The first weeks of studying abroad are some of the most exciting and important weeks of the trip, but they can also be so nerve-wracking. There are so many new people to meet, foods to try, and places to explore. With all of this, experiencing culture shock is a given, and it can be very overwhelming.
I have been in Galway, Ireland for three weeks now and have felt culture shock in so many ways. The first being that they drive on the left-side of the road here. When I landed at the Dublin Airport there were signs everywhere informing all the travelers of this driving pattern. Even with this, I kept forgetting to look right, left, right when crossing the street instead of my usual left, right, left that I have been taught to do since I was a kid.
Another way transportation differs here than in the States is that you must flag down all public transportation. My first day at the National University of Ireland, Galway I watched the bus I needed zip past me a few too many times until I realized. This was such a shock to me since in Philly if a SEPTA driver sees you, they will automatically stop.
The weather here has been quite a shock! When preparing to come to Ireland, I knew it would be rainy, but I was not ready for how fast the weather changes. During my orientation, all the international students were told how we will experience all four seasons everyday in Ireland. After being here for a few weeks, truer words could not have been said! It will go from rainy to sunny to cloudy to rainy again all within a few hours. Due to this, I have learned to dress in layers to be prepared for anything the weather might throw at me.
Another thing that was a big culture shock to me was that in Ireland “how are you?” is simply a greeting. If someone starts a conversation with “how are you?”, they do not expect you to respond with how you are doing. It took me a while to realize this, until I finally realized that every time I would respond with “I’m good, how are you?”, no one ever responded. With this, the people here are so friendly. Everyone I have met has been willing to help me out and has always been willing to have a conversation.
Lastly, the pub culture in Ireland has also been a big culture shock for me. It is more than just a bar; it Is truly a community gathering place. It is a destination for people to watch sports, talk with others, share a meal, or enjoy live music together. There is even a pub right on campus at NUIG where students come together after classes, and clubs meet for social nights!
With all of this, experiencing all these different culture shocks has been so rewarding. It allows us to be more open-minded and develop a different perspective of the world.