By Brigid Ackerman, University of Limerick International Student Ambassador
When looking into study abroad locations, it was a given that Ireland was the place for me. Besides my obvious paleness and penchant for sweaters and tea, I was yearning to be in a country where people appreciate my first name. I’ll share my plan for making this semester a once-in-a-lifetime experience for Brigids like me! Although there are very few of us, I think my advice can taken by anyone- even those other pesky Bridgets who spell their name wrong!
1: Be proud of our name
I’m admittedly very shy but I know that this is my time to shine! I’m going to be less afraid to go up to that stranger and introduce myself. I hope some of my new Irish friends can tell me more about St. Brigid or Kildare. I can even ask them if they have any interesting family history or unique connections around the country. I want to break out of my shell and meet as many people as I can!
2: Go to Kildare for the Feast of St. Brigid
Hop on a bus, try out Airbnb, and explore the village of Kildare on OUR day. Since St. Brigid’s Day falls on a Monday, your friends might not want to skip class so take this chance to take your first solo trip! While everyone talks about the amazing friends they make on their time abroad, many also rave about the benefits of travelling alone. You can be selfish and do whatever you do whenever you want to do it, so there are no compromises. These side adventures will even give you great stories to share with your friends at UL and back home!
3: Embrace the entire Irish culture
If you’re like me, you’ve Googled everything there is to know about our namesake. And though she is pretty cool—she could turn milk into beer for goodness sakes!—there’s a lot about the Emerald Isle that I’m not familiar with yet. I want to learn as much as I can about the Irish culture while I’m here this semester. By going on International Society weekend trips and taking Irish literature and language classes, I want to become more of an expert on this beautiful country.
4: Respect new names
While we may like to think we have the most unique name possible, there’s loads of other Irish names that we’ve never even heard of! The struggles we face make me more aware of how other people feel when people get their names wrong. This applies to those I meet at Stables or in Spain. Respecting cultural differences is an important part of studying abroad.
5: Buy every single Brigid keychain you see
If you’re like me, you’re pretty bitter that none of those cute, personalized gifts had our name on it. I plan on buying every Brigid thing I come across. I’ve worked hard and saved my money for this semester so I’m making it a point to treat myself while I’m here. While my bank account might become little smaller, I know I’ll be richer in experiences (and hopefully some souvenirs!), which will be more valuable in the long run.
6: Be thankful for our name
Even through all the misspellings and mispronunciations, I’m so thankful that I have the name that I do. I’ll no doubt Skype home thanking my parents for giving me my moniker. I’ll also make sure to show appreciation for the loads of other stuff they did to help me get to UL. Thanks are also in order for my study abroad advisor back at home and everyone in the International Education Division here. No one can plan out a semester abroad alone, and it’s important to thank those who supported us along the way.