Two days ago, my exchange in Ireland was completed. As I flied away from the Emerald Isle, I could not avoid but to think back on how everything begun. With a simple decision in the cold Swedish winter of 2020/21. ”I will go abroad for my final semester”. No sooner said than done, I applied, but plenty of uncertainity followed to the acceptance of my spot in Trinity College Dublin. Mostly due to the pandemics, but also due to an awful lot of burocracy and long administration procedure that turned such an easy matter into rocket science.
Once I managed to fix all the boring paper work, the day of moving out arrived quickly. Unexpectedly. Suddenly. It is hard to change habits when your comfort zone is so secure. At first, when you land in a brand new country, it is normal to feel like a fish out of water. You are starting all over again. During my first weeks, I made a big effort to understand what expressions like ”grand” or ”lads” or ”wee” meant, to understand which is the quickest way to get from ”Tallaght” to ”James'” or to ”Abbey Street”, to understand how to take care of cute cell babies that require extra attention.
However, in the blink of an eye I realised the new environment would not that complicated to handle. Soon enough I accepted that I was always going to be late because the Luas is never on time. Soon enough I found out that for cheap student prices I had better go grocery shopping to Lidl, Aldi, or even Tesco, while Dunnes and Mark&Spencer are a no go. Soon enough I started using words like ”class” or ”lovely” or ”fella”. Soon enough I learnt that ”Baby Guinness” and ”half a pint of Guinness” are not the same concepts. Soon enough I became to appreciate the beauty of what I had initially perceived as really ugly industrial polluting towers.
Most importatly, one day I commenced to recognise familiar faces and to meet super interesting people. Facebook groups were my best allies. Although Irish people are extremely friendly and outgoing, it can be trickier to get all the way into their hearts. When you do though, I have never met more giving and devoting people in my life. I had a lot of contact with Irish in my lab group. I would like to take a minute to especially thank my supervisor, Dr. Anne-Marie Baird, for her wonderful guidance through the project and being the best emotional support ever. Similarly, a big thank you to Niamh, who I shared my day-to-day life with, and to Marvin, my flatmate and personal chef. Outside the lab, my most inner circle was quite international, which was completely fine, since I, myself, am very international. All in all, despite cultural differences and language barriers, I noticed several things:
- Dogs are a huge bonding factor. They were the highlight of many conversations with my friends.
- A pub (in our case, ”The Old Storehouse”) is the most frequent meeting point in Ireland.
- Everyone hates grant applications. Uncertainty of academia employments is frustrating.
- Some little rain will not stop any hike or other type of plans.
- Forcing Southern Europeans to have a dip in the Wild Atlantic Ocean might make them sick, but for pride reasons, they will not chicken out and take their decision back.
- Beautiful sunsets are overrated. It is more about the people you share the down moments with.
- If you are cautious, it is possible to not have any cell contamination, even without the use of antibiotics.
- Deers in Phoenix Park are the true four-leaf clovers. I never saw any…
- Dublin 1 is the city centre, but not a safe city centre.
- Results can be interpreted in so many ways. There is not only one correct option.
Overall, I learnt a lot, not only professionally and study-wise, but this experience has provided me with skills to be more resilient when facing adversity, to be solution-oriented to cope with unforeseen circumstances, to balance my career and my free-time. The Oneka that got on a plane on January 10th and arrived in a cold-windy-dark Ireland is not by far the same that has returned back to Stockholm today. She has evolved in so many ways. Therefore, at the end of my stay, among tears, hugs, and farewells, I can only thank my past self for her determination and wise choice of going on exchage. I did not find the leprechaun in the pot of gold, but I found extraordinary people at the end of the rainbow.