“Limerick has become my home, and whether I end up back in Chicago or go somewhere else, Ireland will live in my heart forever”

Student Ambassador John Horan from the USA has found a home here in Ireland!

Home. For most of us, home is the place that we come from; where we were born and raised, where we made our first mistakes and triumphs alike, and where we learned about who we were as people. For me, my home would be the Southside of Chicago, where I was born in 2000. My Mom had been born and raised there as well and had lived there all her life. My Dad, however, had only come to Chicago at the tail end of the 80’s as a young man, working as a carpenter. He had been born not in America, but in a place called Redmount Hill in Eyrecourt, Galway. Born as the youngest of seven, my Dad and his siblings had been forced to grow up early when their mother passed away when he was only six. All of them worked with my grandfather to keep the farm going. However, one by one, my aunts and uncles left Ireland in search of a life in America. My Dad was 19 when he first came to the States, and now at the age of 55 Chicago has become his home. And yet, despite the fact that he has raised a family, made a living, and spent the majority of his life in America… my Dad still thinks of Galway as home as well. I never really understood how my Dad could make sense of that paradox until in 2020 I was able to study at Mary Immaculate College in Limerick for a semester abroad.

Studying abroad in Limerick in the spring of 2020 was everything I had hoped it would be. My media classes were hands-on and engaging, and I found myself being challenged in ways that I had not experienced at my home university in America. Even more surprising was the fact that I found myself rising to the challenge with enthusiasm, rapidly developing skills towards my major that still help me to this day . Outside of the classroom, I was having the most fun of my life alongside both my fellow internationals and Irish students alike. Of course, 2020 brought with it the pandemic of Covid-19, and after only 2 and a half months, I found myself having to leave Limerick. The year following my premature departure from Ireland was a rough one, and as each day passed I found my heart longing for what had so briefly been my new home. After a while, I figured that my time in Ireland was over.

And yet… something deep down inside me told me that my time in Ireland would not be over forever. My mother had studied for a full year in Ireland when she was 19, and it had been the time of her life. With her guidance, I began to start looking at opportunities for studying in Ireland as a post-graduate. I discovered that Mary Immaculate, where I had studied abroad, offered a one year Masters program for Media students. One year of hard work and determination later, and I was getting off the plane at Shannon Airport, starting a new adventure back in the place that I had fallen in love with.

My first semester in Ireland as a post graduate has been the defining moment of my life so far. I have been lucky enough to make a whole new set of relationships on top of the existing ones that remain from my study abroad experience. In my MA program, I get to create radio documentaries and create a full feature length script for my dissertation with the help of my lovely instructors. In addition, I have been able to join a film screening program, host a radio show, and act as a Student Ambassador through my university

If I thought coming to Ireland through Study Abroad was the best decision I have ever made, the past 4 months have shown that the decision to come back as a post grad was an even better choice. Limerick has become my home, and whether I end up back in Chicago or go somewhere else, Ireland will live in my heart forever the same way it has done for my family.


John Horan is doing a MA in Media Studies at MIC