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At home…and missing Ireland more than ever!

Time June 10th, 2008 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I have been home from studying in ireland a full two weeks now, and life still doesn’t feel the same. I almost feel a little bit like I did when I first arrived to study abroad in Ireland because it takes a lot of adjusting to the time and surrounding s to get comfortable. There also come the difficulties of trying to get into a routine. Being back at home doesn’t require the same kind of adjusting because everything mainly needs to be refamiliarized rather than entirely different. It’s mainly been about trying to go back to my normal life now similar to how it was before I left, but I also try to incorporate aspects from my lifestyle in Ireland. Some changes that I have made are things like bringing my own bags to the grocery store (because it’s what everybody does in Ireland), having tea and biscuits often, and preparing myself for the weather on the days that it feels like rain. These little things are great additions to my life back in Minnesota, and I feel it’s a way for me to not fully lose the person that I became while in Ireland.

Since coming home I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on my experiences this past semester. It all seems to have gone by so fast, and I can’t even believe that I was gone for a whole four months. In that time my life changed completely because I went to Ireland not knowing a single person and having not lived a very independent and adventurous life. Within those four months I created a totally new life for myself with friends, classes, and other activities to consume my time. It feels amazing to think that I could immerse myself into a new place and make myself feel at home even though I was well separated from my real home in the States. The friendships that I made in Ireland will last me a lifetime, and even though I’m separated from all my friends that I made, I know that I can still keep in touch and try to plan visits for the future.

Leaving Ireland was one of the toughest experiences of my life. In such a short time I had created such a wonderful new life for myself, and I was in no need to leave. Meanwhile, I had lots of people who really missed me at home and couldn’t wait to see me again. I knew that it would be a sad day when I left, and I would be difficult still when I got home. However, I came home and realized that there was no way that I could ever be prepared for how I was going to feel. When I got home I felt so lost for a while because everything though mostly familiar, but it was I was used to in my recent life. I could no longer hang out with my friends that I had made or take a walk around campus just to enjoy the surroundings. All of that has become easier to deal with as time has past because I have been able to busy myself with finding a new job and trying to catch up where I left off with some of my friends from home. Everyone wants to hear about my experiences in Ireland, and I love to be able to share all the amazing stories from my time there, but it sometimes also triggers the sadness that I’m back here and not there. Ireland has become my favorite place in the world, it literally won my heart, and I know that I will go back the first chance I get!

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I wish it didn’t have to end.

Time May 21st, 2008 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

My semester participating in the IFSA-Butler study abroad Ireland program is now almost over and I’m trying to make the most of my time left. I finished all of my exams and papers, and now I will have to wait a while to receive my grades and hope for the best. The last few weeks were a bit rough, having to do stuff to prepare for exam time and having to listen to everyone talking about what little time we have left. It made me really sad inside. All I really wanted to do was hang out and have good times, but I was stuck with so much work to do.

Yesterday was the first day of goodbyes for me. The first wasn’t so bad, but I know it will get worse over the next couple of days before I leave myself. There has been a lot of commotion trying to make sure that you get all the necessary pictures and also make sure to do things like get American phone numbers. I myself really need to start packing, and get everything together so I don’t have to scramble right at the end.

This semester studying in Ireland could not have been better. I had so many expectations before I came to Ireland, and I feel that as far as having fun goes, I definitely exceeded what I thought was possible. My memories are the greatest, and I’m so glad to have met so many wonderful new friends that are American, Irish, and international. I plan to try my best to keep in touch with people because no one will know what my study abroad experience meant to me except for the people I spent it with. Leaving Ireland will probably be one of the toughest and saddest things I have ever experienced, but in my heart I know I will make sure to get back.

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My Family Visit

Time April 30th, 2008 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This weekend my parents finally arrived in Limerick to visit me. They had been here in Ireland a week so far and decided to come and see me after a week long tour. This allowed for them to get a glimpse of all the real popular areas of Ireland before they came to see me. It was good of them to find a way to see what I’ve seen so far since I’ve been here without being too much of a burden during my last week of classes. They saw so much, that I could not even imagine bringing them to several different cities during one week while I’m trying to do some final papers for the Ireland study abroad program and starting review for finals.

I did however get to spend four days with my parents which was nice, and we traveled to some amazing places. I made sure to go to some places that their tour had missed as well as places around Ireland that I had not yet visited during my time abroad. This first day brought us to Galway, which is a well known city a couple hours north of Limerick. It is a very beautiful yet busy town near the coast. Before going to Galway I really had no idea how busy it would actually be, which proved to be very challenging for my dad who was still learning how to drive on the wrong side of the car and the wrong side of the road. He was trying his best not to get us in an accident and I was trying my best to read the maps and try and navigate us on the roundabouts. A good portion of the day was spent seeing the city by car because we were still trying to figure out the roads and everything, but it gave us a good tour overall of the city. That evening I had one of my only dinners out-to-eat during my trip to study in Ireland(because it’s too expensive to eat at restaurants) where I spent a good portion of my time catching up with my parents. It was a good time for telling them what I had been up to since we last talked and also to hear about their experiences so far in Ireland during their tour.

The next day we left Galway to go to the nearby Aran Islands. We ended up taking a flight from a nearby town to one of the islands, and it is one of the most interesting experiences I have had in Ireland so far. I was quite excited to try this out because we rode in an 8 seat plane, and the flight lasted only seven minutes. I was a little bit nervous at the start, but have never had such a thrill in my life. The views from the plane were amazing and we made it to the island in such a short time! Once we made it to the island we took a van tour that lasted about three hours. Our driver was a local man who had lived on the island his whole life, and had the best stories and descriptions of the sights and everything we saw around us; plus, he was hysterical. We truly got a taste of rural Ireland that day when we saw farm animals and stone walls everywhere. It also allowed us to see the beauty of the ocean from many angles, the best being the views from the top of Dun Aonghasa, a historical fort at the highest point on the island. The Aran Islands overall were just astounding, I have seen few places nearly as beautiful. At the end of the tour we did our obligatory gift shopping and then hopped on the ferry to the main shore. Let’s just say that the ferry ride was not that exciting(and rainy). It was hardly anything compared to the plane ride a few hours earlier.

Sometime the next morning we left to go much farther south in Ireland to the Dingle peninsula. This is another coastal area, but in a much smaller setting. The drive was a bit long, and the most challenging part was going through Conor’s Pass in the middle of the peninsula to get to the town of Dingle. That area is completely mountainous and has only one lane in which both directions of traffic must go. The journey through this area was quite scenic and we could see both the bay areas and the mountains mostly at the same time. There were troubles from time to time when we had oncoming traffic and people often had to pull over on the side of the road to let others pass, but we made it out alright and with a ton of amazing pictures of the multitude of views. Once me made it to Dingle, it was much more relaxing, and we were done with driving for the day. The town is quaint and very small that we spent the rest of our time walking as we went shopping and went to dinner at a nice local pub. This was a nice quiet evening after dinner, and it was a good time to rest up after all the traveling.

The last day we headed back up to Limerick. I gave my parents a tour of the campus and they also got to meet my roommates. It was nice to be back at home and just relax. My mom also decided to cook dinner that night, so I got a nice home-cooked meal, which is something that I haven’t had in a very long time. It was a good way to end my time here in Ireland with my parents. Then it was time to get back and buckle down on my studies in order to be ready for exams coming up.

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There are things that I’m truly beginning to miss more and more each day.

Time April 15th, 2008 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I really do love living in Ireland because I’ve traveled some amazing places, made a ton of new friends, and learned so much from the study abroad Ireland program, but there are days that greatly miss home. Being here has made me realize that overall Ireland is pretty similar to America and in many ways, but it just seems to behind a few years. I also appreciate the fact that I get live so easily here because everybody speaks English and most of the time there isn’t too much miscommunication.

I haven’t found too many things that I really dislike about Ireland, but many times I feel it is lacking. Little conveniences of home like 24 hour stores is something that I wish they had more of in Ireland. Most places close at 6 PM, which can really put a time strain on planning my day. Back in the U.S, I’m used to being able to go to a store and get what I need at any time of the day. I have also become accustomed to the bus system. It’s not the fastest way of getting places, especially because the buses rarely run on time, but it’s my best option. Little things like these can make life frustrating at times because it isn’t convenient or very accommodating to much schedule, but I make it by alright.

Lately I’ve been craving a lot of foods from home. For the most part the food in Ireland is pretty much the same and you can usually find what you’re looking for in the grocery stores. However, there will be times that I get hungry for a particular kind of food and then I realize I can’t have it because they just don’t have it here. The two foods that I miss the most that I have been dying for are mac-n-cheese and Mexican food. They seemed like pretty typical foods to me and I have found some similar stuff, but it just doesn’t match up to my expectations. Food seems like such a trivial thing to be thinking about during my time abroad, but when I cook for myself a lot I like to make what I know.

Then there are all my friends and family that I miss the most. It’s been nice to have all the technology available to me so that I can keep in contact through email and Skype because otherwise I would have been much more homesick this semester. Even so, I know that things are changing back in Minnesota while I’m gone and there’s a bunch of things that I’m missing out on. I realize that even though I’m missing out on fun at home, I get to have a once in a lifetime experience participating in the Ireland study abroad program. It really is a great time, and I know that I can wait another month to see people when I get home in about a month.

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Spring Break is here!

Time March 31st, 2008 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I’m trying get back into the swing of things this week after a wonderful holiday during Spring Break. Unfortunately, when one comes to study abroad in Ireland, you only get one week off from class, so I was limited in what I could do and where I could go. St. Patrick’s Day occurred during my Spring Break which gave me an opportunity to travel in Ireland before I left the country. The biggest celebrations take place in Dublin, so my friends and I decided that was where we had to go. I could not believe how packed it was everywhere we went. It made things difficult, especially when we got lost and had to ask for directions because no one was from the area and were unable to help us. So much went on in Dublin that day, the biggest event being the St. Patrick’s Day parade. A lot of people show up to this, so I recommend that if you want a good spot to see everything, you need to get there early. We showed up for the parade about a half hour before it started and there was no where to stand to get a good view of the street. Once it started it was so hard to see anything that we only stayed for about 15 minutes before finding something else to do. Much our time that day was spent in the Temple Bar district in town. The area was full of people and there were tons of pubs with live entertainment. Overall, it was a good experience despite all of the crowds and street traffic.

The next day I headed to Rome for a five day holiday. My friends are there for the semester, and I figured it would be a good chance to catch up with them and see bunch of amazing sights. The first day and a half that I was there I walked around the city on my own because my friends were on holiday in Spain. I was pretty satisfied too with everything that I saw and felt that I saw almost everything that I wanted to see within two days. Some of the sights I saw include the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, the Spanish Steps, Piazza del Popolo, and several cathedrals. All of these places were very busy with tourists and vendors that it was a bit overwhelming at times.

On my second day in Rome my friends arrived home and we went to out to dinner. It was a good time, and so nice to finally see some familiar faces. I never really realized how much I had missed my friends until I saw them again. The whole few days that I got to spend with them were so much fun and made my experience in Rome so much better. It was good to catch up with them and learn about how their own study abroad experience has been going so far. My friends also knew all about the masses during Holy Week at the Vatican and had got tickets so we could go to mass at St. Peter’s for Good Friday and Easter Vigil. It was a rather special and unique experience to be able to go to mass with Pope Benedict and have mass being recited in several different languages. I also could not believe how early we had to get to the Vatican to wait in line before mass to get good seats; it was almost disaster when people began pushing when they opened the doors.

The disappointing part of the holiday was having to leave on Easter Sunday early in the morning. I have never traveled before on Easter and have always been with my family, so this made the day less fun than usual. It was a long day of traveling home, and after 3 buses and 2 planes I was glad to get home in the evening. My Spring Break was quite an eventful one and I really enjoyed my opportunities to travel and see my friends, but at the end of the week I knew it was so good to finally be back at the place that I call home.

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What is RAG week?

Time March 14th, 2008 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Just to let you all know RAG week is something that I have been excited for since I came to study in Ireland. I heard about it at orientation and was told that it would be the most fun week of the whole semester. RAG stands for raising and giving, and the whole purpose of the week is to raise money for charities. It has become one of the biggest traditions at the University of Limerick over the years.

The way that UL gets money for the charities is by having all kinds of events where the students buy tickets to participate. Last week the tickets went on sale, and my friends and I queued starting at six am even though the tickets didn’t go on sale until ten because they have a limited number. Only the evening events have tickets that you have to purchase beforehand, and the other events during the day you can pay on the spot or they are free. The evening events that the university hosts are concerts on campus and dances at venues in the city center.

During the day starting at about eleven is when everything starts. There is a whole list of activities to participate in everyday which include things like games, eating contests, and a whole bunch more. My favorite so far has been watching my guy friends do boat races. It was quite a hilarious site. All in all you can fill the day pretty easy by going to all kinds of events, and it can be hard to get motivated to go to class.

The week isn’t even over yet and I’m already pretty exhausted from all the fun, but I know that Friday will be a nice day to rest up because I don’t have class. On Friday there is only one event all day because the university expects that students have had a pretty crazy week. This event is the wrap up party at the Stables pub on campus. It’s a good way to end the week without being too wild. This week has been incredibly too much fun already, and I know I will have good memories of it when I return home.

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I’ve seen a great lot of things so far.

Time March 3rd, 2008 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Well, I have been in studying in Ireland now for a little over a month, and I have yet to feel anything but happy to be here. I’m finally starting to feel a bit more settled now and have begun to get more into the routine of things and find my own way around. I have even begun to explore other parts of Ireland outside of Limerick. In Ireland, is it extremely easy to travel to other towns, and it is fairly cheap if you ride on Bus Eireann.

My first trip that I took outside of Limerick was to Killarney. It is a small town that hosts a number of fun things to do in such a beautiful part of the country. In the area there is a large national park, which I visited with some of my friends. While we were in the park we decided to take a horse carriage ride through the park, which was a little expensive, but was so much fun and gave us such a good view of the Lakes of Killarney. We also found other fun things in town like live music and shopping. It was a place I wish I could have spent more time exploring, but maybe I will get there again before I leave.

Last weekend I went on a trip to Northern Ireland. It was sponsored through the IFSA Butler study abroad in Ireland program and was totally free. That’s a great thing about going with the program because many times they plan little trips for you, and all you need to do is sign up. Anyways, during our weekend we stayed in Belfast, and got to explore things there. I would most definitely recommend the Black Cab tour with all the murals, and also the shopping was great too. In addition, we traveled to Derry to see things like Giant’s Causeway and Dunluce Castle. Both were quite amazing despite the windy weather. The weather almost did ruin parts of the trip because strong winds and rain don’t make sightseeing too fun.

I still have quite a lot yet that I would still like to see in Ireland, and I have the whole semester to travel still with my new friends and everyone who comes to visit. Spring break is coming up soon, and I will also get a chance to travel around Europe as well. I can’t wait for all there is still left to explore!

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What a difference it is to be a student in Ireland.

Time February 14th, 2008 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Well here I am, finished with my second week of classes already. I knew coming to study in Ireland that the classes here would be different, but overall I have been confused and bewildered by some of the classes I have attended. To start, my registration for classes didn’t even take place until the end of this week. The regular students at the university have to register for their classes before they attend, but the study abroad Ireland program students are allowed a trial period of two weeks. During this time we are to pick out modules that sound interesting and attend the lectures for them. I myself picked out five modules, which is the normal course load at UL, and hoped that I liked them because there was little else that I could find to take. I have gone to the lectures for the five modules I have picked, and they seem to be just fine. This week I was the time that I had to register and make my final decisions for classes, and now I’m set for the semester.

While picking out modules to take based on my interests and needs for major was a bit tricky, the more difficult part was to figure out a schedule where the classes wouldn’t overlap. At home a course may meet at a time like Monday, Wednesday, Friday from 9-10. At UL a class could meet on Monday from 9-10 and then also on Thursday from 2-3. The class schedules here seemed pretty random overall, and I got really frustrated when I was trying to pick classes because this wouldn’t be the case when I picked classes at home. When I was trying to register for classes it came to the point of seeing when the classes were scheduled and picking some just based on the fact that they didn’t overlap with other classes that I needed to take. I did find some pretty interesting modules to take, and so far I have liked some. The others I may have to just deal with, but I figure I didn’t always like all the classes that I had to take back at St. Thomas either.

The class style at UL also is much more different than any class that I have ever attended at home. Here there are large lectures for each module, which is generally where somewhere from 30 to 500 students sit in an auditorium and listen to a lecturer speak. All modules also have tutorials that are smaller groups that revolve around discussion and class participation that relates to the lecture topics for the week. Most classes that I have taken in the past have been smaller classes much like tutorials, where students are expected to participate while learning instead of having all the material just given to them. The lectures can be harder to follow because the lecturer is just presenting the information. Things like questions and any student opinions are to wait for the tutorials and I can’t go ahead and get the help during lectures.

The adjustment to my classes is slowly coming, and at the end of the semester I’m sure it will all come easy to me, just as soon as I have to leave.

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This is where it all begins

Time January 28th, 2008 in College Study Abroad | 2 Comments by

 Well hello to all of you reading my first ever blog entry! For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Joanie, and I am spending a semester participating in the IFSA-Butler Ireland study abroad program at the University of Limerick for the spring of 2008. Previously I have been studying at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. I have lived in Minnesota my whole life and grew up in a city about 20 minutes away from St. Thomas. Over the years I have become incredibly comfortable in my surroundings, and I know that studying abroad will definitely change that factor. I feel ready though to embrace the changes in my life that will take place when I move to Ireland, and am thrilled for it all to start.

I have to admit that I wish I would have been able to write an entry during the time that I was preparing to leave for the study abroad Ireland program, but I was just too overwhelmed to do so. Overall, the few weeks before I left were hectic, and I was running around like crazy making sure I had everything that I needed and saying goodbye to everyone. I can admit that there were times during my preparations to get all set to go that I wasn’t really sure that I wanted to leave Minnesota anymore. Making sure that I had everything that I needed and then parting with some things that I couldn’t bring with made really frustrated and at times even upset. It was something that I just had to get myself through and realize that I can’t bring everything I own and that I needed to really make choices. I also had a difficult time saying goodbye to my roommates, friends, and family as well. They have all been such an integral part of my life because I rely on them all so much, and now I would be pretty well separated from them for quite a while. During those few weeks that I was going crazy trying to prepare myself to leave I was overly frustrated with a lot of things, but by the time I arrived at the airport I saw that all that I had done up until that moment was worth it and was excited to go abroad.

Currently, I’m in Trier, Germany visiting my friends Tobi and Max who are students at my home university. I decided when I met them that Germany was definitely a place that I needed to visit when I was in Europe, and what better time to do so than when they were both back in Germany. This happened to fall right around a week before I was expected to be in Ireland, so I thought why not go, I may never have an opportunity like this ever again. Deciding to go to Germany a week before I was to arrive in Limerick made my arrangements are little bit crazier, but so far I have had such a wonderful time that I am glad things have turned out no other way.

So far I have done a lot of sightseeing in Trier. It is a beautiful town with lots of Roman architecture and streets filled with all kinds of shops and pubs. It is so different from any American city I have ever been to because there is obviously a lot going on in the city but at the same time it has a more relaxed feeling to it, that you can truly stop and take the atmosphere in. My evenings have been spent going to restaurants and pubs around the town with my friends. They make the best tour guides because they are so familiar with the city and have a good understanding of some of the things that I’m interested in seeing and doing while I’m here. I know that my trip to Germany would be much less enjoyable for me if it weren’t for Tobi and Max because they are really trying to show me a good time, and they also do a lot of my communicating for me because I really don’t know any German. When we go out to eat they are always willing to translate the menu items for me and tell the servers what I want, which has made things much easier. I have come to realize that this may be a problem for me if I decide to travel to other countries because I won’t have people to help me with communication. So far everything has gone so well for me in Germany, and I am having a great time learning about new things and hanging out with my friends. For now I have not much else to say about my changing lifestyle, but I will be sure to keep you all updated later once I get myself settled in Ireland.

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