When I first said goodbye to my parents and walked by myself through the airport doors I felt an immediate rush of joy and excitement. When I was preparing to leave I was nervous that I would get home sick right away, but instead I embraced everything that has been thrown my way and it has helped me adjust to Ireland so much easier. Unlike my previous trip to Europe without my parents, this one was a lot more relaxing and enjoyable mainly because everyone speaks English and are really friendly. This also helps me feel comfortable speaking with the locals and asking them for directions or what I should order at the pubs. Slimbach described communitas perfectly on page 160 in the fact that it is double-edged and, quoting Craig Storti who said, “the more we retreat from the culture and the people, the less we learn about them; the less we learn about them, the more uncomfortable we feel among them, the more inclined we are to withdraw.” The number one reason why I was able to adjust so well to my new surroundings is all thanks to Mary Steele.
Mary has been with us since we arrived in Cork and has shown us around the school, city center, shopping plazas, and blarney. Without Mary I do not think I would have been able to find my way to immigration in the city center so I could get my visa to stay in Ireland. For a few days I associated mainly with my fellow Quinnipiac students but after meeting some of the other students during orientation, it was a quick turn around and we all started to get to know one another. Up until a couple of days ago I was a little nervous about asking the locals where things were, but after Mary sent us out to the city center to find buildings and answer questions I felt inclined to ask the locals, who happen to be the nicest people in the world.
Good thing I overcame my fear of asking strangers for directions because my biggest challenge thus far is definitely finding my way around Cork. I have never been good with directions, but I normally have google maps to help me. Now that I don’t have access to the internet where ever I go I must rely on the locals to help me get to where I need to be, which takes a while because everyone walks everywhere. I feel as if not knowing where I am going allows me to become more culturally connected with Ireland because I am always talking to the locals and learning so much about cork that I would have never known if I only used google maps.
Since I am a part of the early start program I have yet to meet any full time students at UCC so I have been unable to get acquainted with them and figure out where the best places to go are. Once the actually school year starts I will be joining multiple clubs and organizations to meet the ‘international’ students and learn more about their customs and maybe share some knowledge about my culture with them.
Even though I feel that I am adjusting well to the Irish culture I am not fully aware of my surroundings yet. Slimbach stated that, “The “belly” of the local culture will remain strange to us—and us to it—until we acquire a culturally appropriate frame of reference and repertoire of behaviors that enable us, ddespite our circumstance, to be an accepted and respected outsider” (p. 154). This quote along with the picture I chose of a gourmet American cuisine restaurant in the middle of Cork city. This picture represents that although I am comfortable being in Ireland, I still stand out as an American and am looked at as a guest in the country instead of a citizen.