By Megan McCurdy
Foreign Correspondent

I find the term culture shock a bit misleading.

Before leaving the states and upon arrival in the Emerald Isle, I’d been warned that sooner or later all international students would experience it. The way I’d heard it described, I was expecting a minor breakdown over something or other followed by a sudden and overwhelming bout of homesickness. In the almost two months that I’ve been abroad, I am happy to say that I’ve experienced neither.

During my first week or so here, I will admit that I found myself figuring out the time differences and wondering what my friends and family were doing back home and what I would be doing were I there with them. It was in those brief moments I secretly wished I was still at home and carrying on with my usual ways. But since everything about being abroad was still new and exciting, I soon forgot those fleeting feelings of nostalgia for WC and worked on settling in and getting to know my new home.

Even now, on the days when I have nothing to do (or should I say those days when I ignore my to-do list and lounge around drinking obscene amounts of tea) I sometimes imagine what my life would be like if I hadn’t decided to study abroad. Again, these moments are short-lived and by no means overwhelming. The just tend to creep in once in a while and then go away.

Don’t read this as me not enjoying my time here, because I totally am. Most social events sponsored by the Student Union take place in or end up at a pub (or multiple pubs) in town and it’s not every day you get up to and go to London for a three-day weekend just because it’s an hour away by plane. And even life on campus is unpredictable and exciting. For example, last week marked University of Cork’s annual Raise and Give (RAG) Week, a school-wide frenzy of fundraising and charity (featuring a very WC May Day-esque Nearly Naked Mile complete with body paint and brightly colored boxer-briefs).

When I think about my experience in Ireland so far, it’s been surprisingly easy to acclimate. It might be that the culture here is rather similar back home, or the fact that most of the people I meet are other internationals from America, or it might be that this whole “culture shock” isn’t as much of a shock as it is a gradual recognition of differences between home and away and adjustment to a different rhythm.

They say you get out your study abroad experience whatever you put into it. So while I recognize that yes, the honeymoon stage of being abroad will inevitably come to an end, that doesn’t mean I (our those of you who are considering a semester abroad) should let the little things pile up and get to you. If anything, it’s one of those things about being abroad that will teach and change you – to be open and aware and to take things in stride. It’s okay if something doesn’t start on time or you happen to get lost on your way home, it’s all part of the experience. So don’t fret the little setbacks or linger on the ‘what if’s and don’t be afraid to open yourself up to change.

The Elm

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