Céad Míle Fáilte
“Céad Míle Fáilte” is the Irish tourism trade slogan, and when translated directly to English it means a hundred thousand welcomes. I did not realize that this slogan should also be used in the community of Concordia College. It was far from my thoughts the night I arrived in America, except for its connection to my home and how much I longed to be there.
When I walked off the plane in the Fargo Airport in North Dakota, I did not feel welcome. I was a stranger in a new country, not knowing my surroundings. I peered through the windows as I entered the arrivals area. It was dark out; the sky was dotted with stars and illuminated by the moon. I wondered to myself if the moon was visible in Ireland at this time, quickly trying to calculate the time change on my fingers, as I was not used to it at this early stage of my trip. Everyone rushed and flew past me to meet their loved one with a loving embrace. My heart sank; it would be seventeen weeks until I had this opportunity. I was hopeful that I would meet people by the end of my trip I would care for as I do my loved ones at home, and would be sad to leave them, but thankful to them for embracing me in their lives. That night I could never imagine being that lucky. It is now only seven weeks since I first touched down at Concordia College and I can safely say I have already met many people that I feel like this about.
When I finally arrived in Fargo late in the night, twenty-four hours after I left my home country, I was relieved to be greeted by two friendly students from Concordia. I sank into the back seat of the mini-van sent to collect me from the airport. I was stressed as I had no bag and was thousands of miles away from home about to embark on a great adventure. I counted myself lucky I was meeting two such lovely and pleasant students who really made me feel instantly safe and reassured. I was 10p.m. and these students had been shuttling international students from the Fargo airport to the college. One would expect them to be anything but chirpy. But they were not just friendly, they were excited and enthusiastic. It was an amazing way to be met at the airport and I immediately felt welcome. I did not pay much attention to it at this point; all I wanted after a nightmarish day of traveling, dashing between terminals due to flight cancellations, praying I would not miss my connecting flight, was my bed. I wanted to see the place I would call “home” for the next four months and meet the people I would spent most of the time with, my roommates.
It quickly dawned on me that people were different over here. The perception I initially got of the two Concordia students who collected me from the airport grew as I met more students within my first week during orientation. The two students who collected me from the airport were beyond helpful and very interested in me and my stories of home. At this time I was tired and sad; they were reassuring and helped me feel more comfortable and positive about the experience that lay ahead of me. They helped me settle in that night and gave me their contact details in case I needed anything. They were, I felt, doing more than just bringing me from the airport to the college; they were giving me a feeling of security. This perception did not stop growing as I met staff and faculty around the college. Students, orientation leader, clubbies, staff, and professors were excited about meeting me and wanted to know more about my country and culture. They genuinely seemed interested.
I was on campus about two weeks when I began to notice that people would randomly say ‘hello’ as I walked passed them. First I had to reassure myself I had not forgotten meeting this person but as it continued to happen and after I was walking with my American roommate and it happened several times I decided to ask her.
She informed me that it was common for people to give one a friendly “hello” as they walked past each other on the footpath. This concept shocked me at first as I tried to think what it would be like if this happened on the National University of Ireland campus in Galway. I do not think people would give one an accepting glance, you would more than likely be looked at as being a little strange. The general feeling around Concordia College campus is positive, extremely friendly, helpful and entirely welcoming. I now look at Concordia College as a home away from home and I think this is due to how welcome I was made to feel here.
The students, faculty, and staff at Concordia College have done everything they could possibly do to make me feel welcome. This brings me to the main point. Being thousands of miles from the country I call home, Ireland, I feel I am not so far when I think of Céad Míle Fáilte, the term that means a hundred thousand welcomes. In my personal experience, I have been welcomed by everyone I have met or spent time with since I first arrived at Concordia College--so much more than the term Céad Míle Fáilte can ever describe. On one of my first days I was here a lovely young lady, a junior at the college, insisted she help me to settle in properly and get all the stuff I needed to make my apartment feel like my own. She may think that she only drove me to Wal-Mart, but she did much more than this; she made me feel welcome, treated me like a friend even though I had only met her that morning at international orientation. I think this is the way people in the community of Concordia operate though; they are willing to go out of their way to help anyone they think may need help. From a little thing like bringing a transfer student to Wal-Mart, or helping in the Extreme Home Makeover project that took place three blocks down from college, people at Concordia College are helpful and welcoming all the time. The people in the community of Concordia College do things that really help people’s lives, even if it is only a little thing like driving someone to the shop; you never know the impact you may have on them. The students are helpful in a touching way, and I think it is a great way to be.
The term Céad Míle Fáilte describes the atmosphere at Concordia College. Every day I feel welcome at the college. Everyone I meet on a daily basis makes me feel welcome. I think the phrase “a hundred thousand welcome” more than likely completely unknown by the majority of the population at Concordia but it definitely reflects for me how welcoming and friendly the people at the college are. Every day as we enter the dining services, we are greeted by extremely friendly ladies who swipe our cards to allow us to eat and welcome us into the dining area. This is just a small thing but in my opinion it is the small things that matter and grow and build to create impact on a large scale. I have to compliment the students, staff, faculty at Concordia, from the aspect of an exchange student who is so far away from home. They have all made me feel welcome a hundred thousand times over and thankful that I chose Concordia as my study abroad experience. I have settled in and adapted so well to you way of life all because of how welcome and included I was made to feel on campus and many other places I have visited locally. I know this experience will impact my life in a positive way and I will hopefully become more like the many welcoming and helpful students I have met throughout my stay at Concordia College.