First off, let me just say that this is not a critique on either university but noticeable differences I have found over the past 6 weeks that I have been here. There is so much that is different that I have to share. To start it off, students.
Students at University College Dublin (UCD) are very different from the states. From the way they dress to their social life is just different (I should also insert a disclaimer here – while I have a hung out with a good majority of students I have not nor will have time to get to know all 30,000+ students that attend UCD). When you first see students on campus the way they dress is absolutely different.
Women are typically what you would expect with some minor differences compared to the states. They wear a lot of skirts, jeans, blouses, cardigans, and rain jackets with the fur-lined hood (I thought the fur-lined hood died in the states around 2010 but it is fully on over here). Nothing to uncommon other than their shoes. It must be a common style thing but they all wear what I would deem platform shoes. They could be simple lace up shoes but they will have an inch to two-inch platform on them or heels. I have seen more heels here in Ireland than I have ever seen. It is absolutely wild, I don’t see how they don’t fall. Anyways, that is what I would say is pretty standard.
However, men are completely different. I think men have three option choices mandated by Irish law (I am joking of course). Those choices are, 1. Skinny jeans with a hoody or button up shirt and over-pull sweatshirt. 2. Track-pants with tennis shoes and an athletic zip up sweatshirt. OR 3. You can combine skinny jeans with a zip up sweatshirt. Of course this is all donned with a rain jacket, THAT ALSO HAS A FUR-LINED HOOD! Like seriously, are they making a comeback or did they just never leave Ireland?
Now I wouldn’t be doing the lads or ladies justice if I didn’t talk about the Nightlife. Staying with the current theme of clothing, we go to the opposite spectrum. Ireland ladies by far out-dress the American girls 100 %. It isn’t even close. An American girl in my class, during our discussion about culture said, that she felt like she was wearing sweats to the club and the Irish girls were models. I don’t know this girl, but it is a pretty accurate representation from my point of view. The Irish girls, go all out and I do mean all out. There is not a hair out-of-place, makeup is perfect, heels are high, clothes are either top-notch or nothing at all (which is pretty accurate for some ladies). Basically, the line in to the club, excluding the lads is a runway. It’s amazing how much effort they put into going out. Now, on the other hand the lads step it up but not even near the high bar the ladies set. Lads typically have a button down shirt, a nice t-shirt and/or a nice jacket, and always with skinny jeans. Most lads wear a sort of athletic shoe, similar to the Nike air force one. Surprisingly, no rain jackets are worn out usually. No one wants to try to watch a big bulky jacket when they are out at the club. Before the club though, get a bite a to eat. Which brings me to my next topic, food.
Now I know American cuisine is absolutely delicious but when we pull the wrapper off and look at the delectable goodness, we see a scary story full of trans fat, high artificial flavors among other things. Now, I know in the States there is plenty of healthy and whole foods available. However, when I came to Ireland it was astonishing the amount of whole foods you can find. When I first arrived, not only did I not know where to shop I didn’t know how to get there. I was on campus with only international students who were just as lost as I was. Since being here a whole week before the other students arrived not much was open nor was there a lot of advice. Even with the lack of advice and stores; a man’s gotta eat.
I found myself a small convenience store no more than a quarter-mile from my dorm and on campus. To give you a frame of reference it would be very similar to a 7/11. I wasn’t necessarily excited about the thought of eating three square meals consisting of Tornado’s, lunchables, and pizza. But, hey its food. When I walked in I was shocked to find a full-on grocery store with a delicious deli. There is fresh vegetables, fruit, different breads, milk, and cheese – you name it, they have it. This is just a small example of how seriously Ireland takes their health.
Yet, the deliciousness doesn’t stop there. The restaurants use all of those whole foods to make a mastery of dishes. From the bangers and mash to the hand battered Fish and Chips it is absolutely mesmerizing to taste. All of those dishes are so good, the only thing you need is a pint to wash it down. However, keep the right ratio or it might be too much of a wild night.
Now, I can only speculate if the classroom behavior is from the night before festivities. However, I don’t think it is because all students follow the same pattern. Now back in the US, a good majority of students sit in the middle to back area of the lecture hall. While, my friends label myself as a nerd, I try to sit in the middle to front. However, I am usually accompanied by a large group of students sitting in the front for one reason or another. Yet, at UCD, that is not the case. When I sat in my first week of lecture’s all students sat in the very back. There was approximately, 4 rows in the front untouched. Being the new kid, and not wanting to interrupt the social norm I chose to sat in the middle as did the rest of the Americans. When I asked my Irish friend if anyone sat in the front he said no. He also added, no one asks questions either, if they do, they’re American (Go America for being inquisitive or not understanding – your choice). However, after my second and third week in classes I noticed exactly what he described. Everyone sat in the back, no one in the front. No one asked questions. The only time someone did is if they were absolutely lost. However, this wasn’t all that weird. I mean, everyone remembers Freshman year where you don’t talk, avoid eye contact with the professor, and under no circumstances ask a question in front of anyone. At least for the first few weeks.
What was really odd was what I started noticing after my first week. First off, the lectures are all two hours long. Even, with two-hour long classes you just settle in for them and try to bear through it. The first thing that was odd was fifteen minutes into the course, six other students just walk in the middle of the lecture and take their seats. Now, being late is nothing new. I feel though the logic back in the states if your five minutes late then you already missed class. So you get a coffee and don’t bother attending. However, students at UCD come in whenever, 5 minutes late, 15 minutes, 30 minutes and even at the break. Which is the next bizarre thing. With two hour lectures it seems quite common for professors to give a 5-10 minute break for students to use the facilities, get a coffee, etc. However, when class is back in session, half the room is gone. A lot of students will decide that they no longer want to be in that class for whatever reason and leave. I found it quite odd and rude but the professors don’t mind. They keep on with whatever topic is at hand.
Speaking of the professors, they are really quite nice. Some can be a bit hard to understand but try to help the international students whenever possible. The one thing that is odd is their rubrics and syllabus. Now back in the states it is quite common to have multiple homework assignments, quizzes, and tests throughout the semester. Not in Ireland, or at least at UCD. For example, the work I have in one of my classes is a group project where the paper is worth 30%, a presentation worth 5%, and finally, the final exam making up 65% of my final grade. This is quite new to me because there is no buffer for your grade. However, the way the courses are set up are to allow you to learn as much as possible within those two hours and then study at your own pace on your own time. It puts a lot more responsibility on your shoulders, which I am excited to try my hand at.
Trying to Keep up
While this is all so new I am becoming adjusted rather quickly and enjoying each moment. I look forward to all of these difference becoming my new norm while learning more about different cultures. Thanks again for keeping up to date, take a look tomorrow for my new Vlog coming out, “Episode 3: A Day in Dublin”. Please feel free to ask questions, leave comments, or like my posts.
All the best,