Life as an international postgrad student can get unstable: the hunt for a job or a flat you know you're probably going to lose to a local, constant bureaucracy, flexible timetables and endless nights at the library. Alex and I decided to find a common hobby to take our minds off things - a dog turned out to be a good one. Meet Marley.

Well, it's not our dog to be exact. I stumbled upon this ad on Facebook a while back - BORROWMYDOGGY.COM. It's a service in the UK and Ireland where both dog owners and dog lovers can register and meet up: owners with little free time can find people with a dog-shaped hole in their lives (that's us!) to spend time with their woofs. We signed up in an instant!

It's like Tinder for dogs. A 10€ verification fee and a few supporting documents (proof of address, passport etc. to make sure it's safe) later we had a catalogue of local dogs in front of our eyes. You can select your location and the page will display all available dogs in your area. We found Marley 1km away from us.

We have been chatting with the owners for a few weeks now, and today we were finally ready to meet. It was kind of scary at first - you just enter a stranger's house and go out with their dog. We decided to head out for a walk both with Marley and his owners to get Marley used to us, bribe him with some treats and then discreetly leave him to our company while the owners retreated back home.

Marley turned out to be the easiest dog to get along with. After 3 hours he was really fond of us (or the treats, who knows).

There was something oddly relaxing in playing with a dog in the park for the afternoon. For a moment we had a completely different kind of life: not the one of assignments and economic uncertainty, but a suburbian dream on a Sunday afternoon with a dog, a tennis ball and a runny red nose.

An Irish November. It's cold all the way to your bones and covered in fog. The grass is layered with dewdrops and your socks are probably wet. You can see your breath and smell the rain. The dampness is almost visible in the photos. To be honest, despite how uncomfortable all this may sound, I think this tranquil little Sunday afternoon made me fall in love with Ireland just a wee bit more. I still need dry socks and a heater, though.

We had a cup of tea with the owners afterwards and agreed to meet up again next weekend. I've tried to find ways to get in touch with Irish people to feel a bit more at home - I figured staying isolated in a community of immigrants would probably do some harm to my mental health in the long run. If I want to learn to like Ireland, I need Irish people to prove to me their country is worth it.

So we sat down for an hour and had that cuppa in an Irish living room. It was just a cup of tea with strangers, but somehow it made us feel a bit more connected to this country - and a bit less tired of spending 10 hours a day reading about conflict resolution...
(P.S. Believe it or not, this post was not sponsored by - I'm just really excited about their concept!)

Do you ever have troubles feeling connected to your new country? Do you think having hobbies could help with that? Share your thoughts in the comments below!