“Did anybody understand what I just said?”: The Musings of Two Shell-Shocked Irish Girls at Marymount

Hello or ‘Dia Duit’ as we say in Ireland. As our semester at Marymount University draws to a close, we decided to write a blog detailing the highs, lows often funny moments of our experience. We hope you enjoy!

“Will I ever stop sweating?”

First things first, the weather. As some of you may be aware, in Ireland, it pretty much rains all the time. When we arrived at Marymount in late August, we couldn’t believe how hot and humid it was. Walking to Lola’s for a coffee oftentimes felt like trekking across the Sahara. Air-conditioning quickly became our best friend! When the cold weather rolled around in late October, we would hear fellow American students complaining about the cold or the rain. Meanwhile we were pulling out the hats and scarves, feeling more at home than ever.

An afternoon visit to Mr. President

“Is there anything you don’t put cheese on?”

Something that really left us bewildered was how often we encountered cheese in the dining hall. Cheese on potatoes (WHAT??), cheese on scrambled egg, cheese on vegetables. You name it, there probably has been cheese sprinkled on it at some point. At first, we struggled with the food. Both of us grew up in rural Ireland, where we are big fans of less is more. A little sprinkle of salt on your meal is as far as it goes oftentimes. Being here has opened our eyes to such a wide variety of cultures and the delicious foods they have. We really enjoyed the ‘Austria Day’ banquet in Gerard Dining Hall and have become huge fans of Thai cuisine. ‘Uber Eats’ is a novelty we will miss when we return to the Irish countryside.

Exploring Chinatown

“Sorry, could you repeat that?”: Language and Cultural adjustments

Even though Ireland and the US speak English as their first language, being here, we have realized we speak very different versions. Irish-English is pretty much based around colloquialism and slang. For the first few weeks, we would get quite exasperated when nobody could understand what we were saying. We’re all speaking English, right? Once we started to slow down when we were speaking, we were able to hold better conversations and get to know people better. Some of our funniest moments have been when we would refer to something as being “good craic”, which in Ireland, is slang for fun or having had a really good time. We got lots of funny looks when we would use some of the most common Irish slang. We relied on our RA, Stephanie Downing as our translator for those first few weeks. Being from Hawaii, she understood the struggles we were experiencing with cultural adjustments. She was our savior in those first few weeks. We were so lucky to have her.

Also, from a cultural standpoint, in Ireland, insulting someone is a gesture of endearment. If your friend insults you, its not serious, its just a bit of ‘craic’, as we would say. This may be something for prospective study abroad students heading to Ireland to be aware of. We’re a super friendly and fun nation, once you understand our humor!

Mesmerized by the nations Capitol

Originally, we didn’t like the fact that we had been put on an International Student hall; we felt it took away our opportunity to meet Americans and be submerged in American culture as we were surrounded by fellow Europeans and students from other countries. But as the semester progressed, we all grew closer and shared a special bond in that we all experienced the ups and downs of being away from home together and were a good support for each other. We have loved the nights spent in each other’s rooms, talking for hours and drinking Irish tea (the best tea on Earth, don’t tell Molly Brennan). The ‘Global Thinkers’ events hosted by ISS were also really fun as we got to meet all of the other residents on the boy’s side and the food was delicious too.

“I haven’t done homework since I was in Secondary School”

There have been some big differences in the way university is conducted in the US versus Ireland. At home, it is largely based on lectures which usually contain a follow up tutorial, assignments and final examinations. We have more contact hours, our lectures could contain up to ninety people and we don’t get homework. Having to sit down and do homework questions for every class was an adjustment, considering that we have spent the last two years doing research essays over longer periods of time, as opposed to smaller more regular assignments. Midterm Examinations were also a totally alien concept for us, but even though we had an increased workload, we were still able to enjoy a good balance of study and recreational activities.

Europeans take the Newsuem (From left to right: Clodagh McKenna, Molly Brennan, Caoimhe Flanagan)

With DC close by, you can never be bored. Its also a huge bonus that most of the museums are free to visit. We did visit the ‘Newseum’, which charges, but at a reduced fee for students. It is well worth the money and is one of the highlights of our trip for both of us. Being close to a city has been great. We booked last minute tickets for ‘Florence and the Machine’ at the Anthem. This was such a novelty for us. To attend a concert at home we would have to go to Dublin, which requires advanced planning and an overnight trip. To have these venues and amenities on our doorstep is definitely an advantage for this University.

Florence in action

This has been a learning curve for both of us. There have been highs and lows, but we have made some friends for life and gained a knowledge and independence that will be invaluable to us as we progress with our careers. Thank you Marymount!

Thanks for taking the time to read about our experience!

Happy Thanksgiving,

Caoimhe and Clodagh J

Caoimhe Flanagan is a Junior in Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, Ireland. Her major is History and Media Communication. She loves history and current affairs, so she is loving living by DC in the heart of US politics.
Clodagh McKenna is a Junior in Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, Ireland. Her major is History and Irish. She is studying to be an Irish teacher and loves all Gaelic Sports. She can’t wait to get home and get back to playing with her local team.

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