Some things are always the same everywhere:
- Jet lag always drags you down.
- Coffee always picks you up.
- Most people are kind.
- A hot shower always helps.
- So does a good night’s sleep.
- When in doubt, drink some water.
But a whole lot of things are different in Ireland:
- Convection ovens
- “Topping up”
- Duvets with covers (no top sheet???)
- Driving on the left
- Beans at breakfast
- Strange-looking power outlets–some with switches!
- Confusing shower taps*
- Asking for the “toilet”
- And let’s not even address the mysteries of Irish water heaters.
Students have such a learning curve from the moment they arrive on campus for this program. I’ve gotten used to a lot of these small things to the point that I don’t think about them much anymore. But yesterday we learned about how to buy credits for printing/copying while on campus, i.e., how to “top up.” After the WIT employee used the term several times I heard one of the students whisper to another, “What does ‘top up’ mean?” It’s the little differences, really. Vincent Vega was not wrong. And to tackle all this newness when one is exhausted from travel is not easy. All the group really needs to do is survive the first day. They don’t realize it, but they’ll wake up on day two ready to take on Ireland with much more confidence. And the small lessons of intercultural competence, flexibility, and endurance can truly only be learned through practice. For arrival day, we got everybody here with all their luggage, fed them two meals, and put out a few small fires. I’m calling it a win!
*Confession: I am routinely baffled by unfamiliar shower taps, including in the U.S. I can’t count how many times I’ve been in a hotel and needed 5 minutes to get the shower turned on and adjusted to temperature.