Ireland has been different than I expected. The first day I arrived, I was shocked by how American it felt, from the legging-and-jumper outfits to the ever-present mullets to the Taylor Swift playing in the background at Tesco. Over the past two months, however, I’ve come to appreciate that while the two countries may appear visually similar, their histories – and resulting cultures – are quite different.
Part of that realization has come from my course. I’m studying Political Communications at DCU, and my classmates are almost all Irish. I’m grateful for their perspectives: when my classmates debate, they provide a wealth of context and range to events I can only perceive on the surface. A right-wing protest a few weeks ago, for example, was held on the anniversary of an assassination – a detail that flew over my head. One of my modules is on Irish media, which inherently carries history lessons. I just take rapid fire notes to google every reference afterwards. I’m learning about Irish politics by exposure, too: two weeks ago, I got to visit the Dail Eireann for their Wednesday evening vote. I also sat in on the last session of the Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs as a researcher, which was incredible.
My Irish friends have taught me a lot, too. I was shocked, for example, when Freya picked up a poster in Irish and read it out. “We all have to learn it in school,” she shrugged. My favorite Irish phrase so far is “scarlet for you,” or shorthand for “scarlet for you ma for having you.” This one comes up fairly often – mostly when Freya and I are laughing at the antics people get up to in public. Hilary, who grew up in Dublin, takes me to her favorite pubs, cafes, and clubs.
I’ve joined a writing group at the Irish Writers’s Centre. Every Saturday at 1:30 PM, we meet to write for thirty minutes based on a prompt and share our work. Afterwards, we have coffee at Castle Tearoom. The group is mostly older Irish people, and they’re hilarious. When recounting my visit to the Dail Eireann, I nervously pronounced the name. “Did I say it right?” I asked. Shea, who’s a fixture of the group, gravely looked at me. “That’s a porno star.”
Dublin has been a lot of fun to explore! DCU is located in Glasnevin, north of the city center. There’s a beautiful park across my apartment, so I see fall leaves and hear shouts of children playing each morning. I spend study days in the Tram cafe at said park, or the National Library when I really want to focus. The Dublin Mitchells have been wonderful travel companions. We’ve gone to Howth and Glendalough, where we promptly got lost on our hike. We’ve tried new restaurants, including one which is only open two hours for three days a week during lunchtime. Packed in a room with seating for eight, the daily menu is written on a paper napkin. Despite – or perhaps because of – the hilarious getup, the food was delicious.