Student Reflections

The end of a study abroad: saying goodbye to a home away from home

Jamie D'Amato
August 23, 2021

It’s nearing the end of August, and yesterday I arrived home in Louisville, Kentucky after a short weekend in London and two long flights. That’s right: my summer abroad and my time in the Burren in Ireland has come to a close. Unfortunately, every study abroad must come to an inevitable end, and it’s always hard to say goodbye to the new lifestyle and routines you’ve built over the weeks or months you’ve spent there. For me, a month in Ballyvaughan was the perfect time to experience a taste of rural living and feel like I could envision a life there. But feeling so part of the community only made it harder to leave.

Our last few days were a perfect depiction of everything I loved about Ballyvaughan. All the students worked to finalize our projects, running around our studios in a frenzy to get things in place. We had our gallery day, where the studio was open to the whole school and we were able to show off our finished projects to our fellow students, the graduate and post-graduate residents, and the faculty of the school. It was the perfect unity of the art and community I loved about Burren College of Art, and we could take in all of the talent and creativity of the students with the support from a small but passionate and friendly community. 

On my last walk home from the studio to our Lodge, I got emotional taking in the hazy mountain view and passing the grazing cow knowing it could be my last time. I had just taken in all of the beautiful art my friends had spent the month creating, and I didn’t know if I’d see many of them ever again since I’m not returning to campus in Boston. 

There are so many things I will miss about my time in the Burren: having the perfect view outside my window and along the walk to school, seeing cows and sheep everywhere I look, hearing animal sounds at night instead of roaring car engines. The peace and solitude of working in the studio, followed by the rowdiness of evenings in the Lodge with the group of Northeastern students, cooking up group dinners and listening to our collaborative Spotify playlist. The close-knit community of a small town and smaller college, where everyone knows everyone.

On our last night, we had so much food to use up, so we made a huge potluck. This is me and Kiara Oliver prepping a late-night charcuterie board for the group. Photo by Laurel Walsh.

But there’s a lot from my experience that I don’t have to leave behind, that I can use now and adapt in my day-to-day life. In addition to the friends I’ve made on the trip, there are the things I’ve learned about art and Ireland, and about myself. I loved having designated “studio time” to work on a creative project, and having a designated space to get myself into the flow of it. I always thought I would want to live in a city, but after living in a small town and getting a glimpse of that community, I feel like maybe that is the better, healthier lifestyle, and that the quiet and open spaces suit me better. Beautiful scenery and simple, small things in day-to-day life made me smile; people are kinder in small towns, where there aren’t endless streams of people you’ll never see again. I think the appeal of anonymity in a city has started to lose its sparkle, and I will forever be grateful to Ballyvaughan, Ireland for showing me a quieter side of life and exposing me to a lifestyle I wouldn’t have thought was for me. 

I’m already plotting my return to rural western Ireland: I’ve done far too much research on the processes of applying for visas, immigration, and dual citizenship in Ireland. I’ve added it to my shortlist of Places to Move in the Future. Having spent time during my university years in Boston, Chicago, and Louisville in the US and abroad in Tokyo, Florence, and Ballyvaughan. Each experience was so unique and showed me a different possible future life. Studying abroad and beyond Boston has been a huge part of me finding things out about myself and while I don’t know where I’ll end up in coming years, I hope Ireland will be somewhere in my future.