It's funny what can become normal if you give it enough time. When I first got to Cork so much of what I was doing everyday was out of the ordinary for me. But at the same time I felt like a freshman again and not necessarily in a good way. I wasn't used to not having a roommate, the large classes or cooking for myself. However, within maybe two weeks, some of the strangeness of it all wore off. Walking alongside the River Lee at least twice a week to go to the city center for food became normal. I figured out how late I could sleep in before I had to get out of bed before class. Even not having a roommate has become normal. My apartment-mates were a bit horrified by the fact that, back home in the U.S, you basically have to share a room with someone. Honestly, I kind of like having a roommate back home because there's always someone to talk to. I think I actually might prefer having a roommate to a certain extent. There's a certain comfort level in knowing that someone else is there, especially when that person is one of your friends. The weekends here are a bit different though, because the Irish students go home and the apartment complex (and campus) is mostly deserted. I still don't really understand the whole concept of going home on the weekends. Granted, I went home almost every weekend freshmen year, but after that year I had friends and didn't want to come home as often. In the U.S, college students go off to college in late August and basically don't come home until Thanksgiving. And after they get back to school, they don't come back home until Christmas a month later. So, I don't really fully understand why everyone goes home here. It's just strange to me because I'm so used to everyone staying on campus through the entire semester. I vaguely wonder if that difference is a different sense of family or hometown loyalty. But then again, there are really only a few colleges in Ireland, so perhaps they figure "carpe diem" and go home. There is also a lot less "busy work" to be done during the week for classes, which might play a role as well. So all of this raises question of is this place (Cork) home yet? I guess answer I have right now is yes and no. It's yes in the sense that I've always been fairly good at adapting to different environments and I'm getting used to things here and there is a sense of familiarity now. But is it HOME? And to that I am inclined to say no. Home, for me (and this is becoming very clear to me now) is Pittsburgh. I've always loved that city, so this isn't really a realization as much as it is a greater confirmation and clarity. The Pirates (baseball team) are in the postseason now and I literally ache to go home and be there for it, having grown up with a dad who has never given up hope that the Buccos would win again someday. An optimism that I'm sure is genetic, given my enthusiasm for the sport and unwavering love for the Pittsburgh home team. I actually went and bought the international package for MLB TV just to watch the postseason on my laptop. Home is also W&J and that particular realization has been bittersweet because the fact of the matter is that I'm graduating this year.
One of the suggestions for a post this week had to do with discussing a place in our study abroad city that makes us feel at home and why. For me, I think it would be at this little coffee shop in the city center, Cork Coffee Roasters. I went there for the first time with my family, before a day tour of Cobh, Kinsale and Blarney. I don't drink coffee, but their chai tea is really good. I went back there a second time the second weekend I was here (I think), after exploring the city center for about three hours. It's a bit of a walk from my apartment complex, probably about 20-25 minutes, but it's worth it. It's very small and is very much designed to be for locals who know about it. You also have to pay in cash, which is interesting. It's very quaint and relaxing and is excellent for people-watching. It reminds me of home for two reasons. One, I've been there before with my family. And two, I remember getting up early freshman year at W&J on Tuesdays and walking to the barista, getting a chai latte and sitting in the Ski Lodge reading the newspaper before class. Sitting in the coffee shop here reminds me of those things, of home. And sometimes I just really need to be reminded of home.