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See you later Belfast…

Time May 31st, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I am sad to say that this will be my very last blog post in Ireland. Tonight is my last night in Belfast and after a truly fantastic semester, I can say with confidence that this has been an experience that I will never forget. For one thing, I learned more about the World and myself than I ever could have guessed. I learned about different currencies, the different ways in which people live, and the things that make other countries special. One of my favorite learning experiences in Ireland, in particular, is my new-found LOVE for Rugby. I also now consider myself an expert in both Northern Ireland troubles and the Titanic after a semester in Belfast.

But more importantly, I learned that I am not done exploring the World. There is so much more I would like to see and experience and studying abroad has opened my eyes to the adventures that lie ahead. IFSA has been absolutely incredible throughout my entire time here and I feel honored that I was able to share my experiences on this blog as well. Even though I know I am leaving tomorrow, I am thrilled that I will be able to look back at pictures and my blog entries and remember all of the good times I’ve had abroad. I will miss walking past the picturesque Queen’s University and I will miss the wonderful Irish accent and the people who are so genuinely nice and kind. However, even though I’m leaving tomorrow, I know that this is not a goodbye forever. I will be back in Ireland as soon as I possibly can so for now, this is only a see you later, Belfast.

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Galway girl and the unsinkable ship

Time May 21st, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This past weekend my friend Mary Kate and I FINALLY made it to Galway, Ireland. We were actually supposed to head to Galway, which is in the West of Ireland (close to Killary fjord) earlier in the semester, but the weather was too bad so we cancelled our trip. Luckily for us though, our finals are very spaced out throughout the month of May so we were able to fit a trip in during a long weekend!

The first time I ever heard of Galway was when I watched the movie P.S. I Love You when the main character sings the song Galway Girl to his future wife in an Irish pub. From the moment I saw that scene, I knew I wanted to see Ireland but I had no idea that I would some day be living in Ireland, let alone seeing Galway for myself! Very cool.

To get from Belfast to Galway, we decided to take the train so that we could officially cross that mode of transportation off our list and the ride (which took us about 6 hours) was actually really fun. The train was a fun event, in and of itself, so we had a great time looking out the window at all the beautiful Irish scenery and the sheep. As we got further and further into the countryside, I remembered yet again why I love Ireland so much! While in Galway, we dined on traditional Irish food (lots of potatoes) and wandered around the shops looking for souvenirs for our families and had a very fun “traditional weekend.”

Of course, our main reason for visiting Galway was to see the Cliffs of Moher. Featured in movies such as The Princess Bride and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the Cliffs of Moher are fabulous cliffs that really show how picturesque the Irish landscape is. I have included pictures below which are nice but cannot even come close to capturing how wonderful the cliffs are. Someday, I’d love to go back again and spend an entire day just sitting on the edge of the cliffs and looking at the Ocean. It’s THAT beautiful!

After we got back from our wonderful mini-vacation, we headed back to Belfast and were finally able to score tickets to the Titanic Exhibit. Since April was “Titanic month” due to the 100 year anniversary of the Titanic voyage, the Titanic Exhibit in Belfast (the largest Titanic viewing experience in the World)  opened its doors. Due to its insane popularity, it had been booked solid since the day it opened. Luckily though, we were able to get tickets for last Monday!

And the exhibit did NOT disappoint! It was absolutely spectacular and quite moving to follow the Titanic all the way from being built in Belfast to its voyage across the Atlantic. Since I’ve seen Titanic (the movie by James Cameron) about 4,000 times (twice in 3d in theaters), I considered myself quite the Titanic expert. However, I had no idea that everything in the movie was so accurate right down to the characters (apart from the 2 main characters) and I was shocked that I learned so much from the museum. It was a great day and I’m glad I got to experience it while I live in Belfast, the birthplace of the Titanic!

The Cliffs of Moher

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J’adore France!

Time May 11th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

As you can see from the title, I love/adore France!

After our exciting adventures in Spain, my friend Mary Kate and I decided to venture over to France. We began the week by flying from Belfast to Paris and stayed there for three nights. We did so many tourist things I couldn’t even begin to mention all of them but my favorites included wandering through Notre Dame and going up in the fully lit Eiffel Tower at night. It was truly amazing to see such a beautiful city all lit up from the sky. No wonder it’s called the “City of Lights!”

One of my favorite parts of Paris though was just wandering through the streets of the Latin Quarter where our hotel was located. We loved waking up and finding a little cafe before starting our tourist-filled days. The food in France is maybe one of my favorite things about the country because I could live off of the ham and cheese omelets and the delicious crepes. Everything about Paris and France in general was so much different (but more wonderful) than I was expecting.

From Paris, we boarded another plane and made our way down to the South of France to Nice. Nice is a city right on the Mediterranean sea and is one of the cutest and most picturesque places I have ever seen! Tourists usually head to Nice if they’re interested in seeing Monaco and Monte Carlo. We didn’t go to Nice with that intention, but once we realized that a bus ride to Monaco (Monte Carlo) was only 1 euro and 20 minutes, we jumped on the opportunity. Monaco was beautiful and we mainly spent the day wandering through the most expensive shopping district I’ve ever seen. Everything there was very well-decorated and extremely flashy. After hours of walking around trying to find a place to eat, we finally stumbled upon a cute outdoor restaurant right on the ocean. It was perfect and one of the most memorable moments in France because we were so hungry and this restaurant was not only beautiful, but everyone was so nice and we could spy on all of the people getting into their yachts right below us on the sea.

Traveling to France after a semester in Ireland and a week in Spain made me realize how different all of these countries really are from each other. While they’re all considered “Europe,” each country has their own unique feel to it and I have to say that France has just made its way to the top of my favorite countries list! That being said…I know absolutely no French and must get on that ASAP.

Inside Notre Dame

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From London to Ibiza

Time May 8th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

Ever since I began my study abroad journey, I hoped to travel. That being said, I had no idea just how amazing my traveling experience would be! I found out early in the semester that I would be allotted 3 weeks during the month of April (Easter Holiday) in which I would be able to travel wherever I wanted. So I set to work planning. For the first week and a half of my Easter Holiday, I decided to visit London, Barcelona, and Ibiza.

Week 1 of my vacation began when I flew to London, England and met up with my Aunt, Uncle and 3 younger cousins who happened to be vacationing in London at that time. It worked out perfectly that I would be able to travel with them while on my break! For our London adventure, you could say that we were the “typical tourists.” We spent our days on double decker busses seeing everything there possibly is to see in the city. We ventured to the Big Ben, watched the ceremonial Changing of the Guards, visited Westminster Abbey, toured the Tower of London, and spent our meals at traditional English Pubs stuffing our faces with Fish and Chips. After we had exhausted the tourist attractions in London, we ventured to Wimbledon for a day and got a full tour of Tennis through the ages as well as the Center Court for the Wimbledon matches. Since the 2012 Summer Olympics are being held in London, we also took a day trip to the Olympic park and got a tour of the facilities and learned a lot about the Olympics and the tradition. It really was a wonderful trip and I was so excited to see some family after being abroad for 3 months already.

But the fun did not stop there! My family went back to the US and I was off to Barcelona, Spain to meet up with my good friend Mary Kate who is also an IFSA-Butler student in Belfast with me. I flew straight from London to Barcelona and met up with her. We wandered the streets of Barcelona for a day until we met up with our other friend from Belfast (another IFSA student) Sean. The three of us had an entire day to kill on Las Ramblas street in Barcelona because we had already checked out of our “hostal” and were waiting to catch the overnight ferry to Ibiza, Spain. Ibiza is an island off of Spain and well known for it’s younger crowd but also has some of the most scenic views I have ever seen! We enjoyed the traditional Spanish meal of rice, vegetables, chicken, and seafood called Paella while in Barcelona. It was one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever had! It was finally time to get on the ferry and the three of us had a full 8 hours to go until Ibiza.

When we made it to Ibiza, we walked toward our “apartmento” and had breakfast at a cute little cafe where we had the best fresh squeezed orange juice any of us had ever tasted. Once we got to our apartmento (Mar y Playa – which means Ocean and Pool) we met up with one of my friends from Butler University and the four of us went to the grocery store to stock our kitchenette. Our hotel/apartmento was amazing! It was right on the beach (which aren’t very sandy in Ibiza but rocky and beautiful) and had a pool overlooking the beach. We had a great balcony which was the perfect setting for many photo shoots and card games. The rest of the weekend (which was Easter weekend) was spent by eating Tapas (appetizers) near the beach and wandering the island and experiencing the Spanish culture. Since Kelcie is studying abroad for the semester in Alicante, Spain, she is practically fluent in Spanish and was able to help us translate everything on menus and street signs so we never got lost or had trouble. The weather wasn’t extremely hot but that was alright because we enjoyed wandering the island and meeting people at our hotel pool. We met people from Dubai, Australia, and Holland which was very exciting and it was fun to hear about their lives and what they do for fun. On Easter Sunday, the 4 of us had a day-long excursion back to Barcelona on the ferry and it was a very different experience than the night ferry trip. We felt like we were on a cruise and had a blast eating popcorn and watching the movies in Spanish.
It was finally time for us to get back to Belfast but all in all, the trip was one I can barely even describe in words and it really was an experience of a lifetime!

Changing of the guards in London

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Killary Adventure Weekend

Time April 11th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hello everyone!! I have been SO SO busy lately with traveling since this is our Easter break (3 whole weeks of it!) but I am back in Belfast for the week so I thought I would update my blog. The first weekend I’ll talk about really captures the entire Ireland experience and was put on by IFSA. Every IFSA student studying in Ireland met up on the West coast of Ireland called Killary for a weekend of adventures and fun.

The adventure started with a VERY bumpy 6 hour bus ride through Ireland but it was well worth the trip when we finally arrived to one of the most picturesque locations I have ever seen. Once we got situated in our dorms at Killary, it was time to pick our adventures for the weekend. We got to choose one activity for the first day, 2 the second day and 1 more for the final day. I decided upon a hill walk, archery/clay pidgeon shooting, and the turf challenge (which is actually a 5K mud run through a course designed to ruin an outfit).

On the first day, I went hill walking and let me tell you, this was no ordinary hill! We trekked all the way up a mountain and then back. The “walk” took roughly 3 hours but I viewed some of the most spectacular views I had ever seen in my entire life. After the hill walk we all had dinner and then competed in a trivia night. The trivia night was a blast and I met a bunch of new people!

The second day was by far my most favorite of the entire trip. The day began with my friend Katie and I competing in an archery challenge. We competed against 4 guys and I won the entire thing! I couldn’t believe how fun archery was and I felt like I was in the Hunger Games or something. Then we were taught how to shoot clay pigeons which wasn’t my favorite thing in the world but it was a cool experience. After lunch, I chose to get a little dirty. I had been told that the Turf Challenge gets people COVERED in mud but I thought it would be fun to try. And how often can people say they’ve been covered in mud in Ireland? So I went for it. It was one of the most exhausting, exhilarating, hilarious and memorable experiences I have ever had. Despite the cold and the exhaustive running, it was an adventure I will never forget! That night, the Killary staff hosted a disco for all of us and it was an absolute blast. After such an exhausting day, it was fun to let loose with some other IFSA students.

The next day, due to exhaustion, I decided not to choose another adventure activity but breakfast was great since we all reminisced about the days of Killary. The weekend was fantastic and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything!

Killary view from the fence

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Killary is Ireland's only fjord and here's the picture of that!

 


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Memorable St. Paddy’s day moment

Time April 11th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Since Belfast, Northern Ireland is considered part of the United Kingdom, St. Patrick’s day in Belfast was very different than one would imagine it would be like in Ireland. There wasn’t an extreme amount of people in green running around aimlessly like one would expect but the most incredible moment of my day came while we were all watching the Ireland vs. England rugby match. Although Belfast is considered part of the United Kingdom, Irish pride came out before the game started while everyone in the pub (where the game was being shown) participated in what is known as Ireland’s Call. According to the official youtube video, “Ireland’s Call is the song commissioned by the Irish Rugby Football Union for use at international Rugby Union fixtures. It is the unifying anthem of a team which has players from both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.”

This is especially incredible for Belfast because they are not considered to be part of the Republic of Ireland but throughout this song, you can see the union between all of Ireland. The lyrics are as follows and I took a video of the incredible moment on St. Paddy’s day when everyone was united before the game even started.
Lyrics:
Come the day and come the hour
Come the power and the glory
We have come to answer
Our Country’s call
From the four proud provinces of Ireland

Ireland, Ireland
Together standing tall
Shoulder to shoulder
We’ll answer Ireland’s call

From the mighty Glens of Antrim
From the rugged hills of Galway
From the walls of Limerick
And Dublin Bay
From the four proud provinces of Ireland

Ireland, Ireland
Together standing tall
Shoulder to shoulder
We’ll answer Ireland’s call

Hearts of steel
And heads unbowing
Vowing never to be broken
We will fight, until
We can fight no more
From the four proud provinces of Ireland

Ireland, Ireland
Together standing tall
Shoulder to shoulder
We’ll answer Ireland’s call


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Videos from Dublin

Time March 12th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This video shows the stadium from my first Dublin trip along with the song played when the players were coming onto the field.


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Dublin adventures and visit from my mom :)

Time March 12th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This post is dedicated to the wonderful times I have recently spent in Dublin, Ireland!

For the first weekend trip, IFSA-Butler took all of us Northern Ireland students down to Dublin for the weekend. We had the choice of going on a hop-on-hop-off bus tour or hanging out around Dublin on our own. We would have toured on any other weekend, but something AMAZING was going on in Dublin that particular weekend. The amazing event was known as the Ireland vs. Italy Rugby match! Since I’d never been to a Rugby match before (or had even seen a game), my friend Mary Kate and I decided we HAD to get tickets!

It was absolutely AMAZING! I felt like I was at a Quidditch Word Cup game from Harry Potter. Everyone had so much Ireland pride in the stands and it was really a fantastic experience.

My second great Dublin adventure was when my mom came to visit me this week :) We began our adventure in Belfast but took the train to Dublin to see the sites the second day of her trip. We did absolutely everything there is to do in Dublin. We took several tours, we visited the Wicklow mountains (where P.S. I Love You was filmed) and we saw some traditional Irish dancing! We then concluded our trip to Belfast and I took her to the Giant’s Causeway (for my 3rd time). I never get tired of seeing it though! My mom and I had so much fun and it was so great to show her why I love Ireland so much. The pictures below are some highlights from our trip :)

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Could that be the coast of Northern Ireland?

Time February 27th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

A couple of weekends ago, IFSA took all of us Ireland students up to the North Antrim Coast to see the sites. One thing you should know right off the bat is that these pictures do NOT even do the coast justice. This was one of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen. In fact, it is considered the 5th most picturesque drive in the world.

We went to Giant’s Causeway (the 8th wonder of the World), Carick-a-Reed Bridge and Dunluce Castle. There are superstitions and stories we learned about each of these things and I’ve included links to the stories if you’d like to read them. All in all, it was a fabulous adventure and it was fun to hang out with some of the other IFSA students since my group in Belfast is so small. While I was at the bridge, I even ran into 3 other Butler students so we took a picture with our mascot, Blue II. It was nice to see people I go to school with so that we could talk about how cool it is to have this opportunity!

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Hello Belfast!

Time February 27th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hello everyone! First of all, I would like to take this opportunity to apologize for my delay in blogging. Since I’ve gotten here, it has been nothing but chaos but also nothing very “blog-worthy” has happened until this past weekend.

One of the first things we did once arriving to Belfast was go on a black cab taxi tour of the city. While Belfast isn’t an overwhelmingly big city, it is filled with history and interesting places to see. One of the main things Belfast is famous for is all of the murals around town. I have included pictures of those below about the time period called “The Troubles” which is Belfast’s most famous piece of history.

Another thing I should mention are my classes! Here at Queen’s University – Belfast, I am considered a third year (just like in America). However, the difference here is that students only complete three years of college. So if I was a full-time Irish student, I would be getting ready to graduate…yikes!

I only have classes on Wednesday and Thursday even though I’m taking 15 credit hours. This is because the English Department at Queen’s is more interested in self-taught reading and then discussion in class. In each of my classes, we read a book a week and then come to class prepared to discuss each one. Let’s just say I’ve been doing a LOT of reading.

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