I always think that the worst thing about college in Ireland is that the vast majority of students go to college in their home-towns, and when they do so, they generally live at home, parents and all.
Because money doesn’t grow on trees, I’m in that boat.
Which is why for me coming to New York City for the summer was great on two fronts. Firstly, to be in most amazing city in the world and secondly to spend almost three months living as a college student should: in filthy conditions, on a shoestring budget, and with other students.
Living in dorms is a character building exercise unlike almost any other. It’s got to be up there with joining the army in terms of preparing you for what’s ‘out there’ and getting yourself used to missing out on all those creature comforts that you take for granted living in the relative lap of luxury at home.
Undoubtedly the toughest thing about the dorms so far is the lack of air conditioning. Deprivation from anything, whether that’s food, cold air or even water is always an enlightening experience. Once you’ve gone without something, you never take it for granted again. So next time I’m moaning about being too cold in bed in Ireland I’ll have to cast my mind back to my time in the City and realize that being too hot is an awful lot worse.
Then there’s the nutritional train-wreck that you have to put yourself through to get by on a student’s budget in NYC. Eating suddenly becomes a question of trying to get the most calories for the smallest amount of money. Taste goes out the window, as does fruit, which is generally too expensive and is sadly replaced with synthetic vitamins. Smirnoff becomes a luxury brand of vodka, Heineken a luxury beer, and your stomach lining is forced to adapt to the viscous onslaught that is a handle of Peterson and Clarke.
‘Alone time’, however lame that sounds, becomes a prized commodity, and is generally limited to the few minutes you spend every day showering and using the toilet. You also become incredibly adept at the art of drowning out people and things you don’t want to listen to. You also come to appreciate that every night spent in and alone is a wasted night. I have a pretty busy social schedule back home,. probably going out four nights a week, but if there’s something going on every night why not go for it? Life’s too short to spend browsing Facebook!
But even lamer again as this sounds, you appreciate more than ever before the selfless sacrifice that is parenting and the colossal and usually thankless task that mothers and fathers around the world have of bringing up teenagers, and in some places like Ireland, young adults.
If you’re an Irish twenty-something, or at some stage of your life you were, then you probably don’t know the difference between detergent and bleach, know how to iron a shirt (ok, maybe that you do know), or know how much the rent is costing, but you can bet your bottom dollar that your ma does!
It’s easy to look at recent days like Father’s Day and Mother’s Day as needless commemorations in an already jam-packed calendar of events and celebrations, and even see them as just another thing that you have to go buy a present for.
Until you realize that no matter what you give them or do on that day, it’ll forever pale in significance to the lifelong present that they give you by being your parents!