Irish people are known to have a number of quirks! Stephen Mbwika, Student Ambassador from Kenya, tells us of his first experiences of Ireland, its people and its weather…
As a first-timer, I started experiencing the beauty of Ireland even before I landed at the Dublin Airport! From an aerial view, the expansive green fields, white farmhouses, and blue ocean give you the impression that you are entering a home away from home.
As you get off the plane, you will be welcomed by friendly and efficient immigration staff. At first, this may seem unsurprising, but you will quickly be charmed by the number of smiles that strangers will throw your way as you walk through the streets. As an international student, it will be useful to visit the meet and greet desk at the airport organised by the Irish Higher Education Institutions for directions on transport depending on the location of your accommodation.
The Irish are the most welcoming bunch of people I have ever met. Their overwhelmingly friendly nature and politeness will wow you. It is a tourist thing to use your map when trying to locate places, however, do not hesitate to ask as the Irish are always willing to pull out all the stops to give you directions. The Irish are big on banter, and the predominant custom that is quickly noticeable is their love for dogs and coffee. You will see people walking their dogs, and If you know a thing or two about dogs, you are more likely to get along with them easily.
It is also a uniquely Irish thing to use the magic word “sorry” all the time. They value relationships, and whether apologising or grabbing your attention, “sorry”. “Sorry” will all be around you. When speaking on the phone, you will also be surprised by the countless number of “byes” that come when a person is about to end the conversation. And sandwiches oh my…. I had always thought them to be a snack, but I came to realise that they are the go-to lunch for the Irish!
The Local Climate
You will be experiencing a mixed bag of weather conditions daily. The only predictable thing about the Irish climate is its unpredictability. You can experience the four seasons in a single day! I come from a tropical climatic region and I have been here for a while but I have not acclimatised to the Irish weather. You are always advised to wear warm clothes as it is quite cold even when it looks the sunniest. As the mantra goes, “it’s never cold in Ireland, you only dress inappropriately for the weather”.
Settling in as an International Student
It is probably advisable to look out for and secure accommodation before travelling. I was lucky to get on-campus accommodation, which made settling in a lot easier. It is important to contact the international office to seek guidance and clarification on things that you find challenging. However, whether you secure on or off-campus accommodation, it is imperative to settle in quickly before the semester gets underway. Getting a few friends, joining societies and attending social events can be useful to avoid being homesick. Most institutions of higher learning have a strong support system, so do not hesitate to reach out. The lecturers are quite friendly too.
To fully enjoy your stay in Ireland, plan well, and create time to visit the ancient and beautiful historical sites.
Stephen is studying Adult and Community Education at Maynooth University.