Cork City is an interesting place to be, that’s for sure. I didn’t expect anything less when I was planning my semester abroad in Ireland at the University College Cork. I’d heard about the stereotypes of the Irish, who seem to be widely known for their affection for drink, as well as their quick tempers and rebellious attitudes.
While those stereotypes may fit some, I found that they do not apply to the people of Cork. Upon arriving in Dublin, I was immediately met with friendliness and sincerity. Trying to figure out the bus systems from Dublin to Cork was confusing, but some older Irish gentlemen saw my confused expression and offered advice. It was no different when I got to Cork, where I faced using the public transportation system again. I didn’t know which bus number was the one I needed or where my university housing was located, but an older Irish woman stepped forward and offered a helping hand. I can’t even begin to count how many times I have had an older Irish woman strike up a friendly conversation with me, offer me directions or even a seat on the bus.
The first time I rode the bus alone on my way back to my university accommodation, I accidentally got off at the wrong stop. It was a street that I had never seen before in an unusual part of the city. After noticing my nervous expression, an older woman asked me where I was headed and proceeded to talk to me while we waited for another bus, which was 20 minutes out.
Once the bus arrived, the friendly stranger got on and told the bus driver that I was a new student who needed to get home. Not only did he not charge me to use the bus, but he took me to the stop right outside of my accommodation, which was not on his route.
These little moments have added up to an incredible experience so far. I’ve only been in Cork for a little under two weeks and I already feel very comfortable here. Conversations with strangers are very common and nobody has given me a hard time for being an outsider. I’ve never felt more welcome in a city environment than I do here, including my experiences in the United States. I have started introducing myself to others and helping strangers out when I can, whether it’s giving up a seat on the bus or helping others with directions. There is a nice feeling of community here and I’m so grateful to be a part of it.
I’m looking forward to my classes that begin next week. I have met and befriended a lot of international students here during orientation week, and I’m looking forward to meeting some of the Irish students.