It’s more than a little embarrassing when somebody visiting your own country has seen more sights than you, and all in the space of six weeks.
Upon visiting another country, especially on holiday, the inevitable ‘touristy’ trips come into play, but in business or in Aline Tong’s case, studying, the opportunities and time to travel around will generally come around less often.
However, Aline, a 21 year old, Belgian, studying media at DIT, the attempts to immerse herself in everything Ireland has to offer has been relentless.
Who, reading this, has visited the Guinness Storehouse, Dublin Zoo, the Cliffs of Moher, the Aran Islands, Galway City, Connemara, the Jameson factory and the Giants Causeway? Never mind getting that all done in one month.
Aline conveys that with Facebook pages specifically for Erasmus students and a number of Erasmus organisations, so the urge to take each trip as they’re offered up, is too difficult to turn down.
“Each time the group want to do something, we all just comment on their post on their facebook page and say we want to go,” says Aline.
“The trip to the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands was amazing. I enjoy photography, so I really loved the landscape,” she explains.
The Belgian speaks of being able to avail of Erasmus facebook pages to organise events and nights out, but she, in fact, was the founder of the DIT Erasmus group, which has now got over 100 members
“From the first day I started the DIT Erasmus page on facebook and more and more people were adding themselves to the page, so we were like ‘what shall we do’ ‘let’s go out’ and then by the second day there were over 30 people added to the much so we were like ‘go out, go out, party,” she enthuses.
“And each time somebody from the group want to do something, they just post it up on the page and the rest comment underneath if they want to do it too. We are going the Ireland-Georgia game this weekend, 17 of us got tickets.
“We’re known as big drinkers in Belgium, but it’s much different over here. The atmosphere in the pubs, everybody is having fun and the music is great. One week we actually went to the pub six times. I think since I’ve come over here I’ve visited pubs and drank more in one month than in an entire year in my country. ” said Aline.
What better way to immerse yourself in Irish culture, after a long week of sightseeing, than the pub, ay?
However, it’s not been all wonderful for Aline and her fellow Dublin dwellers, as the ‘rip-off Republic’ looks to have claimed some continental victims.
“Food is very expensive here, and accommodation too. I’m paying €450 per month, which is reasonable, but I think I was lucky. Most of my friends are paying €600 or more and some of them have found it difficult to get a place to live at all.
“We are here two months now and some people have only found somewhere to rent in the last two weeks. It’s crazy,” says Aline.
The language barrier isn’t a particular issue for this Erasmus student, although she does point out that her vocabulary could be more extensive and that some do have issues with the grammar side of things. It’s nothing that the 100 plus Facebook group can’t sort out together.
“Each of us try to help each other with the language, so for example with the Belgians or the French we would speak with each other in French and explain certain things to each other, but it would be to use that word or words in English eventually. Some people are good at grammar and some have better vocabulary, so we try our best,” she explains.
Upon leaving the family home, one might find it difficult; find themselves homesick, perhaps, without the regular comforts and routine to fall back on. However, the vibe emanating from this vibrant, energetic and outgoing Belgian is that leaving Ireland in January is the last thing on her mind. It might even be painful for her when she does.