Going from Oklahoma to Ireland probably involves less culture shock than many study abroad experiences. The Irish speak English—although theirs sounds different than ours. Ireland is very rural, but many of us Okies are used to seeing lots of cows and horses (although sheep are more common there than they are here). Of course, there are adjustments, like the traffic moves in different directions. Ireland is lush and green; their summers are cool and wet and their summer days are much longer than ours (the sun rises around 4:00 am and sets around 10:30 pm). Shops often close earlier than we are used to and might be closed all day on Sundays. Sometimes, restaurants serve ketchup that is really sweet and they do not know the joy of “biscuits and gravy.” But the differences are what make it so interesting and fun.
It is also those differences that cause you to change, utterly, when you study (or teach!) abroad. Even if you are already a fairly confident person (and let’s face it, it does take some courage to leave your family, friends, and comfort zone to study in a foreign country), while there, you independently gain various social and technical skills that help you to realize that “you got this!” You can do stuff! You can go through customs and read a train schedule and take care of yourself! At the same time, you learn to question everything– about your host country and about your home (like– why are our nickels bigger than dimes? Why don’t Irish university students seem as addicted to their cell phones as American students?). Study abroad (wherever you go) changes you and changes how you see the world– and these changes are good.
I have taken OU students abroad five different times previously and it is extremely fulfilling to watch students learn, grow, and mature so much in a month’s time. But I think another important thing about study abroad it: it is fun! You see castles, cathedrals, cliffs, landscapes, seascapes and other sensational sites that you cannot see elsewhere in the world. We have knocked on farmers’ doors to get permission to walk through their pasture (past the cows) to inspect a 5000 year old 17 foot tall Ogham stone (Ogham is an ancient form of Irish writing). You are not going to get to do any part of this in Oklahoma! You make new friends. You laugh a lot! You may even get to have some craìc (an Irish word for fun) with the locals! If you have the opportunity to participate in study abroad, don’t hesitate to seize the chance to have the best month (or semester or year) of your life!
Dr. Hackney will be teaching SOC 3763 (The Sociology of Ireland) in Ireland in June 2017. For more information, visit cas.ou.edu/study-abroad.