Well, it's certainly been a while.
Don't be mad at me for taking so long to get back to you--there's been so much happening over the past few weeks that it's been hard to find the time to sit down and put everything into words. But I promised I would, and so I will. Here are some things you should know for your first few weeks in a new city (specifically Dublin, but take what you will from it if you're traveling elsewhere). I have learned these from some pretty embarrassing and awkward experiences, as well as some exciting and new ones. All my faux pas aside, I wouldn't trade a moment of my time here so far for anything, although maybe I could have done without the 40 minutes waiting for the tour bus that never appeared. I lived through all of this so that you, my friends, could learn from it.
1) PLEASE TIP YOUR SERVER.
This one was big. For the first few days, I went around to various restaurants without leaving a single tip. I assumed that you didn't tip in European restaurants, that to do so was considered somewhat offensive, and I didn't really do my research to back that up. Mistake. Tipping is not as big here as it is in the US, it's true. But you still should. 10% is standard. Here's what will get you--some places include the service charge in the bill, and some don't. Keep an eye out for that on your receipts. Bars have different rules. You don't usually tip a bartender, but if you are amazed by the service you're getting, or if you're just in a nice mood, round up to the nearest Euro. Another thing to keep in mind when dining out: most places won't split tabs. Sometimes they'll ask you if you're in a big group or if you seem really American in the moment, but most of the time they won't. It's easier in this case to deal in cash, or to all Venmo one person in the group.
2) BRING BETTER WALKING SHOES. ALSO, BAND-AIDS FOR WHEN YOU INEVITABLY GET BLISTERS EVEN THOUGH YOU BROUGHT BETTER WALKING SHOES.
You may think you know how much walking you're going to do in Europe, but I'm going to go ahead and assume that you actually don't. I'd been to Europe before coming here, so I knew most people walk from place to place. But when you're living here, and your classes at the IES Abroad center are 40 minutes away from your apartment, and you're trying to save money but you forgot to make a PB&J for lunch so you've got to walk all the way back, and you have a show to see in Temple Bar in two hours, you are going to walk five or six miles a day. This isn't to scare you. It's a really nice walk. The IES Abroad center is in a really cool neighborhood of Dublin, so you pass lots of neat bars and cafés and the like. Plus, all the walking helps familiarize you with the city really quickly. But there hasn't been a day I've lived here that I haven't walked at least three miles, which is not what I'm used to as a very lazy person. At this point the blisters on my feet are permanent. I've gone through a lot of Band-Aids. Don't be like me. Leave the boots you can't wear for more than two hours at a time at home. Break in your brand-new walking shoes before you show up in Dublin.
3) GO ON THE FIELD TRIPS, EVEN THOUGH THEY'RE ON SATURDAYS AND YOU'D MUCH RATHER SLEEP IN.
Honesty Hour: I am guilty of skipping a field trip. IES Abroad will want me to tell you that this is not advisable. I still had to pay for it. And I had to communicate that I was skipping the field trip (which you MUST do!) so that nobody had to wait around on me to show up. It was a field trip about Gaelic sports! I suck at sports! Also, my roommate Hannah was sick. What would she do all day if I wasn't there to entertain her? These were the things I told myself as I emailed my way out. Honesty Hour, Part II: I regret skipping the field trip. This is not an advertisement for IES Abroad field trips, but my honest opinion. They pick events that pack a lot of learning and enjoyment into a few hours. I ended up going on the field trip the next weekend to Causey Farm (even though I did consider bailing again--the bus left at 9:30 in the morning! That's prime Saturday-morning sleep time!) and I loved it. It was the best craic I've had in Ireland so far. I learned a traditional dance! I held a puppy! I made bread! I ended up having to play hurling even though I skipped the sports field trip! I jumped in a bog! See cover photo for evidence of my filthy glee. The field trip was well worth waking up at eight in the morning, which is a very big deal for me to admit. Not many things warrant an early rise on a Saturday, but IES Abroad field trips certainly do.
4) YOU DON'T HAVE TO GO OUT FOR DRINKS EVERY TIME SOMEONE ASKS YOU. PLEASE DON'T GO OUT FOR DRINKS EVERY TIME SOMEONE ASKS YOU.
Dublin is an expensive city. You think that it isn't, when you pay less than a euro for a loaf of bread. But a pint of Guinness is at least five euro no matter where you go, and sometimes as much as seven or eight if you're out in Temple Bar. I know that you're going to want to enjoy the luxury of casual drinking, particularly if you're not able to do so in the States because you're under 21, and a great way to make new friends early on is to invite everyone out for a pint. Seriously, though, you're going to burn through your money that way. Take it from me. I have burnt through plenty of money that way. Sorry, Mom. The overwhelming desire to make friends made me do it! Luckily, there are free things you can do around Dublin as well. Go on a walk in Phoenix Park! Check out the bog bodies in the archaeology museum--or check out any museum, they're all free here! Walk around the campus of Trinity College! A lot of my suggestions involve walking, but you're already walking anyway, so you might as well walk around nice stuff. At the very least, go to the events held by the apartment complex, because there's almost always free pizza and there's a lot less walking involved. Hold onto your money for when you suddenly want to take a weekend trip to Edinburgh, or for when you realize you have definitely not packed enough sweaters (a lesson for another post).
Those are my biggest tidbits of advice so far. This weekend I'm off to Belfast with some friends to visit the Giant's Causeway and the Titanic Museum. Next weekend the Gaiety students have a field trip over to London, which I'm super excited for. Hopefully I'll manage to get back to you relatively soon, and hopefully I'll have fewer mishaps to advise you against.
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<p>Likes old things, art, and coffee. Dislikes beets and waking up early. Speaks three languages (and hopes to learn more). Secret cat whisperer. Perfecting a British accent.</p>