I am constantly asked why I chose to study abroad at UCD; it’s generally the most common ice-breaker when meeting a fellow study-abroader. When asked this question, a few months ago I would have given a long-winded answer about how I wanted to broaden my horizons, immerse myself in a rich culture, remove myself from my comfort zone, etc. etc. etc. To be perfectly honest, I never had any grand reasoning for choosing UCD; it made sense academically, and there was no language barrier. I didn’t necessary close my eyes, spin the globe, and pick the place that my finger landed on, but I also didn’t spend much time agonizing over the decision. I simply knew that I wanted to study abroad, and, after a bit of investigation, Ireland and UCD felt like the right choice. Several months into the experience, I have no doubt that I made the correct decision.
My previous long-winded explanation as to why I chose UCD wasn’t at all untrue; rather, the reasons that I would give were simply the reasons that I chose to study abroad in general. They just weren’t too specific to UCD and Ireland because I didn’t yet have a decent answer. In my two short decades on this earth, I’ve become a firm believer in abiding by my instincts and ‘going with my gut’. I’ve found that, in the overwhelming majority of instances, when I give in to my doubts and decide to go with a second or third guess, my first guess ends up being the right answer. With this being said, my instincts led me to UCD, and my experience here has only served to strengthen my belief in ‘going with my gut’.
I don’t mean to gloat about my apparent superior intuition; I think my instincts are perfectly average. I just believe that things have a way of working out the way they should. I’ve found it easier and less burdensome to trust oneself and to resist trying to control the outcome of things. Attempting to impose one’s will on the world seems that it might expose an individual to many disappointments; the incessant need to control every last thing would make for an anxiety-ridden reality. So, without going on too much of a philosophical rant, I am pleased to acknowledge that trusting my instincts worked out for me this time.
Now, when people ask me why, I know the exact reason that I specifically chose UCD and Ireland: the people. Of course, this is more of a retrospective observation rather than an impetus, but, at this point, it’s all the same. The Irish are an extraordinary people, and I’ve come to enjoy their company very much. Like many others, I’ve always had a tendency to identify with the ‘underdog’ figure; there’s just something about that boxer that pulls himself off the floor in the last round, riddled with exhaustion and nearly battered to death, and lands that knock-out punch on the Champ fueled only by passion and pure heart that is wildly admirable and captivating (I’m speaking of Rocky vs. Apollo Creed of course). My family has many roots in Ireland, and I realize now that I come from a long line of underdogs. Ireland has long lived in the shadow of its big brother across the Irish Sea and embodies the very image of the classic ‘underdog’. Through a long history filled with its share of strife and hardship (the Great Irish Famine, Easter Rising, Civil War, The Troubles, etc.), Ireland has remained steadfast and resolute.
Against odds that at times were staggering, Ireland has never lost its identity, and that identity is evident in its people. Their resilience is remarkable. The other night I was at a pub unwinding with friends, and I happened to sit next to these two Irish gentlemen with whom I sparked up a friendly conversation. The older of the two was a middle-aged carpenter that appeared particularly weathered; he informed me that he was an in-between jobs at the moment. The other was a younger man that was beaming over the job interview in the culinary industry from which he just came from. Both men were ordinary guys that just seemed happy to be alive. We shared some great conversation, and the older gentleman, despite my objections, insisted on buying me a pint of the ‘black stuff’ (Guinness). I was struck by their remarkable kindness and generosity. These guys probably live paycheck-to-paycheck, but they seemed more enlightened than others I’ve met with very large bank accounts.
Money certainly makes life easier, but it far from the most important thing in life. Relationships and sharing love are far more important, and one doesn’t need exuberant amounts of money for those things; the Irish people have taught me that.