Nothing brings people together faster than new, and sometimes intimidating, situations and sharing meals. Going to college means mastering control over awkward situations, learning the skills of small talk, and knowing that eating with new people provides an excuse for contemplative silence. Studying abroad in a new country, well, that puts all of this to the test.
As someone who’s a bit shy when it comes to striking up a conversation, social situations are a bit stressful for me. I’ve never been the best at breaking the ice and keeping up conversational banter has often left me tongue-tied. Coming to Ireland was a bit like freshman year at Loyola all over again. I was in a new city with new people and new professors and new class systems and new everything. Not gonna lie, it was kind of scary.
At Loyola I had a friend group, well, several friend groups, and I had activities outside of class that I knew would be full of “regulars.” My professors knew me by name, and I knew I could have lovely conversations outside class with many of them. Loyola’s small campus provides a very cozy feeling to those who are a bit homesick, and apart from the Humanities building, it’s fairly easy to navigate.
Being at UCC is like transferring to a state school: there are over 20,000 students, the campus is much larger, the classes do not cap at 35, and I haven’t met any of my professors yet, so I can’t really tell you how that’s going. But despite these differences, there seems to be a universal equation for making new friends.
Food + People = Natural Flow of Conversation
During my Early Start course we had a coffee/snack break halfway through the lecture period and after the first day, people started joining each other for tea and coffee. I met a great group of friends who were history, anthropology, archeology, English, and various other majors and we had wonderful conversations that day and during the following weeks.
But I really think a lot of this had to do with eating food. There’s something so communal about breaking bread, or a chocolate croissant, with someone. Now that I have a new roommate, this also carries over. We make dinner at about the same time, so we chat as we cook and our conversations carry on well past our plates becoming empty.
A couple of weeks ago Erin and I were eating lunch in the Chaplaincy and there were some Irish students hanging out there. After a bit, they joined our conversation and we had a really fun time getting their perspective on stuff. We also learned some more of the slang (“Crack” here does not mean the illegal substance like in the US, just a heads up).
This past weekend I had to register with the police (that I was legal, and a student, and would be leaving in December, etc.), and on the way to the station, Erin and I came across a few American Early Start students who were doing the same thing. After a (very) stressful 2 hours, we had a celebratory meal together at a wonderful little bistro. And again, the entire time we were together there was a running conversation.
I’m telling you, there’s something about food.
Speaking of which, I should probably get some lunch now. I bought some fresh bead yesterday and I’ve been dying to make grilled cheese.
For photo-sets of my wanderings in Ireland, please visit roryroamingthegreenhills.tumblr.com. Thank you!