*3:30 A.M. in Dublin, Ireland*

“Gnim…Gnim…wake up, President Trump is closing the U.S. Border…we have to go home.”

That’s exactly how I learned my study abroad experience in Ireland was over. And 24 hours later, I was back in The Bronx.

I was heartbroken, to say the least. I had always dreamt about one day having the opportunity to study abroad. To not only experience a different culture and see what the world has to offer, but for the unique opportunity it would allow me to face new challenges.

It wasn’t easy, but it was truly a life-changing experience. In just two months, I made many lifelong friends, not just from Ireland but from all over the world. I got to see and learn what Irish culture was truly about. Yes, there’s more to Irish culture than St. Patrick’s Day. But more importantly, I learned how to truly become independent. Being thousands of miles away from home was hard in the beginning, but learning how to adapt helped me grow as a person.

Knowing that I should have had at least two more months in Ireland is upsetting. All the additional memories I could have made and the fun I could’ve had, taken from me. But before I left for Ireland, I had the opportunity to speak to my former South Bronx United teammate Mohamed Camara, who also had the chance to study abroad a couple of years ago. He wished me good luck and also told me to “take advantage of every opportunity.” “There’s nothing like it,” he said. I did exactly what Mohamed encouraged me to do. I took advantage of every opportunity–– to make new friends, try new food, take scenic walks, learn the language, and to simply take in the moment whenever it was warranted.

If I have learned anything from my short-lived experience it’s this: never wait for tomorrow to do or say the things you want to be done or said today. We just don’t know when that window of opportunity will close.

I know the heartbreaking end to my experience does not compare to the heartbreak many SBU seniors are facing. All the years of working hard on the field and in the classroom, just to have it come to an end like this. It sucks, I know. But you should be grateful for all the memories and opportunities you were given at SBU. As an alum, I can proudly say that my involvement and support from SBU did not end after graduating from the SBU Academy. In fact, I feel even more part of the SBU family today. I want you to remember this is just the beginning for you. You have college to look forward to. For some of you that even means college soccer and hopefully also study abroad experiences.

I hope you all are staying safe and healthy!