Here I stand at the end of my time abroad, a day and a wake up from home. I use the term ‘wake up’ loosely; putting a nocturnal person on an early morning flight is like trying to put out a fire with gasoline. However, the crack of dawn struggles of a person for whom the world tends not to exist before nine AM are beside the point. The point here is that I have completed an experience, and that experience needs summing up. So, to sum up some of what I have learned in my time abroad, I present the following list:
1. Anyone who tells you they understand James Joyce is probably lying. It came up in discussion that there are probably only 7 people in the world that truly understand Finnegan’s Wake, and 7,000 that truly understand Ulysses. So, unless they’ve devoted their life to the study of Joyce or are waving a guidebook to Joyce’s work in your face, they’re probably full of it.
2. Going abroad, pay attention to the local speech mannerisms and idioms.There’s nothing quite so effective to getting to know the flavor of a place as listening to people talk, and if you want to be a writer as I do, there is no better way to improve dialogue in stories than learning how people speak. They speak English over here in Ireland, of course, but it is different. For example, ‘thank you’ is ‘cheers’ and ‘no problem’ is ‘no bother.’ I imagine the things one could learn about a language speaking one other than English abroad are even more different. One of the most fascinating aspects of my trip was just listening to conversations and learning how the idioms and slang were different. Unfortunately, I have to spare putting some of the more colorful slang here because a lot of it is words that are considered offensive by some Americans.
3. Ask people about themselves if you get the chance to. As cliche as it sounds, everyone’s got a story, and there’s a diverse range of interesting tales to hear. I got to know some of the most incredible and generous people here simply because I expressed an interest in their stories. Chances are, they’re interested in you, too. I got to compare my background to some Irish backgrounds, and it gave me an appreciation for cultural differences. Sharing stories is the best way to go to develop an appreciation for cultural diversity.
4. See as much as you possibly can, even if you’re tired and all you want to do is crash on the nearest park bench (which I considered while I was in the grips of jet lag). You can sleep when you’re dead. You probably won’t be back for awhile, if at all, so take it in while you have the chance. Get out and experience the area you’re in. You can’t tell anyone about your experiences or use them later in life if you don’t have any experiences. And be sure to take some people along. You’ll probably make some really great friends.
I could extend this list for days, but in the interest of brevity I will end it there. All I can say is that getting to experience Ireland and its literary culture was an amazing experience, and has given me lots of ideas on how to improve my own work. It’s a trip I’m glad I took, and I’d like to say a big, hearty ‘cheers’ to everyone over here that made my experience so memorable.