By Jessica Hergert
I have always been enamored with the idea of traveling the world. I suppose the wanderlust I have is typical for millennials, but it has always felt special to me.
This past semester, I decided to trust what my heart wanted and fulfilled a childhood dream of going to Ireland to study abroad.
Through the CAPA Dublin program and with the help of Rider’s Center for International Education team, I have been living in Dublin for the past three weeks, attending classes at Griffith College with Irish students, beginning an internship with a social media analytic company called Olytico and breaking out of my small New Jersey bubble to eat, sleep and live as a true Dubliner.
And it has not all been easy; Ireland’s culture, though similar to America’s in countless ways, has subtle differences that make adjusting to everyday life a little more difficult. The country has taught me that differences are not bad. They are just, well, different.
Since my arrival, the people I have met have been the biggest influences on my adjustment to Dublin. There is an air of quiet hospitality, social interaction and acceptance that infiltrates every street unlike anything I have seen in New York City or Boston.
I met a woman on the bus who saw my panic-stricken face and volunteered directions; sarcastic men in a guitar shop who poked light-hearted fun at the results of America’s election; Friday-night pub-goers who drank seemingly endless pints of Guinness — some stereotypes are true — and wanted nothing more than to have a laugh; and a city filled with people who stop to ask about each other’s days, grab a cup of coffee and depend on friendships to lead a happy life.
With the beautiful culture comes an even more striking landscape filled with rich, sometimes troubled, history dating back centuries.
I felt the historic depth in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which dates back to 1191, and in the many castles scattered around the country that tell stories of battles fought but not always won.
From mountains to the Irish Sea to thick forests that remind me of home, Ireland has shown me a small, yet unimaginable portion of its beauty in three weeks.
I visited the Wicklow Mountains on a day when the fog was the worst the tour guide had ever seen it. Even, with nearly zero visibility, it was one of the most breathtaking sights I have ever seen.
The small town of Howth, just a half hour train ride from Dublin, stole my heart with its quaint fishing village lifestyle, amazing seafood and a cliff-side hike that was almost as tough as it was beautiful.
And of course, the city of Dublin, which I now call home, is vibrant and eclectic. Everybody J-walks despite the constant double-decker buses that fly around corners. There are significantly more pubs than gas — or, as they say, petrol — stations and the cars drive on the opposite side of the road, something I do not know if I’ll ever get used to.
Differences or not, in just three weeks I have fallen madly in love with Ireland and have gone from feeling like a total alien to embracing the city’s quirks and making it my home.
This adventure has only just begun but I am confident in saying studying abroad was the greatest decision I have ever made.
Printed in the 2/8/17 edition.