Each term, one participant from each HECUA program takes on the role of student blogger, sending regular dispatches from the field. AV Lee-A-Yong is HECUA’s student blogger for the Conflict, Peace and Transition program in Northern Ireland this spring. Ze is a student at Swarthmore College, majoring in peace and conflict studies, minoring in psycholgoy. Read on for hir next post!
In the past month or so, things have gotten kind of hectic. On Thursday, March 12th, we (HECUA students in Northern Ireland) were all told we’d be sent home, and we were to be out within the next week. Most of us flew out on the 17th — St. Patrick’s Day — and since, all of us have landed and been at home for a few weeks.
Throughout this time I’ve spent at home, quarantined away from my family, I’ve realized that I really, really miss Northern Ireland. I miss living in Derry, working with my colleagues, and meeting new people every day. I miss all the social events in the dorm and on the weekends, and all of my cohort members. But because it’s so easy in quarantine to dwell and become miserable thinking about all of this, I figured I might as well find some ways to think positively and appreciate Derry from afar.
And so I present: AV’s Unofficial Guide to Managing Quarantine Longing!
Tip #1: Listen to some music that reminds you of the place you miss.
For one of my work-sponsored activities, I went to a local pub for an International Women’s Day fundraiser “Femme Sesh” (poster included). During the night, there were quite a few bands that played, but the one that got the crowd going the most was Blackbird & Crow, a rock duo from Donegal, popular in parts of the North. Since that night at the pub, I listened to their song “The Witch That Could Not Be Burned” at least once a day while out and about in Derry, and now I listen to it every so often to remember the first time I heard it live.
Tip #2: Reminisce with pictures.
One of my favorite things to do is to look at all the pictures I took while in Northern Ireland and think about the places I took them. During field trips, one of the most important things we learned was that stories are inextricably tied to place — people’s lives and histories cannot be removed from their setting. So, I like to think of the people I’ve met when I look at pictures of the places they’re from.
If I haven’t spoken to anyone from that particular place, or the picture is just of the scenery, sometimes I’ll use it in the background of a zoom call just for fun.
[Picture of me on the beach in person and in zoom. You can barely tell the difference!]
Tip #3: Talk to someone about your experience.
Everyone knows somebody who just will not shut up about their semester abroad, and nobody wants to be that guy. But, technically, this is STILL your semester abroad, and you have every right to talk about what you’ve learned and continue to learn through your classes. Even though I had to bribe my family into listening to my stories by bringing them home Quality Street chocolate, it really helps to know someone is always there to listen.
Tip #4: Keep in contact with people you met abroad.
Connections are important, and whether it’s video chatting with the members of your group study project or texting your internship supervisor to catch up, it’s nice to let people know you’re thinking about them. A short text can really go a long way. Just be mindful of the time difference!
These are just a few starting points for ways to cope with quarantine, and hopefully you will be able to find more tips to get through this. Everyone has their own way of coping, so use this period however you like!