Erasmus Reflection: Maintaining National Identity in an International Community

Normally, I’m not that proud to be Irish. Not that there is anything wrong with being Irish, I’m just not a particularly patriotic person. But for whatever reason, all that changes the minute I get on a plane to leave the country. My brief study of social psychology taught me that people are more likely to identify themselves as part of a group or community when that group is the minority (or something like that, I slept through most of my psychology classes) and I guess that’s true. In Ireland being Irish is nothing special, but when aboard it marks you out as being part of a community, something different. This doesn’t just apply to the Irish of course; it affects all nationalities when they leave their home countries.

A few years ago I got a tattoo on my wrist after a short spell volunteering overseas. It’s two hearts interconnected and contrary to popular belief it is neither a Celtic symbol or the symbol for the band HIM. That volunteering trip was my first time working as part of an international group and I got it to remind myself that despite the perceived differences between countries, at a basic level people are quite similar. Being on Erasmus has reaffirmed this for me…

In the residence international I live with people from I don’t know how many different countries. Despite differences, which can sometimes be obvious (what I consider t-shirt weather is still considered cold by many others), most of the people here share the same goals of trying to get to grips with the French language, pass their classes and not be killed by the kitchens all while trying to see as much of Paris as possible and have some fun in the process. Seeing people from eight or nine different countries come together for a midnight sing-a-long makes you realise how small the world is.

Despite this, there is always room for individuals or groups to celebrate their own culture and share it with those around them like the recent St.Patrick’s day festivities when I was able to share a bit of Irish culture with the others. Had the weather been nice and the match not played out like it did, it would have been a really great day but despite all the problems I’m still glad I got to help spread the message of St.Patrick (I wasn’t actually sure what the message of St.Patrick was so I bought Guinness and Cadbury’s instead). Other people have done things to share their culture as well which has allowed me to try Italian coffee and something called Pálinka which all I know about it is it’s NOT vodka.

I’m really happy to be having this experience especially now that the weather is getting warmer and I can finally enjoy Paris in the sun, although I did buy sun cream today which probably means it’s going to rain for the next month and Murphy’s law will become just another part of Irish culture I’m sharing with Erasmus.

“I established this Order of the Unified Heart, that is a kind of dream of an order. There is no organization. There’s no hierarchy. There’s just a pin for people of a very broadly designated similar intent…. You’re just not scattered all over the place. There is a tiny moment when you might gather around some decent intention”.
“Here’s what you need to know,” he tells you as he places the ornament in your hand. “There are no meetings, no by-laws, and no dues, and if you lose the pin, you get another.”
Naturally you join.
There follows a wicked smile, as if to acknowledge his awareness that this is one of the few instances of human association that makes this easy.

Leonard Cohen

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One response to “Erasmus Reflection: Maintaining National Identity in an International Community

  1. Hi!
    I’m michela and are strongly interested in your Erasmus experience. Do you think I may have your own email address where you write about an interesting project?

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