1. Americans are pretty damn great
I really think I struck luck coming to this school as everyone has been so welcoming. Very few of the stereotypes that most of us at home have about Americans are actually true. Although, I still feel that we are noticeably far more sarcastic which has caused a few problems. I do live on sarcasm. If I could come back and do my final year of studies at UE, I would in a heartbeat so I think that goes some way in showing how much I am enjoying this new experience and that is thanks to some really great American friends who have shown me the ropes and not judged me too hard for my Irish ways.
University of Evansville has an abundance of international students and I have been able to immerse myself in so many different cultures just by sitting and listening to all my friends at the dinner table. Typically, I sit down at lunch with people from England, America, Canada, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Columbia, Honduras and Syria. Every day there is something to learn. They were the first people I met at UE and together, we have all been able to deal with being so far away from home. They are an incredible bunch.
In my first year of college in Belfast, I lived in dorms which are very different to those at UE or at any American university. One of the major things here though is having a roommate and I got SO lucky with mine. She even makes me a bed on the floor for when I can’t quite make it to my lofted bed after a night out – a.k.a she is a keeper. It is obviously strange living with someone in such close proximity but so far, so good.
One of the greatest things about living in dorms is that it takes no more than a five minute walk to get to any class, building, party, gym or sports event. And at a small school, you will pretty much recognize everyone on campus.
It only took me a few weeks to realize why Americans call university ‘school’ and that is because it’s what is feels like. Most people know how much I enjoyed high school so it’s great being back in the environment where your professors actually know you and care. In the midst of all the fun and games, the hours at Ridgway (Students’ Union) paid off, and I just found out I hit up a 3.94 GPA. Although it means nothing at home, for me it means I can extend Paddy’s Day in to Paddy’s week and make a few more trips just for the craic next semester.
Americans have to study … like all semester long. You’re exam in the third week could be worth just as much as the final. In order to adapt to his, I learned quickly to appreciate weekends. ‘Is if Friday yet?’ became a daily question, although with the help of a fair few Angry Orchard ciders, my weekday nights became a lot more enjoyable too. A night out is as fun as you make it and 'we made it' on more than a few occasions. It is now time to go home to the heels and the tan, but I’ll be more than ready for some crazy dancing come January.
For such a small school, it is truly unreal how many activities UE usually has going on, mainly due to the Greek presence on campus and the Students Activities Board. Carnivals, comedians, philanthropy events, date auctions, date parties, musicians and movie nights – it was really quite hard to get bored. I try to get to as many as possible because they’re fun and always for a good cause.
One of the best things about where I am situated is that there are incredible cities all around me. I live by the saying “You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy a plane ticket, and that’s kind of the same thing.”
· In September, I got to go back to New York to see my campers at where I have worked the last two summers.
· In October, I traveled to Kansas City with my friend Erin for Fall Break for some great food and Royals baseball hype.
· In November, my sister and her boyfriend came to town and we went to Nashville which was insane. We were staying right on the strip and got the full country experience. We also went to Indy and Notre Dame together.
· For Thanksgiving break, I hit up Chicago with Study USA girls who I had never met. It was one of the best weeks here. Plenty of Irish banter and the craic was 90.
Intramural sports pretty much kept me sane after a long day of classes. This semester I played flag football, soccer and volleyball but next semester I plan on not missing one competition. It is so much fun to play with your friends and we tend to get quite competitive. It is a really great system and I think it would work well back at Queen’s.
When my sister was in town, we managed to get incredible tickets to see the Pacers – my first NBA game. The next day, we headed up to snowy Notre Dame for a Fighting Irish football game which was absolutely crazy. I’m not too sure how I feel about everyone chanting that they are Irish but I’d still go back every weekend if I could.
Going from a university 40 miles away to one over 4000 miles away has been crazy. I’ve been able to learn more about myself in four months than I ever could in Belfast. I don’t know why, and my mummy wouldn’t be happy to hear this, but I have managed to avoid being homesick. I’ll probably shed a wee tear when I make it back, but so far, I have just seen it as an opportunity to learn and be challenged every day. I wanted this for so long so now that I am here, I intend on making good use of my time. Freedom is great.
10. Appreciating Ireland
Although I really think I could stick it out or another year, I know that Ireland is always where I will want to end up. I appreciate the little things about the people and the place, that I never even noticed before. I really love telling people about Ireland while I am at UE and hope that through the sister college, Harlaxton, many of them will be able to visit the green isle in the coming years. I actually just tripped and fell in Chicago airport, causing a rather substantial nosebleed (typical), but even still I can’t keep the smile off my face as I am about to be heading home to see my family and friends, many for the first time in six months.
Níl aon tinteán mar do thinteán féin - there is no place like home.