Ireland is a study destination like no other. Its natural attractions, such as the Cliffs of Moher and Giant’s Causeway, are truly unique; its people and their stories of fairies and folklore will enchant you- and, of course, there is Guinness! If you’re keen to study abroad in Ireland, be prepared to enjoy a truly unique, immensely rewarding semester. But first, here are ten things you should know before you pack your bags…
1. The Irish love slang
One of the first things you’ll learn about the Irish is they use a lot of slang. You might both speak English, but from time to time the languages could seem entirely different! For example: “Howya, lads! What’s the story? I just stopped round the gaff there but your man was still in bits from last night! Eejits, are ya listening to me, are or ye away with the fairies?” Yep, good luck. Any ideas of a translation for that? Don’t worry- you’ll pick it up in no time…
2. Don’t be scared if people keep talking to you about “craic”
If someone asks you, “what’s the craic?” or “how was the craic last night?”, don’t panic! No need to call Mom to tell her that someone offered you narcotics; ‘craic’ is, basically, slang for ‘fun’. “What’s the craic?” means “how are you?”, and “how’s the craic” is asking if anything fun is going on. Hopefully your semester in Ireland will be nothing but great craic!
3. You may find the Irish sense of humor…interesting
The Irish are famous for being incredibly friendly, so their dark humor might catch you off-guard. Most Irish folk are fond of ‘taking the piss’ out of friends. But to a foreigner, it might sound like everyone is really mean. Don’t fret- it’s all grand! The Irish like to make fun of each other, and everyone and everything is fair game. If someone starts slagging you and laughing a lot, don’t worry! It’s all in good fun.
4. Students may have to register with the Gardaí upon arrival
Depending on how long you are studying in Ireland, students may have to register with the An Garda Síochana, or police, when they arrive. You report to the local Garda National Immigration Bureau, fill out some paperwork and receive your GNIB card, which is essentially your visa. It may take several hours, so bring a book! The GNIB card costs €300, so factor it into your budget. Your nationality and the length of your program determine whether or not you need a GNIB card, but if you do, your university should inform you.
5. Ireland has a rich history, so take time to learn about it!
History hasn’t always been kind to Ireland, but learning about its past is important. For example, the landmass of Ireland is actually split into two different countries: the Republic of Ireland, a free, independent country, and Northern Ireland, the small bit up north that is part of the United Kingdom. While this is common knowledge to the Irish and their neighbors, not all foreigners are aware of it. There is a lot of history to comprehend, and understanding it will give you a lot of insight into Ireland and its people.
6. The Irish like to take things in turn- watch out for when it’s your round!
Here’s another social tip for you, as it’s highly like that the majority of students in Ireland will pop into the local pub for a pint! When you go out for drinks with your friends, remember that the Irish typically buy drinks in rounds, meaning people take turns in buying a drink for everyone. You buy a round, then someone else will get the next round, and the next… you see a trend developing? The belief is that it will all even out in the end, so relax and enjoy your pint.
7. The weather isn’t always like that
One thing is always associated with Ireland- rain. But it’s no bother, really! If you’re nervous about the weather, don’t be. Will it rain while you’re in Ireland? Yes. Will it rain all day, every day to the point where you forget what sunshine is? Of course not. Ireland has this weird misty thing going on, where a lot of the time it will just barely be drizzling- but you’ll still be pretty soaked. Yes, there will be days when it’s lashing outside, but that’ll make you appreciate those sunny days even more! Always keep an umbrella in your bag and throw sartorial elegance to the wind- you’ll be sorted!
8. The Irish language is still spoken in Ireland
Irish Gaelic and English are both the official languages of Ireland. While most of the country speaks English, there are areas- mainly on the west coast- where Irish is the first language. Even if people don’t speak Irish daily, it’s still everywhere. Irish is on all road and street signs throughout Ireland, and students learn Irish in school. Although you don’t need to know Irish to get by in Ireland, it’s a bit of craic to learn some key phrases! Sláinte!
9. The GAA is, basically, a religion
The GAA, or Gaelic Athletic Association, is an organization that promotes Gaelic games and culture. The two most popular GAA sports are Gaelic football and hurling. They are both fun, fast paced field sports with minimal or no padding and lots of hard hits. Each team has its die-hard fans, which makes going to a match an experience! Be sure to watch a few matches, or better yet, learn to play some GAA games while in Ireland!
10. The Irish are some of the friendliest people in the world
The Irish people are some of the nicest you’ll ever meet. They will go above and beyond to have a good time or help you out if you’re in a jam. They have a knack for showing little kindnesses that have been forgotten elsewhere, and it’s truly heartwarming. Do yourself a favor and make some Irish friends while you’re studying in Éire- you won’t regret it!