As I enter the last week of teaching week of this semester at UCD in Dublin, Ireland, I’ve become overwhelmed by a certain feeling, one that I’ve definitely felt before, over and over again. It usually signifies that the end of something is near but you’re not quite there yet. The feeling (action…?) is procrastination, and it has most definitely come to say hello.
Speaking of hellos, I’m Ambar and I’m currently on a yearlong exchange for the duration of 2015. Back home I study Business/Creative Industries but here in Dublin I’ve ended up in the Business/Law faculty taking 6 subjects (a frightfully “normal” concept here). While it’s dismal that this is my first blog post, procrastination lends me well, meaning that there’s no time like the present to catch up on what’s been going on for the past few months. And by “no time like the present”, I mean being 8 days out from 5 exams in a row. Exam timetables = providing endless joy regardless of the country that you live in.
I’m currently sitting in a park in Copenhagen, Denmark, wondering how it somehow became the end of the semester and the start of summer. The sun is out; it’s like 16 degrees (if that), so naturally everyone is in t-shirts enjoying the ‘hot’ weather (I use this term loosely Brisbane). I left Australia going on 5 months ago now, but it feels more like 5 weeks. I’m sure that every exchange blog says the same thing: being on exchange flies by. And it definitely does. Maybe it’s the sentiment that you’re not counting down until the end of the semester, or to what come next – whether it be summer holidays, graduation or that next overseas trip. You’re not waiting for the next adventure because you’re already on it simply by being at uni, going to classes in a different country and meeting so many new people. I’m fortunate enough that this is my second exchange, having spent 6 months in France when I was 15, so while in some ways this feels slightly familiar territory, it also couldn’t be further from being the same. Although I frequently refer to my exchange in France being one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, this would be a close second – and then some. Funnily enough, France is where my UCD trip begins, so with that little segue, let’s rewind to six months ago where an email I chose to send landed me a spot on the annual Snowsports trip to the French Alps.
Somewhere between Swotvac (study week) and exam week last November, I found myself creeping the UCD Snowsports Facebook page. Having spent majority of the past 3-ish years in Canada living in a ski town, snowboarding had become one of my main motivators in terms of getting through those final weeks of uni before holidays. During my creeping, I happened upon the info stating that the snowsports club was organising a trip to the French Alps in January. Perfect. I was also conveniently going to be in Alps snowboarding for the month before the planned trip. I tossed the idea around for a solid 2 minutes before deciding that I’d send them an email and see if I could get on the trip, despite not technically being a UCD student – or never having visited Ireland. YOLO as the kids say.
Two months later and I stepped off a bus in Alpe d’Huez, a little rusty from the night before. I have quite the affinity with red wine and the $5-per-rather-decent-bottle-average in France never fails to distract me from how bad I know wine hangovers can really be. The 2 busses and 3 trains I’d had to take that day with my luggage for a year hadn’t improved my feelings of utter bewilderment and confusion. It sounds worse than it was, I only had a snowboard bag and a small backpack but with a hangover to boot, it felt like I had more possessions that the whole of Australia put together. Only before trying to check-in to the completely wrong hotel did I manage to find the 200(ish) intoxicated and/or hungover (it was hard to tell between the two) Irish university students that I was to spend the next 7 days with. Fuelled by the encouragement that they’ve made the 38-hour journey from Ireland by bus (oh, the respect), I pushed back the drink someone gave to me and before I knew it, I was cable-tied me to someone I’d never met and well wished for the evening.
The next 7 days passed with little new snow but beautiful sunny days to distract us from the hangovers. Can you sense a theme here? Apparently the Irish like drinking – who would have thought? They can also rally like absolute champions and when I was there in the foetal position in bed, the committee members were up and at it, banging on saucepans outside the rooms every morning at 7am, hustling everyone to get out on the slopes. Before we knew it, the trip was over as quickly as it had started. I know it sounds as cliché or corny as anything, but I really did make and incredible bunch of friends on the trip who made me feel as though I’d known them a lot longer than 24 hours. Needless to say, it made getting on the plane and rocking up on the first day of ‘college’ a whole lot less daunting – despite not a single one of them being in the same faculty as me.
Having gone on the snowsports trip, I unfortunately missed orientation week with the rest of the international students, including a free bus trip to IKEA. Tragic, I know. Thankfully, my wonderful new housemates were able to catch me up with all the ‘craic’ (read: Irish slang for ‘going’s-on’) of O-week and I found my bearings pretty quickly. When sign-ups for on campus accommodation opened back in December and not knowing anyone in Dublin, I went in blind and and opted to share an apartment with three other random students. As it turns out, on their end, it wasn’t so random and I found myself in apartment with 3 Americans all from Northeastern University in Boston. I think I’ve actually learnt more about the fraternity-sorority (Greek) system in the US than anything to do with Irish schooling, but there you have it. Officially, I don’t share any classes with my housemates but we do share a love for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and quesadillas so with that bond, we’re basically family. Unofficially, we have Irish class together, which basically consists of absolutely terrible linguistic skills, a whole lot of laughing and our teacher organising meeting points for beers after class.
Terrible Irish speaking skills in tow, the rest of the semester has literally passed in a blur. I’ve been lucky enough to take advantage of the accessibility that comes with living in Europe, having travelled a fair bit throughout the semester. When a friend living in London asked me to jump in on his birthday celebrations and fly to Spain with 20 of his friends that I’d never met, it was a no brainer. Flights were booked in minutes and the bunch of us hired out a villa that housed 30 people where we spent the Easter long-weekend lounging by the pool, eating paella and drinking cervezas.
Between the UK, Spain, Denmark, weekly netball games against other universities, events on every other weekend and squeezing in a two and a half-week trip to Canada over ‘spring break’, it’s easy to see where the semester has gone. Despite my friends wondering how I ever manage to get anything college-related done, it’s definitely been a work-hard, play-hard balance. Even though taking six subjects in Ireland is technically worth the same as the Australian equivalent of 48 credit points, it still feels like an extra two subjects to juggle in the mix of everything. Which brings me back to procrastinating studying for those impending exams. As I’ve managed to avoid studying for today by writing this (despite my best intentions of bringing my laptop with me to Denmark), I best be off given that my plane’s boarding in an hour and I’m still in downtown Copenhagen. A picture paints a thousand words anyway, so here’s the paintings of seventeen thousand words from my first few months here.
Until next time,
Tabhair aire 🙂