September 20, 2016
By Mary Alice Maloney
The moment you realize you’re looking out into the world at the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen in your life is a surreal and, quite frankly, kind of emotional moment. I’ve experienced that feeling at least once every day that I’ve been in Ireland and I don’t know if it will ever get old.
My excursion in Limerick is my first ever outside the U.S. and, after a solid two and half weeks of being here I still feel like I’m living a dream. I can say with confidence that I’ve never seen anything as naturally beautiful as the country of Ireland and even my walk to class in the morning gets me feeling all verklempt at the wonder of it all.
Speaking of classes, I’m taking Intro to Irish Language and, so far, I’ve learned my Irish name: “Máire Ailis Ní Mahaoldomhnaigh”. Despite what it looks like, it sounds deceivingly close to “Mary Alice Maloney”. Good times. And yes, that’s pretty much the extent of the study part of this abroad trip so far, but I’m sure it’ll pick up soon. The University of Limerick, at ten times bigger than Dominican, is a world-class institution and I’m excited to dig deeper into my courses here.
Ireland is beautiful, and Irish people themselves are also quite beautiful or “brilliant” as they’d say: not only in physical appearance but in personality as well. Everyone I’ve met here is super friendly! The Irish love having conversations, learning about new things and joking around while sitting at a pub over a pint of Guinness. Every time I speak, people make fun of my Chicago accent, which I didn’t even realize I had, but the Irish accents they ridicule me with are so cute I can’t even get mad.
Limerick is the third largest city in Ireland, just like Chicago is the third largest city in the United States. I’d say that’s where the similarities begin and end because while Limerick is a sizeable city, it still feels quaint. The tallest structures are the tops of stone cathedrals and castles instead of glass skyscrapers. There are shops, cafes and pubs along each stretch of street and around every corner you turn, and I’ve had a lot of fun exploring these places in my free time. The pubs are especially fun and full of craic, an Irish word pronounced “crack” that means good times, fun, enjoyment, etc. I’ve had loads of craic so far (shout out to Stables Pub on University of Limerick’s campus).
While drinking and singing and dancing with the Irish is literally a dream come true, there’s so much more to Ireland than the inside of pubs. I visited the Ring of Kerry last weekend in County Kerry, and it was an absolutely breathtaking experience. We took a huge bus up the wrong side of these narrow roads through the stunning Irish mountains and saw views of Ireland that no photograph could ever do justice. I’ll be honest, I teared up a bit while I was taking in the view because I just still cannot believe I’m here. I had yet another moment of realization that I was breathing the freshest air I’ve ever breathed, my eyes were looking at the most beautiful thing they’d ever seen and I was experiencing a moment that may only happen once in a lifetime.
They say the “honey-moon” phase of studying abroad wears off quickly, but I’m definitely still in the thick of it. I of course miss my family and my friends and everyone back at DU, but I’ve learned in these few short weeks how much I can depend on myself to adapt and thrive in new environments. I thought this whole process of expanding my comfort zone would be a lot more uncomfortable, but I’m just taking it one day at a time and enjoying every second of it and I hope to continue living that way for the rest of my time here. Talk to you guys soon!