12 hours and 2 flights later, I was finally on Irish soil. After a stressful immigration where I was told I’d better hurry with my immigration procedures if I plan on traveling to Europe and that I’d have SLIGHTLY more trouble because of my Indian passport (expect a rant on that a little later), we finally made it to the beautiful town of Cork! My first impression: everything was the greenest shade of green you’ll ever see and accents everywhere! I loved it.
It’s a beautiful little town scattered with colorful building facades, old stone architecture, and the best part – it’s supposedly the culinary capital of Ireland! Though, I’ve been here a little over a week and I’ve had fish and chips about 6 times – maybe I need to branch out a little bit. Update: I have now tried seafood chowder and I think it slightly ups fish & chips! I feel a new obsession brewing…
Upon arriving, Arthi and I made our way to our accommodation, Arcadia Hall, where we were greeted by a lovely man named Mic, the building’s caretaker. He was as Irish as it gets! Of course, we were told that our apartment was on the fourth floor. Mic very sweetly carried both our 50lbs suitcases up the four flights while I struggled with my very stuffed and overweight 13 kg carry on bag (which they surprisingly allowed me to carry on board). Though, he did laugh at me when I asked if there was an elevator…
At that point, we were both exhausted and hungry. I was doing okay considering flying from Qatar to Ireland was a much easier journey that my usual 14 hour flight from Doha – Chicago but Arthi on the other hand looked like she was going to pass out (she flew from San Diego). We decided to meet up with some girls I met on the flight over here to grab a bite to eat at a pub. That night turned out to be one of my favorite nights here! It was the perfect first night in Ireland – a pint of guinness, fish and chips, and live traditional Irish music (they even had tap dancers dancing to the beat of the music – it was mesmerizing, really). We met so many people from all over Europe – France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, etc. Though I think Arthi slightly hated me for making her stay out so late since she had been up for almost 48 hours straight but I couldn’t get enough of the music!
The next couple days were pretty hectic with orientation and I don’t think made it much easier on ourselves by staying out dancing till 2 every night! We were trying to meet as many people as possible and surprise surprise, the welcome social events held by UCC were at pubs / nightclubs! It’s kind of like freshman year all over again and you’re grabbing onto any opportunity to meet more people and make friends. The pub culture here is very very very big, as I soon found out. Apparently, the norm here is that people go out on Tuesdays and Thursdays and go home on the weekends. Back home, the concept of going out during the week is so foreign to me (you got to be a real partier or a slacker or maybe you’re just a trooper and are crazy good at balancing life unlike me) to be able to go out every Tuesday and Thursday so this will be interesting. It’s safe to say we definitely did our first week justice.
One thing I’ve noticed: Irish girls DRESS UP! It was maybe 2 degrees C but that doesn’t stop them! It’s really quite impressive and I’ve probably never felt more underdressed. It’s so clear who’s American and who’s Irish just by looking around.
On a more academic note, I cannot describe how beautiful the UCC campus is. It’s like a scene from Harry Potter. It’s got nothin’ on Iowa State’s campus! Everything is pretty compact on the campus which makes it feel considerably smaller than ISU’s but UCC itself has quite a large student population at 21,000. Unfortunately, we later realized the architecture building wasn’t even on campus. To put this into perspective – Arcadia Hall, UCC, and the architecture building are situated at three different points on a fairly large equilateral triangle! It takes us 35 minutes to walk from home to UCC and another 35 minutes to Copley (the architecture building). If I don’t have killer legs by the end of this semester, I am going to be very mad! I asked an Irish guy for advice on getting from UCC to Copley and he gestured the sign of the cross!! Hopefully, by next week, I would’ve figured out a more efficient way to get around…
But here are some photos of the campus anyways!
This weekend, a group of us decided to go to Blarney Castle. I still don’t understand the whole significance of the Blarney Stone, but I kissed the stone! Let me tell you, it was quite a terrifying experience. All this while, I thought you just go up to the stone and plant a quick kiss on it – NO. You lie down on your back, scoot your body backwards over a ledge (there’s about a foot and a half of nothing between the ledge and the stone), and bend over backwards to kiss the stone. There’s a man who’s sole job is to hold your waist while you’re trying to bend your body over the ledge. Me being me, I ended up almost making out with the stone – I kept thinking that this was where I was supposed to kiss only to be told about four times that it was lower. But I did it! I now have the gift of the gab and the gift of eloquence.
That was the end of my first week and I’m super excited for classes to start! Here are more photos of my Irish experience so far: