Life Abroad: It’s a Small World, After All

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Hi, all! My name is Oliver McLellan, and I am a third-year Geology concentrator studying abroad at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland this semester (Fall 2014). Not interested in reading about Irish rocks or paleontological studies? Too bad! Not a problem! Through Life Abroad, I plan to share all types of experiences— academic to recreational— with you. 

This past weekend, the Irish Bank Holiday gave me an opportunity to fly to London for five days to visit a friend from high school. My friend has been a full-time student at Wimbledon College of Art for the last two and a half years, and currently lives in a flat with two British students. One of my friend’s flatmates invited us to a small get-together in an area called Oval (aptly named for its elliptical street layout), which we headed out to later that night. After a short walk down a block that reminded me of the streets of Bed-Stuy, we came upon a house from which the sounds of twenty or so English art students emanated.

After we made our way inside, my friend took pleasure in the puzzled looks we received every time she introduced me with, “This is my friend who’s here from Ireland. He’s American, but now he’s in London visiting me.” This statement was always followed by a split second of palpably tense anticipation, during which each stranger was—I assumed—trying to determine which accent I would speak with. Most of the time, I ended up laughing before I could speak, prolonging the moment of truth. The general reaction to my American accent was one of bemused disappointment, especially after I revealed that I did not speak like anyone from Jersey Shore. However, this introduction sparked some of the most interesting conversations I had that night.

In the midst of all of the introductions, I met two people who had grown up in England, but had Irish parents. They were both excited to hear that I was studying in Dublin, and asked if I knew any Irish. I admitted that I only knew a couple of words, so they both decided to teach me a few more. Upon realizing that they both knew a good amount of Irish, the two began to have a full discussion in Gaelic, each throwing in the occasional comment (in English) on the other’s accent or word choice. Another English student was excited to talk to me about the States, as he had studied abroad in North Carolina the year before. Our conversation began as a discussion of drinking laws but later devolved—or evolved, depending on your interests—into ranting about twelfth century English writings concerning Ireland.

Despite all of the pseudointellectual chats I participated in, the one conversation from that night I found the most interesting happened to be with another American. After grabbing a handful of nachos and passing some my way, my friend gave me a nudge and said that she thought there was another American in the house. She pointed to a guy behind me, but I could not hear his accent well enough to determine where he was from. Thus, my friend butted into they guy’s conversation in order to find out. As it turned out, he had come from New York City to visit a friend who had recently moved to London. We told him that we were from New Jersey, which naturally led to a full-blown discussion of the tri-state area, the different boroughs of New York, and London and the United Kingdom versus New York City and the United States. Retrospectively, it is clear that this conversation was a testament to how small, in fact, the world really is.

(Alternatively, it is a testament to the fact that Americans really like to talk about the United States.)

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I would be happy to answer any and all questions! Contact me at oliver_mclellan@brown.edu and I will respond ASAP.

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