A week ago, my boss asked me if it has sunk in that I would be leaving Dublin at the end of the week. And honestly, when he asked me that it hadn’t. Even on the last day, after a surprise party was thrown for me and I got a card from everyone in the office wishing me well in the future, it still hadn’t sunk in. But now, two day later I think it has finally hit me. I won’t be staying at Shanowen Square anymore, I won’t be working at Stack’s Pharmacy anymore, and I won’t be living in Ireland anymore.
I’m not heading home quite yet; I’ve still got some more traveling to do. I think what really made the reality of my study abroad experience being over has been staying at a hostel in Prague. During my weekend travels before I had stayed in hostels all over, but what makes this different is that I won’t be headed back to Ireland afterward. I’ll be off to a different destination. The routine and sense of normality that Dublin provided is gone and the hole it left behind is a constant reminder that my time is over.
When working in a different culture you’re always more perceptive of the context clues in your environment. You are hoping that these will safe you from an otherwise awkward experience, and many times they do. Whether that be watching how the person before you pay for their bus fare or reading the report your coworker submitted before you start writing yours its always a good idea to check the world around you before you dive in headfirst.
In Dublin, because the primary language that is spoken is English and with a quick glance the city doesn’t look to difference from the place I grew up it is easy to assume that all of the norms from America can be applied here, they can’t. So the first few slip ups are a wake-up call to the realities that they do things differently here. But I am happy to report that, with enough attention to detail and willingness to change, by the end of 8 weeks anyone can act like a local. What comes with this change is an acknowledgement of the differences between us and also an appreciation. By not only reading about them in some culture guide but making the changes yourself you understand the cultural norms and see the motives and historical context behind them.
During my internship context was equally important but used in a different way. You are always on the lookout for different professional practices but also for the more subtle ones such as the degree of expected professionalism and the position you fall within the hierarchy of the company you are working for. It is important to understand who you are directly reporting to, especially in the beginning when the answer to this question is not always clear, to avoid going over someone’s head or asking too many questions to somebody that isn’t directly responsible for you. This can be an awkward question to ask but one that is worth having to experience the discomfort from being told this later down the line.
Context clues are everything when trying to navigate your interactions with others, whether that be abroad or back home, at work or out with friends. Being able to train with these tools in another country has prepared me even further for when I return back home. Yet another valuable experience gained from this study abroad.