I came to Ireland for adventure. I came to experience a new part of the world and a new culture. I came to have an easier access to traveling around Europe. I came to push myself out of my comfort zone. What is it that I have gotten out of my 2.5 weeks so far? Is it what I was hoping for? Is it better than what I was hoping for?
I have met people from all over the world: China, Spain, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Luxembourg, France, Italy, Greece, Canada, parts of America (mostly east coast), and of course Ireland. It’s amazing to me how so many cultures, backgrounds, and interests have all converged in one location to meet each other and experience a new way of life (oh, and study). My home in Seattle is a melting pot for a variety of different cultures and ethnicities, but I don’t think I’ve experienced as many different cultures and ethnicities in one location as there are here with the vast number of international students.
When coming to Ireland, I was very nervous as I mentioned in a previous post. Yes, my friend Tailor is studying at University of Limerick (UL) this spring too, but she’s 1 out of about 12,000 students (over 6 times as large as my university back home). I’m not used to lecture halls which hold over 100 students. I’m not used to a campus where you don’t have to consciously think about getting your 10,000 steps each day because of how large it is. Is making friends in class a thing? Seems difficult to do when all 100+ of you sit in a large lecture hall, doodle in your notebook while listening to the lecturer, and then leave. There’s no time to get to know your fellow peers; maybe you’ll learn the name of the guy who sits next to you. So, how do you make friends?
CLUBS & SOCIETIES.
No, I don’t want to over book myself like I do back home; I want to explore and travel. But, I also want to meet people and feel like I have a group here at UL. I talked about the Outdoor Pursuits Club (OPC) in a previous blog post, but I am going to talk about them again (This should not be a surprise to you, as I talk about The Mountaineers and all my adventures non-stop back home). Last week, Tailor and I bouldered all three days the wall was open; it has been a great way to make friends (both from Ireland and other parts of the world). Last Sunday, Tailor and I joined OPC on their first hike of the semester (I know it sounds like Tailor and I do everything together, but believe me, we’re really good at meeting others separately while doing the same/similar things. We didn’t just hike together; we hiked separately for most of the time while meeting others). There were about 20 of us who hiked 12km of Kerry Way.
Yes, it was a larger group than what Tailor and I are used to back home, but it was a good size for getting to talk with almost everyone on the trip. Although this hike was not the type of hike I am used to back home (hiking on dirt trails through a forest of towering evergreen trees with views of snowcapped peaks), it was a beautiful walk in the countryside, full of opportunities to make friends and see Ireland.
Home vs. Ireland:
After returning from this trip was when I finally started to really feel a part of the Irish OPC crew — they friended me on Facebook (it’s good they friended me because I wouldn’t have been able to spell half of their names) — okay, Facebook isn’t the best way to gauge friendship status. So, instead, here are some other ways that have made me feel more included. The other night at the climbing wall, Tailor and I stayed later than we typically do; it was just us and a few Irish creatively climbing boulder problems while joking around and laughing. On our walk back to our village, Tailor and I discussed how it feels like we are very much a part of OPC. You know you’ve reached that friendship status when you can be sarcastic/tease each other and the other person knows it’s in a loving way.
Through various interactions, I have come to realize how welcoming the Irish are and how much they care about me (and everyone else) as a person. Relationships of all types seem to be very important in the Irish culture. It’s not easy letting a person you’ve just met into your friend circle, especially if you and your friends have known each other for years; they don’t know your inside jokes, or much of your past/who you really are, or how you and your friends interact with each other. The Irish have been very welcoming to all the international students, taking us under their wings, making sure we stay safe and feel included here.
Back home in the States, people can be welcoming, but it takes a lot more time and effort to get them to open up. It’s much more difficult to feel apart of a group in the States until you’ve known the people for months/years. There’s a lot of having to “prove yourself worthy” back home, whereas here in Ireland, I’ve noticed people will talk to you no matter what; everyone wants to be your friend. I think we as Americans can learn a lot from the Irish.
Connections and friendships are what have gotten me through college (well, life in general), so I need to continue that here, just with a different group. Thank you everyone I’ve met here in Ireland for welcoming me with open arms and taking me under your wings!