By now we have all lived through COVID-19 for more than two years. But what does that mean when you are travelling abroad, especially now that we have vaccines and boosters out there? I’m writing this article because, knowing immunocompromised people and being an anxious person myself, I want to be able to provide as transparent of picture as I can for interested students.
Since my experience is taking place in Dublin, and through IES Abroad, I can only write about this experience. In Dublin, masks are not mandatory anymore, and when you walk around and go into stores, you don’t see anybody wearing masks anymore. That’s more so the exception, not the rule.
As per IES Abroad rules, masks are no longer mandatory in the classroom, and it is left up to the professor. Nobody wears them.
Now, I have been here for 3 weeks and I can tell that the temperature is starting to drop since I arrived. Since then, I have also noticed more and more people coughing around me, which is just slightly anxiety inducing to me, especially as public transportation is inevitable to get to classes. And as winter comes around, and with it colds and the flu, I’m not sure how things will shift.
A few days ago, a housemate—we share a kitchen and a living room between 6 people—caught COVID-19. They were moved to a different apartment for a 10-day isolation. When this happens, food and other necessities are delivered to your door, so you are not left alone. However, per IES Abroad policy, close contacts are not required to test. I say this, because I want to acknowledge that for someone immunocompromised this can be a stressful situation to be in. Even if you make the personal choice to test after exposure, another housemate is not obligated to do so even if they are a close contact, so you might find yourself in a situation where you have to continue sharing the kitchen if you can’t afford eating out.
That said, it’s not all gloom.
Ireland has a good percentage of people that are vaccinated, and at home tests are easily accessible at any—or almost any—local pharmacy. I was able to get a pack of 5 test kits for only 11 euros. And you don’t need medical insurance to buy them. Masks are also readily available for you at stores near your apartment. Additionally, from what I can tell, most people seem to wear a mask when they feel very well. Although this is not something I can be sure of, and that could change as winter approaches.
And for those who stress about school, COVID-19 related absences are not counted against you, and the people from the program genuinely care and look after you.
While this post was not very light-hearted, I felt it was necessary to provide some information about a health issue that very much still affects people to this day. That way, you can also, hopefully, study abroad in Ireland with a full picture and with an understanding of what reality looks like here, so that you may take any preventive measures you must.
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The first time I met one of my best friends, she thought I hated her. I was just busy thinking of things we could have in common to continue the conversation. Since then, I have gotten better at the talking part. I'm not sure I've gotten better at the friendlier appearance part. Just know that I'm always excited to meet someone new!