My time in Dublin thus far has been quite the adventure. From the first few days of walking around the city in a zombie-like jet-lagged state, to being in tears at the end of the first session while having to say goodbye, I have come a long way. My expectations for Dublin were way off, but then again, most expectations are. Coming here, I knew that Dublin would be a thriving, international city but some part of me still wanted to believe it would be the green rolling hills full of sheep and farmers. While I was initially disappointed, little did I know that in a few weeks time I would be absolutely in love with this city.
Our teachers, Don and Martin, are great and they compliment each other well. Martin tries to always make sure we feel comfortable in the city and our school material and makes sure we understand Irish culture. Don helps us understand the culture too, usually by means of shocking us with the bluntness and forwardness that is uniquely Irish. The first week here was pretty much all orientation. As our teacher Martin walked us through the city, I was trying desperately to remember where everything is, mostly due to the fact that he continued to jokingly threaten us with “ambush orienteering” in which he would leave us on our own to find our way, and I was determined to be ready for it. We walked around Dublin City Hall and were able to view the gardens of the black pool where Dublin’s name is derived from, originally called Dubh Linn. We walked along St. Audeon’s, Christchurch Cathedral, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
|St. Patrick's Cathedral|
We also had class orientation and Don and Martin gave us advice about being an American living in Ireland. I learned about “slagging” the first day of class, and I then experienced it first hand that night… and pretty much every other night I’ve been here. Slagging is basically poking fun of Americans but it is always done in good jest, and I’ve found that most Irish that slag you do it because they like you and it’s an easy conversation opener. There is one social aspect I picked up on immediately after arriving in Dublin; the Irish are extremely sarcastic and have a very dry sense of humor. The Irish perceive Americans as being extremely gullible, a stereotype I’ve realized we contribute to frequently, especially after Martin had convinced half of our class that the sheep in Ireland actually have longer back legs than front ones. Slagged.
All of my free time the first few weeks was spent traveling to different parts of Ireland. Heading out to the countryside was wonderful and it’s the image most people have when they think of Ireland; lots of green hills and beautiful seaside cliffs. I spent my first weekend in Galway, which I absolutely loved. Galway seems like a miniature version of Dublin; it has a small town feel but still all the amenities of a big city. It seemed to have a more “Irish” feel to it. The Irish are all extremely friendly and hospitable and when I walked into the pub in Galway that first weekend, I felt like I was already among friends. The weekend we were there they were having a Havana festival, so the town was full of live music and we sat out on the canal and watched the Havana dancers. It was awesome. I also took many day trips traveling to little fishing towns just outside of Dublin, and while these towns are usually less than an hour train ride away, I feel like I’m in a different country. The most memorable town for me was Howth (although seeing Bono’s door in Killiney was a close second.) My day in Howth consisted of gallivanting around the markets, hiking through the Howth Castle Gardens, and having fresh seafood and a bottle of wine overlooking the ocean. Not a bad day at all.
|Castle Gardens in Howth|
|At Croagh Patrick|
We also got to tour Tom Hennigan’s farm. His farm has been in his family for generations and we learned all about how Irish farmers used to live back in the 1800’s. With my own family hailing from County Mayo, I couldn’t help but imagine that my ancestors lived similarly. I loved getting to hear from Tom as he talked to us about “the good old days” of Ireland and how much the world has changed. Most of the Irish people that I have conversed with are young college aged students like myself, so it was interesting getting to hear from someone from an older generation. Our West of Ireland trip was so great because we went to places that I would never have gone to on my own. It was also a last hoorah for the students that were leaving after the first session. Although I was really sad to say goodbye to the first session people, it made me really thankful that I have another month here. My time in Ireland so far has been a crazy, exciting, and scary adventure!