Rebecca Dorsey Staff Writer
Martin O’Connor comes to Saint Martin’s from Belfast, Ireland. He explains that this city he now loves was actually a horrible place to live up until the 1990s when Catholic and Protestant tension was strong and dangerous. However, the area is peaceful now and is an exciting place to tour. One historically intriguing place to visit in Belfast is the Titanic Visitor Center, where over 6,000 people come every year.
In Belfast, O’Connor has two older brothers and one older sister. As the youngest sibling, O’Connor explains that his parents were a little wary about sending him across the Atlantic, but they are all happy now that he has had this amazing opportunity.
Coming to the U.S. was not as easy as just hopping on a plane though. O’Connor applied for a very competitive program called Study USA. Out of about 500 applicants, he was one of the 70 chosen to travel abroad in the US. Although the program did not allow O’Connor to choose the location of the college he would be transferred to, he does not regret his placement at Saint Martin’s University.
“I’m glad I got to come here. It’s been a great experience!” he says.
When first asked about cultural differences between Ireland and Washington, O’Connor had little to say. The weather is similar, though slightly colder where he is from. Apparel is no different, except that the months of September and October stay warmer, so Washingtonians can sport the shorts and flip flops a little bit longer. The only other difference O’Connor noticed in culture is that the people around here tend to date more seriously and get married at younger ages. In Ireland, O’Connor estimates that most do not marry until they are around 27 or 28 years old.
Apart from O’Connor’s obvious Irish accent, he has not noticed much lingual diversity between the U.S. and Ireland. He does note that a new word he has heard here in Washington is “gnarly” and laughingly states, “I’m still not really even sure what that means.”
Whether in the U.S. or Ireland, O’Connor enjoys playing soccer and hanging out with friends. In his first semester at SMU, he made many connections with other international students, but has now been branching out and developing great friendships with domestic students as well. His favorite thing about the U.S., particularly Saint Martin’s, is that everyone is so friendly, and because of that there is a wonderful sense of community. His university in Ireland has a population as large as 25,000 students, so cordial “Hello’s” are less frequent. O’Connor reflects, “Everybody knows everyone here, so it’s nice that no matter where you’re at, you can see a familiar face.”
Altogether, O’Connor has had a blast experiencing the U.S., and encourages study abroad to anyone who is interested. The time flies by, and it is an experience you won’t forget!