Although many aspects of University life transcend countries, such as lectures and professors and papers and grades, it is interesting to pick up on the subtle lifestyle differences of Irish students here, as well as the changes international students such as myself must make.
To begin, NUI-Galway has a much smaller campus than I am accustomed to in Madison. I don’t just mean in terms of people and number of buildings, but even the relative intimacy of the campus. When I walk into the main concourse where most of our classes are held, I walk by lockers and students sitting and chatting in close-knit groups. A few of my fellow Badgers and I joked that it feels a bit like high school again—not to mention that right downstairs is a cafeteria in which everyone sits with the same group of friends they’ve grown up with and been eating lunch with since “primary” school.
Another funny idiosyncrasy I’ve picked up on, is the way in which Irish students refer to a day of classes. At Madison, we would say, “I’m going to class today.” But in the Irish context they say, “I’m going to college today.” It took a few times hearing the expression for me to understand that the Irish students aren’t referring to the lifestyle decision to attend a university (which for us would be the implication), but rather that they simply plan on going to their biology lecture at 3 p.m. It reminds me of when I was in high school and would say that I was going to school that day. Rather than a collection of classes, they associate anything school-related as “going to college” as if it is an arbitrary decision from day-to-day.
I live in an apartment village about 35 minutes walking distance from the school. On a nice day, it’s a lovely walk into campus, but more often than not, I resort to taking the Village Shuttle into school. As I step on the bus in the morning and after class, I can’t help but reminisce on my many days riding the school bus to and from school.
Finally, communication. At home, I have a nice touch-screen cell phone. It is nothing fancy and not a smart phone, but at the least I have a keyboard to text from and can receive updates from my social media like Twitter and Facebook. By virtue of living in a country for only a brief while, it is most practical to use a pay-by phone here. It’s funny how accustomed I am to my higher tech phone at home. Using my small flip phone here has brought me back to the realm of T9 shortcut texting and using texting slang, like “btw” or “u.” Who has time to type through all of the letter sequences on these small devices!? I also must admit it took me a week to figure out texting and I am still working on how to text numbers. So for now, I will continue to ask my friends to meet me at “seven forty five” and “ttyl.”
Ahh, how I feel as though I’ve been swept back in time. Perhaps I’ll learn to embrace it—form my own clique to eat lunch with in the cafeteria and make new “bus buddy” pals. Or, I can accept that I’m not fooling any of the Irish students and will live out my experience here being a little awkward in this context but American. And I am just fine with that.