So we have been here a little over a month now. The overused ‘w’ curve of initial culture shock has past, and ‘Áth Cliath’ is starting to feel a bit like home. Of all the foreseen problems I expected to encounter, most have yet to occur. However, what I didn’t expect to be a challenge, breaking away from the bubble, making friends and integrating within the Dublin culture, has turned out to be my biggest. Where do you go to make friends here? Is it unusual to just strike up a conversation?
The Champlain motto is Audeamus, which means, “Let us Dare”. It is very easy to be shy in a foreign country, but if you are studying abroad with a semester of only four months, you can’t afford to be shy if you want to meet new people and embrace the culture. One of the advantages of Champlain is that you get the best of both worlds. You are studying in an American college with a flexible credit system to accommodate many majors, but you are living smack dab in the heart of Dublin, with plenty to see and do. To take full advantage of this however, you have to be able to experience these opportunities and try new things.
The truth is, I haven’t yet integrated as much as I would like to within the Dublin culture, and some of my classmates are finding it a little tough as well. I have had a handful of good conversations however, and am looking for every opportunity to meet new people. Before I go any further, I should tell you how I made the few acquaintances I have made. Two were made in a coffee shop over a caramel latte, another at a music shop, and a third at a pub I was reading at. Pretty diverse in location, but in all three situations, I had to begin the conversation, despite their interest in my being (clearly) an American living in Dublin. I also had several lovely conversations with people at random. I have learned a bit about the Gaelic sport hurling (although it is still confusing to me!), been recommended places to eat, bands to listen to live, etc. Most people are happy to converse but are shy or do not want to intrude, so will not be the first to speak.
Here are my suggestions, but everyone has their own ways:
Go out in public
You can’t meet new people if you stay in your apartment. Try different pubs and hangouts, take a class in something that interests you, or go to a sporting event (I’m getting tickets for a rugby match on the 11th!!). Have a lot of homework to catch up on? Bring your work to a cafe. The calming atmosphere and extra caffiene will help you be productive, and people are always striking up conversation there.
Take advantage of Champlain’s connections
Believe it or not, the staff and faculty DO have lives outside of teaching! Many are willing to set up gatherings for an array of different activities to introduce Champlainers to Dubliners and do something interesting. Last Thursday, an English class was invited to play scrabble with their professor’s class from a different university. This Thursday, many of us (myself included!) are attending a set dancing class and evening with another professor. These are both great ways to learn something about Irish culture and to meet new faces.
If you don’t know, Ask!
I have met people more than once simply because I am new to Dublin and they are happy to explain and describe their culture. At a sports pub? Ask someone to explain the sport to you if you don’t understand it. Another point of conversation is live music. There are a ton of local bands and artists in Dublin and they play at a variety of different venues. Ask someone for a few names of local bands related to a genre you like, or where to go to find good music. I have found this to be very successful, and a startup for a conversation about all kinds of other interests.
Moral of this blog post: Whether you’re studying abroad or merely visiting Ireland, make the effort and strike up conversations, I dare you.
-Nicole Tetrault, Marketing Major, Champlain College Class of 2013