Beyond the travel brochures

Kelly Byer

Emerald green, leprechauns, rainbows and pots o’ gold. All items typically associated with Ireland. They can also be found on a box of Lucky Charms.

I have, however, yet to see any of those things except in gift shops. Most of us rarely learn about another country’s culture, and what we do learn is usually the abbreviated overview of a much more complex issue.

That’s why I’d have to say the main thing I’ve learned while studying abroad at Ulster University in Northern Ireland would have to be how little I actually do know.

It would be an injustice to try to describe the people, the places and the moments. That’s why simply reading about a place doesn’t give you the full picture; you have to experience it.

You might already know the island is separated into the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, and that The Troubles is a well-known part of its history. Government policies and the media tend to be more liberal than America’s, and the drinking age is 18.

The Irish are also known for their hospitality, and the land gets its greenness from the rainy weather. (As I am currently in view of a window, I can confidently tell you it is raining as I write this).

Any online search engine can find this general information on Ireland, but I think you have to go beyond that to fully comprehend a country or culture. I’m not going to pretend to have a complete understanding of the Irish culture, but I offer you what little I have learned about life in Northern Ireland:

While the main conflict of The Troubles ended about 10 years ago, there are still some hard feelings, and it is discussed quite often.

They don’t sell Lucky Charms here. I’m not sure why, but I was told by a local that it is most likely because of the stereotypical Irish leprechaun portrayed.

You’ll have a hard time finding any Mexican food, but there are more Indian restaurants to choose from. (My roommates had actually never heard of quesadillas before Americans moved in.)

Students actually cook food that doesn’t require a microwave, and each flat has a kitchen area. I can proudly say I’ve gone entire days without eating a frozen dinner and have improved my cooking skills, although that only means my food is now edible.

If there’s one type of music I’ve heard more than any other here, it’s techno or dance music, especially songs by Lady Gaga.

The best people to ask about sites and attractions are taxi drivers, as they’re pretty familiar with the area. They usually have some interesting stories to tell as well.

Kelly Byer is a sophomore newspaper journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at < a href=”mailto:[email protected]”>[email protected]