Student ambassador Katherine found out that joining college clubs and societies is one of the best ways to get settled into your new life in Ireland:
“I Met One of My Best Friends On Top of A Mountain!”
When I first stepped off the plane and into Shannon Airport last year was when it first really hit me: I know absolutely no one in this entire country. Not the best feeling I can tell you that, but it was also exhilarating and exciting. I could be whoever I wanted to be! No old classmates who remembered that ridiculous green dress I wore in the fifth grade, no one that I had ever completely embarrassed myself in front of (yet). No one had a clue who I was and it was a chance for me to see how far I could push myself without anything holding me back.
As a kid I’d never moved or changed school systems, never really gone anywhere on my own or anything like that, so this was an absolute first for me. Luckily I had found a blog online over the summer for kids who were either studying abroad or planning to (much like this one!). There was a girl who was at UL the previous semester and after contacting her I got what still is, to date, the most important piece of help I could have ask for: Join a club.
So I did. I joined three.
UL has some awesome clubs – skydiving, scuba diving, kayaking, soccer, rugby, trampoline the list goes on and on, but my absolute favourite club of all time is the Outdoor Pursuits Club, and today I am happy to call them my family away from home.
Joining the OPC coincided with my mission to try and ‘reinvent myself’ as well as find some awesome friends. Through the OPC I’ve learned to rock climb and do some crazy stuff, but take away the club factor of it all and what you have is an amazing group of people who will have your back in any situation.
There are clubs and societies that cater directly for, or just have a lot of international students, which is perfect for meeting loads of people who are in the same boat as you. They are all in a brand new place and scared out of their wits, they all have no clue how to get to the supermarket to buy food, and most likely they are all eager to explore and travel. So this is a perfect opportunity to meet people from around the world and make some travel buddies to spend a weekend in Italy with.
I would suggest joining a club that doesn’t have mostly international students though too. If you’re in Ireland (or wherever you go), isn’t one of the big reasons you went to find out more about the culture and life of the country? The best way to do that is to make friends with the kids who grew up there, spend your weekends they way they do and really integrate yourself into the culture as best as you can.
Last Easter I spent the weekend with a group of friends at one of their homes in the country. It had been one of my friends’ 21st birthday too so there was a bunch of her home friends and a group of us from the club there. Her parents were lovely and had just as much fun as we did. We all spent Easter dinner sitting on the back porch celebrating and relaxing. Everyone else was Irish but I can safely say I hardly even realised it. That weekend is one of my favourite memories from Ireland.
Other than through the club, I have made friends other ways. The course I study has around 400 people in it, I probably know about…3. But never be afraid to sit down next to someone in a lecture, turn around, and ask what the homework was, or just strike up a random conversation. Plus, if you’re foreign there’s a conversation all in itself! They’re probably just as interested in meeting an American as you are to meet and Irish person! (I know that sounds like a parent saying a scary animal is just as afraid of you – but it’s true!)
Sometimes you’re going to make friends in the strangest ways though, and that’s part of the fun of it! Like the title says, I really did get to know one of my best friends in the world on top of a mountain! We were both on a hike last year, and we were practically inseparable for the rest of the semester. She’s already come back to visit Ireland and I’m even going to spend my Christmas with her in Finland!
So the minute you set foot in Ireland don’t for a second let yourself think something’s going to be impossible. Let yourself freak out for a bit, the bus to the college is a good time limit, then get out there and try new things! The worst thing you can do is get to your room, unpack, and Skype everyone at home for the next day. Spend the least amount of time at home as possible and you’ll have the best time doing whatever you do!