Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom – March 8th to August 31st 2013
Initial Thoughts: From the moment I arrived, I had my doubts. It was a cold, wet town masquerading as a city. The house I’d unwittingly agreed to live in was dirty, cold and smelled of piss & cigarettes. The bars we visited were crowded, unfriendly and carried Coors Light. The transit system was non-existent and the streets were littered with dog poo, broken glass and garbage. The people scowled and dressed like they had given up. I rationalized that it was March and the weather was at its worst. The city was waking up from months of winter and needed time to come to life. I made friends and tried to enjoy the culture of the bar scene. I waited to find my place within the community but spent most of my time counting down the days until our next trip.
Favourite Moment: Reliving my wayward youth. Living in Belfast and making friends with younger people was an opportunity for me to confirm that I hadn’t missed out on any pre-grown up adventures. I got to act, for a few months, like I was once again a carefree university student. I got drunk, I went dancing, I made out with randoms. I had had this nagging feeling that maybe I hadn’t take advantage of that lifestyle enough when I was younger, but now I know there is nothing left in that scene for me. I still want to be social and maybe grab a drink from time to time, but binge drinking and random hookup are safely a thing of the past.
Takeaways: Where you live matters. The community that surrounds you needs to be your tribe. The nightlife, the culture, the art scene – of lack there of – will define your social life. Consistently poor weather will wear away at your happiness and slowly make you lose your spark. Six months of grey. But how you feel also matters. So much of my experience in Belfast was clouded by my emotional state and I’m grateful I had this time to begin to recover. I will never regret my decision to come to Belfast and the opportunities it has opened for me, but I have learned the sunshine and multiculturalism are a part of my soul and not something that I can live without.