I love Ireland. It is a beautiful country, and I'm still so sad to be gone. Life has a funny way of changing you, putting you in places and situations that make you uncomfortable and ultimately, forcing you to change and grow to become a better, stronger person.

Living in Ireland was an amazing struggle for me. Here are 10 things I learned this past year:

1. Life is not kind, but it's ultimately how you choose to handle the bad things that happen to you. Ireland showed me that through the bad, you can always find the good. It's not easy, but if you are willing to give it your all, you can persevere in almost any situation. You will be thrown many obstacles and many hardships, and many things will go wrong. Being by yourself can make these situations seem like the worst thing in the world, but you have to keep calm and push through.

2. Living abroad changes you. A year doesn't seem that long, but once you go "home," it never quite feels the same. You may not realize how much it changes you, but ultimately it will force you to grow and for most, have the urge to see the world and experience and live as much as you can. Ireland will always have a place in my heart. 

3. You get to meet so many amazing people. The people, the customs, the new phrases, the good times and the drunk times will never be forgotten. I love you all and we will be together again. 

4. Even though we speak the same language, it's surprising how much culture shock you go through. It wasn't so bad going there, but coming back, it was shocking how different everything seemed. Also, everyone thinks my "Irish twang" is hilarious, even though I can't hear it myself.

5. Not everyone hates the Americans as much as you might think. The Irish are quite fond of us actually, and loads of Irish people dream of living in America, just as we dream of living in Ireland.

6. The Irish really do know how to drink. And gargle they do. Often and in large quantities. And REAL Guinness, shall be greatly missed.

7. Stay open minded about everything and everybody, and give everyone/thing a chance, but don't be naive. People and places often can be deceiving in both good and bad ways. Just be smart, and don't let the fact that you are in another place compromise your values and judgment. 

8. People will not always understand you or the way you do things. You will have communication and cultural slip- ups, whether it be with the Irish, or the other various foreigners that you encounter. Take it in stride, and don't take yourself too seriously. The Irish gave it out to me all the time, for various Americanisms, and though I tried to give out to them, they just never seemed to catch on. >.<

9. Life at home goes on, but ultimately it's weird how much things stay the same. People got married, people died, you miss holidays, gay marriage was legalized, and Trump became a major presidential candidate. I missed a lot of it, but I also get to experience many other amazing things.

10. Homesickness can happen in the strangest moments, and of course, during the holidays. You may not think about how you miss home, but then it hits you, and it hits you hard. It's not always about missing home, but often, the comforts of home, friends and family.

People like to comment all the time about how they would love to travel or live abroad, and they think it's great that I did so. But, it's really all about wanting something more than the thought of it making you uncomfortable. You have to really want it, in your heart, to go away, to escape. I think that's part of what it was for me. To escape and start fresh, and even though the thought was absolutely terrifying, it was also invigorating and exciting. It's not for everyone, but I think that everyone should at least travel abroad once in their life. It will change you.