extent we do, but not in the little daily occurrences, and certainly not in the language.  

There are many peculiarities of the Irish language. The first one I heard was when I was getting off the plane, and the flight attendant said we were all “very welcome to Ireland.” Now at this point after a six-hour international flight, I was a little out of it, but this did not sound right. In the U.S., we only use “very welcome” when using welcome in its receiving gladly form, so I’d never heard it used as a greeting. I was confusing, but it was nice to feel so very welcomed.

It may seem silly or ironic to write about welcomes in the final weeks of my time here, but I’m not good at goodbyes. Part of the reason my transition to living here was as easy as it was, is because of how welcoming the city of Galway is. Every year their city gets over-run with hooligan university students from all over the world, and instead of carefully watching or shooing them away, we are welcomed.

There is a phrase in the Irish language that I see every time I walk into the grocery store that has become a particular favorite of mine: céad mile fáilte, a hundred thousand welcomes. Up until my final days here, I will see that sign and be reminded of how welcomed I felt coming here, and how welcome I still feel. I could never thank Galway enough for providing the perfect study abroad location, and even if I were able to it would probably just tell me I am very welcome.

I am going to miss walking down Shop Street, I am going to miss my running route along the bay, I am going to miss the food (crazy right?!), I am going to miss the weekend markets, but most of all I am going to miss waking up to this magically inviting city. Galway might not be much, it’s rather small and there isn’t much to do besides eat, shop, and listen to music at the pubs, but it has become a home to me. I have been welcomed back time and time again from weekend trips and adventures, and each time the simple beauty of Galway has felt like a warm hug after the hustle of traveling.

It’s hard to believe it is almost time to leave. As much as I miss my family and friends at home, I don’t want to leave and lose this home I’ve made. Four months seemed like a long time four months ago. It seemed like I would be here forever. Looking back, it is crazy how fast it went, but it is also crazy how much I’ve done, how much I’ve changed just in my time here. The wonders I’ve seen, the beauties I’ve witnessed, the delicacies I’ve consumed, it all changed me. I know I will continue to grow and change even after I return to the States, but I hope I never forget the little things that made this semester so amazing. I hope I never lose sight of the little bit of Ireland I called home. But even so, I know I would be very welcome to return.