Jackie here – currently crying because I am reminiscing about my semester abroad in Ireland. Just looking back at all of the pictures has me thinking WHEN AM I GOING BACK?!
If you haven’t been to the land of the Irish – I would highly recommend it. Everything about Ireland is amazing – from their people, to their culture, to their landscapes, to their men (… just kidding mom.)
I studied at the University of Limerick in Limerick, Ireland, my Junior year of college for one semester. It was terrifying “crossing the pond” to a whole new world – I couldn’t sleep for a week before I left!
A little about Limerick: Limerick is in the Mid-Western part of Ireland. It is one of the bigger cities in the country, and is affectionately known as “Stab City.” No, I am not kidding. Downtown Limerick is home to shops, restaurants, and the infamous Milk Market.
Okay great Jackie … now can we get to the point of this article?
Yes, we can. The point is to share what I learned from my semester of studying abroad.
So here it is:
1. The food is way better in America than in Ireland.
Sorry Ireland, but every American that has lived in Ireland will agree with this ... your food is very bland. Spice it up! Most of the things that I ate in Ireland were meat and potatoes. That’s about it. Americans are used to a variety of options – Chinese, Italian, Fast Food – all on one street, so when Ireland had the same options to eat … it was a little monotonous.
2. Living with 7 other people requires extreme patience.
I lived on campus in an apartment-style dorm, with 3 boys and 5 girls. My roommates were amazing. I couldn’t have asked to bunk with better people. BUT, I had to learn (quickly) that not everyone was as clean as I am.
3. The Irish don't really care about leprechauns and pots of gold and four leaf clovers.
Sure, those things are included in their history, but the Irish are more modern than I expected. They still study river dancing and traditional Irish music, but it's less celebrated than expected.
4. Also, they don't all live in cute little cottages in the countryside.
Some do, but a lot don't. The cities are quite big, and there are many of them. Sorry to burst everyone’s bubbles.
5. Ireland has absolutely breathtaking natural formations.
You probably knew that from Googling pictures or seeing them on TV ... but pictures don't give the Cliffs of Moher or Giant's Causeway justice. It's something that you need to physically experience in order to fully appreciate.
6. Prices of items aren't that expensive comparatively to America.
Sure, the exchange rate can get you, but some things are actually cheaper here than in America. For example, I paid 20 euro (about $22) per month for my phone plan - which includes unlimited text and data. Yeah, you are not going to find that deal with AT&T.
7. Irish people are some of the nicest people that I have ever met.
I did not meet one single Irish person that was mean or unpleasant. They were all accommodating. For example, I was invited to the Carambola Kidz Factory, a company that provides school lunches to schools, by the owner and CEO himself, Colm O'Brien. He took 2 hours out of his busy schedule to take me and my friend around, and then provided tea and snacks while we chatted about life. His motto is "how can I help you?" And he truly meant it. After asking him many questions about interview skills, he set up a meeting with his interviewing consultant, something that was above and beyond my expectations.
Also, I went home with my Irish friend, Amy Finnegan, and her family was so kind to me. Amy's mom took me out for a drink, prepared an amazing Irish breakfast, and washed my jeans when they got super dirty.
I could talk all day about how welcomed I felt in Ireland.
8. I have learned to appreciate other cultures.
2 of the people that I lived with were from Italy and one was from Scotland, as well as people from America. I don't think that I was intolerable to other cultures before, but until that experience, I hadn’t interacted with people from other countries. Because of my living situation, I learned about their customs and politics, and it really opened my eyes. For example, it is customary for Italians to eat dinner around 9 - 10 pm – my roommates would laugh at us when we said we were eating a "late" dinner at 7 pm.
9. I appreciate American academic systems way more than before.
Again, sorry Ireland (specifically the University of Limerick), but man, the way their school system is set up STINKS. All of the classes I took had one mid-term and one final. The mid-term was worth 20-30% of your grade, and the final was worth 70-80%. A passing grade was 40% (or a 30% if you pass the rest of your classes). What is up with that?! This gave the students no motivation to attend classes ... because essentially, all one has to do is show up for the final, and they are good to go.
I would like to sit down with the President of the University of Limerick and have a nice long chat with him.