After a trip to Target on her first day in the United States, Katie Dysart asked the two women accompanying her what she thought was a simple question: Should I put my shopping into the boot?
The two girls looked at me in utter confusion because where I am from boot means trunk, said Dysart, who is spending a year at Marymount University as part of the British Councils Study USA program.
I grew up speaking very fast, with lots of Northern Irish colloquialisms that I only realized I had when I arrived in the States, she said.
Dysart, who studies law at Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, received a scholarship through the program to study business and management at MU this year. Shes one of 53 Northern Ireland students here to gain international experience and help develop career prospects upon their return home.
Since her arrival, shes taught her American friends a bit of Irish.
In turn, I have learned a lot of American slang, which has been very comical to say the least, she said.
Quirks of the language arent the only difference the native of Coleraine in County Londonderry has encountered. Her home university has close to 25,000 students compared to Marymounts 3,500.
Back home, a lecture can hold over 200 people, whereas my largest class here is 20 people, she said. I have thoroughly enjoyed the smaller class sizes. I have been able to develop stronger relationships with my professors. I have also had a greater opportunity to contribute to discussions and ask questions.
In the United Kingdom, students have approximately seven hours of class time each week and study independently for 30 to 35 additional hours. Each class has one exam per semester.
When applying for the Study USA program, Dysart picked three colleges from a list of more than 100 across the country.
I love volunteering, sports, law and politics, so Marymount stood out from the beginning, she said, adding that the proximity to Washington, D.C., the schools business classes, diverse international community and campus spirit appealed to her.
It still amazes me every day that Arlington is just across the Potomac from D.C., and the Pentagon is on my doorstep, she said. I love how I can take a 10-minute walk from the MU campus and find a gorgeous forest, or I can take a 20-minute metro ride and be waving to Obama at the White House.
Growing up, Dysart attended a Catholic grammar and high school.
Marymount has a very similar Catholic ethos, she added. This familiarity was something that again made Marymount stand out to me. I was delighted when I received the news that I was selected to attend MU.
She said the Marymount community has been welcoming and friendly. She praised the Office of International Student Services for organizing fun events that helped her meet people from around the world.
Dysart said the Study USA program offers a limited number of American students from participating American universities the chance to study in Northern Ireland tuition free. For more information, visit nireland.britishcouncil.org.
Katie Dysart, a student from Northern Ireland who is studying business at Marymount University this year, said the MU community has been warm and welcoming.