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Home Sweet Home

Time May 29th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Well, I’ve been back in the good ol’ USA for about two weeks now and even though I do miss Dublin, it really is good to be home. A little weird though, too.  Sometimes it feels like this past semester was a dream or something. Like everything I did happened to someone else and then told me all of their stories.  Either way, dream or reality, my time in Dublin was an experience of a lifetime. It has left me with some incredible memories and some great friends and I hope that I’ll be able to go back as soon as possible. Of course, I am going to have to work to replenish my bank account if I want to do any world travelling any time soon.  Or national travelling. Or local trips for that matter.

Being home has been really great.  Somehow, I managed to avoid a serious case of jet lag. It could have something to do with the fact that I didn’t sleep a wink on either of my flights and then when I landed in a time zone five hours ahead of what I’d been used to, I did not go to bed at a semi-reasonable hour and instead stayed up for a full 24 hours straight. On the bright side, I got myself on a normal sleep schedule right away and woke up at a decent hour the next morning. On the other hand, I was exhausted for the rest of the week. Small price to pay at the end of an amazing four months I suppose!

It honestly hasn’t been too much of an adjustment getting used to being back in America. I haven’t experienced the culture shock that study abroad students sometimes say they come across upon returning to their home country. In fact, I don’t think that I ever experienced culture shock or homesickness to begin with. Perhaps because I was in a country that spoke English and the culture wasn’t as drastically different as it would have been in, say, China. But I think I was lucky. I was well prepared for the trip and knew that the IFSA-Butler offices were always there if I needed anything.  Anyway, while I miss being able to hop on the 46a to Dun Laoghaire for a Sunday afternoon at the farmers market and the different shades of green grass viewed from the window of a Bus Eireann coach on a trip to Cork or Galway, it’s nice to be back in the driver’s seat of a car on the right side of the road. Although I do admit, I almost started driving on the left side of a deserted road one night.  Fortunately I quickly came to my senses! I’ve also been able to enjoy snacking on Cheez-Its, using a dishwasher and an oven, bonding with my dog and listening to the Cincinnati Reds on the radio. There are definitely things that I missed while I was gone!

One of my favorite parts about being home is being able to share all my pictures and stories with my friends and family. If you’ve followed my blog at all, I’m sure that you can tell how much I love talking about all the amazing opportunities that I have had. I mentioned in my first post that I get my Irish blood from my grandmother who passed away last fall.  I only wish that I had been able to share my experiences with her, and my other grandparents, because I know how much they would have loved to hear all of my stories. Living in Dublin for a semester has been the most amazing experience. I loved every minute of my trip and I can’t wait to get back to Ireland. If you’re a student, and you ever have the chance to study abroad—even if just for a three week summer program or a spring break trip—take it. Getting out of my comfort zone and throwing myself into a different world has been the best thing I’ve ever done.  It has opened my eyes to the world and it is something that will play an important role in shaping my future.  And it’s not as hard as you might think. Family and friends from home can always be contacted through Skype and email. And you can meet a lot of great new people by going through a program.  Going through IFSA-Butler was definitely the right choice for me.  I always felt like I had all the information I needed and the advisors were always welcoming and helpful, without being overbearing.  And the Northern Ireland and Killary Adventure weekends were both fantastic trips. I also met most of my friends through the program and while parts of my trip were about independence, I always felt like I had a supportive community to turn to.

I had the time of my life in Dublin and I have loved sharing all of my experiences with anyone who has been willing to pay attention. If you’ve followed any of my journey, thanks for listening. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my stories as much as I’ve enjoyed telling them!

Slán !

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The Final Week of a Galway Girl

Time May 14th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Dia duit, everybody!

I can’t believe that I’m saying it, but I only have one more day here in Dublin. It feels like just yesterday, I was getting on a plane in Cincinnati, excited and terrified. It turns out that there was no reason to be afraid. I have loved every minute of my time here. I’m so excited to go home on Tuesday. I can’t wait to see my family and my friends and especially my dog (I’ve at least been able to talk to everyone else)! But it’s hard to imagine leaving this amazing city that has come to feel like a second home to me. I’ve met so many incredible people and even though we’ve all been saying our good-byes, it doesn’t seem real. It seems more like we’re each taking separate trips and we’ll reconvene next week for another spaghetti Wednesday! It’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that I won’t see these amazing people that I’ve spent the majority of my time with everyday anymore. But I suppose we all have to get back to reality sometime.

While the entire semester has sort of felt like this super extended vacation, since I’ve been done with my exams since last Saturday, this past week has been even more of a holiday for me. It was really great to have an entire week to enjoy my time here without having to worry about school or anything else. I only had three exams and they were not too bad. I felt pretty well prepared for all of them so here’s hoping that that sense of preparedness shows in my results! I feel like I put my week off to pretty good use. I got back out for one final trip to Dun Laoghaire, spent some time in the city wandering around and visiting some of my favorite places. Did a lot of last minute shopping and worked very hard to convince myself that I do not need a Guinness beach towel or a Butlers Chocolate Cafe travel coffee mug. But the highlight of my week was definitely my trip to Galway! Or should I say my trips to Galway. I loved it so much the first time that I had to go back again on Thursday!

Rorie, Susan and I got up early on Tuesday and took a very long bus ride across the country to visit the home of The Galway Girl and the Claddagh ring. We lucked out with some seriously awesome weather. The west of Ireland is often known for being cold, windy and wet but Tuesday was just the opposite. The sun was shining and it was warm enough to take my jacket off, which I loved! We had a delicious lunch of fish and chips at a place on Shop Street called McDonagh’s and then we headed straight for the famous Galway Bay. It wasn’t too crowded so we parked ourselves on the ground for a while to enjoy the beautiful weather. We strolled over to the Claddagh, the fishing area for which the ring is named and got some lovely pictures of the view. We had a chance to do a little bit of shopping and I got my Claddagh ring, which is the one thing I really wanted to buy while I was over here, and we found a little second hand bookshop where I found a creepy VC Andrews novel that helped me to pass the time during the four hour bus ride back to Dublin. Nothing like a little incest to keep a reader engrossed in a plot…

We wanted to put off our return to rainy Dublin for as long as possible, so we bought some ice cream and headed back to the Bay. We ended up spending about half an hour watching a dog fetch rocks from the water while an angry bevy of swans attempted to scare him out of their territory. The dog was not at all concerned for the swans’ displeasure and kept about his business of entertaining about fifteen bystanders. I returned by myself on Thursday mostly because I didn’t have anything that I’d rather be doing in Dublin. The weather, unfortunately, lived up the stereotype I previously mentioned, but I still loved the city. I wandered around a few side streets and did a little more shopping. I wish that I would have had more time in there. I definitely saved the best trip for last and whenever I return to Ireland, you can bet that I’ll make a beeline for Galway City!

I still have a lot to do in my last day here. Believe it or not, I actually started my packing and cleaning process yesterday but there is still a long way to go. I’m hoping to head back into the city for one last time, maybe do brunch or a little shopping and, of course, one last pint of Guinness. I even surprise myself in saying that I’ll miss the stuff! It’s definitley grown on me, and whatever it was that I tried in America was not the same as the Guinness right from St. James Gate. I have been so incredibly blessed with this opportunity. I have seen so many things, been to so many places and met so many people that it’s hard to believe that this hasn’t been one long, amazing dream. But as hard as it is to imagine leaving, I can’t wait to get home and see everyone!

The next time you hear from me, I’ll be back in America!

Sláinte!

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Revision Week: Putting the “Study” in Study Abroad

Time April 30th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Despite the content of the majority of my previous blogs, my trip to Ireland hasn’t been all about traveling around Europe with friends and family. Sometimes even I forget that the main reason that I’m here is to study. But have no fear. This past week has put me in my place. Well, sort of. Today begins the exam period here at UCD and classes finished up a week ago. So that means that last week, I had nothing but time to start my exam preparations. As I am the queen of procrastination, it should come as no shock that I managed to squeeze a few episodes of The O.C. into my study time in the name of taking a break, which sometimes lasted much longer than I had planned. However, I did manage to get some studying done and so far, I’m feeling okay about my exams. At least for the next hour. I tend to vacillate between calm and confident one moment, and a panicking mess the next. But that’s pretty much true of every semester when it comes to exam time.

I’ve mentioned before that academics here in Ireland (and from what I gather, all of Europe for that matter) are a bit different from what I have experienced in the states. My attempts to study last week made that quite a bit more obvious than it has been all semester. The education system here is much more independent, in which students are responsible for the majority of their learning. Lectures are useful for general information which will definitely be helpful for exams. Seminars are supposed to be a way to explore topics more thoroughly through discourse which is great, in theory. Unfortunately, I only had a seminar for one of my classes with an exam and it didn’t exactly prove to fit the description of a seminar. But, you have to roll with the punches and I’m sure that I will make do. Anyway, my point is that a lot of learning comes from the individual student’s efforts and I have made an attempt all semester to keep up with the slightly different pace, but perhaps not as much as I would have done at home. I mean, I’m in Ireland. I want to enjoy my time here and not be too bogged down with stress over my classes. But don’t fret, Mom and Dad! I’m not saying that I totally slacked off and didn’t read anything. It’s just a matter of revisiting important topics.

And there is the crux of the matter. With such a wide range of topics discussed over the course of a semester, and very little distinct exam information, who is to say what the most important topics are? This is the question that I kept asking myself during my moments of panic last week. My classes have gone over such a large amount of history and information that at points, I have found it difficult to pinpoint the key facts or theories. And, since everything is mostly lecture based, I haven’t had much of a chance to discuss my ideas and theories, so for all I know, I could be totally off base. For someone who has come from an educational environment in which discussion is key and exam tips have generally been laid out pretty clearly, this has been a little stressful, not to mention nervewracking. But on the eve before my first Irish exam, I keep reminding myself of something that one of my lecturers said in our last class; “You know more than you think you know.” I’ve gone to all my lectures and seminars, I’ve done the important readings, I’ve taken notes. I have all the pertinent information in front of me. It’s a little disconcerting not to know exactly how I stand in the class in terms of grades, but I’m confident enough to at least know that I’ll be fine in the end. I always manage to surprise myself, so here’s hoping that my lecturer was right!

Of course, with a whole week off, I did make a little time for fun in between studying and The O.C. Friday night, a few of my friends and I decided to reward ourselves for our studying and we headed to O’Neill’s for a few drinks and some live music. We even met a very nice couple from North Carolina, college basketball fans who had been following Butler during their NCAA run last year and the year before. It was fantastic to finally meet some fellow fans and they even bought us a round of Guinness as we chatted! On Sunday, the girls and I headed out to the Dun Laoghaire Farmer’s Market since Susan hadn’t been yet and we only have a few Sundays left together in Dublin. Unfortunately, it was cold and windy and altogether a very poor day for outdoor food markets. As windy as it was, the sea was more turbulent than I had ever seen it! It was really beautiful to see the waves crashing up on the rocks. A pretty awesome sight to see before I head back to Indiana!

Speaking of heading back to Indiana, I really can’t believe that I only have two weeks left in Dublin. I have exams Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, then I have all of next week to myself before my flight home on the fifteenth! I’m planning to make a trip out to Galway next Tuesday and there are still some things in Dublin that I’d like to see or revisit before I head home. Packing is probably going to be a nightmare, so it’s a good thing I have a whole week to do it, but knowing me I’ll probably save it until the last possible moment. I can’t wait to see all of my friends and family at home, but it’s going to be hard to say goodbye to Ireland and all the great people that I’ve met since I got here. But I’m not going to worry about that just yet. I have to get through my exams first, so it’s back to the grindstone for now!

Wish me luck!

 

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Killary Adventure Weekend: May the odds be ever in your favor.

Time April 20th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

The last time I wrote, I was just about to embark on the second IFSA-Butler trip of the semester: the trip to the Killary Adventure Center out in County Galway. And, as the title promised, it was definitely a weekend full of adventure! You may or may not have noticed the Hunger Games reference in my title (my friends and I went and saw the movie the night before the trip. Absolutely loved it!) and I have to say, there were a few times I felt like I could have been a tribute! Not that I ever felt like I would have to fight to the death or anything, but there was definitely some swimming, climbing and various other forms of serious athleticism going on. I even got to channel my inner Katniss Everdeen with a bow and arrow! But I’ll try not to get ahead of myself!

On Friday morning, we got up at the crack of dawn to take a nice, long bus ride across the country to the Killary Adventure Center, which is located in the one of the only fjords in Ireland. In case you didn’t know, a fjord is a narrow body of water between cliffs or mountains that has been formed by glacial movement and, at least from what I’ve seen, they’re absolutely gorgeous!  Since this was an all IFSA-Butler Ireland trip, they booked the place just for us, which meant that I got to meet a lot of people who are studying in other parts of the country! After the very long bus ride, we checked into our rooms and got to choose one activity for the evening. A few of my friends and I decided to hit the water for some kayaking and gorge walking. We weren’t really sure what they meant by gorge walking, but we were feeling optimistic and adventurous, so we figured why not check it out? I was a little nervous about the kayaking, at first. I’ve kayaked many times before, but my last few trips included an unplanned swim so I was really hoping not to embarrass myself on the very first night! I knew there would be plenty of time for that when it came to the climbing wall.  Anyway, we got down to the boathouse, changed into wetsuits, helmets and some extra shoes and hit the water. Since it was fairly windy (and quite chilly), I was a little cautious at first, but I eventually got the hang of it. Just like riding a bike! We floated down the fjord a little ways and stopped to check out some mussel farms before we turned around. As we paddled back towards shore, our guide said to us, “Okay, so we’ll put the kayaks up, walk over and do the short cliff jump and then we’ll finish off with the gorge walk!” You might be able to imagine the looks of concern that passed between my friends and me. This was the first we had heard about a cliff jump. Now, I wouldn’t say that I’m afraid of heights but I don’t tend to make a habit of jumping off tall things like cliffs. I was nervous, but I also figured that I would never again have to opportunity to jump off a cliff and go swimming in a fjord, so I was all for it! And it was totally worth it. The water was so cold that it was physically shocking, but it was exhilarating! The gorge walk was pretty incredible, too. We climbed up from the water through a stream running down the side of a gorge to get back to the road. I’ll probably never do anything like that again. Thank God they had extra shoes for us, though! We were soaked to the bone by the time we were finished.

Since we had the whole day, we got two activities on Saturday. In the morning, my friend Amy and I decided to give the zip line and high ropes course a shot. Both were really cool. I have always wanted to try a zipline, and I was not disappointed! It was almost relaxing to fly freely through the air. The high ropes course definitely required more strategic efforts. They had us do a challenge they called the Trapeze Jump. We each had a partner, and one at a time, we each had to climb up a pretty narrow pole onto a platform that looks like it’s meant to hold one person. Then the partner joined at the top. I climbed first and then Amy followed and by the time we were both on the platform, both of us and the pole were shaking like mad. Again, I’m not  really afraid of heights but it was a very small platform, high above the ground. And it was shaking. We were wearing harnesses, so we were totally safe, but my heart was still pounding. But they don’t call it the Trapeze Jump for nothing. The next step was to jump from the platform and grab hold of a trapeze hanging a few feet away. It was definitely much easier than shimmying up the pole, but unfortunately, I missed the trapeze so I just had to hang out in midair for a minute before they lowered me back to Earth. Amy did much better though and she managed to hang on! Next, a few of us tried the moving climbing wall which was way harder than it looked. Especially considering my complete lack of upper body strength. They tell you that it’s all in the legs, but you still have to hold on pretty tightly. I was very proud of myself, though, because I almost made it to the top. Apparently, Amy and I had not gotten enough climbing in the morning because after lunch we decided to do the climbing wall and the giant swing. We were actually way more interested in the giant swing, but we had to do the climbing wall first. I tried, but my arms were pretty tuckered out from the morning’s activities (plus there was my complete lack of upper body strength). I didn’t make it too far. But, again, I was proud of myself for trying! The giant swing was fun, though. We were strapped into a two person swing, so I felt like a toddler being buckled into a swing at the park, waiting for Mom or Dad to underdog me! Once we were strapped in, we were lifted up a pretty hefty cord and when we got to the top, we had to release ourselves for the big swing. It was so much fun! It felt like being on a roller coaster. And since we had a very small group, we got to go a few times. It was a nice and relaxing way to end the day of activities, especially since it required so little effort on our parts after a strenuous day of climbing! On Saturday night, they threw a disco that featured a 70 year old DJ and a cash bar and felt like an awkward, but fun, middle school dance. It was definitely entertaining, to say the least.

Sunday was another half day, so we only had time for a morning activity and Amy and I opted for archery and clay pigeon shooting! The archery was super fun. Like I said, I got to channel my inner Katniss and pretend that I was hunting game rather than just aiming at a target. I wasn’t even as bad as I thought I would be! No bull’s-eyes, but I got the second innermost ring on my first shot! The clay pigeon shooting was another story. I never thought I’d handle a 20 gauge shotgun, but apparently this weekend was a time for many firsts!  However, I was not very good with the gun. Plus, since I was still short one contact from my spring break mishap, I couldn’t see out of the eye that I was supposed to be aiming with. When mentioned this to the instructor, assuming he would let me off the hook after several failed attempts to take down the bright orange target, his simple solution was to switch to my left hand. Sure. Why not. Let the right-handed, half-blind girl handle a firearm with her left hand. No big deal. But, believe it or not, it actually worked! On my very last shot, I finally got a hit. Yet another moment of pride for my weekend. IFSA-Butler had been hyping up this trip from the application process, and it definitely lived up to expectations! I had been wary of what they exactly meant by “adventure” but I loved every minute of it, and everyone else I talked to felt the same! I would have loved to try some of the other activities like the hill walk (aka, mountain climb) or the turf challenge (5K through an obstacle course of muddy bogs) but there just wasn’t enough time. But I was so glad that I got to try some fun, new activities that I probably wouldn’t have gotten to do otherwise. I only wish that I had been able to take more pictures, but I didn’t want to risk carrying my camera around the whole place.

Fortunately, Adventure Weekend was not the last exciting moment of the semester! My dad got to come and visit a few weeks ago. It was so great to see him and to show him around the city! I took him to revisit a few of my favorite places like Howth, Dun Laoghaire and the Guinness Storehouse and we checked out a few new places like St. Patrick’s and Kilmainham Gaol, which was incredible. It is so amazing to think about all the history and tragedy that was housed within those walls. On Easter Sunday, Dad and I took a bus tour out to the Cliffs of Moher. We stopped at a few ancient castles and other famous sites along the way, but the Cliffs were, with good reason, the highlight of the trip. Even with the wind and rain, it was hard not to be in awe of the sight. Five miles of cliffs overlooking the sea from immense heights. It was truly incredible, very deserving of being the most visited tourist spot in the country.  Fortunately, I didn’t have too much class work to do over the long weekend, so I was able to treat it like another mini spring break! We got to spend some time listening to great music and drinking some great Guinness.  It was the definition of great craic! I was so glad that he got to visit and experience the place where I’ve been lucky enough to live for the past three months!

Unfortunately, after Dad left it was back to reality for me. The semester is definitely winding down. I am officially finished with all my classes for the semester. Next week is revision week, followed by one week of exams. I already have one exam completed and on Wednesday, I submitted my final essay for another class, so I’m two classes down and three more to go! Just a few more weeks to go! It’s been a little difficult adjusting to the Irish style of classes and learning how to study for my exams, but I think I’ve gotten the hang of it and I’ll be done before I know it. Less than a month and I’ll be back in Lawrenceburg! I’m excited to see all my friends and family, but I’m going to miss Dublin so much! I can’t believe how quickly time has passed. I feel like I have been able to do and see so much, but there are still things that I really want to do. Fortunately, I really lucked out with my exam schedule and I have an entire week between my last exam and my flight home, so I’ll be sure to fit in any last minute activities and have plenty of time to say good-bye to the city that I have come to love!

Sláinte!

 

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From St. Peter to St. Paddy

Time March 23rd, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I know I start every blog post by saying how long it has been since the last time I posted anything, but I think this time I have a pretty good excuse.  Here at UCD we had two weeks off for Spring Break and they have given me some of the most amazing memories and incredible experiences of my life.  During the first week my UCD roommate, Rorie, and I went to Paris and Rome and during the second week,  my best friend and Butler roommate, Emily, came to visit and she and  I took London and Dublin by storm! And to top the break off, as I’m sure you all know, last Saturday was St. Patrick’s Day and I felt so lucky to have the opportunity to celebrate the Irish holiday right here in Dublin.

So I’ll start from the beginning. Paris was incredible! Rorie had done a weekend trip to visit a friend in London so we decided to meet in Paris on Monday. I was super nervous about navigating my way from the airport to the hotel on my own without speaking a lick of French, but it turns out that “merci” and “pardon” were all that I really needed. I had looked up directions for the metro so I got to the hotel in no time. Rorie was supposed to get in an hour or two after I did, but due to some strange turn of events, her train was delayed close to eight hours. I felt so bad for her and I just kept thanking God that I had the hotel reservations because she didn’t get to the hotel until almost 3 o’clock in the morning. Fortunately, we didn’t have any big plans for the evening so neither of us missed anything that we wanted to do. Since I had so much time on my own, I decided to take a walk up to the River Seine. Our hotel wasn’t close enough for me to walk to see any of the sights, but it was really cool to just wander through the less touristy side of the city. I stopped for a baguette and strolled in the rain, feeling like a regular Parisian!

We were moving on to Rome on Wednesday, so Tuesday morning we woke up ready to see everything. We caught the metro from right outside of our hotel to right outside the Louvre, excited to see some famous art and….it was closed. Apparently Tuesday is an off day for the museum. We did get to wander around the grounds and see the Pyramids, though, which I had been really excited about. And it was from the Louvre grounds that we got our first glimpses of the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower! We wandered away from the museum up the Champs-Elysees admiring all the people and theatres and amazing shops. We stopped to get pictures at the Arc de Triomphe, but we decided not to go up so we could save the view for our next stop and I am so glad that we did! Despite the fog and rain, the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower was breathtaking. I couldn’t believe how far I could see and I can only imagine how it looks on a clear day! The sun did start to peek out a little right as we reached the top so it was perfect timing. Even in the cold, I think that I could have stood up there for hours just watching the city. But, in addition to the cold, we were starting to get a little hungry so we went back down and stopped for delicious crepes. Numerous people had told me about this crepe stand by the Eiffel Tower and it totally lived up to my expectations and beyond! Warm Nutella and whipped cream on a fresh crepe. My mouth is watering just remembering it!

The little bit of sun that peeked out while we were at the top of the Tower disappeared pretty quickly and the sky started to get very dark, so we decided to high tail it to our next stop: Notre Dame. By now you have all probably figured out how much I LOVE stained glass windows, so I’m sure you can guess how I felt about Notre Dame. It was so gorgeous, inside and out! It’s so amazing to think of the detail that went into the creation of the Cathedral. All the statues and gargoyles (which were my favorite part!) are so intricate. And what’s even more amazing is to think of how old it is! It’s really incredible to see this proof of what humans are capable of creating with their hands and some tools. My only regret about Notre Dame is that we couldn’t go upstairs because I would have loved to see some of the gargoyles up close! But the gorgeous light streaming through the windows was enough to make up for that. Yet another place where I could have easily spent endless hours just looking around.

By that point we were fairly exhausted from walking around all day, so we decided to pick up some wine and baguettes and call it a night! Wednesday morning we checked out of the hotel and headed straight to the Catacombs. It was quite surreal to go deep under the city to find this network of walls and chambers created out of human bones. It really makes you wonder what’s underneath the ground of your own city! Finally, we headed back to the Louvre for our last stop in Paris. It was so huge that I could easily imagine getting lost in there for days. We saw the Venus de Milo, Winged Victory, the Mona Lisa and Michelangelo’s Captive Slave, among other incredible ancient Greek, Egyptian and Roman art. Again, it was one of those moments where I was just in awe to think about how old everything is and how much skill it took to make these sculptures and paintings. It was another surreal experience to see these things that I have read about and seen photos of. But there is nothing like seeing them in person! It was an absolutely amazing experience.

After the Louvre, it was time to make our way to the airport which just happened to be two hours by train and bus outside of Paris in the city of Beauvais. We arrived in Rome Wednesday night and found our hotel pretty easily, so things started off very well! And then I dropped my contact down the sink. Oops. I was definitely not happy about it, but I decided that there were worse places to be in my glasses than Rome.  The metro line in Rome was really great because it had stops at a number of places where we wanted to visit so we bought cheap day passes and started with the Vatican before we worked our way back towards the hotel. Now let me just say I was incredibly excited about Rome, largely due to having read Dan Brown’s “Angels and Demons” numerous times, so I was anxious to see all the amazing things he described in the novel. St. Peter’s Square was brilliant. It was warm and sunny, and they were setting up a stage and some big screens, so I could easily picture the Pope standing on the balcony, blessing the masses. St. Peter’s Basilica was just as beautiful as I had always heard. So many beautiful works of art to be admired and, as a Catholic, I have to say it was humbling to be in such an important place. After St. Peter’s we went to Castel Sant’Angelo and the Bridge of Angels, another prominent setting of Dan Brown’s novel. I could almost picture the book in my head as I was walking along the bridge and I can’t wait to read it again now that I have had the opportunity to actually see everything.

We stopped at the Piazza del Popolo and then found the Spanish Steps and had the best pizza I’ve ever had at a little pizzeria in the Piazza di Spagna. We had delicious gelato and made a wish at the beautiful Trevi Fountain and then wandered around until we found the Pantheon! One of the most striking things about Rome, to me, was how all of these incredibly famous and historic sites, like the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon, just sit right smack dab in the middle of the city, surrounded by more modern restaurants, apartments, shops and businesses. We were searching for the Pantheon, having no idea if we were close or not, and we turned the corner and there it was! One of the oldest building in Rome just sitting there, unchanged from the way it was in the second century, aside from its surroundings. I feel like I had many of these moments where I just couldn’t think anything other than “Wow.” On Friday we went to the Colosseum, Palatine Hill and (my favorite part of the trip) the Roman Forum. The weather was absolutely gorgeous again and we had a bit of extra time before we had to catch our plane back to Dublin so we just spent a lot of time wandering around the ancient grounds of Rome soaking up all the history. After being on the move so much during the week, it was really nice to be able to just sit and enjoy the view for a little while. We found a nice, fairly empty spot with an amazing view of the Colosseum and I think that relaxing there in the sun was the epitome of the trip for me!

After the long week in Europe it was nice to come back to the apartment to recuperate a little bit before Emily got here on Sunday! I haven’t seen anyone from home in two months so I was so excited to see her when she got off the bus! Emily hadn’t been to Ireland before so I had a lot of fun showing her around on Sunday afternoon and on Monday we caught an afternoon flight to London! We didn’t get to our hostel until around seven, so we just decided to do a little exploring by foot since our hostel was so conveniently located. We were super close to Buckingham Palace so we went there first. It was so cool because it was totally empty of tourists. There were only a few other people there because it was around 8 or 9 o’clock so it was really neat to see it when it wasn’t surrounded by people.  We walked up the Mall and found Trafalgar Square, which, as a huge Harry Potter nerd, I was really excited about since that was where all the London Red Carpet premieres took place! The other cool thing about Trafalgar Square was that since the Summer Olympics are in London this year, the Olympic Countdown Clock was there! It was so cool to see and to think that in just a few months, people will be coming to the city from all over the world to watch the Olympics so now I’m really looking forward to watching them myself! Before we headed back to the hostel, we had to walk up to Piccadilly Circus which was teeming with nightlife! Everything was alight and there were people everywhere, so I’m really glad we decided to check it out!

Tuesday was our one full day in London so we got up and started early to make the most of it. We walked back towards Buckingham Palace since it was on the way and headed in the opposite direction of where we had gone the night before in order to reach the River Thames. Along the river we saw Big Ben, Parliament and Westminster Abbey and across the water was the London Eye. We thought about doing the eye, but it was very foggy so I don’t think we could have seen very much. Not to mention that it was about £20 which is close to $40, so we decided to spare out wallets and keep on walking. We kept walking until we came upon Millennium Bridge (Harry Potter fans will recognize it from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince). Fortunately, there were no Death Eaters about so we were able to cross the bridge safely so we could see Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre! Someday I will have to go back so I can see a play there! Further down the river we saw London Bridge and Tower Bridge and the Tower of London! Everything was super close together so we really just took our time walking around the city and seeing everything.

After the Tower of London, we decided to walk to King’s Cross Station to see Platform 9 3/4, of course! It took us a little while to get there and once we did, we had a little trouble finding it. We were worried for a little bit because it wasn’t where we expected it to be, but once we asked someone they pointed us in the right direction. As we were searching aimlessly, I just kept expecting (and let’s be honest, hoping) to hear Mrs. Weasley’s voice. “Every year, packed with Muggles of course. Come on! Platform 9 3/4 this way!” It was definitely one of the highlights of the trip! And I could have sworn that I felt the cart move as I leaned against it! Maybe I have a little magic in me after all…a girl can only hope! By that point, we were starving so we, somewhat ironically, had a late lunch at an Irish pub near the station. We made our way back towards the hostel, stopping at the British Museum, back in Trafalgar Square and in St. James Park along the way. By the end of the day, we tallied that we had done nearly 10 hours of walking across the entire city. We were quite proud of ourselves, but totally exhausted! On Wednesday we returned to Trafalgar Square one last time to visit the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery before heading back to Piccadilly for souvenir shopping and catching the tube back to the airport. We arrived at the airport a little early so we have plenty of time to get through security and find out gate. Though in the end, it probably wouldn’t have mattered that much. Our plane was delayed 4 hours, which was a serious bummer at the end of such a long trip. For a little while we were afraid that we would be stuck in the airport overnight, but eventually we made it out of Heathrow and back to Dublin!

I had a lot of fun showing Emily around Dublin and taking her to see the coast in Dun Laoghaire during the last two days of her trip. On Friday night we spent some time in town checking out the city getting ready for all the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. We saw some Irish dancing by St. Stephen’s Green and we went to Temple Bar to listen to some traditional Irish folk music. I even got Emily to try some Guinness! It was a bummer to say goodbye on Saturday morning but we had a great week and I was so glad she got to visit! After I got her on her early bus to the airport, I caught a few more hours of sleep before the Paddy’s Day celebrations! Do note that the Irish are very emphatic about the fact that it’s Paddy’s Day and not Patty’s Day like we say in the states! However you want to say it though, it was definitely a good time! The city was covered in green and there were so many people that I couldn’t actually see the parade, but it was a lot of fun. After the parade we checked out a few pubs and I did have another Guinness in honor of the holiday! It was a once in a lifetime experience and I am so glad that I was able to be in Ireland for St. Paddy’s Day!

By the time I got home on Paddy’s Day, all my exhaustion from the past two weeks caught up with me. I feel like I need another week to recover from my vacation! But after the Bank Holiday on Monday, it was back to classes as normal. Hopefully it doesn’t take me too long to get readjusted since the semester is almost over! I can’t believe that there are only four or five weeks of classes left. The time has absolutely flown by but I’m loving every minute of it! This weekend is the IFSA-Butler Adventure trip! There are all kinds of exciting outdoor activities so it should definitely be a good time and I’m really looking forward to it!

Sláinte! 

 

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A Trip Up North

Time February 20th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Well, with all the travelling that I’ve been doing, I can finally say that I’ve made it out of the country! Sure, you might not actually need a passport to go to Northern Ireland but once you get there, it becomes clear that the Republic and Northern are indeed two different countries. Last weekend, IFSA-Butler took us on the first of two program trips which means the majority of the things we got to do in Belfast and on the Antrim Coast was already paid for, which is always a plus! And it was really great because it was a trip for IFSA-Butler students all over Ireland, not just Dublin, so we got to meet people studying in Galway, Cork, Limerick, Maynooth and Northern Ireland. I even ran into another girl I know from Butler who is going to Queen’s University in Belfast!

It was a long weekend, which meant we left Thursday afternoon for the relatively short bus ride up to Belfast. Once again, IFSA-Butler put us up in a lovely hotel (Jurys Inn Belfast) right in the heart of the city. We had some time before dinner at the hotel, so even though it was raining a bit, we took a little stroll around town. It was very different than what I’m used to here in Dublin. The population of Dublin is about the same as the total population of Northern Ireland, so Belfast was obviously much smaller and quieter. And as my friend Bridget put it, the city is more “English” than Dublin is, which makes complete sense, given that Northern Ireland, unlike the Republic, is part of the UK. But that is not to say that Belfast is not beautiful! We spent most of our time walking around the City Hall grounds. City Hall stands right smack dab in the middle of Belfast and is surrounded by beautiful statues and monuments, dedicated to important people or events in Belfast and Northern Ireland’s history, the largest of which was the statue of Queen Victoria.

Friday was a very early morning, but the day’s events were well worth getting up with the sun! We took a bus trip up the beautiful Antrim coast with a lovely tour guide named Virginia. Virginia knew everything there was to know about Belfast and Northern Ireland. Did you know that Belfast is the linen making capital of the world? Or that the television show Game of Thrones was filmed in Northern Ireland? Some of the many things I learned from Virginia. We followed the coast line all the way up the country and made stops at The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Dunluce Castle and the amazing Giant’s Causeway! Now, Virginia had me a little nervous about the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, a bridge between the mainland and a tiny island that was originally built by salmon fishers more than 300 years ago. Of course, the bridge has been rebuilt many times (most recently in 2000) so it is perfectly safe to use. But I had no idea what to expect from the bridge. How long was it? How high was it? How sturdy was it? Virginia’s helpful advice was “Hopefully, it’s too foggy to see how high above the water you really are.” Yikes. Thanks a lot, Virginia. The nerves grew as we made the mile long hike along the gorgeous coastline. The view was amazing. You could just barely make out Scotland in the distance! On a clearer day it would have been completely visible. And the water was unbelievable. If it hadn’t been cold and windy and surrounded by green cliffs rather than sand, I could have sworn I was looking at the blue-green sea around some Caribbean island. We finally made it to the bridge…and it was so not what I was expecting. It was only about 20 meters long (65 feet) and 23 meters high and it was very sturdy. It wouldn’t have been fun to fall off, of course, but it wasn’t nearly as treacherous as Virginia had led me to believe. But it was so incredibly cool to be suspended over the sea like that! We were lucky to have beautiful weather for most of the day so as the fog continued to clear up, the view got better and better.

After the rope bridge, we continued up the coast to the Dunluce Castle. The castle sits right on top of some cliffs, so close to the edge that a long time ago, some of the rocks gave away and the kitchen actually fell into the sea, with the cooks and dinner and all. Through the castle windows you could see more incredible views of the sea and the cliffs around it!

The final stop of the trip was the famous Giant’s Causeway, a unique rock formation featuring piles and piles of polygonal shaped stones. Some say they’re nature made but the Irish have another explanation. Legend has it that long ago, the Irish giant Fionn MacCool built the Causeway to connect Ireland and Scotland so he could make his way between the two countries more easily. But this didn’t sit all that well with the Scottish giant, Cuchulainn. He didn’t want another giant coming to his territory. So one day Cuchulainn decided to cross the Causeway himself to challenge Fionn to a battle. Cuchulainn was a bit larger than Fionn, so when Fionn heard about Cuchulainn’s plan, he knew that he had to come up with one of his own. So Fionn went home and formulated a plan with his wife. On the day Cuchulainn came to call, Fionn laid down in the baby’s crib and put on the baby’s bonnet. When Cuchulainn came to the door, Fionn’s wife answered and asked him to please keep his voice down so he wouldn’t wake the baby. Cuchulainn took a look in the crib and thought to himself “If Fionn MacCool’s baby is that big, then Fionn must be huge! There’s no way I can take him on.” And Cuchulainn high-tailed it out of there, back across the Causeway to Scotland, breaking it up and destroying the path along the way. There are still traces of the Causeway on the Scottish coast, it’s not as impressive as what you can see in Ireland. It’s laid out so perfectly that it’s too hard to believe that it could be nature made, so the story of Fionn MacCool and Cuchulainn must be true!

Anyway, the rocks were a little slippery because of the misty rain, so it was a little scary (especially since I had already slipped and fallen earlier in the day…oops) but I did climb right to the top! It was just amazing. I don’t even really have the words to describe it all!

Since we did so much exploring on Friday, Saturday was a bit more relaxed. We got to sleep in and have a late breakfast at the hotel and in the afternoon, we took a Black Taxi Tour through West Belfast to learn about the history of the tension and violence between the Protestants and Catholics, known as the Troubles. I was amazed to learn that things were still so tense between these two religious groups. The tour guides were very adamant about the fact that not everyone hates each other. But the tension is still there to the point that the gates between the Protestant part of town and the Catholic part of town are still closed and locked every Friday at 5pm and are not reopened until Monday morning. It’s just so hard to wrap my mind around,  but it was definitely eye opening. I didn’t know a whole lot about the Troubles before and I’m so glad that I was able to learn more, as horrifying as some of the stories might be. We saw the famous murals in the Protestant area on Shankill Road, one of which disturbingly honored a man who was known and revered for murdering 14 Catholics in cold blood. Perhaps the most striking mural portrayed a UFF soldier (possibly the same man) looking down the barrel of his gun, which followed you and pointed at you no matter where you were standing.

We then went to the border between the two parts of town where the graffiti-covered peace wall stands. The wall is covered with street art and signatures and messages from people from all over the world, hoping and praying for peace between the two groups.  Rihanna, who filmed part of her video for “We Found Love in a Hopeless Place” in Northern Ireland, fittingly signed the wall and left the song title as her message. We continued on to the Catholic part of town and visited a memorial garden on Bombay Street dedicated to all the Catholics killed by UFF forces. Most of the names were from the ’70s and ’80s, but the most recent was a man in 2004. We also got to see some of the IRA murals, one of which was just painted 2 weeks before in support of 5 Cubans who were wrongly imprisoned eleven years ago in Miami. The Black Taxi Tour was a sobering event, but it was really good to learn more about the history of Belfast and the conflicts that still, unfortunately, plague the city today.

We had the rest of the afternoon free so some of us spent the rest of the day visiting the Ulster Museum and Botanic Gardens and went to the Victoria Square mall to use the £10 vouchers IFSA-Butler had given us for dinner. One of the best (if not the most exciting) parts of the weekend was the fact that our hotel had cable television. Most of us don’t have TVs in our apartments at UCD, so after a few long days of exploring, it was really nice to just relax with some mindless television! 

This week has been pretty relaxing here in Dublin. This weekend I did a little shopping in town and my roommate, Rorie, and I went to the Wax Museum! Rorie had been dying to go ever since we first got here, and I’d never been to a wax museum before. It had everything from early Irish history to modern pop culture. There was even a whole terrifying room dedicated to the Silence of the Lambs that pretty much gave me the creeps but it was definitely fun!

We’ve decided not to do any more weekend travelling for a bit because we’re starting to plan for Spring Break! Rorie and I are planning to do Paris and Rome during the first week and then my best friend Emily is coming to visit me from home for the second week and we’re going to London! I can’t wait to see her and to see some more of Europe, too. It amazes me how quickly the semester is going. We only have two more weeks of classes before I become a world traveler! I even have a couple midterm essays due at the end of this week. These six weeks have really flown by and I am loving every minute!

Sláinte!

 

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Limerick and Cork and Dublin, Oh My!

Time February 8th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Dia duit everyone!

Once again, it has been far too long since I’ve posted anything. But that just means this post will be chalk full of all my wonderful adventures! Life at UCD is passing along at a somewhat alarming pace. I can’t believe that exactly one month ago, I was getting on a plane. It feels like I’ve been here forever, but at the same time, I can’t believe how quickly everything is going. Everyone who told me that the semester would just fly by has been exactly right. Classes are still going well and I’m really enjoying them, for the most part. I’m still working on adjusting to the different teaching styles of the Irish education system, but I’m starting to get the hang of it. I have midterm essays coming up in just a few weeks, so that will be a real test of how well adjusted I actually am.

While I spend my weeks on campus and occasionally around town, my weekends have been totally devoted to travelling!  We took a day trip out to Limerick a few weekends ago and even though it was rainy for most of the afternoon, it was great to see another city! When my guidebook told me that there was not much to see or do in Limerick, I was a little worried. But we managed to wander around and find a few things to occupy our time. We visited a local market and museum and we tried to go into St Mary’s Cathedral. When I say we tried, I mean we couldn’t find the actual entrance. Either we read all the signs wrong or it was closed for lunch. But the grounds and the graveyard were very pretty so we made sure to get plenty of pictures and moved on. The most interesting thing we did in Limerick would have to be our trip to King John’s Castle. We were a little disappointed to discover that the castle was not a royal castle and King John never actually even lived there. Instead, it was a military castle used during the Siege of Limerick in the 17th century. The coolest part of the castle was that we could go all the way to the top of some of the turrets and have a great view of the entire city!

I would have to say that my trip to Cork last weekend would probably be the highlight of my experience so far. Susan, Kate, Rorie and I took a 4 hour bus ride from Dublin on Saturday and stayed in a hostel over night. We didn’t quite plan for the trip all that well though. For example, we forgot about the fact that in Ireland, most things close at 5. By the time we got to Cork, found our hostel and got settled it was after 4. Since two of the things we wanted to do required another bus ride out of the city, we walked around and decided to check St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral. It was completely gorgeous! Beautiful stained glass windows everywhere. By the time we found the Cathedral, we only had 8 minutes to look around but I’m glad that we were able to spend a little time there. I’ve always loved stained glass windows and these were definitely worth seeing. Since everything was closing and the rain had stopped, we just wandered up and down the streets for a few hours, admiring the beautiful buildings and taking lots of pictures. We eventually stopped for dinner at a pub called La Chateau and caught a little bit of a rugby game on TV. After dinner, we were all pretty worn out from travelling all morning and walking around all afternoon so we decided to head back to the hostel and just hang out there for a little bit before getting a good night’s sleep!

We got up bright and early Sunday morning, checked out of the hotel and power walked to the bus station to make the first bus out to Blarney to visit the famous Blarney Castle. We only had twenty minutes to make the more than a mile long walk from the hostel to the bus station, but we somehow managed to do it with our bags and everything! And it was definitely worth the effort because the Blarney Castle grounds were beautiful. Plus, we got there right after it opened, so there weren’t too many people there yet. We had plenty of time to wander and take pictures of the grounds and gardens before even making it up to the castle. It was really interesting to be in such an old castle that people had actually lived in! Of course, we climbed to the top and we all kissed the Blarney Stone! I will now forever be blessed with the gift of gab. It was a little bit terrifying to be hanging upside down so far off the ground, but it was totally worth it! The Blarney Castle grounds are pretty large with lots of gardens and lakes to see. It was beautiful and green in January but I could only imagine what it will look like come spring, once all the flowers start to bloom! The Poison Garden would be really cool to see in the spring. It was full of poisonous plants, a lot of which I didn’t know could be dangerous! There was even a  Narcotics Cage and a spot for a marijuana plant, but those had been seized by the Garda.

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to make it out to Cobh to see the Titanic exhibit that I had been looking forward to. We just ran out of time, but it’s something I would definitely consider going back to see sometime! We made it back to Dublin on an express bus and got back to campus around 7 or so, giving me plenty of time to figure out how to watch the Super Bowl! It’s been kind of a bummer to be away from Indianapolis this past week, with so much excitement from Jimmy Fallon on campus and all the Super Bowl festivities going on in town. So I was glad that I was able to find a way to watch the game online with a few friends! Granted I was up until 3am, but it was nice to have a little touch of home. And the game did get pretty exciting there at the end, so all and all it was worth the sleep deprivation.

I haven’t done as much exploring around Dublin lately as I did early in the semester, but last week I finally made it to Bulters Chocolate Cafe! And let me just say, I think that Butler University should have a branch on campus. They had the most delicious hot chocolate. I will definitely be going back soon. On Monday afternoon, after we finished with classes, Rorie and headed out to the zoo! I haven’t been to the zoo at home in years so I was like a little kid all over again seeing all the animals. We only had an hour and a half to see everything, so we did a pretty speedy trip and because it was late in the day, we weren’t able to see all the animals. We are definitely planning to go back in the spring when it’s warmer and we have a little bit more time! 

IFSA-Butler is taking us on a trip up to Belfast this weekend and I am so excited! We leave tomorrow night, so this will be the longest trip I’ve taken so far. I’ll be sure to get plenty of pictures and hopefully, I’ll be quicker about sharing them with everyone!

Sláinte!

 

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Good Craic and the Magic of Howth.

Time January 27th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

Dia duit, everyone!

That’s ‘hello’ in Irish, just in case you were wondering!

I know it’s been a little while since I posted anything but it really has been busy settling into life here at UCD. Classes started last Monday and since I don’t have anything on Fridays, I’ve officially survived my first two weeks of lectures. The class scene is a bit different here in Ireland than it is at home. I’m in class a lot less often than I am at home and there is more emphasis on independent study. It’s going to take a bit of adjustment when it comes to figuring out what I need to be doing for when, but I’m enjoying my classes for the most part so I think that I’ll be just fine! While it still kind of feels like I’m on a holiday (what we Americans would call a vacation) I’m starting to settle into my classes and getting myself a routine of studying. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty of time for fun! I’ve made a great group of friends here and we’re having a lot of fun exploring the city and planning trips around Ireland together. Some of us even have classes together! On top of classes for school, some of my friends and I signed up for a free beginners Irish language class! It meets once a week and it’s very basic and laid back. I can tell it’s going to be a fun way to meet people and to pick up a little Irish Gaelic! Hopefully, but the end of the session, I’ll be able to have a simple conversation in Irish! Or at least read and understand some of the street signs.

As I’m sure most people are aware, there are some slight language differences between English in the States and English across the pond. There are the basics like ‘loo’ or ‘toilet’ for restroom and ‘lift’ for elevator, but one of the most prominent ones that I’ve heard (and been told about) is the term ‘craic’ (pronounced like crack). It is not uncommon to be walking across campus or through Dublin city and to hear someone ask “How’s the craic?” or “Did they have good craic?” Now, coming from a place where you don’t really want to associate with people discussing the merits of their crack, I would have been mighty confused had I not been informed about this particular term. In Ireland, if someone tells you “oh they have good craic there” they are not referring to a place where you can get drugs. Craic simply refers to a good time or good news. So don’t be alarmed if I come back to the US telling everyone all about the great craic I had during my semester abroad! I promise I’m not harboring a new drug habit, I’m just picking up slang from my immersion into the Irish culture!

On my first weekend in Dublin, my friends Susan, Kate and I went to Temple Bar and had a chance to meet up with some of the IFSA-Butler students from Trinity. Now, Temple Bar is a very interesting place. Not exactly the place to find authentic Irish pubs, but a lot of fun if you’re looking for lots of people, live music and a good drink! We went to a pub called Fitzsimons and it was jam packed with people, but once we found our friends from Trinity to crowd wasn’t too bad and we got to dance and sing along to some fun, live music by a band playing some good old fashioned cover songs. They threw in some traditional Irish music, but the likes of Adele and Mumford & Sons was in high demand. And, of course, The Proclaimers. Scottish rather than Irish, but it was still some good craic.

On Saturday, we went to the beautiful Christ Church Cathedral and spent some time wandering around and checking out all the incredible paintings, statues and stained glass windows. However, the highlight of the Cathedral would probably have to be the legendary petrified cat and rat. Apparently, way back when, the petrified remains of a cat chasing a rat was found inside one of the organ pipes and they have been on display in the crypt ever since! Maybe not the most important part of the church, but definitely the most unique!

One of the best things about being here at UCD is that they have a great program for international students! They host events for us and plan trips around Ireland that we can go on for free! Last Thursday, they took us to a pub called the Merry Ploughboys for a free drink and a great show of traditional Irish music and dancing! It was the first time I had really experienced live, traditional Irish music (a lot of drinking songs) and it was the first time I had ever seen any Irish dancing, unless you count the one time that I actually performed an Irish dance back in my days of being a dancer. But it could never have compared to what we saw. It was so much fun and the band was great. They had a great time getting everyone singing and clapping.  And they were right, I will never forget the words of the chorus of Johnny Jump Up. IFSA-Butler actually took us to a similar event at a pub called Johnnie Fox’s and both nights have been so much fun! The bands and the Irish dancers were very different, but both were amazing! And since some of us knew some songs from last week at the Merry Ploughboys, we were calling out requests at Johnnie Fox’s and leading the singing and clapping. That was also some great craic!

But even with all the fun I’ve been having in Dublin, the best part of my experience so far would have to be my excursion out of the city to the Howth Peninsula. Howth is a small sea town, about 20 minutes north of the city and the one time home of W.B Yeats! Last weekend, a group of nine of us caught the train (under €5 round trip!) for a day trip to the magical town. Seriously, their website is www.howthismagic.com. And it was truly incredible! It was a little rainy when we got there, but nothing too torential so we decided to brave the wind and stroll out on the harbor a little bit. And when I say it was windy, I mean that it was the strongest wind that I had ever walked through. It was a struggle to move and even to see at points, but we stuck it out and got some great pictures as a result! After the harbor, we decided to check out the cliffs.

Now let me just say first that I knew there were cliffs in Howth. However, for some reason I didn’t think about the fact that we would actually be hiking the cliffs. Word of advice: Converse sneakers are under no circumstances a substitute for hiking boots. We originally planned to do the shortest trail since we weren’t all that prepared for a proper hike. The rain eventually let up and as we began to climb, the sun started to come out from behind the clouds, shedding light on the incredible view of Dublin Bay and the Irish Sea. It was absolutely breathtaking! We packed our lunches and found a good place to sit down and enjoy the view. After we ate, everyone was invigorated and we all thought “What the Howth?” We were already there so we might as well keep going and make the most of it. The signs told us that the longest trail (called the Bog of the Frogs) was only about an hour longer than the shortest one so we just went for it.

It turned out the the Bog of the Frogs was a 10k hike across half of the peninsula. Quite literally through a bog, at one point. We saw cliffs and fields and even came upon a beach. The wind kept picking up and it got fairly intense, but fortunately no one fell off a cliff and into the sea. It was really tough at some points, especially when every time we thought we were done, we turned the corner to find another steep hike up a hill. But all that trouble was outweighed by the sheer beauty of the place. By the end of the hike, we had overshot the time estimate by about 2 hours, making our total hiking time about 5 hours. We were grimy and exhausted, but proud that we had made it through! We did, however, dismiss our initial plan to have a drink back in the city and instead, once everyone had had a chance to freshen up, they came to our apartment for pajama and taco night! As exhausting as the hike was (and as sore as my legs and feet were the next day), the trip was totally worth it. Definitely the highlight of my time in Ireland so far!

We’re taking another day trip tomorrow, this time to Limerick! Fortunately, there’s a two hour bus ride so I can make a dent in my homework that I’ve been putting off during the week. Hopefully Limerick won’t be as physically taxing of a trip as Howth was so we have plenty of time and energy to explore another one of Ireland’s cities!

Slainté

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In Dublin’s Fair City

Time January 13th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | 4 Comments by

Hello from Dublin!

I have only been here for four days now, but I’m officially in love with this city. Everything has been fantastic so far. All throughout Christmas break, I had to continue reminding myself that I was really doing it, really moving to Ireland for 5 months. It didn’t quite feel real. Sunday morning, I was (of course) a bundle of nervous energy and tears. But as the plane took off in Cincinnati, it really hit me and, while I was still quite nervous, the excitement really began to make an appearance. Even now that I’m here and settled into my apartment (I’m sorry, my flat), the reality of what I’m doing still has somewhat of a dreamlike quality, but things are really beginning to sink in and once classes start on Monday, I’m sure I’ll be fully aware!

We arrived around 7 or so on Monday morning (2 am US time…and of course I didn’t get much sleep on the plane) and Maria and Geoff, representatives from the IFSA-Butler, Ireland office met us at the airport and got us on a bus and to our hotel. The first thing I noticed when I stepped outside of the airport was a patch of bright green grass. The second thing was a misty rain falling on my face. But after being on a plane for the past 10 hours, it felt like heaven. We stayed at the Mont Clare Hotel on Merrion Square, just a short walk from Grafton Street (the big shopping area) and Temple Bar (the big drinking area). We had a few hours to get breakfast, nap and freshen up at the hotel before we took a land and water Viking Splash Tour of the city, which was just like the Dukw Boat Tours they do in Boston. It was a great introduction to the city and to get our feet wet, so to speak.

After the Viking Splash Tour, the IFSA-Butler reps took us to dinner and afterwards, we had some time to explore a bit on our own. Even after napping, everyone was still pretty jet-lagged, so we decided to hit up a pub for a drink before calling it a night. A group of about 11 of us decided to check out a pub mentioned on the tour called the Dawson Lounge, the smallest pub in Dublin (probably the smallest pub in the world, or so they say). And they weren’t kidding when they told us that it was small! It only holds about 25 people, so we were a little worried about having such a large group, but when we went inside it was completely empty. Perhaps because it was only about 6:30 by that point, but we were all running on about 30+ hours without sleep, so we were exhausted. So of course, at the Dawson Lounge, I had my first true Irish Guinness! The barman was really nice, so he added a shamrock in the foam since it was our first night. And I have to say, it was pretty good. Much better than American bottled Guinness. But I still don’t know how the Irish can drink it every night. One in the evening was more than enough for me!

The next day, IFSA-Butler Orientation began and we got some handouts and other information about classes and culture and traveling. They’ve been feeding us very well here, so after orientation we headed to lunch and then to a self guided tour of the Guinness Storehouse. It was a really neat place, like a museum dedicated to the history of Guinness and how its made. I did not learn how to pull my own pint (I took a picture of how to do it) and instead, chose to have a free pint in the Gravity Bar at the top of the building. The bar had an absolutely incredible panoramic view of the entire city and the sun was shining down on everything. You could see the coast to one side, the hills and fields to another and beautiful brick buildings and old churches everywhere in between. It literally took our breath away. As we stepped on the elevator and got our first look, everyone gasped in awe. It sounds dramatic, but it was true. I didn’t think it could even be that amazing of a view. I got a few pictures, but they really don’t do the view justice.

We had to find our way back from the Guinness Storehouse to the hotel, but we were done with IFSA-Butler stuff for the evening, so a couple other girls and I decided to head to Grafton Street to buy phones. Fortunately, one of the girls had the good sense to keep a map in her purse. Of course, mine was conveniently located in the front pocket of my backpack…on the chair in my hotel room. Oops! Anyone who knows me will testify that I am not always the best with directions in the first place. But don’t worry! The map now resides in the front pocket of my purse. It was a bit of an adventure getting to Grafton Street, but we managed to do it, and get back to the hotel, pretty easily! And, since we didn’t always know where we were going, we just kept walking down random streets that looked vaguely familiar, which was a great day to see some more of the city! And I saw some reminders of Butler along the way when we passed The Clarendon Bar and Butlers Chocolate Cafe. I wish I would have gone in the cafe, but we were too busy trying to take in as much as possible. One of my favorite things from the city would have to be all the different colored doors. Houses, apartments, shops and even churches all sported red, blue, yellow, green, orange and pink front doors and I loved them! They looked especially awesome against the bricks of the Georgian style homes.

We had the rest of the evening to ourselves, so my hotel roommate, Susan, and I decided to find a cheap place for dinner with a couple other girls. We wandered around the Grafton Street area, but everything was fairly pricey or closed. We were so hungry that we had almost resigned ourselves to Subway when we found a promising place called the International Bar, which advertised Sandwiches for €3.50. It turned out to be one of the sketchiest places that I had ever encountered. We walked in and were sent downstairs because the upstairs bar was pretty full. Aside from the barman, the basement was totally empty. And silent. Some guy eventually came in, turned on some old American music (think Green Day, Snoop Dog, Fergie and JLo) and brought us our food. As strange as it was, the food was actually pretty good and cheap, which was even better!

We finally moved out of the hotel and into UCD housing on Wednesday! It’s great to be here and unpacked, working on settling in. The UCD International Office has hosted some dinners and get togethers for International Students and American Students, so I’ve met a lot of great people from all over! In addition to UCD students with the IFSA-Butler program, there were also about 15 students attending Trinity, which is located downtown, and I’ve gotten to meet most of them as well. I was surprised, though, when a number of the people that I’ve met told me that they didn’t know that Butler was an actual school. I guess the fame of Butler Basketball has not yet reached every American!  

Overall, everything has been grand! The IFSA-Butler people have been super helpful and everyone has been so nice! From the woman who sold me my mobile to the UCD lectureres we’ve met on campus for orientation, everyone is very welcoming. And, as a side note, the weather has been beautiful for us! A little bit of misty rain here and there, but mostly sunny and fairly warm. Much warmer that I hear it is back home anyway! Tomorrow we’ve got some down time, so I’m looking foreward to getting a little shopping done so I can really get everything organized before classes begin.

Slainté!

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Céad Míle Fáilte!

Time January 3rd, 2012 in College Study Abroad | 2 Comments by

Hi everyone!

So, I’ve never done a blog before but I’m really excited to get started so thanks for checking it out! I am absolutely thrilled and maybe just a little bit terrified (in a good way) to begin my journey to the Emerald Isle.  I’ve never been to out of the US before, but I am so ready to head off on this new adventure and I can’t wait to share my experiences with everyone here! 

First and foremost, if you’re going to be following me for the next few months, I guess I should share a little about myself. I’m Hannah, I’m 21 years old and I’m from Lawrenceburg, Indiana.  I’m currently a junior at Butler University in Indianapolis (Go Dawgs!) and I’m studying English Literature and Spanish.  I have wanted to travel to Ireland for longer than I can remember and studying abroad seemed like the perfect way to really immerse myself in the culture.  Plus, Ireland’s rich literary history really added to the appeal and the beautiful landscapes didn’t hurt either.  Like many Americans claim, I do have a little Irish blood in me, on the Cleary side of my family tree.  My grandma was so excited for my trip and she passed away unexpectedly last month.  I’m disappointed that I won’t be able to share my pictures and stories with her, but I know how much she wanted me to enjoy myself and I plan to take this journey in memory of her!

 My family and friends have been great at helping me prepare for my trip. Christmas gifts brought me a few maps and guidebooks of Ireland.  I am most looking foreward to using my “Ireland & Spirits” map, which features a full map of the Republic of Ireland on one side and nice map of Dublin, featuring recommended restauraunts, pubs and shops on the other. I’ve also received essential items like a good umbrella, a travel watch, scarves, some warm clothes and a great camera to document all the beautiful places that I’ll visit! And, of course, I have my collections of some work by Yeats and Joyce. So thanks to everyone who’s helped me with gifts and advice. I can’t wait to put everything to good use!

With less than two weeks until my departure, I’m finding myself busier and busier. But of course, I’m spending a lot of time procrastinating in the name of the holidays. I am, however, starting to make lists of things to buy and pack, and making notes of emails and books to read and re-read. I’ll get started on the actual shopping and packing this week (okay, most likely next week), but for now, I’m enjoying my last few days in the states, spending a lot of time with friends and family, saying goodbyes in and taking requests for souvenirs! Hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season and I’ll see you in the New Year!

 

Sláinte!

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