This past week has definitely been filled with pride for me here in Dublin. The whole city has had an air of excitement surrounding it as this past weekend’s LGBTQ+ Pride celebration approached, and I know I did as well. After all, I have yet to ever attend a pride celebration or parade in the States. After a week of anticipation, the festivities finally kicked off on Saturday. My friends and I made the trek out to city center to see the colorful, rainbow-filled parade pass through the streets of Dublin as a crowd of cheerful onlookers would cheer, sing, and dance filled with pride in our community. My friends and I made sure to explore the city’s famous historically LGBTQ+ pubs as well, truly celebrating and embracing my identity as a member of the queer community.
I am proud to say that I have come out of my shell enough to be proud in this identity and to be confident in myself and my identity to be able to celebrate it out in the open under the shining Irish sun. Coming out of my shell has not only been a recent theme in my LGBTQ+ identity, but as well as my identity as an introvert. When I first arrived here, I was taken aback by how kind and outgoing and personable all of the Irish folk truly were. Every local I spoke to seemed to want to make conversation with me and get to know me, starting conversations with me even when I would not expect it. That is because I feel like, as opposed to our individualistic American culture, the Irish culture is very communal and less closed off. Often times, prior to my experience here in Ireland (I cannot believe it’s already been a month!), I find it difficult for myself to put myself out there and be extroverted, even when I am feeling socially drained. However, I know the easy way out in situations in which I am socially drained but in a conversation with a local, would be to withdraw or ignore the conversation altogether. This would be me in my comfort zone: allowed my me-time.
However, I am not here abroad for the summer to stay back in my accommodations on my phone or watching TV while there is a whole country to explore and thousands of people and their stories that I would probably never meet or hear! I have found that I needed to be comfortable with feeling out of my comfort zone, or, even better, breaking myself intentionally out of my comfort zone. Because of this, there have been multiple evenings where I have felt particularly introverted but have forced myself to go into Dublin proper and explore by myself. Not only that, but when I have been out, I have also pushed myself to initiate conversations with local Irish people, engaging in lengthy discussions about American and Irish cultural differences, popular culture and music, our studies, etc. Instead of rejecting this more warm and friendly culture that I am not accustomed to, I have embraced it.
The same has gone for my workplace at UCD IT Services. While my coworkers are online throughout the week occasionally, we remain in constant communication throughout each day I am running around campus with any questions. We communicate about work, but I have also made an effort to engage in conversations with them on topics outside of our software upgrade initiative. The workplace culture here is definitely more casual than any I have been a part of in the States. Multiple times my coworkers and I have met up for coffee during the week to just chat, not about work, but rather our lives. And they all seem to have a genuine interest in getting to know me as a person, rather than just as an intern. While it would be easy and comfortable for me to just complete my work, clock in at 9:30 and leave at 5 while leaving my earbuds in listening to music or podcasts, I want to assimilate to the culture and engage with my coworkers just as much as they engage with me.
All in all, while the culture shock of the outgoing Irish culture definitely took some getting used to as perfect strangers would strike up conversations with me even when I was not mentally prepared for one, I feel as though by pushing myself to engage with the friendly locals and to leave my room even when my social battery is at 0%, I have grown. I would love it if I could bring this warm and personable atmosphere to the United States, where sometimes people prefer to be closed off and left alone.