What defines me?
Daniel O'Boyle | Thursday, November 19, 2015
I’m pretty awful at coming up with ideas before the very last minute. I was supposed to send this column in long before I had even the slightest idea of what to write here. I still don’t really know what I should say to be honest, being able to write about whatever I want is a lot of freedom. I’ve managed to spend a long time at The Observer without every actually having to write one of these.
I guess I should write about being an international student. That would be the most sensible option, right? It’s one of the most important things about my identity. To most of my friends and in most of my classes, that’s how I’m defined. Much of my dorm still just refers to me as “Irish guy,” or sometimes I just go by “Irish” for short. It affects what jobs I’m allowed to take, I have a whole lot of extra paperwork I often need to have on me or get signed (and always seem to forget about), and I get a lot of questions about life back home.And yes, we do have pizza in Ireland. It’s pizza. They have it everywhere.
But what do I actually have to say? There’s still a few things that I don’t get: I have no idea who I am and who I’m not supposed to tip, and the concept of free refills still amazes me. Speaking of which, is there a statute of limitations on free refills? Can I refill my soda the next day? How about a month later?
But does my experience as an international student actually define me? As much as I enjoy being asked where I’m from, people talking about my accent or even people asking if I’m familiar with the village their family came from, I just don’t see it defining me. There’s just something kind of weird about the idea of someone liking you more because of the country you’re from, for one thing.
Maybe it’s because the adjustment isn’t as big for me as it is for many other international students from vastly different cultures — I felt like I knew most of what to expect — I don’t feel like I haven’t had a full “international student experience.” I still miss home, and I don’t get to return often, but I was sort of expecting a little bit more of a shock. Even if only so it would give me something to actually write about here. It’s been more obvious to me lately, as I notice little things like my accent starting to slip away, but I guess I’ve just started to feel a little bit too American. As much as it may be against every stereotype on the entire continent of Europe, I have nothing to complain about.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.