Words by Lily Garnett, a theater major at Rollins College in Florida who studied abroad in Dublin during summer term 2016.
While preparing to spend my summer in Dublin, Ireland, with CAPA’s internship program, I did my fair share of research. I found the CAPA blog, along with Pinterest and other Internet blogs to be extremely helpful on advising students that are going abroad. There was a good deal of information on what to pack, what to expect of Irish culture and society, etc. The CAPA blog writers covered more complicated grounds like dealing with long distance relationships during their programs and even experiencing the death of a loved one while studying abroad. However, no blog post was available to prepare me for one horrible day that I experienced during my summer in Dublin.
Photo by CAPA Dublin alumna Nicole Taylor
On my second Sunday in Dublin, I woke up in my flat thinking that it was a going to be a normal day. I noticed that it was beautiful and sunny outside (this is worth celebrating as Ireland is known for its rainy weather). My flatmate and I had plans to visit The Little Museum of Dublin and then see where the afternoon would take us. When I rolled over in my bed to check my phone, I had no idea that I was about to discover what was happening back home. I attend Rollins College, a small, liberal arts college located in Winter Park, Florida - an immediate suburb of Orlando. It takes me 20 minutes to get to downtown Orlando from my campus. So when I opened my Facebook Newsfeed to see so many of my Floridian friends posting statuses such as, “There are no words…” and “I can’t believe this has happened,” along with my out-of-state friends posting “Pray for Orlando,” I was obviously concerned.
As it turns out, my second Sunday abroad was June 12, 2016, the day of the Pulse Nightclub Attack in Orlando, Florida. When I reached the news sites and saw what was happening back home, I was overcome with a plethora of different emotions. I was heartbroken for the losses and the harm done to so many people. I was devastated about the pain that the victim’s loved ones had to endure. I was livid that the attack happened in the first place, and terrified since it happened in the city that I call home. I was proud, however, to see how Orlando came together to help survivors and support those affected by loss.
But in this pride, I felt a twinge of helplessness. I wanted so desperately to join in my community’s efforts, to give blood or anything else that I could, but that was impossible as I was so far away. It truly is strange to experience crisis that happens in your hometown, while you just so happen to not be there. I count myself very blessed to have been safe and unharmed, and I’m even more grateful that none of my friends in the Orlando area were hurt. However, a part of me longed to be in Orlando that day - to mourn at home and hold on to my friends.
When I returned for my fall semester, I felt a small hint of disconnection, like I hadn’t been there for someone when I should have been. The whole thing was surreal, and not in a good way. My flatmate dealt with the grief differently than I did, and insisted that we carry on with our day as planned. We did end up going to The Little Museum of Dublin that day. The first floor had an exhibit on Irish music, and a huge piano with a sign saying, “If you know how, please play me!” All I can say is that the songs filling that room were a little bit sadder that Sunday.
For all current and future CAPA students, I pray that none of you ever have to learn about something so tragic while you’re so far from home. For anybody that might, sadly, undergo something like this abroad, the best advice I can give you is to take advantage of the resources available to you. Keep your phone and computers charged and stay near areas with Wi-Fi so that you can maintain contact with loved ones and check the news. If you’re like me and purchased an international data plan, this type of situation would also be a good time to utilize it. CAPA also provides counselors in its host cities that are able to help students as well. Lean on friends that you’ve made while abroad. For me, these were my coworkers in my two internship sites. They showered me in love and support that next Monday when I came into work and I couldn’t have been more grateful.
Again, I hope that this is something that nobody has to deal with during his or her amazing time abroad, but if it does happen then I hope that you let it remind you why we should always be striving for peace on earth. Differences are beautiful and to be celebrated, not just in our global host cities, but all around the world.
Thanks for sharing, Lily.