Ruairi Thornberry came from Ireland to study business at McKendree University, but he's also getting an education in American culture.
"Socially, it's a lot different," said Ruairi, 22, who has been in Lebanon six months. "There's more of a pub culture (in Ireland). That's just where you go to hang out with friends and maybe watch some football on TV.
"I don't want to paint the Irish stereotype that all we do is drink. Pubs are just where people gather. Here in America, when you go to a bar, it's like you're going to drink."
Sports also are very popular in Ireland, Ruairi (pronounced ROO-ree) said. He enjoys soccer, Gaelic football and hurling, which involves hitting a small ball across a field with a wooden stick.
Ruairi had watched basketball on TV in Ireland but never played, so he joined an intramural team at McKendree. It's called the Irish Leps.
"I love it," Ruairi said. "I kind of wish I was taller. It's a lot harder when you're 5-foot-9 and you're playing with people who are 6-5, 6-6 and 6-7."
Ruairi also wanted to get a taste of professional sports in America, so he went to a St. Louis Blues hockey game with a classmate and her parents.
"It's a lot different than at home," he said. "(The Blues) have music playing during the game, and people are dancing. It's like they're trying to get the crowd a lot more involved."
Ruairi's family lives in Lurgan, Ireland, a town of about 25,000 people near Belfast. His father is a math and physics teacher, and his mother is a court clerk. He has two sisters, ages 25 and 18.
"One of them moved into my bedroom the day I left," he said. "All her stuff is in there."
Ruairi studies geography at Queens University in Belfast and works in a grocery store. In his free time, he hangs out with friends and goes to bars for stand-up comedy or live music.
"I like everything, but especially folk," said Ruairi, a fan of the English band Mumford & Sons, who just won a Grammy Award for Album of the Year.
People watch movies and television in Ireland, but such media aren't as dominant as they are in America, Ruairi said.
"I went to Sports Clips (in O'Fallon) to get my hair cut, and they had an individual TV set for each chair. It was quite amazing."
Last year, Ruairi landed a scholarship through Study U.S.A., a business-education program of the British Council. He will return to Ireland in May to finish college.
"I'm hoping to do something in economics or urban development or urban planning," he said.
Ruairi has his own room in Walton Hall at McKendree. He has a green, orange and white Irish flag and two hurleys, one for him and one for a friend who is learning the sport.
Ruairi's thick Irish accent causes people to take notice everywhere he goes. Many ask questions about his homeland.
"They're always curious about driving on the left-hand side of the road," he said. "They think that's strange. And they'll ask about potatoes. They'll say, 'Do you guys always eat potatoes?'"
St. Patrick's Day is a family-oriented holiday in Ruairi's hometown, with a small parade, sports games, busy restaurants and pubs and plenty of Irish stew.
Residents don't celebrate Mardi Gras, so Ruairi made his way to Soulard in St. Louis for its festivities last month. He did some sightseeing in Chicago in the fall and spent spring break in Florida.
"I had my first Thanksgiving in America the day before, then I went to the airport the next day and flew to Vegas," he said. "I met up with other people in the Study U.S.A. program from across the country."
Ruairi stopped short of giving specifics about the trip: "Let's just say it was an experience I will never forget."