One phenomenon I’ve noticed this semester is that Americans tend to gravitate towards each other while abroad. Something about being alone in a new country I suppose. I myself have often been guilty of mainly hanging around with Americans I met in the pre-term program for international students. It’s easy to just spend time with people from similar backgrounds and with shared cultural experiences. However, I’ve also made an effort to get to know Irish students, both in class and through societies.
Before coming to Trinity, one of my Irish cousins who had gone here advised me to pretty much join every society during Fresher’s Week (a week long club fair the week before teaching term begins). That was probably one of the best pieces of advice I’ve been given about studying here. Going to meetings and events and talking to other students has been a great way to get stuck in to the Trinity community (and in hindsight something I wish I’d done more of). A big part of being abroad is meeting people from different backgrounds, getting a sense of what life is like for them, and realizing that all citizens of a country, even one as small as Ireland, are not necessarily homogeneous in their opinions, experiences, and identities.
Seeing as I’m a member of the Philodemic Society back at Georgetown, I decided to sign up to The Phil, one of Trinity’s debating societies. The week before the U.S. election, I was given the opportunity to speak at their election-themed debate. I was able to share my perspective as an American, and also got to listen to Irish people give their perspectives on our political system. After the debate, I had a chat with some of the other members about both American and Irish politics. Given that I’m studying International Politics, this was a really cool experience for me, and it was a way to both pursue my interests and meet new people.
Even if you don’t have time to join every society imaginable, meeting new people can be as easy as introducing yourself to another student in class. I’ve made friends by simply turning to the person next to me and striking up a conversation. As the semester (much too quickly) begins to draw to a close, and I start reflecting on my highs and lows, mistakes and successes, I think the best piece of advice I can give to someone about to go abroad, especially in a direct matriculation program, is to put yourself out there and get involved in the college community. It’s easier said than done, but it’s worth the effort.