Almost two weeks of studying abroad in Ireland have gone by and yet it doesn’t feel that way. At times I feel as if I have been living here for two months, at others, as if I’ve been here two days. My host family has been wonderful. They are kind and helpful, and I felt like I belonged here almost right away. School has also been a bit of a help. It was nice to be able to settle into a routine quickly and meet the other foreign students as well as the Irish students. What with buying school supplies, meeting new people, and getting settled into school and life, it’s been a busy two weeks.
When I would talk to other Americans about Ireland before I came, I found that four things were often mentioned. The scenery, the people, the food, and of course, the rain. Everyone I talked to said something about the beautiful scenery, whether they’d been there or not. Let me tell you, the landscape has not disappointed. Ireland is just as beautiful as I’ve heard it is, and I really haven’t seen that much yet. I was able to go to a nearby beach the other day and it was stunning.
I have not seen much of my town yet, but plan to soon. Another thing constantly talked about was the friendliness of Irish people. While I cannot vouch for everyone, the Irish I’ve met have been wonderfully kind and quick to help. Irish food, at least what I’ve had so far, is not too different from American food. Of course, some foods, like bacon and cabbage or lamb, are not often to be had in Indiana. However, they were delicious, so perhaps they should be! As for the infamous Irish rain – what you’ve heard is not too far from the truth. It does rain quite often and does have a tendency to be overcast, but I’ve also had some beautiful, warm days. I love rain, actually, so everyday is a good one for me.
Now that we’ve finished with the pleasantries, a bit about the more challenging aspects of the program so far…
These past two weeks have been a challenge for me because I have to get up the courage to talk to and start to get to know new people. First, it was with the other foreign students. I am the only American, and the only native English speaker among them. So, it was difficult, in the beginning, because I felt like I had nothing in common with any of them. However, once school started I realized that we were all confused and lost and foreign, so that made it easier to start talking with them. After almost two weeks of trying to help each other find classes, I feel as if we are all a bit more comfortable with each other.
As for the Irish students, talking to them was, and still is, incredibly intimidating. They all already have their own friends here, and don’t need to be friends with me. And while it would make things easier, they have no obligation to initiate conversation. That responsibility falls on me. This is a huge leap out of my comfort zone, but if I want to make friends and become part of my host community, and I do, it’s necessary.
But, it’s already becoming easier to talk to the Irish students, all of whom have been friendly. And now I’m beginning to see good things come from stepping outside of my comfort zone. Talking to both the foreign and the Irish students has given me an opportunity to get a better understanding of how other cultures work. Mostly we’ve compared schools and education systems, and it’s fascinating to hear about how other cultures handle education. I’m so excited to learn more!
Homesickness is another challenge, but it’s one that’s hard to vocalize. It’s not only the big things I miss, like my friends and my family, but also just the familiarity of home. Some days are harder than others, and I know that as time goes on it will get harder, but also better. I knew this wasn’t going to be easy, and I know that there will be rough spots, but I’m positive that I can make this a wonderful experience.
Kayla Trowbridge is 16 years old and lives in Zionsville, Indiana. Her goal during her study abroad program is to “create relationships that will continue throughout my life and develop a new understanding of the Irish culture.” Follow Kayla’s adventure in Ireland on her blog post updates throughout her program.