How Cork Changed Me

St. Coleman's Cathedral

Kiera Lindner, Staff Writer

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The spring semester of my junior year I studied abroad in Cork, Ireland. I lived just up the hill from campus in a house across from a Sicilian coffee shop, learned to understand the thickest accent in the Republic of Ireland, and took classes in a building that looked more like Hogwarts than anything else. I made friends with Irish people, Northern Irish people, and international students, learned about the cultural and political history of Ireland (a sad but proud one), and traveled all around the so-called British Isles. And as the semester wound to a close, I found myself enriched in my understanding of another nation, another culture, and another way of life.

Then I came back to the States.

It’s amazing what you forget when you live in another country, even for a few months. The papery feel of American money, for instance, compared to the stiffer plasticky euro, or how terrible the Philadelphia International Airport is at Customs and Border Control (well, at everything, really), especially compared to European airports. You forget that you can’t walk around pretty much safely at night anymore, like you can in Cork (even as a young female college student); you forget that not everyone will be generally friendly to you, because that’s not the culture you’re in anymore.

And the things you miss are strange, too: the tang of Barry’s tea (the local Cork tea), the bitterness 1.8495 inof a Murphy’s stout (the local Cork brew), even the way they recycle (dividing each type of material in nicely color-coded bins). You miss the vocabulary, even though it sometimes made you feel as though you were separated by your common language: for instance, there’s no such thing as craic (Irish for “a good time,” pronounced “crack”) in America (well, there’s regular crack, but whether that’s such a good time is up for debate).

The process of returning was deceptively simple: you fly back, you go through Border Control, you go home and start your American life again. I got a summer job, took a summer class, caught up with my American friends, kept busy. The Irish friends I’d promised to keep in touch with, who I’d really meant to keep in touch with, I started messaging less and less. I slipped back into my old life, seemingly as seamlessly as one could hope for. It was as if I’d never been gone. It should have been easy, and for a while I thought it was easy, because everything felt the same.

But I wasn’t the same, and I had been gone. I’d changed in my time in Ireland, and changed for the better. For the first time, because I’d gone abroad alone and figured out everything from cooking to residency permits to finances to international trips on my own, I felt like an independent adult. Before, I’d always felt as though I was an adult-in- training, pretending to have a maturity I didn’t think I possessed. Now I was different. And as the summer progressed, I became determined to hold onto that difference. Part of that meant deciding what to do with myself after graduation, something I’d been  scared of and uncertain about be fore. And when it came down to it, that decision was simple: I loved Ireland, and I was proud of the person I’d become there. So I’m going to go back to Cork for my graduate degree. Maybe that doesn’t make me the best study abroad returner, since I only made it a few months before deciding I had to go back – but then again, studying abroad has facilitated my development more than I ever thought possible. Going back can only do more of the same.

 

 

BEHIND THE STORY

  1. Why did we report on this?
    • Kiera reported on Cork because she was asked by one of the Editors-in-Chief to cover her study abroad experience.
  2. How did we get the information to report on this?
    • Kiera got the information through her own experience!
  3. How can the reader get more information on the topic covered?
    • Readers may get in contact with Kiera(lindnkd16@juniata.edu) with any further questions about her experience.
  4. Did we miss something?
    • Let us know! Contact Kiera(lindnkd16@juniata.edu) with any further questions, comments, or concerns about this article, or to suggest further articles about this topic.