Dublin 2023 Dublin, Ireland MSMU Travels

The Last Rose of Summer: My final day in Dublin

Fleeting fall fauna filled fantastic fields around the gardens!

For my final free day after twelve weeks of studying abroad, I took the time to visit Ireland’s Botanic Gardens. It was a convenient 10-minute bus ride from my homestay, and the weather was rain-free and relatively warm. It was a bittersweet excursion, as it was the final place I still had on my bucket list to visit in the country. I knew that as soon as I ended the tour, the next thing I would be doing was hopping on a plane back to the US. I decided to make every moment count.

Taking in the views of my final excursion…

As I walked to the gardens, I thought about my first moments arriving in the country; I was fixated on all the small word differences (such as centre), blown away from the fact that the lights to bathrooms were located on the outside of the room, and amazed at how the double-decker buses did not flip over at every sharp turn. Now, here I was, spending my last day in a country I had learned to grow to love. My host mother, Lorna, had cooked the best Irish dishes (specifically the coddle and Tesco chicken burgers), and would always tell my roommate Joe and I the best “craic” (stuff/news/jokes). I had adapted to not using a dryer for the twelve weeks I was away, picked up a small amount of Irish lingo, and even got used to drinking tea! It had only started to dawn on me in that moment that this experience was all coming to an end.

It was very warm inside compared to the cold November winds I experienced earlier that day

When first walking into the gardens, I was greeted with many glass greenhouses and trees filled with the vibrant colors of fall. It had become a little blustery, and since it was a little later in the afternoon many visitors had begun to leave. The weather came to my advantage, as I now had most of the park people-free for me to explore. As I walked the many footpaths around the gardens, I popped into one of the first greenhouses to escape the fall chill.

I loved all of the educational signs placed throughout the gardens!

Inside the greenhouse was a multitude of small flowers and fruit trees. There was one flower that looked like a blue and orange bird flying gracefully forward. Another flower had the scientific name of an island that will most likely gain its independence a few years from now (The island’s name is Bougainville if you are curious, they had an independence referendum in 2019). Flowers, fruits, and fauna abounded in the glass structure, which was meticulously cared for both inside and out. There was even a tiny waterfall at the far end of the greenhouse to complement the tranquil environment. Eventually, a group of rambunctious schoolgirls entered my vicinity, which was my cue to move on to the next greenhouse exhibit.

It was odd to me as to why a palm tree was planted outside in Ireland…

While walking between the greenhouses surrounded by vibrant fall foliage, I thought about all the things I missed from home. I anticipated having nice, soft carpet in my bedroom again, and having the feeling of being dry outside for more than two hours. I really missed the ability and freedom to drive to see friends, and just missed my friends in general. I felt a growing appreciation for all the small nuances of America, from its extravagant food portions to wide highways to spacious houses and yards that could be located acres apart. Surprisingly, throughout the entirety of my time abroad I heard more about American politics than I ever did back home, so (as ironic as it sounds) it was nice to know that I would be heading back to an environment in which politics was only discussed in the news. I knew as soon as I got back that there’d be work to get done, but it honestly felt good that I would have something productive to do. Being away for so long definitely makes you appreciate small things back home.

The picture doesn’t do the cacti’s height justice!

The next greenhouse was filled with cacti! From the tall saguaros to the mini aeoniums, the greenhouse had many more exotic varieties. The cacti and other plants exhibited much more symmetry as compared to the creeping vines in the previous greenhouse. It even had its own section purely dedicated to pitcher plants! It was also much more packed with tourists. In fact, at one point it was so crowded that someone accidentally got shoved straight into one of the arms of the cactus, breaking off the limb, making the cactus spew a small river of white liquid. In that moment, I felt worse for the poor cactus than I did for the person who touched its spikes. I decided that I had spent enough time in the cactus greenhouse.

So symmetrical!

The final area that I visited was the tropical tree greenhouse. Inside were a multitude of, well, tropical plants. In the more “interior” sections of the greenhouse, there was a small patch of bamboo which was completely scarred up by people carving their names into the plant. Oddly enough, all the engravings with dates were from this year. I felt bad for the poor plants since the engravings were carved into parts of the plant that were very visibly still alive. But I continued moving on until I came across a tiny hut and waterfall at the very end center of the greenhouse.

One final selfie taken shortly before I left back to the States. I’ll miss you Lorna and Hugo!

The rushing water helped my mind focus on what I had achieved on this trip abroad. I had explored nearly every corner of Ireland, including Galway, Belfast, Howth, Waterford, and Cork. I made great friends and memories within my study abroad group and with the locals in and around Ballymun, the town in which my homestay was located, and I gained so much experience solo-traveling to Finland. I became much more sociable to taxi drivers and locals once I became more at ease living in a different environment (and probably because I kissed the Blarney stone). But most of all, after twelve weeks of being away from home and out of my comfort zone, I felt that I had gained a better sense of confidence that I could travel wherever I wanted if I put my mind to it.

One final goodbye tug-o-war with Hugo

As I exited the final greenhouse and started my final trek out of the park, I came across a rose bush that was enclosed in a metal fence with a piece of paper displayed on the bars. In the display case, there was a poem called “The Last Rose of Summer” by Thomas Moore. As I read it, I reflected not only on my time in the gardens but on my trip as a whole. It was the most picture-perfect end to an unforgettable and life-changing trip I could have ever asked for. All the adventures, friends, sights, laughs, tours, and moments of awe came flooding back into my conscience as I read the lines. My adventure in Ireland may have been coming to an end, but the memories of this journey will stick with me forever. If there is any sort of advice I can give to perspective travelers, it is that you are ultimately the one in charge of creating your own adventures, so go out and enjoy the new experiences and be the key to your own destiny. And so, I leave off this final blog with the poem itself, a perfect snapshot of both my sadness for leaving this great nation and the general feeling of my surroundings on that last chilly November day:

‘Tis the last rose of Summer,
Left blooming alone;
All her lovely companions
Are faded and gone;
No flower of her kindred,
No rose-bud is nigh,
To reflect back her blushes
Or give sigh for sigh!
I’ll not leave thee, thou lone one,
To pine on the stem;
Since the lovely are sleeping,
Go sleep thou with them.
Thus kindly I scatter
Thy leaves o’er the bed
Where thy mates of the garden
Lie scentless and dead.
So soon may I follow,
When friendships decay,
And from Love’s shining circle
The gems drop away!
When true hearts lie withered,
And fond ones are flown,
Oh! who would inhabit
This bleak world alone?

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