1. You will be welcomed.
You’ll touch down in Dublin, ready to begin your ESL course. The airport is a very clean and safe place, and it will seem comfortable enough to stay here eating O’Donnells “Irish cider vinegar and sea salt” crisps and drinking Dr. Pepper for a while. When you do leave, you’ll hop on a Citilink bus to Galway in the west, and all the way you’ll smile and laugh at the jokes the skinny, white-haired, talkative bus driver named Bill tells. After three hours of looking through the window and watching the green lands overcrowded with sheep and cows, you’ll arrive in the city where you’ll live for the next month or so learning English. You’ll be a bit nervous, but the cool wind will welcome you with open arms.
In the taxi, you’ll share a few clichéd words with the driver in your still-primitive English. But mostly you’ll be looking out the window, noticing the vibe of the streets, where dozens of girls wearing flashy, tiny skirts and pale boys with tattooed arms are searching for the perfect pub to spend the night. Finally you’ll arrive at your new home, and you’ll meet the host family you’re going to live with. They’ll say to you with happy words: “Welcome to Ireland!”
2. Multiculturalism will surround you.
The English school where you’ll attend English classes five days a week will be like a unique world of its own. You’ll make friends with people from Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, France, Spain, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, and more. You’ll forget about your native language and speak English as much as possible, because no one in the school will look at you funny if you make a grammar or pronunciation mistake.
Outside of school, though, it’ll be different. You’ll try to sharpen your ears because people on the street — Irish mostly, but also North Americans, Canadians, and Indians — will talk to you in a faster pace than your English teachers, Colin and Aisling.
3. You’ll struggle with the Irish accent.
Once you get the English of the Irish, you won’t have to worry about any other English accent. At school, you’ll practice with many accents to be ready for the listening exam, but none of them will be comparable to the English you hear on the streets of Ireland. It’ll be difficult to understand because they speak very fast and load their words with humor and irony.
So you’ll spend a day as a tourist with an Irish guide on a walking tour, and you’ll build even more confidence with your Irish-English listening skills. In the middle of a historical explanation, you’ll ask Molly, the Aussie girl beside you, “Sorry, but do you understand everything he says?”
She’ll look pissed off at your stupid question and say, “Geez, I’m trying to.”
4. The best places to learn will be in the pubs and street markets.
You’ll find that the best places to study language are the pubs and bars where, on rainy days, the music and beers never end, and the colorful street markets and public squares where people relax during warm days.
You’ll find that Irish people love to speak and laugh. They’ll tell you stories and show interest in hearing yours in return. In every pub, you’ll be surrounded by good drinkers and funny companions. You’ll decide to take it easy and be authentic, because as the Irish say, “God created time. And then he gave the Irish a little more.”
5. The scenery of Ireland will move you.
You’ll plan your weekends wisely and travel all around the country. You’ll go north and visit Ballycastle in County Antrim, where you’ll find astonishing landscapes and walk across a 25m rope bridge across the sea to the cliffs of small rocky islands.
You’ll visit the Giant’s Causeway and walk over some of the 40,000 geometrical basalt columns and immerse yourself in the legend of the site. You’ll imagine, for just a moment, that you’re Finn McCool, the giant who built the road to be able to cross the sea and share time with his giant lady.
You’ll go west, take a ferry near Galway City, and be impressed with the landscape of the Aran Islands, where you’ll buy a fabulous sweater and try to speak with the locals to hear some of the Gaelic language.
You’ll visit the Cliffs of Moher and enjoy the sights of the 200m vertical walls of rock where puffins live. You’ll be amazed by the greatness of the Atlantic Ocean that stretches out to the horizon.
And finally, you’ll go east, where the beautiful forests of the Wicklow Mountains cover the valleys.
6. You’ll become a master of beer and whiskey.
A good thing about Ireland is that no one considers you crazy if you drink a Guinness at 11am instead of a cappuccino. Beers are an institution here. Blonde, red, or black, it doesn’t matter what your preferences are — between Guinness, Beamish, Murphy’s, Kilkenny, and Smithwick’s, the whole beer spectrum is covered.
You’ll remember watching Jimmy McNulty in The Wire drinking Jameson whiskey and singing Irish songs. Ireland will come to life and there you’ll be, walking into Temple Bar just two hours after arriving in Dublin. You’ll order a shot of Jameson in the crowded cantine that you found, and it will be so marvelous that you’ll go back to that same place for another one after finishing the English speaking exam.
7. Life will be sunnier after Ireland.
The weather will be bad. Dark days and showers. The wind will be so strong there will be no point in carrying an umbrella. But when a sunny day in Ireland does hit, you’ll never be happier.