When I first moved to Ireland, I was very adamant to immerse myself in the culture, the art, the music and get a hang of the slang and the ideas that were growing at the time. I was always a massive fan of reading (you could argue that I still am), and had a major passion for art, and loving art that others made. Moving to Cork had allowed me to be open to other peoples’ expressions as well as admire all the hard work and passion that they had put into it. However, it was not until very recently that I properly understood Irish culture, was able to immerse myself into it and learn it myself.
As an international student, it is always, always terrifying wondering ‘how do I catch up with the culture around me that is growing vibrantly? How do I understand what they are saying? How do I grow, myself?’. I’ve decided to write up a few recommendations, a few things that sort of got me into Irish culture and made me get what was happening – most of the time, anyways.
When it came to reading – and finally understanding ‘Wait, this is what happens in Irish colleges’ most of the time?’ – was when I finally started and finished reading Normal People by Sally Rooney. Yes, Paul Mescal in the TV show is absolutely gorgeous, but it got me thinking about other parts of Ireland, not just Cork. I saw a Tweet about the entire storyline of Normal People detailing that if Rooney had switched around the setting of the book from Trinity to UCC, then the story would have literally happened in the exact same way here in Cork. It gave me a perspective about Cork, I guess, and how it could differentiate the way you would think. But seriously though, Paul Mescal, gorgeous.
One of the first things I did when I moved to Cork was explore the city and discover the murals that lined the streets – exquisite art that perfected everything around you. I fell in love with Cork City when I saw art that had been painted on power boxes and trash bins that lined the footpaths. I was in awe. Back home, no one would make the effort to make a dead desert come alive, but here in Cork, people did things to make the city beautiful and vibrant. Take a day to yourself, or maybe even two and walk alongside the river on one side of the city, discover the art that is growing there, the colours that brighten your day until you make your way to the other side of the city. I promise, you will not regret it – I still take a day now and again to walk through the city to discover the art that has either been repainted or is brand new.
And finally, attend a theatre production. They are absolutely class. Whether it is organised by one of our very own UCC societies, or hosted by the Everyman, they are an amazing way to make friends and just have a laugh. Cork is a vibrant space for all its productions and concerts. I remember one of the first productions that I ever saw live was here in Cork and I was very glad that I made the effort to go watch it with one of my closest friends. It was the best thing that I had ever done.
It might seem hard, trying to allow yourself to embrace the culture that is growing around you, but it might just be the best thing that you could do for the years that you will continue living here. Being an international student is hard. Moving to a different country and trying to understand a new culture that is being sprung upon you could be hard, but art and literature always make it easy to find a centrality in the place that you are living in, and feel like you belong.