A Love Letter to my First Year

Image Credit: [Nathan Dumlao] via Unsplash

Dasha Pebly reflects on the friendships that defined their time in UCD and invites us to challenge what it means to love.

I want to talk about UCD. More specifically, the why of me being here. How’s this about sex or relationships, you might ask. And to that I say, just bear with me.

Why UCD - It's a question I’ve gotten frequently since I officially accepted my offer to study here. It’s not particularly common to fling yourself halfway around the world for school, I suppose. The short answer is a) it’s cheaper and b) it’s not in America. Both of these points are both true, but alone, this is an oversimplification.

The real reason I specifically chose UCD is a bit longer. 

It starts in the fall of 2022. I was a restless high school senior who just wanted to escape my corner of suburban America. I had only two requirements for my school of choice. An international school in an English speaking country (and frankly that part was optional). University College Dublin (I assume anticipating antsy high school seniors like me) just so happened to be on CommonApp. The rest was pretty much history. I spent half an hour clicking through the school’s website, and decided, screw it, I’ll send my application in. 

I heard back the first week of November. I’d gotten in. My parents insisted I wait to accept my offer until after I visited. I waited until January 2023, within an hour after touring the campus. It’d been a short trip, just a few days to see how I liked Dublin. It turns out I quite liked it. After that, when people asked why UCD, I added the fact that Ireland is beautiful, and I love the city. (Though, in fairness, it’s being compared to the likes of Philly or Boston. But I digress.)

I don’t get asked the question so much anymore. Understandably so, it’s not relevant after I’ve been here for a year. Or, more accurately, it isn’t relevant to others. For me, the why of being here, is something I think about a lot. Being at UCD is not a choice I’ve made only once. Moving abroad is complicated, and it sucks sometimes. Being in a committed long distance relationship hasn’t helped, either. I’ll admit I seriously thought about transferring. By thought about, I did start applications - I never finished any. I just couldn’t get past one thing. I could go back to America. I’d be closer to my boyfriend. I could find a comparable program, somewhere, and go there. No, the snag I kept hitting was that I couldn’t bear to imagine uprooting myself when I’d finally found a place where I belonged.

It’s funny, the thing that had worried me the most about coming here was making friends. In high school, I’d had friends, but had never really found ‘my people’. More than a small part of me feared college would be the same way. I was terrified I’d never get past the acquaintance phase. It turns out, my worries were for naught. Not only did I get past being merely a first week friend, I’ve found people who’ve made Dublin home. People that I love, and count myself lucky to know.

The thing about love is - to quote the Troggs - it’s all around us. It’s in all the small things. Like griping about lectures on the Newman couches, or getting a sweet treat together after class. Even the simple act of sharing a TikTok is really saying ‘Hey, I thought of you.’ I’m a sucker for seemingly insignificant gestures, because they’re not insignificant at all. There’s effort put into the trivial. It was uncommon for people to make an effort to spend time with me in high school. If I hadn’t initiated it, my inclusion was purely incidental. I was perpetually a tag along in some way. It wasn’t purposeful exclusion, but the inclusion wasn’t purposeful, either. The small things show intention. Someone is purposefully reaching out, even if it is just an Instagram meme. 

Beyond words, and probably beyond what I want the public to know about me, I love the people I’ve met here. I had no idea I’d be surrounded by so many people I love and who love me. I wouldn’t do a thing differently. So, I may not be asked ‘Why UCD’ anymore, but I know what I’d say in response. I’m at UCD because Dublin, and the people I’ve found here, are my home. I love it here, thanks to the relationships I’ve developed. So, thank you. That’s what I really want to say: thank you. To the people who’ve made this year the best of my life, I can’t express how much I appreciate you. Thank you for everything. Thank you for listening to me moan about the miseries of long distance. Thank you for the Prosecco and chatting shit. Thank you for Thursday tea time, and the SU runs between lectures, and the basement Cards Against Humanity games. It may seem silly, or the bare minimum. For me, it’s been anything but that. Being embraced and cared for so genuinely has meant the world to me.

It seems fitting to wrap this year up with an ode to the love I’ve found. Friendship often gets sold short when compared to its romantic counterpart. The fact is, platonic relationships are no less important than romantic ones. I’d really argue that, if anything, friendship trumps romance, especially if you’re living in a foreign country. There’s nothing expected, you just care for the sake of caring. When I say I love my friends, I mean that in the truest sense of the word. I love my friends, and I’m going to miss them dearly. It’s going to be a long summer without you guys. You’ve all given me a reason to miss UCD. Rest assured, I will be counting the days until I get to be back terrorizing campus with you all.