Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

Is This Thing On?

Why, hello there. My name is Owen. And this, right here, is a blog. My blog, no less. Who am I, you ask? I am an average-heighted, thickly bespectacled, ginger haired boy of twenty years hailing from just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. On top of that, I am a junior at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee majoring in Creative Writing. Well, that is, I would be a junior at Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tennessee, were it not for the fact that within 24 hours, I will be leaving behind the comfort of both the nation and academic system that has raised me well over the past two decades, in favor of a new, untold, and exciting semester abroad in Ireland at University College Dublin.

This will be my very first time in Ireland and, though I’ve traveled to some parts of both the UK and mainland Europe, this Study Abroad stay will be the first such trip that I will have undergone on my own. I will be living sans family, sans established friendships, and sans a “comfort zone.” I will also be cooking for myself, cleaning up after myself, and generally finding my own way. It is certainly a lot to wrap my head around, given that my independence will go hand in hand with an entirely new setting, culture, and surely a new way of life.

So, the question is begged, how does one prepare oneself for such a trip? Well, aside form the obvious answers of packing some clothes into a suitcase and not forgetting one’s passport, one way that I found to ease my transition into life abroad is to talk to people who have undergone such journeys before. The primary source to which I went in order to properly acquaint myself before arriving in Dublin was my grandfather.

Born in 1930, my grandfather is a second generation Irishman, with all four of his own grandparents having moved to the US from Ireland during the beginning of the 20th century. Due to familial complications, from a young age my grandfather was raised by his own grandfather and grandmother in Norwood, Massachusetts, a small town with a booming Irish population. From what he tells me, his upbringing in an Irish-American household involved a certain level of tough love, but also deep-running love, with a sense of familial connection that transcended time, generations, and, well, the Atlantic Ocean. His family name back in the home country was Thornton. The Thorntons, according to my grandfather, were a central family in Spiddal, a small town close to Galway, notable in particular for their boxing abilities. Family heritage was important to them and, though it took my grandfather 64 years, he finally made his way back to the country of his relatives, and his stories therein are what fill me with excitement for my own extended stay.

According to both of my grandparents, who together took a week-long bus tour of Ireland in 1994, the Irish were among the easiest people to get along with that they’d ever come across. Smiles were shared despite small accommodations and dreary weather. At one stop along their journey, some distant relative got wind of my grandparents’ arrival and promptly set out to find them. Once they had located the couple, they whisked my grandparents away from their hotel one night for an elaborate celebration. That celebration, which my grandfather recounts merrily and my grandmother cannot help but shiver at the thought of, involved an appetizer of nothing but whiskey, followed by an entrée of some nice lamb, duck, and more whiskey, with dessert to follow that consisted of, you guessed it, even more whiskey. The two were whisked around from house to house for each new course and round of drinks, and were welcomed to each home as if they had lived there all their lives. When they left, both of my grandparents had nothing but good memories of the country, besides, of course, the queasiness that came on the bus the morning after.

So, if my Irish grandfather is a man of his word, which I certainly believe him to be, I will be hard-pressed to not enjoy myself in Ireland. If things go as planned, I will be welcomed with open arms and full-to-the-brim pint glasses at every turn. Even if they do not go quite as planned, I have no reason not be excited for my time in Dublin. It will be new, it will be different, and it will be exciting. And, hey, maybe some long lost relatives will pluck me from my room one night and show me around town. Who knows? Either way, I’ll keep you updated. If you got this far, thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more posts about whatever and whoever comes my way as I head across the pond. Wish me luck.




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