Over the weekend, students spent the weekend living with Irish families in the town of Carrigaline. I’ll admit, at first I was a bit apprehensive about leaving my apartment and moving in with a family I had never met. However, all of my initial misgivings turned out to be entirely unfounded. What a wonderful weekend! After a fairly stressful first two weeks of classes, the homestay was exactly what I needed to recharge for the week ahead.
After a tedious bus ride from Galway to Cork on Friday afternoon, our host mom picked us up at the community center and brought us back to our “home” for the weekend. We met our host sisters and were treated to a nice hot meal of fish, chips, and peas. After spending most of the week eating cereal and pasta, a home cooked meal tasted like heaven. Afterwards, we spent some time getting to know our host sisters, one of whom was an exchange student herself from Switzerland. The entire family was incredibly welcoming.
On Saturday, we had a much-needed day of relaxation. Our host mom told us Friday night that they had a “sleepy house” and loved to sleep in on the weekends, which sounded absolutely perfect to me. After a late brunch, we accompanied our host mom and sister to the shopping center in Cork. Our host sister was going on a ski trip soon and needed to pick up some ski accessories. Of course, my winter-sport loving Minnesotan self was only too thrilled to offer my advice and help her pick out the essentials. On our way back to Carrigaline, our host mom and sister decided that we needed to experience something “essential to Irish life,” in their opinion: The Irish sweet shop. We pulled up to a sweet shop called Aunty Nellies, and our host sister practically jumped out of the car. Once inside, we were greeted with the warm, sweet smell of chocolates and candies. We perused the shelves, giggling when we found American candies, and listened to our host sister’s advice on what would be the tastiest treat. I eventually settled on a white chocolate bar with colored bits of milk chocolate and another chocolate bar made with honey. Once we got home, we all immediately dove in to our chocolates. I spent the evening reading a book I had picked up at the second hand bookstore in Galway and watching a British award show.
Sunday morning meant it was time to say goodbye to our wonderful family. Our host mom even packed us a lunch for the long bus ride home to Galway. Upon being reunited with my Arcadia friends, we all wanted to discuss our weekends and reflect on how wonderful our families were. Each of us had a unique experience with our families, from spending time with the family pets to hiking in the local landscape. Once we got back to Galway, some friends and I felt inspired by our families to cook a real family dinner. We had just enough time to pick up some salmon from the fishermen and fresh rosemary, lemons, broccoli, and potatoes from the vegetable stand. We put our chef skills to the test by making baked salmon, fried potatoes, and steamed broccoli. All in all, it was an incredibly worthwhile weekend that left us refreshed, relaxed, and inspired to embrace the local foods and finally learn how to cook.