Coming Home Again: Erasmus v Emigration
LIKE I have I said in umpteen articles before, I am as of this moment living in France as part of my undergrad. The last 10 months have been simply amazing here in France and I could probably write an entire piece on how worthwhile it is to study abroad, explore a new country and experience a new culture. But as I am leaving in less than a week I decided to reflect on the things I’ve missed about home.
While the Irish population are notorious for complaining about our less-than-ideal weather I have missed our little green island. France is beautiful but it doesn’t quite have that sense of unity. Maybe it’s because we’re such a small nation in comparison to some of our European neighbours; you’re always going to know someone or know of someone when you travel outside your hometown. The smaller class sizes in my French university might have given the illusion of a warm and intimate environment and perhaps some do find it so, but every time I walked into a class there would be those slightly discomforting stares and the lack of effort to initiate any kind of conversation. While there are many reasons for this behaviour, some of which may be justifiable, I found that there isn’t such a stark boundary between newcomers and natives back in UCC.
I’ve also missed my family. While I might be living away from home back in Ireland, you’re never really that far away from Mammy’s home-cooked Sunday roast. My little sister has been counting the sleeps till I return and considering I haven’t been able to see them since Christmas, it’s easy to feel homesick at times.
Friendships are also a big part of my life back home. Don’t get me wrong, it has been truly wonderful meeting so many new people and making firm friendships with people from around the globe but it can sometimes be hard to confide in people who you’ve only known a few months. In comparison, I can rock up somewhere and unleash a torrent of emotion on my friends back home without an iota of self-consciousness or awkwardness.
All these things have made me acutely aware of the struggles my generation are currently going through. Everyone in Ireland knows at least one person who has left the country to seek employment and a career elsewhere. Some choose to go out and explore the globe but many aren’t given that choice. When you see that tearful goodbye between family members at an airport it’s often the case that they will not be in the same room as their loved one for at least a year. Skype and other wonderful technological advancements have made it easier to communicate from a distance but it isn’t quite the same.
Ireland is a beautiful, welcoming country and no one should be forced to leave. I’m fortunate in that I get to come home after my French adventure but so many young professionals aren’t awarded the same choice. Considering that you can only vote in your local constituency never mind from another country emigration can seem like an amputation, the complete loss of a part of your heritage, your cultural identity. Perhaps I’m being a tad dramatic but maybe a Young Angry Women stance is needed in this situation. The problem has only gotten worse in recent years and last year’s budget only proved the lack of awareness and understanding the government have for my generation and some of the problems surrounding emigration. Travelling, living abroad and having so many wonderful adventures along the way has made this year (well, academic year) truly unforgettable but I do wonder how different this article would be if I had left Ireland out of necessity rather than by choice.
Photos c/o vice.com, 8tracks.com