An Irish Exchange Student
Interview Conducted and Summarized by: Paola Ortiz
Unlike most MBU students, Conor Keenan (‘22) did not choose MBU himself. Instead, MBU was chosen for him by a program named Study USA, which is a program aimed at growing business relations between Northern Ireland and the US. Northern Irish students are sent to a small college somewhere in the US, which is determined by the program rather than the school. This also means that, unlike most student athletes, he wasn’t recruited for the soccer team but rather tried out for it, which Keenan says he didn’t mind. In fact, despite not having chosen MBU himself, Keenan says he is delighted to be here.
“I’ve always wanted to travel and try something different, so I just went for the scholarship in America to test myself and try something new,” Keenan said.
Although there are many differences between Irish and American culture, Keenan says he didn’t need an adjustment period or even experience culture shock because there are many more similarities between the two. Of course, there were certain things
“Both Irish and American cultures are super friendly so it was easy to fit in,” Keenan said. “I work in the tourism industry at home so have met many Americans so I kind of had a head start on knowing their culture. There weren’t any culture shocks as such, but just noticing a lot of small things that are different, like driving on the right, size of the classes, weather, etc.”
While many people may say the average Irishman (or European in general, if you wanna get real) is more polite than your average American, to Keenan that isn’t quite true.
“People’s attitudes are pretty similar. Everyone is welcome and friendly, and the teachers are nice and want what’s best for you, just like at home. Maybe the teachers here are a bit friendlier as the size of the classes is much smaller and thus you can get to know teachers must better on a personal basis,” he said.
One aspect of American culture that is quite different from Irish culture, as many people know, is the drinking culture among young adults. While in the US the legal drinking age is 21, in Ireland the legal drinking age is much younger, standing at 18.
“The biggest difference between Ireland and America is probably the drinking culture. At home drinking is a big social aspect of university but it’s relatively safe and isn’t overly binge drinking. But here it’s different, and because it’s illegal I think it promotes unsafe binge drinking. I haven’t drank since coming here which is unexpected but I think is a nice change,” Keenan said.
As many other student athletes will tell you, Keenan sees the soccer team as his family.
“I absolutely love soccer here. It gets you up at 6:30 every morning which is a great routine and you feel great going to your 9am class. Getting o know the boys in the first week was great and we feel like a close knit family now. I’m gonna miss them when I head home in May!”