My floor mate and I were discussing the first week of class: We both agreed that we missed the familiarity of our home college, where we didn’t have such crazy foreign stuff to think about, but it was exciting to officially start a semester abroad.
I felt like I was going to pass out on my first day of class. I felt an added pressure that I never felt my freshman year; I wasn’t entirely sure how to act at this campus considering I’m a foreigner. What were the norms? Was my outfit acceptable? Would people be able to tell I was from America just by looking at me? Are Americans considered weird at this campus? How do I fit in and get through the day?
By the end of the day and the days after, I realized what I wore didn’t seem to matter too much (although the girls especially do not dress as scrubby as American college girls). And most of the people I questioned were very friendly and wanted to know where I was from after hearing my accent.
I freaked out more when I got lost trying to find the room where my first lecture would take place. I asked an Irish girl and she couldn’t even find it. I finally just asked reception, and found that it was in the concert hall near the front entrance.
Getting lost happened more than once last week, of course. I tried getting into a class in the research building and the front door wouldn’t open for me even though it was an automatic door. I got so embarrassed and figured I’d have to just miss class because I couldn’t physically get in. Then an older man saw me struggling and told me to go in a different door; the one I was trying to get into was for graduate students.
Other getting-lost stories include: Finding the room number I believed was my lecture hall only to realize it was the male toilet and not a lecture hall at all (definitely had to recheck that room number) and another time I followed the room numbers down a hallway but I never found my room number, only a closet at the end of the building (the room numbers picked up at a different entrance of the building… hopefully I remember that next time).
Figuring out my schedule was a whole other struggle. This university allows international students to try out lectures for the first week or so and then they are able to finalize a schedule. It’s stressful because you can show up to a class that you planned on taking, but there may not be spots for international students. There’s lots of trial and error involved, but I think I’ve got most of it straightened out by now. (However, on the bright side, it is much easier to get away with not having classes on Mondays and Fridays… I just barely got by, but due to some last-minute changes on my professors’ ends of things, I have one class Monday and one on Friday)
Here vs. Home
The actual lecture was not scary, until the professor got to the grading system for the class. 50% of my grade rides on a 1,200 word essay, the other 50% on one final exam. I almost had to be resuscitated. I quickly learned that your grades at UL are dependent on the time you spend learning outside the classroom through reading and research, not hours of homework with a deadline (a.k.a. busy work) like I have at my home college.
UL also has more than just lecture; there are tutorials and/or labs that students must attend to aid their learning in the lecture. Those are smaller classes with more hands-on projects and applications (and more chances to meet Irish students personally). I wish my home college had something like that that was more than just sitting in class and “taking notes” along with hours of homework when you get back to your room.
I have also found, while getting lost everyday, that asking for help never seems to be a bother to the Irish students and faculty here. I was flabbergasted by the first Irish girl I asked to find my lecture hall on the first day. Instead of just explaining where the room might be, she walked me all the way to the building, inside and all around, to try and find the room with me. This happened with all the other Irish I have asked except for one group of students who were in a large discussion group (and the lecture hall was on the opposite side of the campus). Just today, I walked up to two older Irish women and asked where the nearest restroom was. The one lady actually left her conversation to lead me to the bathroom. (Yes Mom, I have been saying “Thank you, I appreciate it” to everyone who does this, don’t worry)
One time I didn’t even ask for help! I was just walking back to my house while looking down at my phone. A lady walked right up to me and said, “Ye look lost, love. Where ye goin’?” and proceeded to describe exactly how to get back to my village, though I knew exactly how to get back.
What I’m Studying
If ye are curious, this is my class list:
Journalistic Writing (with an emphasis on news and Irish politics)
Introduction to Sociology
Ireland’s Revolution & Independence (I have to catch up on 300 years worth of history)
Gender: Sociological Perspectives