Finding a new home in Dublin

Editor’s note: this semester, a handful of our journalists are studying abroad in the green country of Ireland. Every week, they’ll share stories of their adventures with us in our new study abroad column.

If I’ve learned anything on this trip, it’s about how quickly and efficiently humans can adapt to new situations. “Eat or be eaten” comes to mind, but in the case of study abroad, it’s thankfully a lot less violent than that old adage.

I’ve been here for less than two months, but already I feel so at home. It’s gotten to the point where we go on weekend trips, and I can’t wait to “get home” on Sunday night. Home. In another country across the ocean, away from family, friends and everything familiar. Although it’s not my true home, I do feel as I’m starting to belong here. It’s been a struggle at times to adapt and go with the flow, but I’ve adjusted more quickly than I thought I would.

When we first arrived in Dublin, I had no idea where I was going. We would walk down the street to the grocery store, and it would take me half an hour to get back because I took a wrong turn somewhere. We would walk across town and I felt like we had walked across a border. The city felt immense, unconquerable and terrifying. I was scared to leave the apartment for a while unless I was with a group, because I knew that I wouldn’t be able to find my way home alone. I’m pretty sure that there are 10-year-olds with a better sense of navigation and direction than I have. Case in point: I often see elementary school children with no parental supervision walking across town to school. How do they know where to go all the time?!

Thankfully, I have gotten over my fear of traveling alone. I now know how to navigate Dublin fairly well, and if I do get turned around, I’m pretty adept at knowing how to find my way to somewhere I do know. Walking around in groups did help for a while, but what ended up helping me the most was venturing out on my own occasionally, familiarizing myself with the streets with only myself to rely on. If I did get lost, I didn’t panic. I either pulled out my embarrassingly large tourist map or stopped someone on the street to ask for directions. In most cases everyone was very friendly and willing to help. Even though Dublin is a “big city,” you really have to give them credit for their willingness to help a small-college girl making 360s on the street attempting to locate a street sign (which here are on the sides of buildings, not on posts).

But getting used to life abroad isn’t just about learning to find your way around. It’s also about learning the cheapest place to buy groceries, the best restaurants, what subjects to bring up with a stranger and what to stay quiet about, colloquialisms, and more. There’s especially a learning curve if you go somewhere like Spain or Portugal where the language is not your first one. Thankfully that’s one thing in Dublin we haven’t had to worry about, although sometimes it is difficult to understand the thicker accents.

I never thought that Ireland would seem so much like a home to me. I always thought I would feel like an alien here, just passing through. Human beings have more of a capacity for adaptation than I ever thought possible. Now when I walk to work all dressed up and knowing where I’m headed, I actually feel as if I belong among the early morning rush. I live, work and have fun here, and even though I’ll always be a girl from Iowa, it’s comforting to know that as I head into the future, uncertain of where I’ll end up eventually, that I still have the ability to create a home and life for myself outside of my hometown.

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