When we first moved overseas, our eldest son was a quiet but game-for-anything 5-year-old. We told his stories easily and without a second thought. But now that plucky kindergartener is a tall, wise teenager, and I’m realising those stories are his to tell. So here he goes:
My name is Jackson, I live in County Dublin, Ireland, and today I turn 16. My family and I first moved to Meath, Ireland in 2008 for two years, then we moved back to Missouri in the United States in 2010. We lived there for another two-and-a-half years and moved back to Dublin in 2013.
Where do you feel at home?
I feel most at home in Ireland because of the friends I have here. There is a very friendly Christian community and I’ve made such great friends who I love to hang out with both in and outside of church and youth group. I’ve also grown very used to the weather and scenery and all the different towns and cities we’ve lived in or visited.
What’s one thing people may not know about where you live?
People in Ireland usually speak English. However, learning Irish is compulsory in most schools, with some not being allowed to speak English at all. Irish is a very difficult language to learn, especially if you haven’t been learning or hearing Irish your whole life. I take a lower level of Irish in school since it is difficult for me to get the hang of entirely new rules about grammar.
What were some of the most beautiful places you’ve visited? Why do they stand out?
Ireland is small, so it takes a short amount of time to drive across the country (only two hours going east to west, and about six north to south), where it might take days to drive from one end of America to the other. There’s also amazing scenery in Ireland, especially on the coast. From the top of a small mountain in Dublin, you can see all of the city from there. Because we live in Europe, we’ve been able to visit the UK, Germany, Italy and Slovenia, and once a year we try to take a few days away in County Kerry.
Do you ever wish that we lived a different life?
I don’t really wish we lived in the States, mostly because I’ve gotten so used to living here over the past few years. If we didn’t live here, I wouldn’t know the many friends I have in Ireland or get to know the other TCKs in Europe, whose parents work with mine.
What is something you’re looking forward to?
We have a lot of things planned for the summer holidays, which luckily for me start at the end of May (my younger siblings will still have another month of school). Our church hosts a weekend away on the June bank holiday, where I can hang out with my youth group all weekend. Chances are, we’ll perform in a talent show skit that will most certainly be embarrassing. One set of grandparents are coming to visit in July, so we are all definitely looking forward to that. Then in August, I’m going to a European youth worship conference in England for a week. So, yeah, I am very much looking forward to the summer.
What is something you’re not looking forward to?
I’m not really looking forward to doing the Leaving Certificate in a few years. The Leaving Certificate is a series of exams that secondary school students in Ireland do at the end of their five or six years in secondary school (which is like middle school and high school combined). The exams are really hard and are required to get the points you need to do the courses you want to do at the college you want to go to. Even just choosing the right subjects to take for your LC is stressful!
Do you think you’ll live abroad when you’re an adult?
I don’t think I’ll leave Ireland once I graduate from secondary school. I am thinking about attending a university near Dublin in order to study science or physics. I also don’t want to leave the many friends I’ve made here. They are so important to me, especially those in my youth group. It would be difficult to leave most of what I know behind in a totally different country.
What are you most thankful for?
I am most thankful for the many friends God has given me these past few years, especially in my youth group at my local church. They are all great friends, with those older than me being like my older brothers and sisters, those younger being like younger siblings, and those the same age being some of my best friends. I am also thankful for the youth leaders at my youth group who have guided me through my teenage years and will continue to guide me for years to come.
If your children could tell their own stories, what do you think they’d say? How have you seen them mature and grow in this live overseas?