a constant state of confusion

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For the first few weeks everyone knew I was from ‘the States,’ just by looking at me. Then I graduated to being able to pass as a local until I opened my mouth. Now that I have finally fooled a few people, it’s time to share my knowledge.

To help you feel the same disorientation I first experienced, here is a quick ‘Cork Slang’ activity for you. (Answers below)

 1. “It was Grand”

Does this mean:

  a. It was good
  b. It was terrible
  c. It was bearable

2. “That place was Jammers!”

Was it:

  a. Wild and crazy
  b. Extremely crowded
  c. Extremely loud

3. “How’s the crack?”

Does this mean:

  a. Is the quality of the drugs acceptable?
  b. Do you like what I am wearing?
  c. What’s going on?

4. “He was taking the piss”

Does this mean:

  a. He was urinating
  b. He was joking
  c. He was napping

It is strange how we focus on topical differences like how we talk and express ourselves, but it is a fun way to get to know people from different cultures, and everyone has a story about being misunderstood in a different country!

More expressions:

Deadly = Awesome.

Fierce = Intense. Primarily used to refer to the weather.

It was a gas! = It was great fun!

 

Some you don’t want to confuse, such as:

Have a lash = have a try

Go on the lash = Go out on the town

Have a slash = Urinate

 

Then there is Gaelic, which is something else entirely.

Lough = Lake (pronounced ‘lock’)

Gaol = Jail (pronounced ‘jail’)

Quay = Avenue/street (pronounced ‘key’)

 

Answers:

1. “It was Grand” a. It was good

2. “That place was Jammers!” b. Extremely crowded

3. “How’s the crack?” c. What’s going on? (Spelled ‘craic,’ Gaelic term for fun, gossip or entertainment)

4. “He was taking the piss” b. He was joking

 

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Sterotypes and Higher Ed. differences

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Being displaced into a new environment has some advantages. It gives you a chance to look from afar at the place you call home, and gain a little more objectivity then you ever could have when there.

Talking to the lovely Irish women I work with, and the range of international students I have met and befriended, I have gathered a collection of observations and stereotypes about Americans, which I will attempt to share here. I am sorry to say that I embody many of the stereotypes.

In general, Americans have been perceived as:

  • Superficial
  • Spoiled/rich
  • Potentially obese/out of shape
  • Entitled, also possessing an inflated sense of self-worth
  • Extremely competitive, workaholic tendencies
  • Ignorant: Americans know little about the world outside of their own country

Higher Education Differences:

The best description I heard that illustrates the difference between European and American higher education systems, is,

“European students become adults when they go to college. American students go to college to become adults.”

“European students become adults when they go to college.” They have to, and there is a kind of pride that comes with the coming-of-age and simply walking onto their university’s grounds for the first time.

 Now for Americans, the college experience is not a sink-or-swim procedure as it can be with Europeans, and there is a lot more, how do I say, ‘handholding’ that occurs in the American higher education system. Without making any accusations, I think that the systems are so different that it is really comparing apples to oranges, and unfair to measure them by the same standards.

Free education has its benefits and downsides, as you can imagine. One of the biggest challenges is that the office I work at is severely understaffed. The orientation staff is primarily student volunteers who provide support to students throughout the year. There are no RAs or live-in student staff members, besides a warden who is on call each night for lockouts. Students have to get involved, grow up, and look out for themselves, because no one else is going to.

Sink or swim, really.

The American education system on the other hand offers more because people expect more, and are paying more for their schooling. Despite American students being perceived as more outgoing then their Irish counterparts, Americans are also typically more entitled, and less likely to take advantage of the opportunities that are placed in front of them.

When discussing the week of social events intended to get incoming students involved, one of my coworkers said,

“Every year we put these events on, and every year only a few American students attend. Then when they are filling out a survey at the end of the year they always complain about not enough social events and not making any Irish friends. It’s like they expect us to knock down their doors to get them to go to these events!”

I guess we can’t blame the individual parts, there are many factors that create the college environment in every country, and some, as you can see, are very different. 

In Ireland and the UK students take tests their junior or senior year of high school, called ‘leaving exams’ or ‘A-Lists.’ These exams are similar to the SAT in that they cover topics such as applied sciences, business studies, as well as arts and humanities, and the grades determine students acceptance into university programs. The difference here is, students are accepted into a focus, or major, right off the bat, and they begin studying their major within the first year of college.

Now although the American liberal-arts colleges may give a wider base of knowledge then some Irish and UK schools, can you see why many employers consider a bachelor degree graduate from a European college to be equivalent to a masters degree in the States?

Week 2.5

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I have been working part time at the International Education Office at the University of College Cork, in Cork Ireland, going on 3 weeks now. Although I am tired of explaining to everyone I meet,

“No, it’s like a study abroad, but without attending classes… I’m interning abroad,”

it has been a fantastic experience so far.

The past two weeks were spent helping my staff prepare for the incoming students, and this week they started arriving. The student orientation staff here is run by an administrator, and a few hundred volunteers. They are quite a devoted and enthusiastic crowd, essentially serving as short-term RAs. I sometimes think that the RA role should be a voluntary position, so that only those who really want to make a difference will get involved, and it has been inspiring seeing what that looks like here at UCC, with pros and cons in comparison, naturally.

I was just telling someone today that I feel like I get the best of both worlds; I get to work at a college and be around international students hailing from all over Europe and the Middle East, and I get to work with a group of Irish staff members, spending lunch break and tea time asking them about what sights to see, local customs, Irish history and so forth. No homework is another added benefit.

My RA training has already been put to good use, and although people tilt their head when they hear I studied advertising in school, I think my experiences here will only help me think outside of the box later in my career/life. One of the most valuable parts of my experience has been getting submerged in a culture and away from “The States.” More on that later.

Being exposed to more diversity then I think I ever have, and being a minority, sometimes the only American in a room of 50 international students, has been incredibly eye-opening. I started a list of stereotypes the Irish have for Americans, but after meeting students from Germany, Austria, Sweden, Finland, France, Italy…. I had to start a new list all over again!

I will share those soon, but prepare yourself: most of the stereotypes are not positive.

Besides school/work, I have only been outside of Cork a few times to see a castle here and there, but I have more trips planned so stay tuned for photos.

Cheers!