Coming Back to Dublin from a Year on Exchange

It’s over, I’m back! Now where’s the fun fair, the balloons, the parade? It’s as if the people I pass on the streets as I come from the airport don’t know where I’ve been, what I’ve done. My memories of a year the other side of the Atlantic (in Toronto) still echo within my head, yet no one around is aware of the journey I’ve taken.

Instead of the maze of narrow winding streets that map across Dublin, I am used to straight ordered lines that stretch for miles in every direction. Toronto’s sports bars filled with photos of hockey legends have been replaced by Dublin’s warm cozy pubs. Ice becomes rain, and I have lost my status as an exotic European (darn!)


Nothing has changed, and yet everything feels foreign. Being back in Dublin is a weird mix of relief and nostalgia; I’m home again, and it’s like I never left. The same buskers line Grafton Street; the same faces smile at me as I cross Front Square. The only real difference is me. Going on exchange has made me view everything from a fresh perspective. The various Irish accents that buzz around me feel heightened and enhanced; and the buildings feel older and more special after a year surrounded by Toronto’s futuristic skyscrapers.


Soon I will meet my friends in the pub and recount stories of surviving a freezing winter, and of the people I met. They’ll giggle when I tell them about how my hair froze and snow frosted my scarf. I’ll tell them of the differences and the similarities, the people and the food. Yet I know they can’t understand the feeling of Toronto, won’t know the people that I’ve met. One day I know that the memories of my year on exchange will merge and melt until only a few remain clear enough to fully relive. But today Toronto feels as present as the streets that surround me.


I’ve missed my friends, the unique atmosphere of an Irish pub. In many ways I’m glad that I’m back where I know I belong. Going away has given me a fresh perspective on everything about university and I am so happy that I can go into my final year excited to be back, instead of dreading the inevitable hard work.

When I came to Trinity, I wanted to experience everything I could. I tried out loads of different societies until I knew where I fit; if there was an event or a party, I was there. So when the opportunity came to try out the challenge of a new university, I had to take it. Going on exchange has given me more than memories or a new line on my CV; it has affected the way in which I view my surroundings. I can now appreciate the best bits of Dublin and remember the best bits of Toronto, and that is invaluable.


3 thoughts on “Coming Back to Dublin from a Year on Exchange”

  1. Great stuff, Jess. Love hearing about your life in Toronto. (Interesting advert to have at the end!!?) xx

  2. This was nice to read! I’m from America and spent nearly 4 years living in London. That city stole my heart and will always have a piece of it. Due to visas and such I had to go back and I’ve spent the last year in NYC.

    When I came back I felt very similar to you in a lot of ways. Living abroad for a long period of time changes you down to the core and you are never the same. Everything as you said seems to same but the things that were once familiar seem foreign in a way, but really it’s you that have changed! I spent a lot of timing thinking on this subject and reading about it. People call it reverse culture shock; however, it effects everyone differently!

    At any rate I miss europe and felt more at home in europe than I do here, so luckily for me I’ll be moving to Dublin in 2 weeks for long term!! I’m very much excited to get away from the straight lined streets and back to the mazes of windy streets where you find a hidden little gem of a pub. I’m excited to be amongst history and historic buildings again, and to live somewhere warm and cozy. Nothing like strolling into a pub on a winters night with a roaring fire and a pint! These things that I crave do not exist in North America!

    Best of luck to you!!

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