Story by Darcy Vines, Staff Writer
Photo courtesy of Dr. Dan Diedrich
Studying abroad is a goal that many students have, and thanks to the Aquinas Advantage, that goal is even more attainable than it previously was. I have been eagerly awaiting my chance to hop on a plane to a faraway land since freshman year at AQ, and now that I’m spending my last semester of undergraduate studies in Ireland, the editors back home have been kind enough to let me fill everyone in about what we’ve been up to—which is great, because international mail is so slow that no one has gotten my postcards yet. Fáilte go Tulach na Croise—welcome to Tullycross.
Twenty students departed from Gerald R. Ford airport on January 11 for this adventure, and as we hike our way to the one-month mark on the Emerald Isle, I’m realizing all of the things that people don’t tell you about studying abroad here. Pour yourself a cup of tea, or a pint of Guinness, and let me tell you about the top five.
The first thing that no one prepares you for about Ireland is that nature is alienating. You will never take a picture of Maol Reidh, the giant mountain outside your cottage back windows, that does it any justice. Some days it looms over you like a playground bully, and sometimes it mocks you by disappearing completely in the fog and mist as soon as you start to love it. Don’t ever trust the thermometer—even though it says that it’s 50 degrees outside, it will feel below freezing with the wind and the rain.
The people in the pubs will be the closest people to family that you’ll have over here—in good ways and bad. There are two pubs in Tullycross, and you’ll be asked your surname the first time you walk into one of them by an old man who may be missing some teeth and smell faintly of tobacco and sheep. Humor him; tell him your last name. If it’s anything with a hint of an Irish past, you’ll learn your family history in the next five minutes. Once he’s done with your family tree, you’ll want to call your parents and tell them about it, but you’ll realize that one of the lads has stolen your phone and is taking obnoxious selfies on it. Let him; you’ll want them later. You might have to beat him in pool to get it back. The teasing will be merciless when you lose, but he’ll flip your phone back to you and you’ll have a pool partner for the rest of the semester.
The food and the tea and the whiskey are always too warm. Let them all scald your insides for later, when you’re curled up with three hot water bottles trying to get some sleep.
You will miss home, every day. Some days it’s the small, afterthought ache of wanting a good cup of Moose coffee. Other days, it’s the punch in the gut when your best friend has a bad day and you weren’t there to stop it. Still more, it’s the sneak-attack guilty feeling of taking a semester all to yourself. It will feel selfish. It will feel exhilarating. Go hike to the beach or stare at a mountain. It will lessen.
Finally, studying abroad is overwhelming. As a writer, I’m trying everyday to sift through my feelings to find the ones to put on paper. I haven’t struck gold yet. Some days you’ll burst at the seams and others you’ll feel like a waterlogged sponge. But there is nothing better than realizing that a month has gone by and you’re doing just fine—you’ve made life-long friends already, you’ve learned to say “chips” instead of “French fries,” and you’ve learned more about Irish culture than you knew possible. You feel a part of it, and this island is a part of you.
About the Writer…
Darcy Vines is a senior majoring in English and minoring in writing and journalism. In her free time, she can be found consulting in the writing center, watching endless spoken word videos, and drinking coffee way too strong to be healthy.