January 16, 2017
Life is all about the connections you make and the people you meet. If I wasn’t already enough of a firm believer in that fact, studying abroad has done nothing but confirm it.
To be completely honest, my experience so far isn’t exactly what I expected it to be. It is not any better or worse, just different. Before I arrived in Ireland I had this picture in my mind where I was living amongst Irish students, creating lasting relationships with a bunch of them and essentially assimilating right into their world. I assumed the people I’d instantly bond with would be from Ireland…wasn’t that the point? But that is not at all what has happened, and looking back I now realize how unrealistic of a picture I had painted myself. When I really think about it, it makes total sense. There are hundreds of international students at Madison, yet I can’t think of one time where I have proactively gone out of my way to make friends with them, introduce myself, or invite them out with me and my already close knit group of friends (although when I get back I will definitely change that). Especially as a junior, most college students don’t roam around campus or go to classes with the intent of meeting new friends, particularly from different countries. This is just as true at NUIG as it is at Madison. Students go to class and take their notes, grab coffee or lunch in-between with their already determined friends, and talk about upcoming social gatherings or ones that just took place…just like I do. But now the roles are reversed. I am one of those international students…why did I think it would be any different in my case?
When this first dawned on me, I couldn’t help but feel a tad disappointed. I felt like my experience studying abroad wasn’t valid without that particular picture in my head. But after 2 weeks here, I’ve come to realize that this is all for the best and I wouldn’t change a single thing about my situation. Don’t get me wrong; I have definitely met plenty of Irish students. But my encounters with them have been short conversations in a local pub or small talk before class, not quite bonding experiences. While exceptions may occur eventually, considering this is only 2 weeks out of my 4 months here, those I have bonded with are the students who are in my same shoes, the ones who are going through what I am going through. The people I have become close to are ones who find this place new and exciting and want to explore all the in’s and out’s of it, rather than those who call this place home. While they aren’t exactly what I had in mind, I have created lifelong friendships…ones that would not have been possible without this incredible opportunity. These new and unexpected friends are the ones who have made these last 2 weeks so tremendous; the ones who have sightseen with me, navigated through campus with me, gone through the registration and class picking process with me and, oddly enough, come from (generally) the same area as me.