And so begins my Mitchell Journal and the longest time I’ve ever spent away from the States.
True, I spent 4 months in Italy as a junior at Georgetown, but it was in Georgetown’s own villa with fellow Hoyas I had known for years. Now I’m one of a few Americans in a foreign university, and even though it is all English, I get picked out as an American here a whole lot faster than I ever did in Italy (that my Italian accent is a good deal stronger than my Irish one is a strange prospect). All I have to do is open my mouth, and the question is, “So where in America are you from?” comes back at me. And if I say DC, I have to explain that I mean Washington, DC. It’s funny, everywhere else I’ve been in Europe, saying that I am American was plenty, but the Irish are curious, and love to strike up a conversation; even if it means nearly passing out in the gym’s steam room because you’ve lost track of time.
Daniel, the other Mitchell Scholar at DCU, and I arrived together on the same flight, and instantly we couldn’t have been more impressed with the attention given us. We were met at the airport, driven to the campus, guided to get our keys, and helped with our luggage up into our respective apartments. Immediately after unpacking, we endeavored to get acquainted with our surroundings. DCU is in a suburb setting where the houses are carbon copies of each other as are the street names if you aren’t very attentive. Over the course of the first week we learned where to grocery shop, how to negotiate the buses to the City Centre, and how everything we could ever want was to be found at Argos – a one room department store in which you select items from a catalogue, and they are brought out to you.
Registration and such was quite the throw back. I can’t count the number of stations and desks and forms and different dates and times there were to keep straight. The Garda (national police/immigrations too) was about as much fun. As Americans we have a status somewhere between that of the EU crew upon whom there are no restrictions and the rest of the world that needs full-fledged visas. We just needed to plunk down 100 euro for a “registration” card by braving a 2-3 hour process of more desks and forms.
My program was different that I was accustomed to as well. First semester, all courses are required, but only 3 have assignments. All classes are from Tuesday-Thursday, so I have four day weekends as a rule. In the middle of each semester, there is a “reading week” without classes to allow students to catch up on work. Cleverly, my first three papers are due the week following it.
Academically, I was surprised to say the least. While my peers are incredibly talkative outside of class, it is rare that anyone but the Americans and the seventy-something year-old Irish colonel in our class says anything. He, however, is quite the character. Quick to pick a fight with myself and another outspoken American conservative, “class” usually continues at the campus pub in small session continuing to hash out the nuances in a perfectly convivial, if spirited, tone.
I quickly gained an appreciation for the fact the DCU’s campus is close enough to Dublin Airport to be accessible by local bus. That fact plus Ryan Air has resulted in a great number of travel plans. The first trip was to London where I met up with my boyfriend who I hadn’t seen since I left. We had been talking daily via Skype, which allowed us to talk as long as we wanted through our computers and webcams, and importantly for me, allowed me to see and talk to our beagle puppy, Lori. The big news from the London trip is that Jeff is no longer my boyfriend, but my fiancé! He proposed in Hyde Park, and after consulting with our families, it looks like an August 2008 wedding is in store. (We’d like to make sure I survive my first year at the Georgetown Law Center).
Outside of Ireland, I have plans to visit Paris for fun, Palermo and Rome for research, and Corfu for an academic conference. On the island, I hope to crash at each of my fellow Mitchell Scholars’ places at some point over the year. If there was one thing I learned while in Italy, it was that traveling is one of the best parts of being in Europe for an extended period of time.
Thanksgiving is coming, and I couldn’t be more excited to see all the Mitchell Scholars again for a weekend. Orientation was a blast, and I am beyond thankful for all of the very personal and sincere care and attention that Trina and Mary Lou have lavished on us to make sure that we have everything we need to make the absolute most of this still unbelievable opportunity; many thanks to them and all of the program’s sponsors and benefactors.
Until next time…cheers!