Arts

The choice between the Irish pub and Bridgehead can be a tough one. Illustration: Thomas Sequiera.

Around this time last year, I had submitted my exchange request to the National University of Ireland, Galway, and was impatiently waiting to find out if I would be accepted to study for two semesters across the Atlantic Ocean.

I now feel that my time in Ireland has become an integral part of my academic career, but the details of my exchange weren’t always so certain.

One of the biggest decisions that any student hoping to study abroad must make—after deciding where to go—is how long they want to spend in their host country. Normally, students have the choice between spending one or two semesters in a new and unfamiliar environment. I chose the whole year.

When I first arrived in Ireland, I experienced some culture shock. Everyone I met was friendly and outgoing, the academic lifestyle was far more laid back than at the University of Ottawa, and I was being bombarded by new experiences with every passing day.

I can remember my first day in school, meeting my roommates, and making tons of friends from all over the world. It was a blast.

As time went on, however, I started to get used to my Irish surroundings and began to miss certain aspects of life in Canada. Sometimes it was as small as craving a Bridgehead coffee or missing the comforting sound of accents that I could understand without extreme levels of focus.

Paradoxically, when I arrived home in Canada for the winter holidays, I began to miss Ireland again. Seeing family and friends is always great, but the possibilities of holidays spent across the English Channel and exploring the rest of Europe for cheap prices is a reality that’s hard to pass up.

I have found that going on an exchange is exciting and—whether homesick or not—my time here is limited and incredibly valuable. So, since arriving back in Ireland to start my second semester, I have had to take a different approach to the increasingly familiar experiences that Ireland now offers. This sums up the new mindset that I’ve found I’ve adopted after living through a semester of an exchange.

Instead of being overwhelmed, I have grown accustomed to living across the pond. While the almost-apocalyptic amounts of overcast weather and tea-obsessed culture used to seem foreign to me, I now find that I don’t notice the differences as much and, instead, it has helped me to grow to appreciate sunny days and a great cup of coffee.

While going on an exchange for a semester would have given me similarly amazing experiences, I’m not sure that I would have fully grasped just how short three months can seem to pass.

So, for any exchange hopefuls out there who may be trying to decide how long they want to go abroad for, I would definitely recommend getting the full experience of a year-long exchange.

However, if that’s not your style and you would like to try out a country for a semester, then be warned that time flies, so be sure to enjoy it as much as you can!