Integrating into Ireland: UCC Campus Involvement

We’re taking a little turn from my advocacy posts to talk about my plan for campus involvement at UCC!

If you read my previous post, you’d know that I was recently accepted by University College Cork (UCC) in Cork, Ireland as an exchange student for the spring semester! I am so unbelievably excited to be flying to Ireland in January to spend 4 months studying in a beautiful and culturally rich country!

However, I am definitely a little nervous about everything, especially about making friends. As an introvert at NC State, I spend most of my time in my apartment. I’ve made some efforts lately to get involved with the GLBT Center, but it’s really more of an uphill battle for me. I’m fine with that because I know that I still have a few good friends and an amazing girlfriend.

It occurred to me, though, that when I am +5 hours ahead of all of my friends, my girlfriend, and my family, I may get a little lonely. I also really want to learn more about Ireland and her culture, her people, her landscapes… and it would be nice to be able to spend time with friends while doing so, rather than just having it all be a solo mission. In light of this, I decided to do some research on how to make connections while I am abroad.

On-Campus Involvement: Societies

Disability Activism and Awareness Society

I do disability advocacy and awareness work at NC State right now, and I want to make sure that I can still be involved in similar work while I’m at UCC. Searching for opportunities to get involved lead to me finding the Disability Activism and Awareness Society!

I am the President of the Allies for Students with Disabilities (ASD) here at NC State. Being involved in this kind of advocacy work makes me so very happy. My passion for this work has given me a lot of drive, and I will miss the ASD once I’m in Ireland. I’ll be Co-Presidents with my current Vice President, Natalie, so I will handle the emails and online work while she takes care of the in-person events and meetings. I was worried that I would fall out of touch with the issues and my advocacy skills would suffer. I’m sure you can imagine how much of a relief it was to find the Disability Activism and Awareness Society!

I am so interested to see which region-specific issues they face and to learn how accessible Ireland is. The prospect of finding more people that care about the same issues that I do sounds incredible. I can’t wait to get there and to meet these amazing students. I think that being involved at UCC will also give me a lot of information and lessons to bring back to NC State for my final semester!

LGBT* Society

As a member of the LGBT community, I wanted to make sure that I could find a supportive environment once I got to University College Cork. Ireland was the first country to legalize gay marriage, and I can only remember good things about my last brief visit, but I still needed to feel out the atmosphere. While I was scouring the list of UCC’s societies, I found the UCC Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans* (LGBT*) Society.

I have been involved with the GLBT Center at NC State, far more so this semester than in past semesters. This campus has not always been kind to me as a demi-pan individual, but the Center has helped me to find a more inclusive support network. I know that whenever I walk up to the Center I will be able to find at least one friendly face. The students who frequent the space are all very inclusive, and the staff members are always helpful and supportive. Now that I’ve found this support, I don’t want to lose that more intimate connection to the larger LGBTQIA+ community when I head abroad.

Joining the UCC LGBT* Society would allow me to keep that network of care and support while I’m in Ireland. I think that being able to find such like-minded individuals and to stay involved in my LGBTQIA+ advocacy work will help me to adjust to life abroad. That continuity of familiar activities will make me feel more included and less estranged as an American exchange student. I am very excited to learn more about the community in Ireland and about the work that this group is doing!

Hot Beverage Appreciation Society

Okay, this is definitely my for-fun society choice!

While I love that I will be able to be involved in groups that focus on the advocacy that I am so passionate about, I think that having a more relaxing activity will be beneficial to my mental and emotional health. I was looking through the different, interesting groups that I could join, and one popped out at me that I just couldn’t ignore: the Hot Beverage Appreciation Society!

Honestly, I am not sure why NC State doesn’t have a hot beverage appreciation club. My understanding is that they get together every week to drink hot beverages and play games. A chance to play games, talk about life, and drink hot tea with some cool people? Sign me up please!

Off-Campus Involvement

Coffee Shops

Have you ever seen one of those movies where the character goes to a coffee shop and the baristas already know their name and order? I have always wanted to have that for myself because it just seems so convenient. I can walk in, be cheerily greeted, and have my coffee made without even having to socially interact with anyone? That sounds like a dream come true!

In all seriousness, I would love to find a local hangout where I can go to work or relax. In my mind, this place is a little used bookstore – coffee shop combination. I think that those kinds of stores are just wonderful. They foster intellectual and creative studies while also catering to my caffeine addiction.

Travel

University College Cork gives students a two-week recess between the end of March and the beginning of April. Naturally, I’ve been looking into the adventures that I could go on. Travel between European countries is incredibly cheap (if you don’t believe me, go check out Ryanair!) and I have no idea when I will get back over there, so I think it would be really amazing to travel around Europe. I have a wishlist of places to go see, although I know I won’t have time to go to all of them. We’ll see which ones make the cut!

Reykjavik, Iceland is definitely a long shot, but you never know what will happen! The red markers are for places that I have already been, but that I definitely want to go back to!

In addition to the recess, I have also been reviewing the things to do and places to see in Ireland. TripAdvisor and GoogleTrips have both been great sources for information on the top attractions. I’ve been to a few of these places before, like the Cliffs of Moher and the Old Library. However, it was a while ago and I really want to explore this by myself.

UCC International Students’ Blog

Depending on where you’re reading this, you may or may not know that I am writing for the UCC International Students’ blog! Throughout and leading up to the spring semester, I will be creating content for this external blog. The posts will be featured here, but the UCC blog will see them first! I definitely recommend checking that blog out to see what experiences I’m having!

I am so grateful to have this opportunity! Writing and creating content for my personal blog (however scattered it may be) is something that I really look forward to. I hope that I can inspire you to study abroad or to travel the world. I am so excited to be going to Ireland, and I will definitely be sharing that with you all via both of these blogs and my social media!

Feelings on Feasibility

I think that these are all great ways to get involved on campus. I hope that this will help me feel more included at University College Cork. It will definitely take a lot of effort for me to get involved because I am an introvert. I do want to push myself outside of my comfort zone so I can be open to new experiences. I would love to form some friendships, both with the Irish students and with the four other NC State students.

That being said, I know that I will be spending quite a bit of time alone. I plan to take some solo adventures around Cork, and really all of Ireland. Of course, spending every moment alone isn’t the goal of studying abroad because that severely limits your experience of the country and its culture. However, I think that there is a great strength in spending time with yourself. I do mean productive time with yourself, rather than because you feel alone.

I am personally very comfortable spending time with myself, and I find it to be very refreshing. Finding the balance between being involved and being by myself is hard here. I know it’ll be even harder at UCC, where I don’t really know anyone. It’ll be good for me to get out of my head and to connect with a diverse group of people. I am really looking forward to campus life and to exploring a new part of the world!

A Note from the Author

This post was written as a guest post on the UCC blog! You should definitely go check out the other amazing posts that they have!

Thank you so much for reading! I’m sorry that I’ve been MIA lately; between my internship, classes, and recent illness, I haven’t had a ton of time to write and edit.

Today’s theme song is this! I feel like it really speaks to my excitement for this new adventure!

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