From a plane somewhere over the western United States

Departure & Arrival in Dublin:

I’m writing in my journal on a plane, perhaps the fourth I’ve ever been in, sitting with Nathaniel on my left and the wing out the window to my right. We’re skipping several hours of our day as the sun gets farther and farther behind us and we’re headed toward Philadelphia. I’m only just now having time to reflect and consider this start to my journey. We’ve been going nonstop since 7 this morning packing and saying hurried goodbyes (where I didn’t cry as I suspected I would), driving 2 hours to the airport, and running to our flight gate on last call, nearly missing it because we just had to stop and buy some neck pillows (it wasn’t that close though, we made it just fine).

Now I’m thinking about the next two days, arriving in Philly, my first time on the east coast, spending our 23 hour layover there, and finally flying 6 hours straight to Dublin where the real adventure will begin. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the whole idea of physically being in a new country for three months. I’m not too worried about homesickness (perhaps naively) because I’m not alone. Sometimes that makes this seem like less of a character-building exercise than I might like, and I have to remind myself, that whether or not I’m with my boyfriend, it still takes some kind of guts to move somewhere new across the world and live a different life for awhile. And I don’t think the experience will have any less of a profound effect on me. In fact, I’m betting on the opposite, that it’ll be better, more rewarding and educational and memorable to do it with someone else.

I’m making a list (I really like lists) of what I expect from my time in Ireland, it’ll be something to compare when I’ve returned home. Here are a few, not all, of the thing on my list:

I expect…

-to drink a lot (however I’m not much of a drinker at home, so we’ll see)

-to be slightly disappointed by the amount of things familiar to me (like McDonalds, for example)

-to have something take my breath away

-to get lost

-to hit every stage of culture shock at some point abroad, and perhaps even more when returning home

-to make a few friends (and even more facebook friends)

-to have my name spelled wrong many times (the Irish Shannon, instead of Shannen)

-to have a lot of conversations with strangers

-to ask “what?” a lot, because accents are hard and I don’t want to get stuck doing the awkward thing when someone asks you a question you don’t understand and you just laugh.

-to pick up a tiny bit of an accent

-to learn a lot of Irish lingo and new curses

-to regret how much I packed

-to wish I studied French better the last two years

-to eat something gross

-to eat something (or more likely many somethings) awesome

-to spend a lot of money

-to be inspired to live in Europe

-to see a lot of plays

-to have a really fun halloween

-to take too many pictures

-to be amazed at how old the country, history, architecture is there

-to learn random things about myself and my culture I haven’t thought of yet

-to do something crazy and unexpected

-to stay in touch with home a lot less than I said I would

-to change, in good ways

-most of all, to be surprised.


When I think about Ireland I always have this picture of the beautiful country landscape and of small villages not quite situated in the 21st century, and of old pubs when locals sing songs and ask you lots of questions because Irish are supposedly nosy and extremely friendly people. I know very little about the country and I don’t often think about its more modern developments, in Dublin especially, its largest city and what will be my home for 3 months. Because of this idea, I expect to have a certain experience in Ireland but honestly know how different and probably unidealistic it may actually be. After all, I’m not going to experience the country as a tourist, I am going to experience as a sojourner, and as much as possible, as a local. I know I’ll often be uncomfortable, if for no other reason than I am not comfortable in large cities, I will be shy but try to make friends as best as I can, and as much as possible I will try to get uncomfortable for the experience of it, and try to see the part of Ireland I never even dreamed of before, even if they shatter every idea I had of it before this trip. That is one of the ideas of traveling, right? To make the exotic familiar.



We’ve made it, finally. After our first 5 hour flight and a day exploring Philadelphia, followed by a 6 hour delay, exhausted, we landed in Dublin around 2pm local time. At immigration we wait in line, separated from the line of European union passport holders, and a rude Australian man cuts us. The immigration worker is the first of (I’m sure many) to comment on my name, “Shannen with an ‘e’ huh?”, “Yep.” immigration check goes smoothly and is less scary than I thought, but we struggle with the Irish accent. We find luggage, and get our first euros from an ATM, and they are so colorful. By a payphone, right where he said he’d be, is our program coordinator John here to meet us. Because of our delay we’re the last to arrive, and John who has been up since something like 4 or 5am looks just as tired as we are. We make casual conversation, he makes some jokes and welcomes us to the country and we head toward our small bus. I’m pretty overwhelmed, reminding myself of where I am, really, because so far nothing looks too different. It’s a beautiful day and we all comment on how lucky we are to arrive with the nice weather. At the van, John and our driver have an exchange that reminds me of every Irish exchange I’ve ever heard or read, complete with Irish humor and cursing, and it me excited. We meet an intern from Seattle, Audrey, in the van and she is so nice. We drive to our apartments and I look at everything I can, the traffic moving in opposite directions from home, and the color of the grass, I see a few old buildings, most are new and modern looking, we arrive soon to the apartments. We’re dropped off and told, see you Monday. We go into the office and get our keys and information. Our apartment is 4 bedrooms with a kitchen, and they look just like residence halls at home, and I feel like a freshman again. We catch our other roommates, Zach from Colorado, and Hannah from California. We take a minute to appreciate the start of our journey, because we made it, we are so far from home, and then we fall asleep for 15 hours.


Our first photo in Ireland

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