By George Matelich ’18
Before I begin: DO NOT read this as a sermon on my time abroad and traveling abroad in general. It was amazing for me, and taught me so much. What I don’t intend is for you to read this and think I am on a high horse saying my life changed forever and I now have direction…whatever…whatever. If anything, it confused me and showed me I don’t know, at all, what I want to do.
Now, in the interest of transparency, I want to note that I did a bad job of getting outside abroad. Maybe I got caught up in the craziness that is Dublin, or my intense desire to travel. However, don’t take that to mean I didn’t make the most of my opportunities. Rather my priorities were not what they tend to be when I am at home.
That said, my outdoor experiences were incredibly unique to me. Ireland is called the Emerald Isle for a reason: everything is a lush green. The rolling hills are carpeted with dense pasture and you feel as though there is a filter over your eyes tinting everything in sight. As someone used to the unforgiving, jagged, and breathtaking Rocky Mountains, I felt out of place to say the least. The adjustment was quick. Within a short trip of Dublin were gorgeous cliff walks, lakes (or as they say loughs), rivers and a national park. Even the west coast and the famed Cliffs of Moher are a reasonable day trip away. Given so much at my disposal, it was easy to take a few hours, hop on a train, and escape a bit.
The Dublin Botanic Gardens were my first chance to feel alone in the best ways. Not fifteen minutes from the city center, I got to appreciate just how beautiful it was to see a simple cluster of trees and a great diversity of plant life. No it wasn’t my typical hike or fishing trip; it was a simple stroll through a manmade garden. BUT, it was a chance for me to realize what I needed to get back into. I was immediately motivated to refocus and get myself back outside. I needed to experience the wilds of Ireland and beyond.
My favorite experiences were the Schwarzwald hike in the heart of the Black Forest: Freiburg, Germany, fly fishing with a crusty old guide named Peter O’Reilly, and walking alone along the beautiful cliffs south of Dublin, from Bray to Greystones. Maybe I loved them because they were so foreign to me, and maybe I loved them because I kept forgetting how much I missed the outdoors.
My experience in Ireland and in Europe is impossible to summarize. Everything I did was new and formative. Most notably, it made me realize that I haven’t a clue what I want to do, which is fine. Maybe I want to be a chef, not a software developer…who knows. What I do know is that I am much more thoughtful and introspective. I am so thankful for the impact my travels have had on me. Never will I forget or stop appreciating the great people I met or the amazing places I got to see. Even though I have a greater appreciation for W&L and the American education system, I will miss Ireland.
My name is George Matelich. I am a junior Computer Science major with a love for everything outdoors. Fly fishing and hiking keep me sane. Other than that, my hobbies include cooking, music, and photography.
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