My name is Matt Delfino and this spring, I am studying abroad in Dublin, Ireland!
I arrived in Dublin just last week and so far, I am really enjoying my time here. I am attending University College Dublin this spring in the Lochlann Quinn School of Business, taking classes in Finance and MIS. As I continue to get settled in here, I’ve been reflecting on how I came to study abroad.
Originally, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go abroad. My parents strongly suggested that I should do it, but I wasn’t convinced at first. I love going to school in Tuscaloosa, I’ve made a lot of great friends, started a club there, and had my own routines that I was reluctant to leave behind. However, they, along with my friends, encouraged me to look into it and see if my mind changed. So I did, and after a great amount of research into classes I could take and the corresponding costs of those programs, I applied and was accepted to UCD. When I started finalizing the details, I started getting excited about the opportunity. The whole process of applying and preparing to come here was a good lesson for me that sometimes you have to throw yourself into something even if it is outside your comfort zone before you can realize how great it will be.
My first impressions of Dublin have been notable. To date, my travel experience has been fairly limited. Being from Georgia, I have been to many of the southeastern states but have only been west of Alabama a few times, and up to New York just a few times as well. I had never been out of the country until now. As you can imagine, just the first few hours of being in Europe were a lot of to take in. Before moving into my dorm, my mom flew over to Dublin with me and we had a short vacation before school started. We rented a car for a couple of days, and if you aren’t aware, the Irish drive on the left side of the road. It was a pretty terrifying experience at first, and I wasn’t even the one driving. But it got easier over time, and as my mom often modestly pointed out, for someone who had never driven on the left side before, she did very well. However, in my opinion, this is not the hardest part about driving in Ireland. The worst of it is that they do not believe in clear, visible street signs; and in many cases, they do not have street signs at all. If a street sign happens to exist, it will often be small, low to the ground, and built into the building on the corner of the street. Getting around is not easy; but luckily, Google Maps is reliable. Another minor culture difference relating to driving – when we rented our car, the woman told us (in her Irish accent) that we had rented “quite a large car.” Concerned and expecting a mid or full-sized SUV, we were amused to find a compact Volkswagen hatchback waiting for us in the lot. And yes, we were one of the larger cars on the road. It’s a far cry from the lifted F-350s you see in Alabama. Which is good, because the roads are much narrower. So narrow that they sometimes look like one-way streets, until you see another economy-size vehicle zipping towards you. And then it’s just a matter of who will pull over into a parallel parking spot to let the other pass.
Luckily, public transportation and biking are very popular in Dublin. There are designated bike and bus lanes all over the city, so if you aren’t going to walk, there are several feasible options to employ before you get in your car. The Dublin Bus runs constantly throughout the day and to all corners of Dublin, and is only 3 euros to ride. There are other bus lines that I haven’t used yet but with my newly-obtained student Leap Card, I will be able to more easily.
Of course, one of the most important considerations when traveling to Ireland is the change in currency from dollars to euros. This comes with having to find a secure and easy way to carry your change in Ireland, because the coins hold more value than ours. The smallest bill is a five, so there are coins as high as two euro. It’s hard to imagine buying your lunch with just coins in America, but in Ireland, it’s common. Grocery shopping in Ireland is not much different than in the U.S., except that you usually have to pay extra for plastic bags. Which brings me to my next point – green in Ireland isn’t just a color on their flag or on their St. Paddy’s Day clothes, it’s a commitment to the environment that is not as common in America. There are reminders everywhere not to waste food, energy, or water and to properly recycle as much as possible. Most Americans might find this slightly inconvenient at first, but the country’s commitment to the environment is noteworthy.
I have been warmly welcomed in Ireland and cannot wait to explore more of the country and its culture. I have been able to see a good bit of Dublin so far and have loved the atmosphere of the city and the people I have met. Looking forward to a great semester abroad!