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That’s the craic: Student study abroad experiences

On his second day in Northern Ireland, Lucas Morse found himself in a pub sipping on a dark pint of Guinness, standing alone, looking out of place.

So he introduced himself to a couple of guys in the pub. Guys who, it turns out, were boxers.

“The one guy looked like someone bit one of his ears off,” Morse said.

The conversation eventually turned to politics, and the boxers asked Morse his opinion on Margaret Thatcher, the controversial former prime minister of the United Kingdom. He tried to answer in the most neutral way possible. Tried to. 

“Aye! We got a Thatcher lover ‘ere!” the two boxers shouted to the rest of the bar.

“Hey, kick that guy out of here,” the other patrons yelled. “What’s he doing drinking in our bar?”

Only 48 hours into his study abroad experience, Morse found himself needing some Irish luck to get out of a tight spot.

“Then they all started laughing and asked me if I’d like another beer,” Morse said.

Morse spent last semester studying at the University of Ulster in Newtownabbey, Ireland. His counterpart, Simon Lam, flew more than 4,000 miles to study at The College of Idaho for the year.

If there is something the Irish are known for, it’s how to have a good time, Lam said. They even have a word for it—craic. While there is no direct translation of the word, craic is defined by Oxford as an enjoyable time spent with people, especially when the conversation is entertaining and funny.

And some of that fun can include messing with a foreigner, in the case of Morse’s pub experience.

“It’s dark, dark humor,” Lam said.

While experiencing the Emerald Isle, Morse—an international political economy major—witnessed firsthand the social tensions between Catholics and Protestants. Seeing how each side’s perspective of history influenced its stance was a valuable lesson for Morse as he continues toward a degree in international politics.

He also realized the conflict isn’t religious, as being Catholic or Protestant is more of an ethnicity.

“When I heard someone say, ‘I’m an atheist protestant,’ that blew my mind,” Morse said.

As Morse was introduced to Northern Ireland’s dark humor, Lam arrived to a quiet Boise Airport.

“I thought it would be busier,” he said of walking off the plane.

But Lam has enjoyed the more relaxed atmosphere in Idaho and found himself at home on the quaint College of Idaho campus, along with about 80 fellow international students. And he’s made the most of his time abroad.

Lam plays for the rugby team, joined the Sigma Chi fraternity and sang “The Wild Rover,” a traditional Irish folklore song, at the International Cultural Show. He also experienced American football this fall at Simplot Stadium—an atmosphere that tends to be more “PG” than the “R” rated football events in Ireland, he said.

“I haven’t looked back since getting here,” Lam said. “It’s been pretty fun.”