One of the strangest things about living here in Ireland is the different notion of the seasons. Try as I might, I couldn’t quite muster a smile for my friends and housemates when they wished me a well-intentioned “Happy Spring!” on 1 February, while a cold rain was lashing againt my windowpane and the wind howled in protest against the walls of the GMB.
Now that it’s May, I can at least return the sentiment of “Happy Summer!” with a smile that possesses a bit of sincerity. Today I turned in my last essay of the term (Spider-Man on Broadway: The heroic achievement of economic capital and mass industry), and am now writing to you from a hotel room in the southern port city of Waterford. Though I am not yet finished with my program — indeed, my dissertation due on August 17 seems both worryingly close and painfully far away — I’m taking a quick respite between the finishing of Hilary Term and the beginning of earnest dissertation work to tour the island a bit with my parents.
Many of my fellow Mitchells are leaving Ireland quite soon after our commencement in May, due to new school and work commitments. Luckily, my plans allow me to spend the summer in Dublin finishing both my research and writing. Perhaps more exciting than the completion of coursework, the summer brings the opportunity to travel around a bit more. My class and work schedule during the main school-year kept me on campus throughout the week, Monday through Friday, stymying travel a bit. Now that I only have my personal schedule to adhere to, I’m hoping to get around the island (and mainland Europe) a bit more. After all, you can write anywhere, right?
At the moment, however, I am playing host to my parents for their first visit to Ireland. I have had several visits from friends throughout the year, but being able to share my (now) home with my parents feels particularly special. Until I began walking around Dublin, explaining bits of local culture and history, I hadn’t realized that I had amassed such a wealth of random knowledge — and a bit of pride too. So much of this year has felt frenetic and forward-leaning, with opportunities to thoughtfully reflect on my experience here difficult to come by. Having to articulate my experiences to my family during their visit has helped me realize a couple of things:
- Everyone is a little bit Irish. Whether it’s the natural inclination to not look at your clock too closely, the effortless attitude you approach problems with, or simply an affinity for good craic, the pace of life here is attractive to most everyone. It is definitively slower (sometimes to my chagrin), but it has also helped me “chill out” just a bit more. Even my friends from undergrad have commented that I seem to be a more mellow person.
- I love being in Europe. It’s tough being far away from my established social circle in the States, to be sure, but it comes with the benefit of a new professional and friend group and an amenable lifestyle. Also, I don’t think I can ever go back to living in a small city. Having lived in London, and now Dublin, I don’t think I could ever (or would ever) go back to areas with a poor/no transportation system, minimal cultural development, and a good public park.
- You can always weather the storm. The environment can be icy. Literally. Much to the amusement of my Irish friends who claim that it “rarely hails,” I have a knack for getting pelted with those small chunks of ice whenever, and wherever, they fall. When I first moved to Ireland it felt like something of a chore to venture out into the bleak weather for class, daily chores, the gym, etc. Eventually, I realized that the weather certainly isn’t going anywhere, so I just had to pull myself up by my bootstraps, pull on my overcoat, and venture out into the rain. The obvious metaphor aside, it’s a great boon for my touristy ventures: when it’s terribly bleak outside the tourist groups are huddled in a pub or cafe with a warm drink, not trekking on an outdoor walk.