Well, folks, it's been a full week since I landed in Dublin, and it's safe to say that I am pleasantly overwhelmed.
So much has happened in the past seven days. As I sat here in the basement of a coffee shop to write this blog post, I'm not even sure where to start. This week has been filled with so many introductions, surprises, learning, and adventures, I find it almost impossible to summarize, but I’ll do my best.
I think the thing that has surprised me most since my arrival is how quickly all of my fellow IES Abroad students and I have managed to bond. As I mentioned in my last post, making friends was something I was especially anxious about prior to my departure, but I'm happy to say that the community I have found at IES Abroad has surpassed all of my expectations. Everyone I have met, from the local Irish folks who have given us tours and the IES Abroad guides who have graciously helped us adjust, to the students from all over America (and Canada!), has been absolutely welcoming. I think in this unique situation where no one here knows anyone and we've all been thrust into something entirely new to all of us, we have been somewhat forced to build a community, and it's been for the best. We’ve had the best time getting settled together and exploring the city and beyond, and I already feel that many of us will remain friends for a long time.
Dublin itself is a brilliant city. Having traveled a bit in my past, I would describe it as London’s scrappier, more fun younger brother, although I’m not sure the locals would approve of that description. Through our guided tours and my own excursions, I've found so many interesting and unique parts of the city, from the rich history and familial feeling of The Liberties to the excitement of Temple Bar. The IES Abroad center, where I'll be taking classes for the next three weeks before the Gaiety School starts up, is located in Dublin 6, which is a long walk from our residence but a really lovely, Georgian area that I can’t wait to explore further.
As much as I have enjoyed getting to know my new home in Dublin, this past weekend a few friends and I were itching to see more of Ireland, so we decided to take a day trip to Glendalough (Irish for “valley of the two lakes”), a monastery-turned-national-park settled in the gorgeous County Wicklow, which is affectionately and accurately dubbed the Garden of Ireland.
After doing some hiking there and enjoying the views of the Upper Lake, we took in a sheep-herding demonstration put on by a shepherd and his two-year-old border collie, Maggie, and then drove out to the medieval town of Kilkenny, which holds a magnificent castle and neighborhoods spawning out from it that appear to be straight out of a storybook. We did all of this through a bus tour that only cost twenty euro per person.
Beyond getting to know the city, it’s been an even greater joy to get to know some of the people of Ireland, even though I have run into a few confusing cultural differences. I’ve composed a short list of things I have learned about the Irish in the past week. It’s a list that I’m sure will continue to grow, but here’s what I have so far:
Lesson 1: The Irish swear...a lot.
This has taken some getting used to, but it has only added to the charm of this city. My professors, waiters, and tour guides have all casually slipped in a few f-bombs since I’ve been here, and although jarring at first, it’s given us Americans a real laugh.
Lesson 2: The Irish ask questions without meaning to.
My Irish professors will often finish a command with, “Is that alright?", but they don’t expect an answer, it’s just a command.
Lesson 3: Irish people love to give suggestions.
In my experience so far, the locals here are very helpful, almost to a fault. For example, on my first night here, my roommates and I asked our server what her recommendations were for good pubs to visit, and she spent approximately ten minutes sharing her personal opinion on just about all of the local hotspots for teens in Dublin.
Lesson 4: Irish people are very go-with-the-flow.
The Irish people I’ve met so far don’t really care about being exactly on time or having everything planned in advance, and as a planner myself, this is definitely going to take some getting used to. For example, I started classes today, but I only got my schedule two days ago. I still don’t have my class schedule for once classes at the Gaiety start up, and I won’t for a while. My professors have told us that this is just the way things are here, so I guess I’ll have to roll with it!
Lesson 5: The Irish take pride in their writers far more than most places I’ve been to.
Across the board, I have noticed a real reverence for great Irish writers and artists among Dubliners. Just today in class, my professor shared with us that the current Irish president is first and foremost a poet, and that’s the way the Irish like it. I also have come across many landmarks commemorating authors, like a bridge named after Samuel Beckett and a pub called the Bernard Shaw. As a literature enthusiast, this is all really heartwarming.
There are many more things I’ve learned in the past week that I could go on and on about, but I’ll spare you the time for now. It has been a whirlwind of a week, and I’ve barely had time to decompress all the things I’ve seen and learned, but so far I could not be more grateful to be staying in such a rich, lively, and diverse place as Dublin. I’ll be back soon to share more of my experiences, but for now, onto more adventures!
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<p>Hey there! My name is Caroline Norton, and I am a junior at Texas Christian University with a huge passion for theatre! My favorite sweet snack is frosted circus animal cookies, I have never been to Ireland before, and I kind of believe I am a 40-year-old woman trapped inside a 19-year-old's body. I love to bring stories to life whenever I can whether it be through acting, writing, singing, or any other form of artistic expression, and nothing gives me a greater sense of fulfillment than creating something artistic for others to enjoy.</p>