Cork Exchange 2017-2018
At the end of August 2017, I found myself at Schiphol a few hours before my flight to Cork, Ireland. I dropped off my luggage at the designated counter, where the employee attached the label to my suitcase and doubtfully said: ‘Have a good flight to.. eh.. Ork?’
I couldn’t really blame her. Cork is the second city of Ireland, but that doesn’t mean much: it is approximately as big as Groningen, and although its inhabitants call it the ‘real capital of Ireland’, no one seems to be aware of this claim to fame outside of the Emerald Isle’s borders. To be frank, I hadn’t heard of Cork either until I signed up for a spot at University College Cork (UCC) for the autumn semester. Ireland seemed like a great place to spend some time. Never mind the weather, Guinness, trad music, and the poetry of Yeats would keep me warm!
And so I departed, wrapped in my winter coat, to Cork, where I arrived in one of these sad student accommodations the University Newspaper writes angry articles about. The rooms must have been decorated by a great advocate for minimalism, whilst some of the kitchen utensils were literally falling apart. But it didn’t matter: my Erasmus was about to begin and not even a crappy apartment could ruin that experience.
I soon figured out that I wasn’t the only one living in this dumb of a building. The place was populated by a colorful bunch of students from literally all over the world. I shared my apartment with an organized German girl and a passionate Spanish lady (stereotypes are sometimes true, people!) with whom I would soon share lots of movies, kitchen talk, and most importantly, bottles of wine. But it all really started on the 1st of September, when our international crew ventured out to Kinsale on one hell of a sunny day. This little harbour town looks out over green hills, old ruins, and a glistering sea, and while we were enjoying a little ‘vrijdagmiddagborrel’ at the harbour front and exchanging our favorite recipes from our home countries (needless to say I didn’t have much to contribute), I realized I made the right decision coming to Cork.
It is difficult to summarize all the things that happened afterwards, but I can give you some of the highlights. We had endless dinner parties during which we indulged in French dishes that contained an irresponsible amount of cheese, and I discovered that Pakistani carrot pudding is a thing and a delicious one at that. I climbed over misty mountain ridges fearing for my life, but feeling extremely cool and tough afterwards. I tried out Irish dancing classes, which was one big failure, but at least I had a lot of fun. I played hide-and-seek amongst the ruins of an old monastery, which is an experience I can recommend to anyone. I survived a hurricane. I made everyone write poems to celebrate Sinterklaas. And to end with a cliché, I learned a lot about other people’s lives, cultures, and perceptions, which (hopefully) made me a more considerate and patient person.
In case you’re wondering if I also studied while I was there, I can confirm that I did. But that was not really the point when I took that plane at the end of August with a heavy heart. The point was to meet new people, get out of the comfortable comfort-zone that is the city of Groningen, and just have a really good time for a couple of months before the serious business of thesis writing would get started. It was indeed great craic*, and the ‘real capital of Ireland’ will forever have a special place in my heart (although I do think that Dublin is cooler, but that’s just my humble opinion).
*Irish slang. Pronounce like crack, although it has nothing to do with drugs, it just means ‘fun’. People use this for real and an awful lot in Ireland.