2 Truths and 1 Lie About Living in Ireland
1) Ireland is filled with vibrant green pastures, lots of sheep and cows, and it rains a lot.
This is quite true. Since arriving in Limerick two weeks ago, I have had to bring my rain jacket everywhere with me because you never know when it’s going to start raining. It’s never a heavy downpour like it is back home in New Jersey, but instead a steady misty rain that falls all day and seeps into your clothes and shoes. At orientation we were told to waterproof and weatherproof everything we own because “there’s no bad weather here, only inappropriate clothing.” Tip #1 if you’re coming to Ireland- bring a rain jacket and waterproof shoes.
This constant rain means that the grass is always this vibrant blanket of green that is so soothing to the eyes. Although the Irish I’ve met so far are quick to tell me that this summer was the driest Ireland’s ever had, its green grass beats any grass I’ve seen in the States. There’s a reason why Ireland is called the “Emerald Isle.”
Ireland’s rolling hills of grass means that it also abounds in livestock. On my way to the grocery store, which is next to one of the major roads into the city center, I pass by a cow pasture where bovine roam freely within the rock-wall pasture. Any trips slightly out of the main residential areas and you’ll see rock wall fences with cows and sheep feeding off the glorious verdure. The juxtaposition of the stone castle remnants and their green carpets next to the modern metropolitan cities adds to the Irish charm and beauty.
2) The Irish are drunk and angry all the time.
After being here for two weeks, I have yet to see a single bar fight break out and I’ve found the opposite to be true. From lecturers to strangers to housemates, people will strike up a conversation with you. The first night that all my housemates arrived, two of which are Irish, we talked for hours, getting to know each other and the cultures we all come from. My apartment is a beautiful mix of German, American, Dutch, and Irish. Irish people do enjoy a drink and going out occasionally and while it is true that students and young people may drink a bit more heavily, the pub is part of the culture. It is more than just a drinking atmosphere; it is a social gathering place and even so, not all Irish drink alcohol. This stereotype that is perpetuated through TV shows and movies that the Irish are drunkards who are always ready to jump into a fight is incredibly offensive and misguided.
3) The Irish are super friendly people
My first encounter with an Irish person was on my flight into Shannon airport. I sat down in my seat after boarding the plane, a little bit nervous and mostly unsure of what exactly I was about to do when my flight seat partners, both Irish, begin a conversation with me. I clearly don’t look Irish and they asked me why I was flying into Ireland. Upon hearing that I was going to be studying abroad for a semester, they quickly pointed out the best places to eat and visit while I am there. They kept me company during the six-hour flight and after the plane landed, they wished me well on the next leg of my journey. I felt so cared for even though I hadn’t even arrived on campus and they wouldn’t be seeing me again.
A couple hours after landing in quiet Shannon Airport, I stumble into my new apartment, delirious with jet lag from the overnight flight and meet my first Irish student at University of Limerick- my housemate. She was wearing her backpack with her phone in hand, clearly on her way out, but she stops for a couple minutes to introduce herself and tell me about the other international girls living in the apartment. I already felt so welcome in this new country. A couple days later, my second Irish housemate arrived and I introduced myself thinking that it would just a quick hello. Instead, she invited me to her room and we talked for an hour about school and life and transitioning to Ireland.
The next day, classes started and after my first lecture, I went up to the professor to introduce myself as an international student studying at University of Limerick for a semester because he needed to manual enter me into the learning management system here, called Sulis. He greeted me to the class and welcomed me to the university, inviting me to come by his office any day to talk about transitioning to life in Ireland. I felt so cared for. When I started sending emails to all my professors to request course information for my home university, I received such warm welcomes from all of them.
The problem with stereotyping is that it is accepted as truth, which then blocks you from creating meaningful relationships and distorts your perceptions of the people that you meet. Stereotypes create a skewed sense of reality, which lead to wrongful action. As with any context, country, ethnicity, and person, one encounter from one angle is not enough to determine the breadth of experience. I came with an open mind, eyes, and no expectations to the Emerald Isle and it wasn’t long before I realized that this is exactly where I belong for the next couple months.
Jennifer Liao is an Elementary Education and Applied Psychology & Human Development double major at Boston College and studied abroad with IFSA at University of Limerick in Ireland in Fall 2018. She served as an International Correspondent for IFSA through the Work-To-Study Program.