Adjusting to Life in Ireland

Kelsey O'Donnell is a junior majoring in international studies and anthropology at the University of Iowa. The Sergeant Bluff, Iowa native will be studying abroad for the academic year on the Iowa Regents Semester in Ireland program in Cork, Ireland. Check out her first entry below: 

By Kelsey O'Donnell


Orientation day on the quad!

Dia duit! That means hello in Irish. My name is Kelsey O’Donnell and I am junior at the University of Iowa studying International Studies and Anthropology. For my entire junior year, however, I am studying abroad in Cork, Ireland at University College Cork.

While here, I am taking classes in History, Folklore, French, Literature, and Politics. I chose to study in Ireland because it is a beautiful country with friendly people. I knew that it would be a good choice for my first long-term stay abroad. University College Cork has a great international reputation and the campus is gorgeous.  

Why am I studying abroad for a year? I have been asked this question many times back home and for me the answer is simple: why not study abroad for a year? I believe that a semester abroad would not be enough to be able to fully experience and immerse myself in a new culture. I would only just settle in and it would already be time to depart in December.

Of course, not everyone has this opportunity, but if you do, I highly suggest taking it! I am not going to say it was an easy decision however. There were multiple times over the summer that I second-guessed my decision and as I was going through security at the airport after having to say goodbye to my loved ones, I remember thinking, “What am I getting myself into?” After arriving though, I have never regretted my decision.

As I left everything I knew behind and traveled alone 3,800 miles across the ocean, I realized how important it was that I be open-minded and sociable. I do not consider myself a very outgoing person, however, I knew that I had to try when arriving to be able to adjust more quickly. I have said “yes” to nearly every opportunity presented to me and, in turn, have discovered a whole new life here. I have met students from all over the world- Germany, France, Poland, Canada, the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, Australia, Sweden, Italy, and of course, Irish students! I have run into more cultural differences in a day here than I have in my entire lifetime.

The beautiful cliffs of Moher

As for the infamous Irish weather, it does not rain as much as I expected, but I wouldn’t go anywhere without my rain jacket and umbrella! Even when it is 60 degrees and sunny, the clouds can roll in within ten minutes and it can be rainy, just to go right back to sunny again in an hour. The temperature has not gone below 50 or above 60 since I have been here. It’s quite a mild, temperate climate, so it was not necessary to pack shorts or any summer clothing. I recommend plenty of layered clothing, waterproof shoes, and raingear. Even though I am here for an entire year, I still only brought one checked suitcase with me. It is really hard to decide what to bring and what to leave home, but as everyone will tell you: packing light is the most important thing! Anything that you can buy in the United States, you can generally buy here.


Cycling in Killarney National Park

The most important thing to remember is that not every day is perfect, but every day is worth it. When living in a foreign country, it’s easy to get trapped in the idea that your on a vacation and everything will work out perfectly. Just like my life back in Iowa, I have my ups and downs. Sometimes it’s hard and tedious, like waiting in the immigration line for an hour and a half just to get told that you have to come back next week or missing your family back home, but most of the time it’s amazing, like cycling through Killarney National Park, listening to Irish music in a pub, or planning a trip to Germany over Christmas to visit your new German roommate. Every day is different and exciting, and even when you are feeling a bit homesick; you know that tomorrow will be a new day.

If you have any questions about preparing for a year abroad or studying in Ireland, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.

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