Irish exchange student adjusts to life in United States

By Ryan McLaughlin
September 27, 2012

Gary Dougan is getting used to life in the United States after coming here from Belfast, Northern Ireland

An exchange student from Northern Ireland set out on a new path in life right here at Cabrini College.  His ambition and desire to achieve has brought him all the way to America.

Gary Dougan,  a junior transfer student and fine and applied art major, came to the United States this year all the way from Belfast, Northern Ireland.

“At the start I thought it was going to be easy, but then within the first few days I found it really difficult,” Dougan said, talking about his first impressions of living in the United States.

Really difficult was probably a modest statement.  Leaving behind your family and the people you are used to seeing everyday wouldn’t be viewed to most as an easy task. Just after getting here Dougan also lost contact with his family back home.

“I connected my phone to an American charger and it fried it,  so I no longer had my iPhone,” Dougan said.  “The only way I could talk to them was through Facebook or Twitter.”

There are many differences between Dougan’s home and America.

“The main difference is religion.  Back home between Protestants and Catholics, there was a lot of conflict whereas here it’s completely different,” Dougan said. “At this college there is Catholic, Protestant, Methodist, Presbyterian, there’s all different.  And so far out of all the friends I met, most are Catholic and I’m Protestant myself.”

Dougan on the other hand said he did know people who were Catholic prior to coming here.

“My community is all Protestant but there are some Catholics who live in it,” Dougan said about his community back in Belfast. “Outside of the community I do have Catholic friends because I’m a youth worker volunteer back home, so I do cross community work.”

After hearing such a thing,  one can only imagine how different it really is coming from somewhere like Northern Ireland to the United States. One thing that surprised Dougan was the size of the school.

“I had expectations for it being bigger because the last student that was here said there’s a couple of thousand students at the college,” Dougan said.

Although he was surprised at the size he is really enjoying his time and classes.

“I actually enjoy all of my classes so far.  I find the stuff interesting.  Some of them I do find difficult, such as some of the tests and exams,” Dougan said.

Dougan being an art major back in Northern Ireland said he never had to do homework.  His art classes consisted of just doing art.

“We wouldn’t do any exams or tests, We just make things and did an essay,” Dougan said.

Homework was definitely a change for Dougan because before coming here he hadn’t done any homework in over five years. Going along with change another thing that stood at to him was the wildlife on campus.

“I’m still getting used to all the deer because we don’t get that back home,” Dougan said.

Although he is adjusting to life in America well he admits it has been tough being as far away from his family as he is.

“I’m here for 10 or 11 months so I’m going to have to get used to it,” Dougan said.

Dougan says being away from his family is difficult but essential.  He plans on living either in America or Australia.

“Those are the two places I would like to hopefully teach,” Dougan said.

Teaching is a goal of Dougan’s after he finishes school.  He said he never had a male art teacher and hopes to be one in the near future.

A lot of people stop Dougan to hear him talk, commenting they like his accent.

“I don’t have an accent,” Dougan said. “You all have an accent.”


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Ryan McLaughlin

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Special Project

Title IX Redefined Website

Produced by Cabrini Communication
Class of 2024

Listen Up

Season 2, Episode 3: Celebrating Cabrini and Digging into its Past


Scroll to Top
Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap