With my time in Dublin shortly coming to an end, I have found myself reflecting about my time here and how my mindset has changed since living here. Although at first I was hesitant about leaving the country for four months to study abroad, by the end of the semester the thought of beginning my college experience any other way seemed unfitting.
Never having been to Ireland before, I had many preconceived notions about what life in Ireland would be like. These initial thoughts paralleled the provincial stereotypes that American culture has often depicted Ireland to be: a country filled with green pastures, Guinness, and never-ending rain. And, after landing in an airport located directly across from a farm, where the cows were only feet from the landing strip, I thought my assumptions were correct; however, I was soon proven wrong.
Over my time here, I learned that Dublin is a modern city with shopping centers, music venues, bars and other unique sources of entertainment. Having lived my entire life just outside of New York City, I was already accustomed to certain aspects of city life that are also present in Dublin’s culture. Street side entertainers such as singers, dancers, and artists occupy Grafton Street, a pedestrianized street in the center of Dublin, similar to the tourist driven areas of New York.
However, despite the similarities, adjusting to life in another country had been challenging. Simple familiarities that I have become accustomed to had been replaced with the similar, yet distinctive, Irish culture. For instance, grocery shopping, an intercultural task, is gone about differently in Ireland than it is in the U.S. Rather than having our groceries bagged in plastic bags for us, we are required to fill reusable bags ourselves. Why? I asked myself the same question and it wasn’t until I became more acclimated with life here that I was able to see the underlying cultural differences that were beginning to materialize in my daily routine that accounted for this situation. Ireland is considerably more environmentally friendly than the United States. Simple precautions such as conserving plastic by using reusable bags in grocery stores (and enforcing that idea by charging people for extra bags) may have seemed ridiculous and inconvenient at first but has a greater purpose.
Although the cultural differences that are very prevalent in my everyday life are in their own way challenges to overcome, the biggest challenge I have faced has been my homesickness. With such busy schedules it is easy to get caught up in what is going on around us and temporarily forget what is waiting for us back at home; however, during down time I often find myself missing my family, friends, and everything encompassing my life back in New York. I realized the extent of my homesickness as I found myself getting overly excited at the sign of American brand products in local grocery stores, paying exorbitant amounts of money for the imported products just to feel at home. Although the homesickness at times can be overwhelming, I remind myself that the hardest goodbyes are those that represent something intangible and meaningful that I should be grateful to have, and that my friends and family are only a phone call away.
Going into this trip my goal was to take advantage of every opportunity that came my way, from traveling throughout Europe to utilizing everything that DBS had to offer. I can happily say that I have accomplished both of these goals and that by doing so, I was able to further immerse myself into the Irish culture, becoming a more mature, diverse, and culturally aware individual.