Robert Millar is an exchange student from Northern Ireland and studying art at NVU-Johnson this semester. We sat down to talk (and have a good laugh) about his travels in America and get some answers to goofy questions, exchange student to former exchange student.
Where are you from?
I’m from Ballymena, which is in Northern Ireland. You probably have never heard of Ballymena, but the one thing anybody needs to know about Ballymena is that’s where Liam Neeson’s from. That’s our claim to fame.
Have you ever been to the US before?
I have been in the US many times, yeah. Last semester I was an exchange student at the University of Wyoming, so I’ve got a very broad understanding of American culture now and I think I’ve seen a few hillbillies in my time. And before that, in the past I went on a tour, like a road trip, around America with my parents and family. So yeah, I’ve seen a few wee bits.
What’s your favorite part so far?
Last semester, there was this Scottish fella and me and him got on like a house on fire. There was a whole pile of other international students from Austria and Germany and there was one guy from Taiwan. And they were all sitting ‘round having their dinner and eating, and for whatever reason they couldn’t make a word of what the Scottish guy John was saying.
So me being me, with my accent, I had to translate Scottish to a group of middle Europeans. And it’s not that I can speak their language, it’s just I could speak better English.
What’s your favorite part of Vermont?
Well, the Ben and Jerry’s factory, that was definitely a highlight so far. It was nice to go down there and see where my ice cream’s made. I guess it was nice seeing all the different areas and the different kind of wee events people go to on the weekend. I’ve been down to Morrisville and Burlington and just explorin’ the big cities.
Have you always been a traveler? Where else have you gone?
Well actually, I wouldn’t say I’ve been a huge traveler. Whenever I was telling my friends back home I was gonna be going away, one of them told me he was really surprised and shocked because he’d always seen me as a home bird. I’ve always kind of been fairly involved in the local community and stuff. There’s a few things, like I’m in a marching band and I suppose that there’s a few organizations I’m part of. I guess I just like to have a good time and socialize. It’s very comfortable at home. I guess I got this kind of silly notion in my head that I wanted to travel. Nice. Yeah like family holidays and stuff we would attend, when I was younger, just to go to the mainland, which is England or maybe go to Wales or something to just go camping or go to a chalet or a caravan or something there. And then there’s always as I said before, there’s the standard trek to Port Rush every year. That’s the seaside holiday destination there. The big thing people do, they take a day trip to the port.
What’s a story you tell people when you meet them that best describes you?
I suppose that there’s a few things. I’m in a flute band, like a marching flute band. But I always have my flute with me. I kind of always say, I know how to play a bit of that, and that’s a good icebreaker.
And I suppose, I like playing the bagpipes and stuff as well. There’s a lot of nice memories I have around my family and stuff. I suppose in America you would maybe have father and son go fishing with each other. At home, we would have that with marching bands or playing an instrument. That’s maybe the way that people kind of bonded. My dad’s in a band and my grandad also plays.
You said you have a radio show. Can you tell us about that?
I just started! I was chatting to Jeff [Angione] from the library. We were just chatting back and forth and he said, “Why don’t you do a radio show?” I thought about it for maybe a week and I was a bit bored, so I thought, “Well sure, let’s just go on ahead and do it.” I like music, so I’ll burden everybody else with the music I like. Then I went and got the training and stuff and I thought, “There’s no point in procrastinating, I’ll just go ahead and do a show,” and I’ve done two weeks of it so far. In my opinion, it’s gone reasonably good. And the only way is up, I suppose.
I’ve had a few ideas for the name of the show. The one I’m mostly going with is the “Keep er’ Country” Show. And in terms of DJ names, if anyone has any good suggestions, they’re more than welcome to come and just say them to me. Maybe I’ll do a competition or something.
I try to be playing the best of both American country and Irish country music. Which is an actual thing, believe it or not.
I tried to get all that in there, and I suppose there’s a mixture of modern and old stuff. My tendencies always lie with the older stuff because that’s what would have played in the cassettes in the car at home.
The modern stuff, that’s me kind of just delving into it and getting the grasp on it.
What inspires you?
I think people inspire me. Yeah, I think I draw energy from being around other people, you get motivated and inspired. I suppose it depends whether you believe in extrovert-ism or introvert-ism, but that’s kind of irrelevant. But I would probably veer towards the extrovert side.
If you were a superhero, what would be your superpower?
I feel as though if you have good brains, you could probably do anything else with that. Yeah, super brain power. And then of course as part of that you need a good sense of humor. You can’t be going and beating up people and just saying, there you are, law and order, you have to make sure you have a witty line for it.
If you could be any animal, what would you be?
There’s a few animals. I would probably either be like a red squirrel because that’s more like my spirit animal.
Or like a chameleon! That’s kind of nice because it changes. It changes to its surroundings, but it always stays what it is, true to itself, you might say. You can adapt, but you’re always just your own wee self.
What do you want written on your gravestone?
People walked all over me through life, and they’re still doing it.
Do you have any superstitions?
A lot of the superstition I have isn’t really superstition, but more like an old wives tale. Like, don’t walk under ladders or, I don’t know, if a bird poos on you it’s good luck.
So you just stand there waiting for a bird to poo on you?
Well I don’t have to wait, like I’ve kind of had my fair share, I will say.
I guess there’s things like that but I don’t necessarily believe them. But I think some of them kinda make sense like don’t walk under ladders. That’s kind of a good one. Just in general.
What’s your go-to comfort food?
Potatoes. Probably followed by a cup of tea.
I will point out that you brought a cup of tea to drink throughout this interview.
Well, the thing is, I brought a wee pack of tea bags from home. I’ve been to the universities before and I kind of know what you need from home.
Yeah, I know that tea out here is just isn’t as good as tea at home. The same with chocolate. Cadbury’s dairy milk chocolate. That’s a classic.
And I just feel so sorry for Americans who’s never got to really experience that moment.