The Nicest People in the World
I’ve mentioned before, I did very little research before deciding to study at University College Cork. I didn’t have a ton of options for schools that met my engineering course requirements; I knew I wanted to study in Europe. And I was adamant that, whichever country I ended up in, the citizens of that country spoke English.
People encouraged me to drop this restriction; it cut out France, Spain, Germany, Italy– so many countries in Europe do not first and foremost speak English, and what if I was missing out on a crucial experience by going somewhere that did?
But I stuck to my guns, and six months later I was on a plane to Ireland: a new country full of new people and new experiences, but the language I knew and loved. It didn’t take long for me to be grateful for this; my first day in Dublin, my friends and I were looking around, obviously confused, and a man came up and asked us in his lovely Dublin accent where we’d like to be headed. But soon, a common language became more important than just for the sake of asking for directions.
When my mom was visiting, we took a lazy evening in Dublin. We arrived at a pub, and weren’t seated more than ten seconds before our waiter comes and sits down right next to us, asking how the craic was and what we were in Dublin for. This prompted the British girls seated behind us to turn around and ask us all about our trip so far and to share their own experiences in Ireland. Later in a pub, we’d have two guys from Cork buy us pints and talk about Irish politics and culture.
I have had the experience of traveling to a country where English is not the first language. Italy tested my communication skills, and I loved hearing and seeing the strange words and picking up bits of slang. But I didn’t have any of these experiences, of sitting down and suddenly making a friend.
When my friend from home who’s studying in Italy came to visit me in Cork, I hoped nothing more than she see what it was like to be abroad in a place that spoke her native language. After she arrived off the bus from Cork, we sat down in a wine bar and ordered our dinner. Our waiter stopped what he was doing when he heard our accents: “Ladies, what brings you to Cork?” And again, with the waitress as we paid: “Lovely accents! Where’re ye from?”
All weekend, we were making new friends. At the chocolate cafe, we asked a family to take our picture, and before we knew it they were testing my Irish and congratulating us for being so well-traveled for being so young. At a pub, two guys sat down right across from us and simply said, “Do ye need a proper pub crawl?” The next evening, we were sharing our life stories over homemade curry with a group of ladies we had just ran into that afternoon.
Every day, I have interactions with Irish people, I share my experiences with Irish people, and I fall ever more deeply in love with the country that I am temporarily sharing with them. I’ve been able to make friendships that I will cherish for the rest of my life, in a way that I know, I wouldn’t have been able to in a non-English-speaking country. I can sit down next to a stranger and an hour later feel so much more in touch with this country. With three weeks left abroad, I am still unwaveringly happy with my choice: Ireland, home of the nicest people in the world.