September 27, 2013
Finding your focus abroadBefore this semester technically started, during Study Abroad and Erasmus (European Union students studying in another EU university for the semester) orientation, we had a few-hour talk from Andy Steves. He's an American who has started his own college-student-oriented weekend tours. Essentially, it is built specifically for students studying abroad and crams as much into each weekend as possible.
To be honest, I didn't pay extremely close attention, as I already had my weekend trips planned out in my mind. When he started speaking about why he enjoyed travelling so much in the first place, though, I was completely drawn in. See, what he spoke about was focusing more on the people you encounter while abroad rather than spending all of your time staring at this cathedral or that monument.
Bearing this in mind, this past Saturday I took my first day trip to the Irish village of Adare. This is a town known, essentially, for being beautiful. We're talking thatched roof cottages, one-of-a-kind boutiques, buildings in every pastel color you can imagine and amazing castle ruins right on the water. So yes, I took an obscene amount of pictures. I spent my money on antique trinkets, presents for friends at Susquehanna, hilarious cards to send home and a wool scarf (that I've worn every day since).
I also spent a solid half hour chatting with the owner of a fair trade art gallery. We talked about global production rights and about my studies here and back in the States. We covered art, music, popular fiction, and I even got to explain slam poetry to him.
I got to speak with the owner of an antique shop because she saw the grin on my face when I came across copies of a newspaper that are over 200 years old and, somehow, still legible and beautiful. She told me about her childhood hopes of becoming a poet and showed me the small journal she keeps in her purse. She even admitted that her husband doesn't know about the journal.
There was the woman I bought a pearl headband from who chatted me up about hair color, there was the bus driver that didn't realize study abroad students chose Limerick over Dublin and there was the waitress who gave us hot chocolates for free because she overheard our joking conversation concerning the fact that we've now had hot cocoa in three counties.
I've carried this focus on people into my classes as well. I had my first Irish language class this week and had wonderful conversation (between hysterical mispronunciations) with an English woman whose Dutch husband moved to Limerick with her just a year ago.
I'm here to see the sights and take pictures, yes. I'm here to experience what I can translate back into my writing, and to maybe even find a slam in Dublin to compete in. But more than anything else, I want to meet new people, hear their experiences and maybe even share a few of my own.
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