From One Home to Another

My first picture of the Trinity campanile

On paper, the transition from high school to college sounds crazy. Of course, everyone has to mature and leave childhood at some point, but that abruptly? One night you’ve just finished a meal cooked by your parents, you’re sleeping in the same bed you’ve slept in since you were twelve years old, and the next night you’re in a completely unfamiliar place, sharing a room with a stranger, and trying to figure out where all the time you had ahead of you went. 

Having lived in Iowa my entire life, I knew I had to get out and see the world a little. I was afraid that if I stayed and went to school near my hometown, I’d simply never leave. So what did I do? I managed to get as far away as possible: Dublin, Ireland. I flew over in late August of 2022 with my mom, and I remember thinking the entire flight “Is this real? What am I doing? Where am I going?”

Before coming to school here, I had never been to Ireland before. I had been to Amsterdam once, for a week my freshman year of high school, but that was the only time I had ever even been outside of the country. I knew my decision to go to college in another country, let alone one I had never been to before, was insane, and plenty of people reminded me of that. But the reality of the whole thing took a long time to hit me.

The Long Room in Trinity’s Old Library, where the historic Book of Kells (a ancient religious manuscript) is kept

The first week in Dublin felt like a nice vacation, having time to explore the city with my mom and really just soak up the newness of everything. I visited my school’s campus, Trinity College, and was slightly taken aback by the number of tourists snapping photos in front of the Trinity campanile and waiting in line to see the Book of Kells. I mean, how could I be any more qualified to be here than them? Yet, I was already committed to living and studying for the next year in a place I knew practically nothing about. 

Things really hit the day I said goodbye to my mom. Every time since then, I’ve always gotten this strange feeling every time I’ve left home to go back to school. It’s a mixture of disbelief, sadness, and even numbness as I try to process that I won’t be seeing that person for three to four more months. What kind of person will I be when I see them again? Will they have changed? Will the distance improve our relationship or make it worse? These kinds of thoughts flash through my head with every temporary goodbye I make as part of the inevitable college transition.

When I was younger, I thought that knowing the goodbyes were only temporary would be enough to make things easy. College is so exciting and constantly busy, that you’d think you wouldn’t even have enough time to focus on the things and people that aren’t there. But, for me at least, they’re always there. Whether I’m actively missing my dad or wishing my friend from home were beside me witnessing some funny experience, having to be nearly 4000 miles away from people you’ve known your entire life is never going to be easy.

Me and my new friend on a “smart start” trip to Glendalough!

But that’s not to say that it doesn’t get better. The week after my mom left, I took part in an introductory “smart start” program with a huge group of international students going through the exact same struggles as me. Through lectures on life in Dublin and walking tours around the city, I got to know many of my fellow students and made friendships that are still going strong today.

It is all thanks to the support of my new friends in Dublin that I gained the confidence to join clubs, travel to other countries, and somehow also pass all of my exams. Even having only been through my first year of university, looking back I find it hard to recognize the person I was before moving abroad (in a good way).

I would be lying if I said it still isn’t hard to say goodbye. Just a week ago, I came back to Dublin after 4 months at home, and definitely had another round of questioning whether or not I could do this whole thing again. Thankfully, it only takes a night of hanging out with my friends and strolling around the city for me to remember how much I missed my newfound second home.


  • I moved to Dublin to study at Trinity College a year ago with very little abroad experience beforehand
  • It was difficult to say goodbye to family and settle into a completely unfamiliar environment at first
  • I made my first, and ongoing, friendships through an introductory program for international students
  • The connections I’ve made so far have helped me establish a new home within my college environment

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By Bella Littler

Bella is a second year film student within the Trinity College Dublin / Columbia Dual BA program. She grew up in Iowa, but is currently living and studying in Dublin. On the average day, you can find her watching obscure movies, going on aimless walks around the city, or raving about any and all Taylor Swift lyrics.

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