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Derry Girl for a Semester: Epilogue: In Which I Say Farewell and Reflect on the Past Semester

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Written by Charissa Roberson

I knew three months in Northern Ireland would fly by, but I still wasn’t prepared for how soon I would be writing this final article. Though I have been able to see beautiful sights, like the gorgeous coastlines to the North and the misty heights of the Mourne Mountains, what will stay with me the most are the people I’ve befriended and the truly special culture that resides on this island.

I think of my Irish step-dance class, a group of about twenty dear ladies who all adopted me as their honorary child.  On the last day, my teacher announced that they had choreographed a new dance and had named it “Slán Charissa” (“Farewell Charissa”). Needless to say, we were both holding back tears. There have been so many older folk in Derry, some complete strangers, who have shown me kindness. A neighbor found out I was baking a pie and lent me her rolling pin so I wouldn’t have to buy one. An old woman in her nineties wouldn’t let me sit alone at a movie screening, and instead brought me over to sit beside her. There have been countless cups of tea, offers of biscuits and treats, and fond hugs that have blessed me during these months away from home. 

I think of the friends I’ve made here who have welcomed me into their homes, their lives, and their activities. They have gifted me with so many memories- walks on the beach, adventures in the mountains, evenings in cozy pubs and restaurants, hours spent sipping tea and sharing deep conversation. My floor mates, too, have become like family, even though we hail from all around the world. During our months together, we have shared our cultures, languages, and foods through frequent movie nights, wild games of cards and Jenga, and regular home-cooked dinners together. 

As I try to sum up what this experience has meant to me, one thought sticks in my head—that wherever you go, kindness is a common language. It lets us appreciate all of our other differences and welcome people into our lives that might otherwise have just been a face on the street. I hope, as I bid Northern Ireland a bittersweet farewell, that I will retain that mindset. I know my life is profoundly richer for the people I have encountered this semester.