In the midst of all that is foreign to me here in Northern Ireland, I have no choice but to adapt in the two week's time I have been allotted before classes begin. Much of it has been familiar in the universal scheme of campus and dorm life, but there are other things of which I am utterly perplexed.
I have never had to live this long without my own car. I don't know if I could ever get used to long-term public transportation and the complex process that is familiarizing oneself with the train and bus schedules, as the Europeans seem to have mastered it like a science.
I never know how to plan what to wear here. There's a saying here I heard from one of the cabbies: "If you don't like the current weather, wait 20 minutes." They have been known to see "all four seasons in one day!" in the fall, which hasn't seemed so improbable so far today. I woke to a calm drizzle in the late morning, sat breakfast with a forceful downpour pounding the windows in the kitchen (at our kitchen/flat), and as I type right now the sun is shining but the wind seems to be uprooting the trees outside my second floor bedroom window.
#3: Dress at the Clubs
I can proudly say that I have not seen a full episode of Jersey Shore, but I have watched plenty of parodies to know that what I have seen here at the local Kelly's nightclub (the biggest and most popular night club in Northern Ireland) makes many Jersey clubs look moderately conservative. A fellow American international student with whom I went to the nightclub on our second night in Northern Ireland sat alone for a short time while a few of us went to dance. Upon our return, she told us that an Irish boy came to sit next to her and blatantly stated, "Right, I am going to stick my tongue down your throat right now." Actually, this is a pretty good representation for the actions of most of the people at the club. It was common to see a guy literally going from girl to girl until he could get lucky. Every half hour you could see another person being escorted out as he or she was spewing. There was a large designated area for smoking. Hidden corners in the club were used for passionate snogging. Exceptionally drunk girls wearing little more than bras and panties taking pictures with the security guards (who only seemed to be there to prevent break outs of fighting). The TV show Skins seemed so far-fetched before Kelly's.
#4: (Lack of) Diversity
The most diversity I have seen since exiting the airport at Belfast has been among our group of international students. I have only since seen white people with few mixed races interspersed. Not that this observation particularly perplexes me, but it's definitely something that continually reminds me I'm not at home.
#5: No TV
Here, you have to have a permit to watch TV. I have not looked much farther into this strange phenomenon, but it's hard to become used to not being able to unwind after a long day of culture shock by kicking back and watching an episode of Friends (or insert name of any other all-American show).
For now I have only been able to interact with other international students. I have met some very nice people from Germany, France and Spain. I was surprised by the number of German students - there are much more of them than there are Americans. Our Irish roommates should be moving in today, and classes will be starting here in a week. As other strange encounters arise I will be sure to record them here on my blog. So far on all other counts, I am acclimating well and can't wait to begin classes!