Ireland Update 2

We’ve been here in Dublin for about a week. It’s been a really mixed bag in a lot of ways. In this blog post, I’m going to cover some of good and bad things about settling in at UCD.

Good Things

Positives include: relaxation, nice meals, plenty of exercise, bus adventures, shopping, pubs, and making new friends!

Days are slow and satisfying. For once, I am actually eating right, walking, and taking care of my body. We’re learning the city pretty well, and I’m really proficient at the bus now! I’m loving the shops, pubs, and restaurants, too. Our roommates are all really cool, really positive and helpful, and through them I’ve met some likeable folks as well.

Here’s a picture from the bus/shopping adventure we went on yesterday!

Bad Things

Some other stuff has been really draining, though, namely: Skype/communication issues, finances, registration/timetables, and some troubling social questions.

Communication

Not being able to communicate with my parents has been kind of frustrating – not because I desperately, painfully miss them, but because coordinating a time to talk is a hassle given the time difference. We both have to go out of our way to set something up, and when it doesn’t work or we can’t be there, it’s a let-down for both of our hopes.

Finances

Finances have probably been the biggest issue for me so far. The problem is primarily twofold: First, Chris unexpectedly owes a good amount of money to pay his bill to Hamline (and, by extension, to Interstudy and UCD). So, he’s working on how to knock down that price and/or get it paid off with his family through loans.

Second, I was anticipating a fairly sizable refund through a combination of low cost and high loans. Unfortunately, a few missed connections have made costs a little higher than expected, sapping the refund and therefore my additional funds. The refund wasn’t for fun, sad to say – it was meant to help us sustain ourselves given the cost of living here in Dublin.

Fortunately our available assets are such that we can live without those funds for the time being, but if we don’t recoup the value somehow, Chris will have to tap his credit card by the end of the semester. So, I’m working with Hamline to see what I can do.

Registration, Timetables, and Bureaucracy

Registration and timetables for class haven’t been nearly so frustrating as having to deal with money, but it’s still a pain. They’ve instituted so much bureaucracy  for international students’ registration, it’s pretty ridiculous. Until this year, ISs admitted directly into the department of their choice and dealt only with them; registration was done online and the whole process was relatively smooth.

But in an effort to centralize and streamline the process, ISs are now admitted via the study abroad center, whose officers are now responsible for our registration. They’ve never done it before and so they’re having an understandably rough time. Not only that, we can’t register online any more; it has to be done manually and through a study abroad officer. Because they’ve only got one or two officers working at a time, this lengthens the process into hours or even days. Frequently the relevant department is not even included in the discourse.

Fortunately I am better off than some – my registration is completed and only took two days – but I know some students who are still not registered properly or have barely begun. (Classes, of course, start tomorrow.) I feel sorry for them!

Making Friends, and “Authenticity”/New Experiences

The last tough thing I want to explore is the whole experience of making friends and having authentic new experiences. The people I’ve met and the things I’m doing are all perfectly enjoyable and wonderful. But they’re also fairly claustrophobic at this point. Let me clarify what I mean:

At this point, it’s mostly been other Americans and international student orientation events. I’m really anxious to get out there and meet Irish students, and get involved with real, fun campus activities. Don’t get me wrong – I am absolutely having a great time. But so far, it’s simply not that different from home, at least on-campus. (The situation is different in the city, but there’s only so many things I can do in town given my time and resources at the moment.)

I guess it’s just weird for me. I’ve never had a hard time getting out there – meeting new people, digging into new stuff – but here I am, having a hard time with both.

That’s why I’m really looking forward to starting school tomorrow. It’s really nervewracking and terrifying, but it will be a good opportunity to meet more students and get some new experiences in. Plus, once I get a handle on my schedule and workload, I’ll be able to do some traveling and take advantage of more fun stuff in the city!

Some Other Little Thoughts

Overall, my mood is still really positive. I think I just haven’t hit that really “blossom”-ing point yet, where I can really dig in and grow.

A couple of additional notes:

– The ratio of Americans to Ozzies, Kiwis, and people from other parts of the world is simply astounding. All of my roommates are Americans and almost all of the international students I’ve met are, too. I think that’s another reason I’m so anxious to try new things!

– Also, I met my History faculty chair. He won’t be one of my professors during my time here, but I look forward to working with him. He is an absolutely impeccable man, dressed to the nines in a suit with a perfectly-coiffed wave of hair and an extremely prim English/northern Irish accent. He is also very angry with how bureaucracy has affected us and his department. Hearing such vitriol come out of his perfectly elegant, grammatically correct voice was a real treat! He also gave us a recipe for a hot toddy, incidentally, which I tried and it was delicious.

– A word on drinks – After three failed attempts (more accurately, sips) to like beer, I’ve given up and found two new drinks I actually enjoy. The first is a hot toddy, which is hot whiskey, lemon and honey. The second is Bulmer’s Irish Cider, which is chilled apple cider that’s been fermented in a process similar to wine. It’s absolutely delicious!

(As I noted on Facebook, because I’m just not a drinker AT ALL, I just don’t have the taste for beer. Guinness is treated very, very special over here, but it’s just way too strong/bitter for me.)

– Interesting note about the pubs. In Dublin, going out “for a pint” or going out “to the pubs” is not at all like going out to bars back home. No one’s really there to drink, to be honest – they’re mostly there to socialize and have fun spending time together. So despite having gone out a few nights this week, I’ve barely touched a drop – and it hasn’t been a big deal at all!

Anyway, thanks for reading! Until next time!

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