I have been in Ireland for 9 days now but it feels like it has been weeks. Adjusting to a new culture can be very difficult, especially if you have never been abroad before; especially if you have never been abroad before and you have to begin a new job and a new life. This experience has been overwhelming, to say the least but the most important piece of advice I have received (from numerous people) that I have realized is incredibly true, is that “it takes time”. It takes time to get used to the new job, the new life, the new culture and most importantly, it takes time to get used to the homesickness. It is easy to feel sad and scared and even alone, but it is not easy to overcome your fears and make every day count – this takes courage. You have to take it one day at at time. You will discover just how strong and courageous you are when you slowly start to realize that the days are going by faster and you’re doing it all on your own. Take it from me, it’s tough but it absolutely does get better.
The first friend I made was my cab driver. He talked my ear off throughout the entire cab ride, giving me history lessons and inquiring about my home, my school and my internship. He was fascinated by the fact that I am a sustainability student but he asked me something that, at the time, I just responded to quickly without giving it much thought. He asked, “Sustainability. Hmmm. You’re fighting a losing cause, don’t you think?” I told him that I heard that more often than I could count but that I was passionate that I could really make a difference. I have been thinking a lot about that question though because being here in Dublin, the topic of sustainability is not discussed as much as I hear it being used in conversations back home; sustainability is not as “popular” as I originally thought. When it is discussed, it does not seem to generate as much enthusiasm as it does in certain parts of the U.S. Is it worth it in places like Dublin? Is it worth it at all? Will it make a difference?
I began my internship with Energy Action last Wednesday. In brief, Energy Action is a non-profit that seeks to “alleviate fuel poverty in Dublin by provision of insulation in the homes of older people and low income people free of charge”. In partnership with 8 organizations across Europe, Energy Action has been participating in the development of a new program known as Spirit, which “aims to deliver effective energy saving programmes, by engaging, informing and working together with households to promote energy efficient behavior and energy saving activities” through the use of faith-based community interaction. For my internship, I am assisting with the Spirit program. Right now, we are just trying to gather data about residential home energy use habits, so Energy Action has been handing out and collecting surveys that we called pledges. They are partly surveys but the main task is to ask residents if they would pledge to make certain changes at home to help reduce energy consumption. There is a checklist of items that they can chose from and they can chose as many as they think they could accomplish. So far, I made some phone calls to residents of the Dublin area that filled out these pledges in order to find out if they have fulfilled any of the pledges that they made. I have also been chosen to be a part of a 2 person team that will attend a sort of farmer’s market this Saturday to acquire more pledges.
Through the work that I have completed so far and the work I anticipate completing in the future, I think I can answer the cab driver’s question, and the questions I have posed, honestly and wholeheartedly. The work I am doing makes me happy and I am grateful to be a part of such an organization because organizations like Energy Action really are doing meaningful and beneficial work; and I see that there really are people that care and feel just as passionately as me that they can make a difference. So, I am proud to say that sustainability is not a losing cause and I will continue to fight to make Mother Earth happy and healthy again.