From 3,745 miles away: adjusting
By Kelsey Lansing and Rose Gottschalk
Having passed the halfway point of our semester abroad, we are in the home stretch and still find ourselves adjusting to some of the new norms. There are so many unique elements to our study abroad journey that it’s impossible to list everything we have felt in these past weeks. However, from classes to host families to public transport, we try to look closer at some of these things. While everything is new and exciting, at a certain point we start to miss things from home.
One sentence we haven’t stopped using is “I miss my car.” In Ireland, we’ve had to adapt to public transportation, one of the many ways people get around; this includes the Dublin bus, Bus Eireann, the LUAS which is a tram system, and Dublin Area Rapid Transit (DART), the train system that branches out all across Ireland. Not all the stops line up or go exactly where we desire, so in some cases, we end up doing a lot of walking.
It’s fun to joke about how fit we feel, especially on the days where we walk a half hour or more to work. One thing we have yet to master is making sure we leave time for the inevitable Irish traffic. No matter how confident you are, a thirty-minute bus ride can quickly double during rush hours.
Not only is the timing of public transport annoying, but so are the people. A peaceful morning commute can easily be interrupted by someone talking incredibly loud or by a Netflix watcher without headphones. Honestly, who thought you could find that many pet peeves all in one spot? Getting a hang of public transport was a beast of its own; however, with the help of our new host family, we got a sense early on of what works best for what we need.
Host mom, host dad, host dogs, and host family: what odd terms to use when talking about the strangers that will soon become your family. We are living with Rosemarie and Brian in a beautiful suburb of Dublin called Dundrum. Between the seven of us, Josh and the family dogs, Sam and Abi, we all get along quite well, although we haven’t figured out an efficient bathroom schedule yet.
In a strange way, it feels like we’ve been adopted for the four months we’re here. Living with this family has given us the opportunity to see the Irish culture and lifestyle up close and personal. Rosemarie and Brian are always quick to give suggestions and sometimes warnings about anything. Oftentimes it’s about where to visit or how to get there.
In the house, we follow a pretty steady schedule: breakfast bright and early, supper at 7:00 p.m., and showering sometime in the evening, as long as the one bathroom is not occupied. Having five adults live under one roof can be pretty interesting at times but we all take trips away to alleviate the stress. The only issue is this throws all of our schedules off just a little.
Over the past couple of weeks, we have taken various trips either for a day or for the weekend. But no matter what exciting things we did or how long we were gone, one thing remains the same: we are overjoyed to arrive back “home.” It took a couple of weeks after arriving in Dundrum to familiarize ourselves with the suburb. While we miss the U.S. a lot, we are also realizing just how much we have adapted to this new home of ours. Friends back in the Midwest will ask about the “trip” and we will likely respond that we actually live here and it has been quite nice. We came to a place knowing nothing or no one, and then, suddenly, that unknown place has become mundane. There is an odd comfort in returning from a long day and plopping into bed knowing that no matter how strange, this place is home.
Although these were crucial aspects of adjusting to Ireland, the most important aspect of this semester is our education. Having crossed the halfway point, we were rewarded with review week, aka the Irish midterm. Falling halfway through the semester, it is prime time for studying, paper writing, or catching up on Netflix, as there aren’t classes or tests. This obviously differs from how things go in the States and, without a doubt, sparked some confusion.
Classes also take two different forms: seminar and lecture. We are taking a class called Irish Literary Revival which entails a seminar for an hour on Tuesdays and lecture for two hours on Thursdays. The Irish class is more lecture based, either by the professor or by a student giving a presentation. This, of course, is very different from the collaborative and hands-on work we have within the curriculum in the States. In America, we attend a liberal arts school that focuses heavily on giving students a well-rounded education, whereas Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art Design and Technology (IADT) students are provided with a very topic-specific education.
This past week we were part of a trial run for a new course that Loras College English Professor, Dr. Andrew Auge, is developing (Loras students know it as Democ, or Democracy and Global Diversity). The new course focuses on The Troubles in Ireland and, with some Irish students from IADT, not only were we able to help develop the course and give our feedback, but we were also able to chat with our professor regarding our experience so far. It was really nice to see another familiar face from home after being gone for a while.
Adjustments can be hard for anyone in any circumstance, although coming to a new country is quite the adjustment. Since Ireland is an English speaking country, you wouldn’t really assume that the differences are as great as they are. In the end, each experience we have teaches us something new and allows us to say that we have done it. The saying goes: “when in Rome,” but we say “when in Ireland.” This has been one of our major mindsets when we become fearful of trying new things. So this week’s motto is to have no fear and to try new things.
Kelsey & Rose