There is a phrase the Irish are very fond of: “It will all be grand.” It basically the Irish answer to “Keep calm and carry on” or “Don’t worry, be happy.” One of our program directors has repeated this mantra to our group of 34 students repeatedly because many Irish customs are difficult to get used to. For example, classes start tomorrow and I am still unsure of what exactly I am taking. This is completely normal for Irish students, whereas in the U.S. I would have already purchased my overpriced textbooks two months ago. Something as simple as the realization that the school library is closed on Sundays can leave a study abroad student’s head spinning.
Aside from these minor bumps in the road, the first week has been remarkably exciting. Dublin City University is about a 20-minute bus ride from Dublin City Centre. My friends and I have taken every opportunity to go explore the city and I have felt like I have spent an eternity on the bus. It has not deterred me from having fun, as those bus rides are spent with good friends and, thankfully, free Wi-fi.
The beginning has mostly consisted of trips to the supermarket and mall, get situated, orientation sessions, and making friends. With 34 people in the program, it is interesting to consider the dynamics of friend groups made and changed. The highlight of my week was when I got a tap on the shoulder late one night in the city centre. I turned to find a face it took me a second to recognize. The day before, I had met a group of French exchange students trying to find a basketball to play with at the DCU gym. I joined them. Although our basketball search came up short, it was so funny to find my new friend about 45 minutes from campus. We exchanged Facebook information, and obviously had to take a photo.
One of the biggest challenges for me is just getting accustomed to the cultural differences. The only time I have really gotten homesick was when I was unable to find pretzels in two grocery stores. Getting lost in the city, committing cultural faux-pas (which I will discuss next week) and the academic differences are just a few of the challenges I have faced. I am eager to continue to learn about the city and get used to Irish customs. I cannot wait to feel like a local and be (hopefully) able to be a good tour guide in the city for visiting friends and family.