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The end of the foreign affair

No matter how old you are, or where you are in life, it’s never too late to do something your heart tells you to do

Gulf News

Last year, I took a leap of faith by leaving my job in Dubai to travel to my home country of Ireland and begin a Master’s course [in International Relations]. My ‘long-term’ plan, as well as my savings, covered only the year ahead, with a vague outline of what was to happen beyond.

Just last week, I learned that I had passed my final assignment — a gruelling dissertation that was 70 per cent enjoyable, 30 per cent tearing-my-hair-out horrific. But I am now officially finished and I’m ecstatic that I have passed — queue celebrations and the popping of corks. December will see swarms of students — myself included — strutting across a stage for graduation — an event that I intend to enjoy to the maximum; clad in full Queen’s University regalia with my fellow students, beaming with pride, rosy with the blush of pre-ceremony bubbles. For our small class, it will be our last tango before we float off to the far corners of the globe. There’ll be shared memories of the year that we bonded over the causes and containment of conflict and the craziness of the world as it is, and ideas and aspirations of a world that could be. We’ve clashed in our beliefs, as our presence in the classroom spelled a cauldron of culture and religion that was both frustrating and oddly satisfying.

It’s been a difficult year for all of us — the tears, tantrums, assignments and stress. But it’s been a year that has taught me a lot about myself. Sitting in front of the laptop for days at a time trying to figure out why black swans are so important to research, all the while feeding my growing fondness for, nay, dependency on tea, has brought me to the realisation that I’m not cut out for academia and the world of independent learning and working. A sociable working life is for me, with colleagues, coffee mornings and chatter. I need human beings in my life and that’s what I’ll be striving for as I embark on the next chapter in my life.

Now that the Master’s is finished, it seems like it was a dream and I have to think hard to remember the feeling of isolation and panic that set in when the results were due for a piece of work I had spent weeks researching and writing. A year is such a short time that surely I’d be forgiven for believing that it was some kind of illusion — or delusion.

The highlights of the year for me were the class discussions, which I always tried to participate in, even though it’s one of my big fears. Speaking in public has always been a challenge for me, so I tried to take myself out of my comfort zone by forcing myself to say something, anything, in class. Whether I sounded like an idiot or not was another question; I’d verge more towards the idiot side.

I like to think that I’m an inspiration to myself, and perhaps to my nine-year-old niece that no matter how old you are, or where you are in life, it’s never too late to do something your heart tells you to do. And there are plenty more items on that heart list of mine to complete. Just one thing at a time.

Over the year, I’ve realised there is much more going on in the world than we see on television and read online. And now I feel I have the capacity to understand the bigger picture and to make my own judgements as to what the best options are to move forward. Which is just what I’m going to do to.

Christina Curran is a freelance journalist based in Northern Ireland.