Theory: Irish university students must study more than the average American student simply because its so expensive to heat their digs and charge their laptops at home. I must admit, I have been using the library for free electricity while I study. If I didn’t study on campus, I would never be warm. Most of the time I am freezing. My housemates and I have agreed to spend 10 euros of electricity a week, and we dutifully take turns going down to the shop to fill up the electricity card with money. It then gets inserted into a meter by the door (which also happens to be right outside my bedroom). When the meter runs out, a horrible terrible alarm goes off and the only way to stop the rack is to “borrow” a euro’s worth of electricity. This usually gets us through the rest of the night. But let me tell ya, our “budget” doesn’t include much room for heat.
I wouldnt mind it so much if I weren’t conserving clothing! Why, do you ask, have I only worn one pair of socks in the past week? Why, because a load of laundry is 6 euro and takes 6 hours, of course! Not to mention that the laundry machines are a 30 minute walk away, the machines can only handle a load half the size of what is normal at home, and there are no tumble-dryers. An energy-conserving spin cycle won’t “ruin” your clothes, but it won’t dry them either! No, it takes several hours on the radiator to that, carefully rotating shirts and socks until each is only slightly damp.
No, in Ireland, they don’t use dryers. They seem to think a good dryer will destroy your clothing. Some people used to use clothes-lines, but they usually blow away by this time of year. Hence the invention of the hot press. Imagine, a “hot” room, where air circulates from the baseboards and the boiler, and the walls are insulated and lined with shelves and hanging rods. Yes, that would dry clothes. Except hot in Ireland is 70 degrees. So once your clothes are damp from getting out of the spin dryer, you can hang them to dry for a week! Eau du Mold, they call it. And that’s only if you are lucky enough to have a hot press, not just a washing/drying machine combo that really won’t do anything. Yes, the iron still serves an important function here. I am learning that many people even iron their underwear.
It has been a godsend this term to have a gracious and thoughtful roommate who is willing to help me with my laundry problems. She carefully brings a small bag of my unmentionables home with her every other week, in exchange for my promise to mail her a genuine Abercrombie and Fitch sweatshirt from America when I get home. I should mail her an entire American wardrobe!! This has been working out great for me. My clothes come back pristine, pressed and folded. Last time, her granny even washed each pair of my pants in a separate load, as she was afraid that the “American dyes” would run. (To be fair, my pants were a particularly putrid shade of Chartreuse that would put anyone off) Unfortunately, after a over month of this happy arrangement it turns out I’ll have to suck up and face reality. She won’t be going home for another two weeks now, and my month-long supply of clothing is rapidly dwindling. I thought I was being excessive, bringing so many socks with me, but I have been on serious rationing and now I’ll need to attempt the washing machine myself. It’s snowing in Germany and if I don’t have warm woollies I’ll freeze on our trip next week!
This is only one aspect of student life in Ireland that has been an adjustment for me. I just didn’t realize how easy we have it. Irish students go home on the weekend, turning the campus into a ghost town. The university is located south of the city centre and getting anywhere takes at least one bus. Otherwise, the campus itself is quite suburban and aside from a small student store, its a long and circuitous walk to the closest real grocery store. I realize that American stereotypes about driving everywhere are true. Living here is the first time since elementary school that I’ve “walked” to school in a big way. Most of the time, I went by car. That was normal. Even at my own college, student dorms are so handy that I never really thought about going back and forth between classes. Here, however, my walk across campus to the architecture school takes nearly an hour. With a walk like that, I tend to stay on campus all day to study between lectures and eat in the canteen. I’ve been in the library for the last 10 hours- it’s almost like being at work!