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UCC International Pre-Departure Blog Series: Why Ireland?

In my last post, I discussed the many routes my life could have taken.

Today, I want to focus not on what could have been, but what is.

Mere months ago, I was completely blindsided by the opportunity to study at University College Cork. It was a risk, and, for once in my (control freak) life, I took it.

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Here are five reasons why moving to Cork is the best thing that could’ve happened to me right now:

  1. Tradition

One of my itty-bitty pet peeves is when people mistakenly think of Ireland as part of the UK. It’s not quite “up there” with considering Africa a country, but it irritates me nonetheless. It isn’t just an error of geography; it discounts nearly 8 centuries of (largely unwanted) English and British rule followed by a war of independence and the declaration of Ireland as a free state.

Irish people (let alone Northern English people) don’t speak with a Londoner’s accent. They have their own rich history and tradition, filled with heartbreaking and uplifting tales of the Celts and the Vikings, the Great Famine and the Troubles.

And, in more modern tradition, I have heard tales of firm but loving Irish mammies and having great craic on the weekend (yes, Cork, I have been checking your YikYak feed).

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I don’t proclaim to know everything or even a little bit about this vast culture, but I do hope to learn, because I would like – in some small way – to experience and feel a part of the beautiful Irish tradition.

  1. Modernity

A country with a largely Catholic population and history, Ireland shocked the world just a few weeks ago when it passed equal marriage into law by popular vote. But it isn’t really shocking at all that 67% of the population voted in favor of this constitutional change.

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Ireland isn’t stuck in the past. It is a highly modern place, able to simultaneously cherish its history and set an example for the rest of the world in terms of forward thinking.

UCC in particular was named the “first third level education institute worldwide to receive the Green Campus award” in 2010. I admire this university’s concern for the future and its focus on sustainability. Perhaps it will turn me into even more of a hippie.

  1. Beauty

One cannot deny that Ireland is one of the most freakin’ gorgeous places you could ever visit. I cannot wait to explore it more, because I’m sure it is even better in person than in photos.

Landscape of County Clare, Ireland. Green fields in foreground and Galway Bay in the background. Beginings of the Burren can also be seen.

Do I fantasize about buying a bike and cycling through the rolling hills on the weekend? Yes.

Do I daydream of meeting a cute Irish dairy farmer by chance on a stroll through the lush greenery? Heck yes.

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Simply put, Ireland is breathtakingly beautiful. And I will gladly deal with the rain all year long in exchange for the gorgeous surroundings.

  1. Learning

This year abroad is not a vacation (although I do sometimes have to remind myself of that fact). I am traveling in order to learn in a completely different way and to open up a new perspective on life and the acquisition of knowledge.

I am particularly excited about the timing of this year abroad, as 2015 is the 200th anniversary of George Boole’s birth. Boole, whose name I have heard thrown around since my 10th grade computer science course, is an extremely important figure in mathematics and formed the basis of much logic in computer science.

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Boole the bro.                                                   Me after studying computer science at UCC.

As a new student of that field, I am excited to learn where Boole once taught.

  1. Change

I need a change of scenery. I want to smell new air and hear new accents and learn new slang. I want to grow as a person (I know it is so cheesy!)

Sure, I learned how to be semi-independent in Oklahoma. But that was with a meal plan, on-campus living, and a lovely mom just a phone call away who always picked up.

Now, I’ll be cooking my own meals, living in a room off campus, and dealing with the time difference, which will severely limit (vocal) communication with my loved ones. All this in an entirely new country.

I’m worried about the people I’m leaving behind. But I truly believe that not only will I be challenged to make new friends in a totally new place, but also that the distance will test and eventually strengthen those relationships I cherish most.

Ireland, I’m coming soon. I hope you’re ready for me.

Elena

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