It hasn’t even been a week since I left home, but already so much has happened that it feels like much longer. I met up with several other IFSA-Butler students upon arrival in Dublin and we spent a couple of nights at the O’Callaghan Mont Clare hotel. We were met there by IFSA staff and given some orientation sessions, several interesting meals and a tour of the Guinness Storehouse of all things.
Dublin, like most cities, was full of pedestrian activity and crazy traffic. As an amenity to the blind, the little walk-don’t walk lights make Pacman-esque sound effects when crossing the street is permitted. Cyclists zip along two inches from automobile traffic at ludicrous speeds and have no problem with shouting at you to get you out of the way. Not really rude shouting like you would get in America (of the comic-style *&!#@ variety), more like a single “OI!” seconds before they’re about to mow you over. Whatever gets it done, I suppose.
As soon as we were feeling pretty good about Dublin, it was time to pack up for Limerick. Let me just say for any students studying abroad, you should always investigate all the drawers in any hotel room for complimentary items you can “steal.” I took the shampoo-conditioner and found a mending kit and sturdy plastic dry-cleaning bag. I used the bag for laundry and it came in handy again later for shopping. They actually charge you for plastic bags AND shopping carts in Limerick, so you can’t pick up too many free items like this. Just don’t take their Bibles!
Limerick orientation was more of the same (personal safety, how to behave yourself, etc.) but with the addition of information on registering for classes. This was quite useful considering that, for a person accustomed to the U.S. class structure, trying to understand the Irish structure is like trying to hold a meaningful conversation with an inbred pigeon. More on that later. We did get a nice tour of the campus, including a mysterious rust-colored statue referred to as “Brown Thomas,” which stands facing the library and can catch you quite off-guard on a foggy evening. UL has a couple of restaurants and a pub, gym facilities with an Olympic-size swimming pool, five student “villages,” a bank and a small shop in addition to the usual academic buildings. Orientation also included a bus tour of the Limerick City Centre and the Medieval Quarter. The Medieval Quarter is the site of King John’s Castle, an old Irish abbey, the Treaty Stone and the Hunt Museum as well as nice views of the River Shannon. There are small plastic stands containing life buoys lining the river just in case, and I posed with one of these before returning it to its stand so that the Gardai (Irish Police) wouldn’t catch me messing with it.
The last couple of days have been spent in administrative endeavors (getting my e-mail and library ID to work, etc.), getting groceries and other necessities (with that nice dry cleaning bag I mentioned before) and reconnecting with home via computer. School and real life begin on Monday!