Hello party people!
My name is Kara and I’m a first year medical student at the University of Limerick in Limerick, Ireland. I’m 26 years old, from the Boston area, went to Bates College for my undergrad and completed an MPH at Boston University. Normally, this is the point in the conversation where I would say, “enough about me…” but this post is about me—deal with it. (I’m of course kidding, but then again, am I….?)
I think probably the biggest difference between posts you may have read from this and other study abroad related websites is that I’m not living in Ireland for a semester or even a year. I’m here for four years, or if you’ve been paying attention, until my 30th
birthday. (If we were texting this is where I would include the emoji that looks like the face from Scream…just play along.) This is also not my first time studying abroad. I did a semester program in Geneva, Switzerland that focused on public health six years ago (again, Scream face.) With that experience in mind, here’s how I would advise those of you thinking about graduate school abroad—and specifically Ireland!--and how I’ve been trying to go about my program here so far.
For me, the best part about graduate school abroad is that you are not technically a “study abroad student.” I feel more a part of both UL and the city of Limerick because I’m just a regular old international student at this point. Of the same token, the majority of my friends here are Irish. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the Irish people, and in particular my classmates, are some of the kindest, funniest people I’ve met. The rumors are true—Irish people are great! It also doesn’t hurt that the majority of our bonding has occurred over multiple nights with multiple pints.
I won’t bore you with the specific nature of my program, but it is also important to bear in mind that graduate school is a Ton. Of. Work. This, as an international student, can be extremely frustrating. Here you are in this remarkably cool place waiting to be explored with more work than you’ve ever experienced. It’s tough, especially with the inundation of Ryan Air e-mails clogging my inbox. To help balance this frustration is the length of graduate school programs. Full disclosure, I still haven’t been to Dublin! I try not to sweat it because I have so much time here, and my mom’s coming soon and I think she’ll love it.
With that said, do make time to get off campus. I’ve found that Irish cities are awesome and filled with really fun people, but it is the countryside in a lot of ways that makes this country one of the most beautiful I’ve seen. It also doesn’t take long to get out of the city. I’ve started “running” (loose term) again, and I’m frequently met with cows and goats along the way. (Side note, the dairy here is religiously good.) Also, if you are older than 25 renting a car here isn’t crazy expensive. Driving here can be scary as the roads wind and are super narrow. My only/biggest piece of advice is that if you do decide to rent a car don’t go at it alone. Driving on the other side of the road causes one to Tokyo drift without noticing (I don’t actually know what Tokyo drift means, but I hope this helps paint a picture.) Make sure your passenger is someone who would be comfortable yelling at you to move more to the middle of the road so you both don’t die.
If you get the opportunity to get out to the seacoast, take it. A few months ago a few friends and I attempted to go surfing in Lahinch but the waves were messy, I don’t actually know how to surf, and the wind was too much so we opted not to. Under normal circumstances this would be frustrating, but it didn’t even impact the day because the drive, the town of Lahinch, and the ocean were all worth it! Be sure to take breaks from the work to really appreciate what the country you are in is all about.
Ocean View in Lahinch
Try to balance being a tourist while also just being where you are. For example, one night while shoveling kebab into my mouth after a night out at Limerick’s finest drinking establishments I somehow convinced a fellow student to drive a friend and me out to the Cliffs of Moher the following day. He thought I was kidding, but when he received my 10am text “We’re ready when you are” he quickly realized that I was not. So off we went, and I got the obligatory cheesy photo at the Cliffs. It was a gorgeous day and we had an amazing time. More importantly, it was also my Irish friends first time visiting! This story brings up a lot of important points—Limerick’s Istanbul kebabs are amazing, having Irish friends with vehicles is great, and sometimes encouraging going to tourist spots can be fun for all.
Now, for the elephant in the room. Yes—it rains a lot! It rains most days but not all day. As a girl from New England, the weather is decidedly weird. The first few months the temperature could fluctuate 30 degrees during the day, and clear blue skies could change into a rain storm and back again in the time it took me to shower. On the other hand the temperatures, and especially if you are from the East Coast, are very mild. People here deal with the weather quite well. Everyone talks about it but it doesn’t really impact the day to day. In fact, my friends refer to my rain jacket as my “North American Jacket.” (Embarrassing.)
I think the most important point is that I’m extremely happy that I came here to study medicine. I will likely have more interesting stories in years to come when I travel to the more rural areas during clinical rotations. For now, I’ll leave you with this image of me in full tourist mode at the Cliffs:
Kara Kimball is a 26-year-old first year medical student at the University of Limerick. Please don’t ask her what she hopes to specialize in because she has no idea. She has a Twitter account, but only used it once to try to secure free Ben & Jerry’s. It was unsuccessful, so she stopped using it.