Wednesday, August 27, 2014

First Days

In case you were wondering, it does rain a
lot in Ireland.
      This semester I am studying abroad at Trinity College Dublin, part of the University of Dublin, in Dublin, Ireland. Again, just to be clear, I’m in Dublin. Our semester begins with a three-week international orientation, so right now the only people on campus are tourists and the 80 or so international students. We’ve spent the first few days getting used to the area, trying to figure out where to get food, and how to access the Internet. That last one has proved to be the most challenge aspect so far – one so quickly forgets what it is like to live with only a wired connection (no Wi-Fi in the dorms). Given that the College is approaching it’s 450th anniversary, I just pleased that there’s Internet to be found anywhere.

      Our orientation is an academic, as well as a cultural, program. Even so, there are only three hours of class scheduled everyday. The rest of our time is our own. We’re encouraged to explore, but most of us have spent most of the past few days in the IT center or setting up bank accounts. Aside from learning that most of the decorative, carved stone pieces on post-invasion Anglo-Norman churches in Ireland were actually imported from quarries around Bristol, the most important thing we’ve discovered so far is that the small changes are the ones you notice the most. Even if they speak the same language and prefer the same color for sweaters, things will still be unexpectedly different. Some things are obvious and can be prepared for: 58° weather in August – everyday, at least two hours of rain – everyday, different colored money. It’s the small things that have tripped me up the most. What side of the stairs do you walk up? (It’s still the right side.) Do you tip in a pub? (Bartender – no, Wait staff – yes.) Which way do you look before crossing the street? (Right, then left, then right again. I don’t know if I’ll figure that one out. I’m simply doomed to the awkward head-swivel for the next few months.)

Grey and green, Ireland's national colors.
      If you are able to suppress the constant fear of getting run over, Dublin is an absolutely wonderful city. The dorms we’re staying in are about 4 km from main campus, in Dartry, which is technically outside of Dublin proper. The walk to campus is almost a straight shot down Rathmines and Harcourt Streets, providing a tour of Dublin’s residential and commercial districts. I think we pass at least 10 pubs in the first twenty minutes alone. Trinity College itself is located right in the city centre, next to the National Gallery and National Museum. A spike-topped wall rings campus, while most of the buildings match the grey of sky. It’s my ideal college aesthetic.

2 comments:

Allison said...

Great to see this space; I came via your mom's facebook page. Our family hopes to spend about two weeks in Dublin and environs this summer and I look forward to hearing your impressions.

Victor Donnay said...

Mike thanks so much for the news. Sounds chilly and damp - perfect remedy for the 90 degree weather we had today.