Dublin and Burlington are obviously different. They are however similar, in one very important way: the sense of community. When I first came to Dublin, I didn’t know what to expect out of the people. Until arrival at the airport, Burlington was the biggest “city” I had ever lived in – I thought that going from 40-something-thousand people to 1 million people was going to be difficult. In fact it was just the opposite. Dublin really does just feel like a bigger Burlington – there’s more stuff to do and see, but the people are just as friendly and willing to help you out.
However there are a few differences that I feel are noteworthy, and might help you on your Dublin Study Abroad experience. Here’s a list in no particular order:
In Ireland (and in the UK) they drive on the left hand side of the road. It might be a little obvious, but it’s really easy to forget after spending 20 or so years in a country that does the opposite. It took me a couple of weeks to really get used to it – I was always hyper aware of the difference, but it quickly becomes normal. There are handy “look right” and “look left” marking painted onto the road at all major intersections to help you remember. If you don’t remember you risk getting hit by a car, bus, or cyclist – and it would be technically your fault, the pedestrian laws in Dublin are not the same as Burlington.
Switches for the bathroom light are located on the outside wall somewhere near the door. You will probably never find a light switch in a bathroom at all. The standard amperage and voltage in Ireland is not the same of that in the United States, and is in fact much higher. You run the risk of getting electrocuted if you touch a switch with wet hands – but never fear, that’s why they’re on the outside of the bathrooms.
Another note on switches – there is a switch on the wall for the stove/oven. Without flipping that switch it’s not possible to use the burners or oven to cook anything, but that switch on conveniently red rather than white like the rest of the switches.
There are also switches for the outlets – to send the flow of power or not to send the flow of power. Before plugging anything in to charge, (or just to turn it on) make sure the switch for that outlet is on, otherwise it just won’t work!
The washing machines have much smaller drums – and they are also combination dryers. As in the washing and the drying is done in the same drum. That being said, they do not dry very well, which is understandable. It’s best to do a few small loads throughout the week, to keep up with the laundry. The wash time isn’t that bad though, 30 minutes on the quickest cycle gets clothes clean – provided you aren’t washing clothes that you’ve gone rolling through the mud in. Hang drying things is so much easier, but underwear can be dried in the drum – it just takes forever (about 1.5-2 hours minimum).
DVDs are great, but I would recommend have video files on a hard drive/laptop if at all possible. There are different “zones” that a DVD gets assigned to. This basically means that it is not possible to play a DVD from the United States in a DVD player in Ireland, and vice versa. Do not except to buy a DVD in Ireland and have it play in a laptop from the United States without having to change the “disk location”, which you can only do a handful of times.
The food is going to taste… fresher. Which is because it is fresher, and not as processed. When I first got to Dublin I was craving all of the processed junk food that is commonly found in America. Don’t get me wrong, you can still find your fair share of unhealthier food here in Dublin, but it’s not the same. There’s no Kraft Mac N’ Cheese to be found anywhere – the first time you get some in a care-package you’ll feel like you’re holding the Holy Grail. Places like Lidl and Aldi are the cheapest to buy groceries at, though Tesco will occasionally have some good sales. Due to the fact that everything isn’t as processed, it would be a bit silly to expect certain things, like dairy products, to last as long in the fridge in Dublin as they do in Burlington. There’s still a pretty good life span on most foods though, and cooking in bulk ahead of time is a great way to save money anyways. Besides, who doesn’t think leftovers are delicious?
Perhaps one of the biggest differences is the shift in teaching style. Traditionally the United States is very rooted in the concept of constant feedback when it comes to education. In Dublin, and Europe, everything is more lecture based, and specific feedback on handed-in assignments is really only gained by asking the professor directly. The professors at Champlain College Dublin do their best to accommodate the constant feedback that American students are used to, but it is important to remember that they went through the education system in a different way. I would definitely say that, even though there are only 6 or so weeks left to the semester that I’m not even close to being used to the more lecture based classes. However all of my professors have encouraged questions, personal experiences, and general discussion; you sometimes just have to be the one to raise your hand and initiate it, rather than waiting to be called on by the professor.
Almost more than anything, I think that it is important to go to Dublin with minimal expectations. You’ll be more open to new experiences that way, and honestly some surprises can be fun. I feel that the only expectation you really need, is the expectation of having a good time. Provided that you can open yourself up, and be willing to try new things.
Until next time 🙂
Champlain Abroad Dublin, Spring 2013
Communications Major, Champlain College, Class of 2014