After spending the past year adjusting and adapting to life in Ireland, Student Ambassador Pricsa Chipao from Malawi can confidently say that she has found a home away from home in Ireland…
Diversity is beautiful, culture is beautiful, it beautifully paints our unique distinctiveness and yet it has the power to bring people closer. As I travelled from Malawi, coming into Ireland for the first time, I worried that I would experience heavy culture shock, especially considering this was my first time ever to travel outside of Africa.
Having arrived in Ireland and lived here for some months, I realise that our distinct cultures have so much in common. The people here are friendly and ever so welcoming. Irish culture is beautiful, I particularly fell in love with Irish music which luckily, you get to hear even when you just walk down the streets. Woodquay in Galway is one of my favourite streets to walk because there is always live music of different sorts and so much life – so much so that it has been my go-to street as I am always guaranteed an amazing cultural experience on one street; the people, the wall paintings, the cultural artifact stores, the local food restaurants… the list goes on!
I am currently learning to play the Irish tin whistle and I am loving it. It looks simpler than it actually is though I must say. I have also been learning the Irish language which is a Gaelic language and most unpredictable! I always laugh at how wrong my expected pronunciations are and that is the beauty of languages. I even learnt that there is an Irish word for my home country name, Malawi which is Mhalaiv in Irish.
Food, glorious food
Although I was worried about being able to find familiar ingredients that would remind me of home every once in a while, I have learnt to enjoy Irish food combinations such as home-baked soda bread, Irish potatoes, a lot of cheese and red meat. Irish food is not complex, I have tried different Irish recipes and I have realised that the basic ingredients and concept of the food is so similar to home with some little differences in personal preferences of spice or sugar quantities. For foods that are very unique to my home like maize flour for Nsima (a paste made from maize flour and water) which is the staple food in Malawi and several African countries with different names including Pap, Ugali, Sadza, there are African-Asian stores where such indigenous foods, spices, and vegetables can be found. Whenever I miss home food, these are my go-to stores
Although we have not been able to enjoy fully the Irish experience and travel across the country during lockdown, there has been enough life and experiences to keep an adventurous person occupied and a lot of easily accessible places to explore. When I left Malawi, I wasn’t sure how the year would be or if I would be able to blend into the Irish culture but I have felt welcomed and at home since I arrived. I have learnt that our cultures actually have a lot in common that it wasn’t difficult to blend in and find my place. There is beauty in diversity that we need to cherish and there is pleasure in feeling at home away from home.
Prisca is studying International Human Rights Law at the National University of Ireland Galway.