Be aware of the language
Growing up in the United States and in Ireland are completely different. They are literally two different worlds, including the lingo used day-to-day. I would highly suggest researching some of the common slang words/phrases used here in order to save yourself from some extreme embarrassment and uncomfortable situations. For example, here in Ireland, if you need to get somewhere, you do not ask for a “ride” as that can be perceived in an uncomfortable manner. You instead would ask for a “lift”. Another example is that instead of asking “how are you?” you will be asked “you ok?” or “you alright?” if you are unaware of this, it might be a little awkward trying to come up with a response. Most respond with “I’m grand, and you?” or something along those lines. To be “grand” means you’re alright and doing well. It also wouldn’t hurt to familiarize yourself with the Irish accent, because at times it can be a little difficult to understand!
Do not underestimate the weather
While researching UL and Ireland, you might notice that the temperature seems fairly warm compared to home in the U.S. (especially in the winter months). For example, where I’m from, the average winter temperature is about 5 degrees Fahrenheit, sometimes even in the negatives. Here, you may see that it is 45 degrees Fahrenheit and think “oh, great! It’s so warm out!” However, what you won’t realize is that the temperature is very misleading. The air here is very damp, so that 45 degrees really feels like twenty degrees colder, especially if it’s cloudy and rainy. You might think I’m exaggerating, but trust me, I’m not. The air here is truly bone-chilling. I cannot stress enough to ALWAYS have some sort of waterproof jacket with you because it might be sunny when you leave the house for your modules (classes), but on the way back home it will most likely be raining.
The food here is very different from back home, and most things that you’re used to eating in the U.S. you won’t be able to find here, or at least it’s not easy to find! One example is ranch dressing. If you’re a ranch lover like myself, you’ll be sad to find out that most people here have no idea what ranch is. I asked for it one time, and since then I haven’t tried because I got a weird look and “Ranch? What’s that?” and then it was a little awkward. Also familiarize yourself with the difference between chips and crisps here. Chips are fries (and very good!), and crisps are what we call chips back home (like doritos, potato chips, etc.). Also be aware that what you order may not be what you’re expecting. I ordered a BLT sandwich once, expecting the traditional American toasted BLT. However, I received a sandwich untoasted with mayo and cold bacon (which is like ham here, not the bacon you’re used to!). It was still pretty good, but when you’re expecting one thing and get something the complete opposite it’s a little startling (and even saddening when you’re missing home!).
Probably the biggest thing for those looking to study here at UL! Yes, the classes are different, and they are not called “courses” or “classes”, they are instead called “modules” or “lectures” and “tutorials” or “labs”. Each module you sign up for has a corresponding “tutorial”, which is a small group of students (usually between 10-15 students) from the lecture, and in these tutorials you discuss what was talked about in lecture and may be asked to give a presentation worth a significant portion of your grade. That brings me to another point, grading. The grading system here is different than the U.S., and instead of having weekly assignments or essays due, you instead only have approximately two bigger (1,000-2,000 word) essays, maybe an exam or two, and some sort of presentation. Some also count attendance, so be aware of that! Most of the attendance is only taken in the tutorials, however attending lectures is also very important. While this may sound great at first having no real busy work, it’s actually quite stressful in the sense that there is much more pressure on you to do well on these individual assignments that can be worth upwards of 50% of your overall grade for the module.
Wellies (rain boots)
You might think it is essential to own and bring a pair of rain boots to Ireland for your stay. However, no one really wears them around here unless you are an American student. Therefore, if you want to blend in, I don’t recommend wearing them! This is one way that the Irish/local students can easily pick out that you’re from the U.S. I brought a pair of rain boots from home, and now that I realized this, I regret bringing them and taking up the space in my suitcase. You might think your feet would get wet from all of the rain, but honestly I have been fine wearing my runners (tennis shoes).
To be continued as the semester carries on…
By University of Limerick International Ashley Rogahn