All summer, I have struggled with the temporary nature of this program. I have tried to strike a balance between doing as much work as I can in these 8 weeks and being realistic about what I can achieve in such a relatively short amount of time. I have become friends with the people I work with, while constantly reminding myself that, with the exception of this summer, we live an ocean apart. As my departure inches closer, now less than three weeks away, the fact that I am a temporary member of my team at the office is only getting harder to stomach.
I have done exactly what I tried not to do: I have become attached. I genuinely look forward to seeing my co-workers on a Monday morning, and I’ve finally developed a significant knowledge base to help contribute to my department’s efforts. I’ve also created genuine friendships with some of the teenagers I work with on Wednesday afternoons. I feel like I’m just getting started, and yet I am not. I’m over halfway done. I have heard that some students continue to work for their placements after they return home, but considering I am working in an office comprised of Irish civil servants, that probably won’t be the case for me.
I’m less worried about “keeping in touch.” With texting, Facebook, and all the other wonders of the internet, I know I can maintain these relationships if I put in the effort. But I have thrown myself into this field in a way that I didn’t know was possible. I read countless news articles about migration over the weekend, and I try to gain more insight on Irish perceptions of immigrants by eavesdropping on conversations on the street and in restaurants. I am applying what I have learned about Irish history and culture to try and explain the current societal transformation in this country over group dinners and in conversations with other students. All the while, I am falling in love with the city of Dublin.
Soon, I will return to my normal life. I will still be able to easily track migration trends in Europe through the news, but I won’t be able to eavesdrop on the streets of Dublin. On Wednesday afternoons, I’ll go to class instead of zip-lining or going to the zoo with teenagers from all over the world. The people I have met here have changed my perception of many complicated issues, and I’ll take that new outlook with me. I hope the work I’ve done and will do in the coming weeks will be helpful to my office and, by extension, the populations it serves.
If all parties have gained something genuinely valuable from the experience, then what’s the issue with the fact that it’s temporary? Perhaps there isn’t an issue at all. I suppose it is only my own growing attachment that will make it so hard to walk away, yet it is this same attachment that has inspired me to embrace this experience so wholeheartedly. It will be difficult to leave and even more difficult to return to normal life after this incredible experience. I could have made it easier by remaining more guarded, but easier isn’t always better.
So, for the next two and a half weeks, I’m going to try not to think about the fact that I’m leaving. Instead of living every day like it’s my last, as the cliché goes, I’m going to live every day like it’s my first. I’m starting a new project at work this week that will involve visiting a number of projects that assist refugee women in preparing for and finding employment. I’m excited to delve into this specific issue and produce a report on the successes and challenges of these programs. I also can’t wait to see how these different non-governmental organizations operate, since my experience thus far has been on the side of government. In other words, normal life will just have to wait a little while longer.