Friday, January 30, 2009

The Irish rover

The whole adventure really started when we took the plane in Amsterdam, a city we have come to know quite well by now, but it did not prevent us from going sightseeing a bit before the departure day. When we arrived in Cork, we were welcomed by a pleasing sunny weather, which we would still enjoy for two more weeks. But let's not be too lyrical, since this day was... one hell of a day!

It had got off to a cracking start when I had to pay a rather heavy fine because of luggage excess at Schiphol Airport. First issue with Dutch people. In Cork, my overloaded suitcase broke on the way to the International Education Office, which was a great place held by great people by the way, and I had to pull it for miles under the Irish sun.

I didn't find the apartment immediately, of course, and, since the suitcase was becoming a bit of a problem, I finally resigned myself to take a taxi. As it has already been suggested by other students before, one of the first surprises we have when we arrive in Cork is the wonderful accent of some Irish people. The first taxi driver I met was one of those, and I have to admit that I first wondered why he was talking to me in Czech. I later assumed it was Gaelic, but it appeared that it was English... Not all the Irish people from Cork have such a terrible accent though; it seems to be an illness that mostly affects taxi and bus drivers.

The nice English-speaking taxi driver drove me to what was supposed to be my accommodation, but nothing is that simple when you are an Erasmus student. When I arrived in front of the house, I phoned the landlady who told me that she had decided that I would rather stay in another building, in a street that doesn't exist yet on the maps. I then had to walk for about two hours (not Brunonian measures, true fact) with the newly broken suitcase and some feelings which were close to despair. When I finally got there, the big news was that I would have to share the incredibly expensive small room with a Dutch guy. Second issue with Dutch people, but let's avoid the subject.

Our two other flatmates arrived later in the week, during which we all attended the Orientation Programme organised by the university. I think that each student who went to U.C.C. would agree to say that the campus is a very beautiful place where there are constantly many things going on. The only reason why you would not take part in one of the activities they offer would be laziness. I personally joined the Photographic society and sometimes went to the Mardyke Arena, the incredible university sport centre, to practice fitness and badminton. By the way, some people already mentioned the badminton coach, but I would still like to give you one of his most profound thoughts: "Either you are with the team, either you are against the team."

A few lines earlier I was talking about my other flatmates. They were French and quite nice. We got (and still get!) along very well, but living with French people is obviously not really linguistically challenging, although I sometimes had the impression that I was learning French as a foreign language with them... We should have spoken English of course, but once you have heard French people speaking English, you prefer them to stick to Moliere's language. Fortunately, we all spoke English with our Dutch friend.

Well, I may be going too much into details now, am I not? Let's be brief then. All in all we spent three eventful months during which we travelled a lot and had the opportunity to have a rather comprehensive overview of Ireland. When we were not on the road or busy partying, we incidentally attended the lectures, which were very interesting, and rather different from the ones we have in Namur. The way you have to work there is different too, since the emphasis is put on the individual researches more than on systematic study. The teachers we met there were also very nice, and we even had the opportunity to have breakfast with some of them. Don't think we were the "teacher's pets", people are simply more laid-back there.

Speaking of cultural differences, the Erasmus is great in as much as you can really experience those differences, and you have to try and learn to cope with them. I could talk about this for hours, but, as I still have to work on my BAC III research paper, I am trying to speed it up a little. If you want more details, feel free to come and ask me questions about this "cultural shock".

In conclusion, my stay in Cork was a unique experience which would certainly deserve far more than a short blog entry, but if I still have to summarize it, I would simply do it by giving you three words: challenging, enjoyable and advisable.

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