I’ve only been in Ireland now for about two and a half months, but I’m starting to appreciate the laid-back modus operandi here. When asked by a lecturer to give a typical Irish saying that describes the culture, my fellow Irish classmates all agreed on “It’ll be grand,” which I think does a great job summarizing their carefree outlook on life. Now contrast that happy-go-lucky sentiment with my own ultra-prepared and extra-careful attitude, and you’ve got a basic idea of my time here so far. Let me just give you a few examples.
When I found out last year that I had received the Mitchell Scholarship, I also discovered that “they” had placed me in my last choice program: Intercultural Studies at Dublin City University. After a moment of sadness, I decided that “they” must know more about the individual programs I had picked. But since I worry too much, I spent a great deal of time hemming and hawing over whether that was the right choice. When I arrived though, I met my course coordinator Ciarán Dunne and immediately felt at home. The course is not at all what I expected (an interdisciplinary program analyzing issues of inequality in cultural contexts), but it is broad enough to include my interest in inequality as well as my interest in language’s contribution to situations where cultures interact. This semester I’m taking a class called “Language, Power, and Identity,” and next semester I will have the opportunity to start learning Arabic: great opportunities I wouldn’t have gotten elsewhere. And there you have it – my first experience with appreciating what life throws at me.
The second came when trying to find an internship. Months before leaving the States, I started searching the Internet for possible immigration-focused NGOs or research centers to work with in Dublin. I emailed former Mitchells to ask for suggestions, which led me to the Irish Refugee Council. After corresponding via email a couple of times, both the contact there and I got busy, so all correspondence stopped before anything got set up. While this lack of knowledge of where I was going to work made me anxious, I’d only ever worked with undocumented immigrants, so I knew the organization wasn’t a perfect fit. I decided to give myself a day or two to settle into Dublin, and then I would start a serious search. Before I got the chance to do this, my partner, Rachel, and I got lost in City Centre (downtown) looking for dinner. As I’m rushing to find the correct way, Rach stops me. Frustrated I turn around and look where she’s pointing.
It’s the sign of the Immigrant Council of Ireland. The flyers in the window told me it was a perfect fit. The organization has a broad approach to tackling the myriad issues that documented and undocumented immigrants face, and it was exactly what I was looking for – exposure to a resource centre, an integration team, communications office, and the registered law centre. Two months in, I’m loving my new internship, of course only because I let myself see what was around me.
I feel lucky in so many ways. Of course that feeling comes from letting go of the anxiety of making everything perfect. It comes from appreciating all that life throws at you. Probably many Americans have treated this laid-back attitude as the “luck of the Irish” without knowing where the cliched phrase comes from. All I can say is that I’m glad Ireland is teaching me to slow down because I’m finding a lot more luck than I’ve ever had before.