Shortly after my arrival to UCC in September, I quickly came to discover the unique challenges faced by international graduate students in that most-important task of life: making friends. Having come directly from an undergraduate life where I felt thoroughly embedded in the college community, I found myself uncomfortable at the prospect of breaking into what looked like established cliques and unsure of where I belonged in the campus ecosystem. In a desperate attempt to forge alliances with other friendless students, I joined UCC’s International Student Society (ISS) and hoped to meet other people new to Cork.
The student group, which includes both international students hailing from countries all over the world as well as local Irish students, hosts weekly events and organizes trips to various destinations throughout Ireland. It serves somewhat as a home base for UCC’s extensive cohort of Erasmus students—the European Union’s wonderful student exchange program which I only recently discovered and am now a huge fan of. On an ISS-sponsored tour to the historic Jameson Distillery in Midleton, I met a group of friendly Erasmus students who bonded over a shared enthusiasm for Irish pub culture as we made our way through the grain store and the Old Distillery building and learned about the whiskey-making process. Together, we made a pact to visit as many pubs in Cork before they departed at the end of the term. United by a common goal, we dubbed ourselves “the Pub Society” and planned to get together over some traditional Irish music at Cork’s Sin é for our first meeting.
Though the aim that brought us together was admittedly a goofy one, the friendships I made within the Pub Society quickly became one of the most meaningful and joy-filled aspects of my time in Cork. Over potluck dinners and evenings spent in the city’s seemingly infinite pubs, I realized that this group of friends was the most unique and diverse I had ever been a part of. With people studying abroad from over 8 different countries, there was no shortage of rich stories comparing our varied and similar lives, new music being introduced, and different cuisines being shared. I understood that this is likely what people mean when they say that experiences abroad can enrich your life and broaden your perspective.
While I hadn’t expected to befriend so many European students during my Mitchell year, I’m so grateful for the Dutch, Italian, German, Spanish, Danish, French, (etc.) friends I’ve been able to fall in love with Cork with over the past semester. As many of them head back to their home countries, I intend to recruit new Erasmus students to carry on the Pub Society’s mission. In many ways, the cross-cultural connections and relationships being fostered by the Erasmus program mirror the goals of the Mitchell Scholarship. The lasting friendships that I’ve made here in Cork and beyond have already made this year extraordinary, and make me feel like I live in a more connected world.