Living On Irish Time

Living On Irish time will chronicle the experiences of SLU student Fiona Clair as she studies abroad in Ireland and her travels this semester.

You know the honeymoon stage of a relationship where everything is new and exciting, and any flaws and/or problems are simply swept under the bed to be dealt with at a later date? That’s a lot like the first week of a study abroad program.

I’m still in that honeymoon phase, and I truly hope it lasts the entire four months. But, as it is in reality, we are always mesmerized by new things.

One of the most prominent new Irish things to get used to is what we have heard many refer to as “Irish Time.” We got our first taste of the way things run around here when they took almost two extra months to send us our acceptance letters, but being here is a whole different story. People walk slower, documentation takes longer and restaurant service could land you a three to four-hour dinner.

Leaving the States, we certainly were not on Irish time. One of my travel buddies booked a connecting flight that landed an hour before our flight to Dublin, and she had to claim and recheck her bag before switching terminals to get to our gate. There was lots of running, a little bit of pushing and plenty of stress about everyone making it on-time. America is about as fast-paced as you can get, and I am used to everyone running on perfectly planned out schedules. Maybe taking things a little slower will be good for me.

The second day we were here, we went on a campus tour of the National University of Ireland in Galway, or NUI Galway, but our tour guide told us he was making every turn up as we went. After my first SLU tour I had a pretty strong grip on how to get around campus, but after this tour, I think I was even more confused. Our tour guide was working with an Irish mind, trying to lead a group of visiting students still trying to figure out how to carry their rain jackets without looking like total losers. So, we were feeling pretty confident that we were never going to figure out how to get around to classes, let alone this crazy, winding city.

By our first day of school a few days later, we were marginally more confident on getting to NUI Galway, but we had to tackle our next big stressor: registering for classes. We found that unlike SLU classes that run MWF, TR or maybe some other slight variation—but run at the same time every day there is class—classes at NUI Galway are any day, usually only twice a week, but they run at different times every day. Plus, as an added bonus, there is no worked-in passing period, so if you book classes back to back you just have to pray the first teacher will finish early.

Other notable aspects of Irish time include the utter lack of clear crosswalks that requires a few extra minutes to get anywhere, shopping at the grocery store multiple times a week instead of a weekly haul and queuing relentlessly for pretty much everything.

Walking back to our apartment from dinner on our first night here, one of my fellow SLU friends said the simple sentence “we’ll be here for four months”—a sentence I have heard and said countless times this summer—but in that moment, after a seven-hour plane ride, a three-hour bus ride and a 20-minute turned-around walk to our final destination, they really sunk in. That seemed like a crazy-long time in that moment. So much of my life is going to happen here, and it’s hard to think that far ahead. I know it will seem like a minute when it’s all over, but right now, it seems like we’re looking out at a very far, very pretty horizon.

I FaceTimed my mom the second day I was here, and she asked me if anything was new and exciting before stopping herself and pointing out that everything is new and exciting. That’s exactly right. Everything I do, I’m doing for the first time in a new and completely different place, and it’s thrilling. There’s no time to worry or stress too much about big things when you only have a semester for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This time is so precious, and it takes everything in me not to constantly worry about whether I’m using it wisely enough.

And yet, I’m living in a country that truly lives by it’s own clock. Everything in Ireland seems to move slowly, or maybe that’s not the right word. Perhaps everything just has it’s own pace and place in the day, but compared to the hyper-speed pace of American culture, Ireland is the tortoise. See you later, hare.