This article originally appeared in the February 2016 print edition.
by Stephanie Fimbres
This past Wintermester, I studied abroad in Ireland. It has been an experience that changed me in many aspects of my life, including the way I think, and the way I behave towards others.
Before traveling abroad, I never thought I would have the opportunity to go, but after attending an information session provided by International Engagement, I became more receptive towards the idea. Even after being accepted and realizing I was actually going, it still didn’t sink in until I arrived in Ireland. As soon as my group and I left the airport in Dublin, we took a bus to Galway. I was amazed by the beauty of the city; everything was so green and colorful, the water looked so transparent, and I thought to myself that this was going to be the best adventure of my life. After arriving to the hotel, we went on a tour of the city. I was surprised that despite the rain, people kept walking and shopping. Eventually I got used to it, as the rain wasn’t going to stop me from exploring this beautiful city. We visited the cities of Galway, Limerick, Cork and Dublin. They had beautiful landscapes and castles; my favorite places were the Cliffs of Moher, Ring of Kerry, and Blarney Castle. What I enjoyed the most about these places was their natural beauty, and how they have been preserved through time. I also learned that if you keep your eyes off your phone, you’ll see the true beauty of the things around you, and realize how lucky you are to be alive. When I was at the Cliffs of Moher, I looked down and stared at the ocean, it was amazing how infinite it looked, and how it seemed to merge with the sky. I felt so little, and I realized I wanted to travel and learn more about this world and its people.
The people of Ireland and their culture are an example of this. They all appeared carefree, usually while walking in the streets at night, enjoying dinner, or just hanging outside a coffee shop. There was something to do each day of the week, including the Farmer’s Market where people go to buy fresh goods and other items. The merchants that go there are hardworking people, eager to sell, and smiling all the time. In one of the stands, I met a lady from Canada who moved to Ireland because she wanted to live a more peaceful life, and because she fell in love with the country’s nature. She sold handmade jewelry made from bronze and silver. I decided to buy a necklace which had a spiral engraved on a piece of bronze. She told me that it signified the life force because our planet is always moving, the spiral form of our DNA, and the shape of our galaxy. She also told me that she loved photography, particularly the landscapes of Ireland, which was the second reason behind her move to Ireland. There were other merchants around, with stands where they sold their own unique creations.
Along with their lifestyle, the Irish people were different from other cultures when it came to their sense of humor. They are interestingly sarcastic, yet funny at the same time. People over there are very friendly and welcoming, and there was never a time where I felt out of place. It also amazed me how people approached us to talk, even though they didn’t know us at all, and how friendly and respectful they were. People were very open minded and helpful, even with their locals. We visited many organizations and it was an awesome experience to learn what they do to help their community, along with other foreigners.
Some of the cities we traveled to weren’t that big, and I liked that because it was easy to move around. For example, in Galway we were able to go around the corner, and walk through five blocks non-stop. Here there were many types of stores, restaurants, pubs, boutiques, even the post office. There were also a church, a cathedral, and a university near the hotel. It felt so different to be there because back in Laredo we don’t have that accessibility to walk to all these places, because many of them are too apart from each other. Another thing that I found interesting was how knowledgeable people were about their country, and how proud they were about it. All I heard were stories of how they achieved independence, and how faithful they were to their beliefs. They value their traditions with such strength that it inspired me to do the same thing.
After learning from them, I have become more aware of my own country’s history and where I come from. Ireland is a country which needs to be visited by everyone because it is very different from the rest of Europe. Even though it’s a small country, they have their own set of traditions, beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, and language. Living in Ireland was definitely a unique experience which I would like to repeat again, as there was something new and fun to learn every day.