The first two months of my study abroad experience in Cork, Ireland, have been a whirlwind to say the least. While I’m having trouble coming to terms with the fact that my semester abroad is halfway over, I’m using this time to reflect on some of the things I’ve learned not only about Ireland but also about what it’s like to stay in a foreign country for an extended amount of time. As one would expect, you learn a lot by stepping out of your comfort zone, especially when it comes to travel!
Within my first few days of being in Ireland, I realized there’s a pretty substantial difference between going on a vacation to a foreign country and living in one. For example, when you’re on vacation for say, a few days, you don’t have to worry about things like grocery shopping for the week, extended-stay visas, and assignment deadlines. Since I was going to be in Ireland for four months, I would have to get used to going about my daily life and fulfilling student obligations 3,000 miles from home. While it’s imperative to explore wherever you’re studying and see the sights that your host country has to offer, it’s equally important to establish a balance between sightseeing and school work. Setting aside time for different activities and obligations has definitely helped me when it comes to staying focused abroad!
I am studying at University College Cork this semester, and I immediately noticed that the school is much larger than I anticipated. Undoubtedly, you’re going to have a very different experience at a university with nearly 15,000 undergraduate students as opposed to a smaller school like Salve. However, I still found it relatively easy to learn in a larger classroom which was definitely a relief as I was unsure how the classes would be taught in this new environment. Despite the fact that a larger environment is definitely something that one would have to get accustomed to, I have really enjoyed the different experiences that have come with it! I’m looking at it as an opportunity to learn how to get used to a new lifestyle, as that will likely be something I’ll have to do several times throughout my life. As of now, I am taking four classes (as opposed to my usual five) and I attend nine classes per week. This has left me with more time on my hands than I typically have at Salve which is great as this gives me more leeway to take advantage of my time in Ireland!
While I had done a decent amount of research prior to my departure (which is essential if you’re considering studying abroad!), I don’t think I fully realized how much the weather fluctuates in Ireland. You could be in the middle of a downpour one minute and it will be sunny one minute later. If I had to give anyone a single piece of advice for visiting Ireland, it would be to carry an umbrella everywhere! Back in August, aside from getting used to temperatures being in Celsius instead of Fahrenheit, it was difficult to figure out what to wear for the day knowing it would feel like fall in the morning and summer in the afternoon. Adaptability is definitely a skill that I have honed during this experience and it will definitely come in handy not only abroad, but in my daily life.
While the United States is known for its wide variety of snacks, I didn’t expect to love Irish snacks as much as I do! There are several flavors of potato chip flavors on the market here that I have never seen back home, notably “cheese and onion”. It can be most easily described as a slightly different version of sour cream and onion, but I think I actually prefer it! There are several brands here that I’ve never seen before, which also applies to things other than food. However, this has made me more eager to try whatever new thing I can as I will not have the opportunity to do some of these things when I return home. While I definitely miss New York pizza and Lay’s chips, I know that I’ll be able to enjoy those in January. For now, however, I definitely want to expand my horizons even more when it comes to trying everything that Ireland has to offer.
Summarily, I’ve really enjoyed living in Ireland these past two months. While some aspects of my adjustment were a bit more challenging than others, I’ll be able to turn those experiences into life lessons. My time here has been a learning experience in so many ways, and I’m beyond excited for the second half of my semester in Cork!
Sarah Kraus (’24) is a European History Major and Cultural and Historic Preservation Minor at Salve Regina University studying abroad at University College Cork in Cork, Ireland.