In this blog, Olivia tingles all five of our senses. We can hear the crashing waves, see the green grass that covers UL, we can smell the fresh baked buns of the Saturday Milk Market as well as taste it, and we can feel the sun on our skin. Read this blog to learn about Olivia’s first week, and all of the new things she came across.
The sound of the waves crashing along the sharp rocks, the warmth of the sun on my face, the wind whipping furiously around me. Basking in the warmth and my surroundings, I felt at peace. I was sitting on a little grassy knoll along the Cliffs of Moher. I had been in Ireland a mere week, but I already had the sense that I was right where I belonged. I sat for a few more minutes, listening to the gulls play among the waves, and then hurried to catch up with my friends.
Two weeks prior, I was at home in Minnesota, and found myself suddenly very nervous about studying abroad. How would I make friends? What if I don’t fit in? How will I meet Irish people? Will I get homesick? The doubts plagued my mind. Sitting on the cliffs two weeks later, not a single doubt crossed my mind. This was where I was supposed to be, and the semester was open, full of endless possibilities for connections and learning.
The first week in Ireland went by in a flash. The University had organised a full week of orientation for international students, which was amazing. We had a welcome coffee the first day I was here, where I met a few other students from around the US. We walked around campus together and talked about what we wanted out of the semester and I remember thinking to myself, “hey, this is gonna be great!” The campus is beautiful; full of natural water features and large, lush lawns of vibrant green grass.
I was placed in Plassey Village and lived with 7 other female roommates; all from around the United States excluding one from Sweden. The first week, all of us could be found in our upstairs living room, cooking dinner at the same time and getting to know each other. Within the first few days, it became tradition to watch the British reality TV show “Love Island” together. We bonded over yelling at the TV and munching on delivery pizza.
During orientation week, I invited everyone to join me at Stables, the campus pub, for lunch. I had my first real Irish meal there, and was happy to learn that the dairy products were just as delicious as I remember from my time in Ireland two summers ago. Four days after arriving, my roommates and I went to Stables for our first International Night, a weekly event hosted at Stables for international students (although often many Irish students attend as well). We sang and danced the night away. That night, and all throughout orientation week, I met so many people from all over the world. I was amazed at how friendly everyone was, and how despite being from various places; we all had so much in common.
To wrap up orientation week, all of the international students went to the Milk Market in downtown Limerick. This is one of my favorite memories from that first week. The smell of fresh bread, sifting through handmade wool blankets, and sitting on a curb to people watch! I had recently halted my 5-year vegetarianism before coming, hoping to enjoy some Irish stew while I was here. I was glad for this decision when I purchased a Turkish sausage to enjoy while wandering along the market.
The next day there was a trip to the Cliffs of Moher and a few other places in County Clare that I was excited to see. I was in awe of the cliffs; their steeping, jagged rock that met the bright blue sea. We were lucky with the weather (extremely lucky, if one considers Irish weather) and the sun shone virtually all day. I was learning an important life lesson from the weather in Ireland; everything is temporary, and soak up all the sunny moments. After the Cliffs, we visited the Burren, a rocky region where the wind and weather have carved unique little pathways among the boulders. Stopping at a few more places along the coast, I marveled at the beauty of this country, and my fortune of studying here for the semester.
The next morning I got up early, made a fresh pot of coffee, and refreshed myself on my schedule for the day. It was the first day of classes, and I looked forward to meeting some Irish students. The sun was shining as I left Plassey, heading toward campus and beginning my semester. I couldn’t wait to see what the next few months held!