Tag Archives: Culture Shock


Grace is one of our US students who is in her fourth year in Trinity.  Here she lets us know about her experience of studying BESS at Trinity, one of our Top 10 Courses. 

Your name: Grace Tierney

Where you’re from in the US: Annapolis, Maryland – a small coastal town about an hour from Washington, DC.

Your year of study: Final year (4th year)

Your programme of study / course:
Business, Economics, and Social Studies (BESS) – getting a dual honors degree in Political Science and Sociology. 

What made you decide to study your course at Trinity?

I liked that BESS allowed the opportunity to choose from different degree options rather than choosing a course that bound your degree from day one.

What, if anything, was the most challenging thing about moving to Ireland to study?

The most challenging thing about moving to Ireland for me, as crazy as it sounds, was that I didn’t anticipate it being challenging at all. Going in to my first year at Trinity, not expecting to miss home or experience any culture shock at all (naïve, I know) meant that when those things happened, they really threw me for a loop. Luckily, the Trinity community really helped me find my footing and my friends were there when I needed them. 

How did you overcome the challenge?

As silly as it sounds – I overcame this challenge by letting time run its course. Homesickness and culture shock are things that get better with time and patience. Committing to doing everything I could to make sure that I was building a life in Dublin and making the most of my time at Trinity, through making great friends, exploring Ireland, focusing on academics, and getting involved in societies really helped me feel at home and helped make the transition easier.


What aspect / module of your course have you enjoyed studying the most so far and why?

I’ve really enjoyed getting a more global perspective in my subjects – especially politics. If I had gone to university in America it most likely would’ve been a school in Washington DC and while I love DC, I know that I am getting a more worldly perspective studying politics outside of the “American bubble.”


From Southern California to Dublin: Culture Shocks and Assimilation – Coffee, Coins and Self-Deportation


By Allison Woodworth, Summer Study Abroad Blogger

“I cried,” my sister said, sheepishly admitting to getting emotional while listening to the “Outlander” soundtrack as she and her boyfriend drove through rural Ireland on their way to visit me in Dublin.  My sister and I grew up in suburban southern California, where the only sheep we saw on a regular basis was the puppet Lamb Chop and where nearby historic sites consisted of late 18th century Spanish Catholic missions. Where San Diego is dotted with palm trees and coastline, Dublin is blanketed in nature and history and rain. I mocked my sister’s emotions as an older sister should, but I couldn’t deny that Ireland was beautiful. Four weeks earlier, I’d found myself staring out the airplane window over Ireland and thinking that this surely embodied “picturesque”. I wasn’t quite sure if it was the 18 hour travel, the lack of sleep, the rabbits hopping around the runways, or the impeccable timing of an early morning arrival to catch my first Irish sunrise, but everything felt surreal.

My nine weeks in Dublin have been grand. I’ve learned to use a French press, broken a French press, almost been pancaked by bike and bus, claimed a couch in the Rathmines library as “my spot”, and was visited by Irish immigration (more on this later). I’ve enjoyed all my small culture shock moments because they personify both the fun and the difficulties of assimilation. Here are a few of my observations, experiences, and culture shock moments:

  • The Library: anyone who knows me won’t be surprised to hear that my “goals after landing” were listed as such: 1) sleep 2) find grocery allison_blog-1_photo-1store 3) locate local library. I was thrilled that the Rathmines public library was a short walk from our dorms. Andrew Carnegie funded construction of Ireland’s first public access library in 1913. Although the two story neo-Georgian building appears huge from the outside, it has a rather small, efficient layout. I did try to immediately sign up for a library card, but they insisted I be a resident or have a resident vouch for me. This was a huge disappointment – I collect library cards like some people collect shot glasses – but I compromised by reading shortallison_blog-1_photo-2 graphic novels and comics when I stopped off on my walk home from work before the closing gong around 8pm. Yes, closing gong. I’m not sure there is a PA in the library. Just before closing, the staff gives bangs a gong by the door to warn patrons to head out – or in my case to jump three feet off my seat in fright. Every time.

Photo 1 (above): Rathmines Library Gong

Photo 2 (left): Rathmines Library

Continue reading From Southern California to Dublin: Culture Shocks and Assimilation – Coffee, Coins and Self-Deportation

A Visit to Belfast, Northern Ireland

By Jessica Murphy, Summer Study Abroad Blogger

My name is Jessica Murphy and I am a rising sophomore at Brown University from New York City. I am still not sure what I am majoring in—or as we call it, “concentrating”—but I am interested in fields ranging from international relations to development studies. In fact, I was initially drawn to the Brown/Trinity summer study abroad programme in Dublin because of my interest in political science. The possibility of studying contemporary international politics, participating in an internship, and living in a completely new country sounded like a remarkable opportunity. I am so glad that I decided to sign up, because it has truly exceeded my (already high) expectations! Dublin is a fascinating city with a rich and layered past, and I have really enjoyed learning and exploring every single day.

Continue reading A Visit to Belfast, Northern Ireland


Elli is one of our international students from the US.  She is studying PPES at Trinity.  Here she tells us about 10 things that took her by surprise living in Dublin.

  1. The Weather

When I first came to Ireland from sunny California I knew I would be in for a shock, but I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that there are plenty of sunny days here too. The weather here is actually never uncomfortable. At its hottest it is extremely pleasant and even at its coldest it is rarely freezing and almost never snows enough to stick. The weather is sporadic, but forgiving and certainly hasn’t been a bad surprise.

  1. The International Community

As the only person in my high school to be going abroad I was unsure how many people like me I’d meet, but what I found when I arrived was that I was not alone at all. Trinity is around 20% international, with students from all over the world. I realised making this big decision to move 5,000 miles from home was not so crazy after all. If all the other international students could do it, so could I. I found there is power in numbers, or at least a great support network of other students going through exactly the same things as you and who are always happy to listen.


  1. The Travel

One of the biggest attractions of moving to Ireland for me was its proximity to the rest of Europe. Ireland alone has amazing castles and historical sites, beautiful cities, stunning beaches and of course gorgeous green landscapes, but I was also pleasantly surprised to find that traveling to the rest of Europe is incredibly cheap and easy. I’ve already travelled all across France, Turkey, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, The Czech Republic, Spain, The Netherlands, Portugal, Italy, The UK, Hungary and of course Ireland. Traveling around Europe is so easy and a major plus of living here.


  1. The Food

Generally the UK and Ireland are not really well known for their food. Things like blood sausage just don’t sound that delicious, however I found Dublin to have a vibrant and diverse restaurant scene with plenty of great options, even for sushi or Mexican food. Not to mention all the amazing local Irish foods like salmon, butter, beef and of course potatoes.


  1. The Drinks

I was surprised to find that, despite the reputation for loving the odd pub beverage, there’s another drink that the Irish have a much more intense and addictive relationship with: tea. Before coming to Dublin I never drank tea, but since moving here it’s been difficult getting away with having less than three cups a day. Every social interaction revolves around having a cup of tea whether you’re meeting friends between classes or going to someone’s house there will always be tea involved.


  1. The Language

I came to Ireland with the confidence that everyone woImage9(Language)uld speak English, which is for the most part the case, but I found that many words in Irish English are quite different from American English. Sayings like “what’s the craic?” (which means “what’s up?”), or words like “grand” (which means just ok instead of great) and “press” (aka cabinet) baffled me. Sentences start with ‘sure look’ and end with ‘like’. While these small differences are confusing, most of the time they’re just funny. It feels like a great accomplishment every time I remember to say courgette instead of Zucchini and shop instead of groceries.

  1. The Names

In California I knew a lot of Amandas, Britneys, Matts, and Joshs.  In Ireland I know a lot of Eoins (O-wen) and Aoifes (ee-fa) and Caoimhes (kwee-va or kee-va) and Niamhs (neev or nee-iv). Many people have names that are utterly unpronounceable, unless of course you’re familiar with the Irish language. This was quite difficult at first, but once you hear them enough and learn not to try and sound them out, saying Sadhbh (sive, sigh-v) or Oisín (uh-sheen or o-sheen) becomes second nature!

  1. The Roads

Back in California, I drove basically everywhere and certainly took advantage of the fact that roads generally had two lanes and visible signs. In Ireland things are very different. Roads are narrow and often one-way and a single road may change its name 4 or 5 times within a kilometre. The good news is you never have to drive here. Walking and public transportation is much safer and easier than in the US, so getting around is simple. Dublin has an extensive bus network and a tram called the Luas, which is currently being extended to connect the whole city. Personally, I cycle to college every day and despite it being slightly terrifying at times I never miss driving.

Image 10(Road)

  1. The Academia

College in Ireland is very different than in the States. You chose your major when applying to the school and only take classes related to it, so no GenEd (General Education Program) requirements like in the US. They also grade with 1st as the highest then 2.1, 2.2, and 3.


  1. The Excitement

I remember getting a tour of Trinity and seeing all the beautiful buildings in front square and feeling the amazement of standing there on the 400 year old cobble stones in this sanctuary in the heart of Dublin. I wondered if I came there every day as a student would I ever get used to how stunning and remarkable it is. So far, I have been happily surprised that every day walking around Trinity I still feel that same awe and excitement I did on that tour three years ago. Every day I’m reminded when I walk through the front gate that I’m in the right place.


If you would like to get to know Trinity College and the city of Dublin better, consider coming along to one of our upcoming US events.

Blowing into Dublin

Ariane has come to Trinity from Aberdeen for an exchange semester, she is originally from Germany. 

Dublin is windy. I learned this when I was bouncing at 20,000-15,000 feet for a little over an hour (yes, in a plane). As soon as we landed, everybody took out their mobile phones and immediately called their loved ones. I called my dad. “I have landed.” I told him, “I proudly announce that I have just started my exchange semester in Dublin!”


Trinity’s architecture conjured up figures like Queen Elizabeth the first and Harry Potter in my mind. It sounded like a new adventure. While I couldn’t realise my childhood dream of feeling like Hermione when studying in the library (I thought the Long Room was a study area!), I could do a lot more things than I would ever have dreamed about.

My second encounter with the wind happened on the day I had to hand my essay in to the politics department, which is in the lucky position of being situated between Starbucks and Costa. I proudly printed off my essay (with the credit I had just successfully added online, thanks to the Datapac help desk in the library) and started my trip to my lecturer’s office, when it suddenly started to rain. In a nutshell: I had to print off my essay again (it got wet, it fell in a puddle and eventually, I had to let it go with the wind). From that day on, an umbrella got a special place in my handbag, just next to my extra jumper and leap card.

Getting a leap card is like getting Willy Wonka’s golden ticket, except the stunningly beautiful Irish landscape beats every chocolate river and candy flower. Where I’m from, it takes me ten hours to reach the sea. Here, I could reach the seaside within a few minutes.


One thing that took me a few minutes to understand was the Irish accent. Oh, you didn’t ask me if I could take the garbage outside, but you said it is gorgeous that the sun does shine? Grant! Oh, you didn’t want a carrot cake but a carrier bag? These misunderstandings are the stories you will tell your grandchildren one day. One thing you learn when you live abroad is to laugh about yourself.

Here is the thing about going on an exchange semester – we may be a little selfish in our motivations. “Exchange Semester at Trinity College” definitely makes every employer have his eyes on sticks. Your friends’  plan to visit you before you even set foot on Irish ground suddenly makes you the coolest person alive. You’re the number one conversation topic at your grandmother’s tea time table. “Oh she is going to Iceland, isn’t she?” (not really, but close). Still, that doesn’t stop your pride from putting a huge smile on your face.

world plave

The truth is – going abroad is the least selfish thing you can do and could be the most honourable decision you have ever taken. Let me warn you – you will not be the same when you come back. You will sit at the dinner table telling your younger brother that it is okay to eat close to midnight and ignore the 6-sharp-German-dinner time, because after all, that is what people in Spain do. You will tell your sister that you know someone in Hong Kong who could help her with her Chinese homework. You will urge your mother to take her own bags to go shopping and please not buy the cheapest peanut butter because it contains palm oil which is the main reason for the extinction of the rain forest. You’ll tell your dad that it is fine, you can change the light bulb on your own and yes, you can fix your bike as well!

My semester abroad will not stop once this term ends. All the memories, the friendships and the experiences I made will last for a lifetime. Yes, it has had its up and downs, but I was warned at the very beginning – Dublin is windy. And if it hadn’t been for the wind, I would never have been so appreciative to land safely on Irish ground!