The plane touched down at exactly 9am Dublin time. Upon leaving the gate, the cool Irish air complimented the sight of green fields and virgin mountains. Just hours before, I was anxiously awaiting my arrival in a new land that I would call home for three months. A few months ago, I wasn’t even planning on studying abroad; it was through the encouragement of my peers who were also going on the trip that I made the decision to tag along. Now here I was, my first time in Europe, and I wanted to make sure I took in all the sights and sounds.
My first impression of the country from the airport was that of awe for the little details. The first sign I saw after stepping off the plane was for a door with low clearance that said, “mind the gap.” This stuck with me because it reminded me so much of an American sign of the same nature, yet back home there would be no signs with that kind of lingo. As someone who appreciates the little details in wording (I am a PoliSci major after all), it was a nice treat to see something so ordinary yet different.
As I walked out of the airport, I peered out every window possible. Another sight caught my eye: The road! They drive on the left side of the road! Although I have been to countries where drivers drive opposite than they do in America, I am still fascinated by that small difference in everyday life. Over the summer I interned at the Maryland Department of Transportation, so I had a particular appreciation and fascination with the road markings and signs. Continuing to look out the window I saw car brands that I had never seen in America: Peugeot, Renault, Vauxhall, Opel, and so on. As a guy who loves cars, being in a place with all types of different vehicles was an extremely welcoming sight, and I’m looking forward to seeing the variety in the weeks and months ahead.
After going through customs, I met up with the rest of my group and went toward a bus stop. As we walked outside, a slew of minor differences became apparent: there must have been twenty cigarette butts within a square meter area. It reminded me of a piece of Maryland legislation I wrote about bringing awareness to cigarette butt pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. The asphalt looked so much more stone-y compared to the standard black layer in America. I wondered if it’s like that to cut costs or to allow for the Irish rains to better soak into the soil. Zipping on these motorways, blue and neon green taxis caught my eye, flanked by the most striking feature to this American: double-decker buses towering over the traffic. I wasn’t 30 meters out of the gate when all these new sights came to me.
As I boarded my bus (sadly not double-decker) to get situated with my host family, I took a deep breath and smiled at this new land. The radio played a Eurobeat song I wish I had the lyrics to. Out the window, I was greeted with McDonald’s on one side of the motorway and a pasture full of cows and sheep on the other. I knew that from this point forward that adventure awaited!