The University of Iowa

Fighting the winter blues

February 10th, 2016

By Kelsey O'Donnell*

When someone mentions Ireland, the first thing that comes to mind is that it rains. A lot. Upon first arriving back in August, I wanted to prove this myth wrong. It still rained more than I was used to back in Iowa, but it did not rain every day and I still saw the sun. As the start of the winter season began back in November, I couldn’t hold this myth as a myth any longer. It does rain all the time here, especially in the winter. I think I’ve only seen the sun an average of two days a month and the air is always wet. It also doesn’t help that the sun sets at around 4:30pm. With all this wet, dark, gloomy weather day after day, it is really hard to stay happy and positive. November was a tough month with final papers and exams due, so I was overjoyed when December came and I had a month off to travel and enjoy a more stress free experience. My parents came to visit for 10 days at the beginning of December and we had a great trip around Ireland despite the (still) rainy weather.

Dingle Peninsula
Dingle Peninsula

Cork is situated in the south of Ireland, a short distance from the coast. There have been many coastal storms that have hit the west coast of Ireland recently, but Cork seems to miss the brunt of them. However, we still get the run off from the storms, including most of the rain and flooding of the River Lee, which divides the city in half. My parents and I decided to take a road trip up the west coast, arguably the most beautiful area in Ireland, right after one of these infamous storms hit. It rained every single day they were here and we had to cancel more than one activity due to excessive flooding. Nevertheless, we were determined not to let this ruin our trip. We donned our rain jackets and waterproof shoes and took some wet and windy pictures on coastal beaches and cliffs. The most important thing is to smile through the rain, because the rain is not going anywhere.

Smiling through the rain
Smiling through the rain in Waterville, Co. Kerry

Despite Ireland’s terrible reputation for poor weather, this doesn’t mean it isn’t one of the most amazing places to visit! How do you think the Irish pub culture came about? Slipping into one of several pubs located on every street in every town, you can soak up the wonderful atmosphere, sipping a Guinness, eating Irish stew, listening to live traditional music and watching Irish dancers, is one of the greatest experiences one can have on an evening in Ireland. What is great about Irish pubs is that they do not discriminate, you will find parents with their children, old men at the bar, and young students laughing in the corner, all enjoying the same experience. This is just one of many ways to fight the winter blues in Ireland.

Gloomy weather can make homesickness worse. There is nothing worse than feeling stressed out and alone in another country. Except feeling stressed out and alone in another country without having seen the sun in a few days. Therefore, it’s important to go outside and plan fun activities even if you don’t feel like it. Even if the sky is gray with a bitter cold wind, wait until there is a break in the rain and get outside. It really helps to get some fresh air after feeling cooped up inside. Staying involved in activities even if you just want to lie in bed and watch Netflix will also be most beneficial in the long run. I got involved with Amnesty International and the Harry Potter Society at UCC and there are always fun events planned during the week. I try to make sure to go to as many as I can and it always ends up being worth it.

Complaining about the weather is an Irish pastime and an important part of the culture. The weather is always brought up in conversation and because there are so many different types of rain here in Ireland, there is plenty to talk about. Feel free to complain to your friends about the weather, but then try to bring a positive spin on it as well. As I tell my roommates, “This weather is terrible, I haven’t seen the sun in weeks and the rain hasn’t stopped in ages, but at least it’s not below zero with snow piled up to my knees!” It is fun to experience a different type of climate when you are so used to the distinct seasons of Iowa.

There is always a rainbow at the end of the storm!

I suppose the most important advice I can give to fellow study abroad students coming to Ireland is to bring your rain gear and do not count on an umbrella!! I have a waterproof jacket, pants, and shoes. I also bought a waterproof backpack cover from a store here, which has proved very useful. Umbrellas tend to be useless with all the wind here. They don’t last long and I frequently see broken umbrellas pitched in the trash or along the side of the road. Don’t despair though- after the rain, there is always a rainbow. That’s when I remember why I chose to be in beautiful Ireland in the first place.

*Kelsey O’Donnell is a junior majoring in international studies and anthropology at the University of Iowa. The Sergeant Bluff, Iowa, native is spending the academic year abroad on the Iowa Regents Semester in Ireland program in Cork, Ireland.