A Broad Abroad

Caitlin Yeggy, of Kalona, Iowa, is a sophomore studying English at the University of Iowa. She is spending the academic year abroad on the Iowa Regents Semester in Ireland program in Cork. Read on for her first blog entry below:

This was taken on my visit to Blarney Castle. I did kiss the Blarney Stone, although I'm not sure "the gift of the gab" has taken effect on me.

A year ago, if I had asked myself where I thought I’d be in one year’s time, my first guess would not have been, “A dimly-lit internet cafe in the middle of Cork, Ireland.” Yet, here I find myself, sipping a latte and trying to find the words to describe the most exciting, terrifying, liberating experience of my life so far.

I have been in Cork a little under two months, and I am just beginning to settle in and adjust to my new world. My first month was full of culture shock, social blunders, and attempts to shed my obvious “American-ness.” Though I fit in better with each passing day, I know there is still much to learn.

Encounters with metric units and degrees Celsius still send me searching for an online converter, and I will never be able to drink the ungodly amount of tea that Irish social norms require. While the cultural differences between the United States and Ireland are relatively mild when compared with other countries, these changes have thrown me out of my comfort zone and caused me to call into question my concept of normality.

Is there really such a thing as “normal”? Who decides what is “normal” and what is “other”? I have a long way to go in figuring out the answers to these questions, but the fact that they have risen tells me I am gaining a concept of the world that stretches beyond American borders.

As far as my living situation is concerned, I could not be happier. My apartment complex, North Quay Place, is located just off the city center, placing me in the middle of Cork’s bustling everyday life. While my apartment itself is far from a penthouse suite (very, very far--think “binoculars necessary” far), I have made it my home and am perfectly happy.

This is Cobh, Ireland. About 2/3 of British emigrants left from this port, so this was some people's last view of Ireland.

I live with two European students--a British girl named Baljit, and a German girl named Kathrin--along with a fellow American, Kelsey. Imagine my surprise when I learned that Kelsey is not only from the United States, but from the University of Iowa! I must say that while living with another Hawkeye was not an expectation for my year abroad, I am so thankful to have Kelsey as a roommate. These girls have quickly become some of my best friends in Ireland. We love trying new things together, from testing our mountaineering skills to participating in a human rights rally in Dublin. I know adventure is never far when I’m with my roommates.

The new people and experiences jam-packing my life have made my time in Ireland a whirlwind of confusion and amazement. Since boarding my flight from America seven weeks ago, I have met people from Ireland, Britain, Germany, France, Jordan, Spain, Italy, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, Pakistan, and numerous U.S. states. I have tried freshly-brewed beer and chicken liver. I have explored numerous castles, climbed a mountain, and attended a professional soccer match. I have learned the power of saying “yes” to new opportunities.

Perhaps most importantly of all, I have discovered that while people may have vast differences, everyone is, at the core, strikingly similar. There are times when I miss my family, old friends, and Jif Peanut Butter, but I try not to dwell on that discomfort for long. I have people to meet, sites to see, trains to catch, beers to drink, and lessons to be learned. With all that, how could I?