My name is Elizabeth Nelson, I’m 27 years old, and I’m from Thiensville, Wisconsin, which is a suburb of Milwaukee. When I was in my home country, I suppose, right before I left I was mostly a waitress. I had just graduated from college a few months before, it was 2008, it was right at the start of the recession, so there wasn’t really money, jobs going – particularly in my field of Political Science – so I was working waitressing jobs, saving up money to move here. That’s kind of why I left, I suppose, there were no jobs, I’d just graduated, just broken up with my long-term boyfriend, and I’d actually just been in Belfast for three weeks on an an exchange program in July, and I came back and was kind of like, “What am I doing with my life?” You know, that kind of existential crisis. And, I had met my now-fiancé when I was in Belfast that July, and nothing else was going on, and I kind of thought, “Screw it! I’m just going to move to Ireland!” (laughs) I had a relationship with a non-profit here and I thought I could go back as a volunteer. And in my head at the time, that meant after I’d volunteered with them for a year, they’d be able to hire me. I now realize how ridiculous that was, but at the time it sounded like a good idea. So I suppose why I left is kind of because of him but also because of me; I didn’t want to be in Wisconsin anymore.
Who did I leave with? Myself, and Christmas Pooh…which looked really weird because I don’t think he fit in my suitcase, so I think I was literally carrying him on the plane with my carryon, as a 22 year old. Which, looking back, is kind of ridiculous. But no, I went by myself, my parents drove me down to the airport in Chicago, and Tomas met me at the airport here. So I’ve lived in Belfast – it’ll be five years in January 2014. So just under five years. I chose Belfast because I’d actually done my study-abroad here my sophomore year of college, for one semester, and that was also when I met the organization that I went back and volunteered with. I really loved it when I was here, I had always wanted to come back, and then I’d been back for that exchange program and it reminded me of how much I loved it. I apparently didn’t spend that many days in the rain when I had visited previously, because….well, it rains all the time. In Belfast I work at NICEM, now, prior to that I was a youth worker, so I did a lot of community stuff, and research, stuff like that.
The object that I brought with me is my Christmas Pooh-Bear. I’ve had him since I was 8 or 9 years old, and I got him because when I was a kid, I was a competitive swimmer. I was never really all that great, up until I got Christmas Pooh. It was right after a swim meet, when I swam one of my best times, I dropped like 20 seconds in a 200-yard race, which is quite a lot, if you don’t know anything about swimming. I’d been working really hard and my dad was really proud of me, and I’d wanted Christmas Pooh for ages, but it was really expensive. So that was my reward.
Why I brought it with me – I suppose leaving home and moving here was kind of the first big adult thing that I did – moving out of my parents’ home. I mean, I’d been living at University and stuff, but you come home every couple of weekends and summers. So I suppose it was just a connection, not just to home, but to childhood, which I was pretty much leaving behind (as well as my home). And also, he’s super cute, so I don’t know how you’d leave that behind!