I am currently in my third month abroad. After living in a country for three months I am starting to feel like I am comfortable living here and have almost developed a set schedule or pace of life. Well, as much of a schedule as you can get when you are traveling and experiencing new places almost weekly. But as far as the mundane goes; I know what food to get at what store, the time of day the streets of Cork will be jam-packed, who I will see walking to and from class and where the good places to hang out with my friends are. There is a schedule and an order to my life here in Cork. I know what I will buy at the grocery store each week and I know what nights I can expect to hang out with my friends. It’s strange to have suddenly settled into a place that was so different and confusing at first.
And now with only a month left it will be interesting to see how I have changed back home. Being here has given me a new sense of independence. From things as simple as knowing how to navigate a grocery store and cook meals for myself on a daily basis, several times a day, to booking flights and figuring out transportation in countries that don’t speak English. I feel like I will come out of this even more prepared for life on my own after college than I was being away from home at college.
One key difference from living at St. Norbert College and living in Cork, City is food. At SNC the cafeteria or Phils are practically open all the time. Maybe you have to rough it a little on the weekends but there is always a quick run to your favorite restaurant if you want to. Here the campus doesn’t feed any of its students. There are a few coffee shops but there is no main cafeteria to go and eat in. In the beginning it was tricky to figure out what I would make for myself. I ate a lot of grilled cheese and spaghetti because that was what I would make at home, however four months of that and you will never eat it again. A good idea is to look up recipes that are easy and find some that use the same ingredients. Another difference is the commute.
You do not live on campus at all. Actually you live at one of the best locations as far as being near the city center and the bus station are concerned (Leeside Apartments). Therefore it isn’t as easy as the 8:45 roll out of bed that I was famous for. It will take you approximately 15 minutes to walk to class, and that is if you are actually on the main campus. One of my classes is a good 25 minute walk from my building. The UCC campus is spread throughout the city of Cork and this can be kind of rough the first few weeks.
Also, the library! Now you wouldn’t think that a building would make the list however, this is one of the most high-tech libraries I have ever seen. You have to scan your student card to get in and then to check out books they are scanned under a machine that took me a little while to figure out. And then when you check your book in it is scanned into another machine. Now that isn’t the strangest part and I’m sure you will get the hang of it after one or two tries. The part that I found the most interesting about the library was the way printing was handled. First of all you pay for printing on the UCC website. Once you have set up an account you can go to any computer in the library and print something. However then you have to go to a printing room and wait in line until one of two computers opens up. At these computers you type in your student number and password and then what you all printed will appear there and you can click on what you would like to print. It is quite different from the array of printers that are scattered across the SNC library.
There are so many other differences as well but I will leave it to you to discover some of them for yourself. Studying abroad has been more valuable to me than I expected. Before this experience I considered myself a very independent person but I believe that being abroad has increased my feeling of independence even more.
Claire Hephner is studying abroad at University College Cork in Cork, Ireland.