many mistakes

When questioned as to my purpose in his car, “You are giving me a ride home” I told the little boy in the back seat. His mother looked at me disconcertedly and said “We call it a lift here.” Turns out, a ride is something completely different in Ireland. Sometimes, I’m not sure they speak English here.

Making mistakes has been one of the most rewarding parts of my time abroad. I like to have control over myself and my surroundings, but control is a luxury in a foreign country that relies on public transportation. I have ended up on the end of a bus line on the last bus, insulted store clerks by not saying “How are you?”, and made Deirdre laugh at me because I was working on a paper instead of an assignment.



I adore making lists, so here are five things I’ve discovered about Irish culture through making a fool of myself.

  1. Talking about money is taboo. Rich or poor, filthy lucre is not a topic of conversation. It makes people uncomfortable.
  2. No bragging on your family or accepting compliments graciously. I told some friends that my sister was a good artist, and they told me they would never so something like that about their siblings. While I’m all for humility, sometimes even Irish people admit it gets a little ridiculous.
  3. There are céad míle ways to say “How are you?” in casual conversation (I still don’t know how to respond to any of them). An craic, what’s the crack, what’s the news, how’s it going – the list is endless. It’s a necessary opener to any conversation. Even if you just want to ask where the bathroom is. Furthermore, if someone in Ireland asks if you are all right, that’s your cue to order food or pay for groceries. It’s not that you look wrecked and caused concern. I used to answer the question and wonder why I never got service. Now, I know the correct answer to “Are you all right?” is “Yeah, I’d like a chicken roll, please.”
  4. Don’t mention the Irish language unless you know you are on safe ground. It’s a very politically and emotionally charged subject. Stay away. Same goes for the English, Northern Ireland, and Protestantism.
  5. Irish people will not tell you you are doing something wrong unless they actually care about you. They may look at you in their particularly judgmental way, but they will not say anything. It takes a friend incessantly mocking you to figure out how not offend everyone. I’m thankful for those people.

five months in a suitcase – part one: the naive coed

Five months of my life in suitcase. It excites my gypsy soul and terrifies my inner Girl Scout because it took my car, my mom’s car to haul my harp, and my friends adopting my fridge and microwave to move back from the dorms. As much as I love minimalism, I am terrible at it. There is too much to prepare for.

However, a suitcase and a carry on seem like quite enough now that I’m all packed. 

There are a myriad of lists available (I liked The Budget Traveler), but they are often from richer or more tropical people than me. So for anyone studying abroad to Ireland, The British Isles, or North West Europe. Here’s what I’m taking. I’ll let you know when I get back how well it worked out for me

1. A Purse

My purse is actually a leather camera bag and has a very handy latch. It holds the while-on-airplane-essentials:

  • almonds
  • phone and charger
  • kindle
  • kleenex
  • Benadryl
  • gum
  • journal
  • pens
  • headphones
  • wallet
    • School ID and drivers license
    • health insurance
    • credit/debit cards
    • Starbucks gift card
    • Euros/USD

2. Carry On – School Backpack

Though no one believes you, you are actually going to study on your study abroad trip. I didn’t buy a new backpack for this and am bringing my sturdy one from Cabela’s that my parents got me in high school. I’m hoping this will work for Ryanair and other budget airlines as a carry on in addition to fulfilling my academic needs.

In my carry on, I’m including:

  • laptop, case, and charger
  • kindle charger
  • electronic converter
  • makeupfrom Pinterest
  • change of clothes
  • almonds
  • medicines for one month
  • passport
  • raincoat
  • water bottle/thermos
  • folder of papers
    • copy of flight info
    • acceptance letter from university
    • packet from study abroad provider
    • proof of finances
    • proof of insurance
    • class schedule
    • confirmation of enrollment
    • boarding passes

I have copies of all these documents stored on my computer and in Dropbox as well.

3. The main event

I’m borrowing a large suitcase from my parents, and I’m shocked at how much it holds. Lucky for me. So far, I have:

  • 8ish sweaters and cardigans
  • 4 tank tops
  • shampoo and conditioner
  • bar soap
  • coconut oil (see why I’m never without it)
  • feminine products and various toiletries
  • 7ish shirts/blouses
  • trousers
    • black ponte leggings
    • dark skinny jeans
    • maroon leopard pants
  • grey pencil skirt
  • black a-line dress
  • underwear (the more you bring, the less laundry you do)
  • belts for various outfits
  • hoodie
  • raincoat/jacket (my warmer, heavier one)
  • two pairs of comfortable, neutral flats
  •  two pairs of tights
  • school t-shirt and one other
  • leggings for sleeping/working out
  • prescription meds for as long as possible and tylenol

Sometime later, I’ll let you know what important item(s) I forgot to pack, but for now, I’m rejoicing at being 5 pounds underweight and both fully contained and fully clothed.

study abroad tips – patience

Preparing to study abroad can occasionally seem like an insurmountable task. There are forests of paperwork, a myriad of blogs to read, valleys of bureaucratic pitfalls, inundations of emails, and mostly waiting. Like, a lot of waiting. A LOT of waiting. You’ll fill out a form and wait for a signature. You’ll send out an email and wait for a response. You’ll make a phone call and wait for a return. You’ll submit applications and wait for acceptance. You get the picture.

After the initial torrent of activity to complete the application, the work slows to a small but never ending trickle. As you’ve by now tried to distract yourself and fund your trip by getting a job or five, replying to these emails, obtaining these signatures, and, especially, making phone calls will become more cumbersome.

My first tip is not to worry but stay alert. Your study abroad representatives get paid to make sure everything goes O.K. with this process. That doesn’t mean nothing will go wrong, but you have people looking out for you.

The second tip is this: patience, small one. Create Pinterest boards of blog posts, packing ideas, places you want to see. Read history and tourist books. Watch movies about your new home. Create unreasonable expectations about life there – people will always surprise you. Buy some sweaters. Overplan. Work like a dog and convert hours of toil to bus tickets and postcards.

picture from
picture from

But, most of all, have patience. The time will come. Try to not to drive your parents crazy while you wait.