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Take Me Back

Time June 17th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

I have been home in Washington for just over a week now and I am already dying to go back to Ireland. Being back is great and everything, but nothing can replace the nine fantastic months I spent at Queen’s University in Belfast.

Since I have been back, I have managed to stay pretty busy. The first big thing I did was get my haircut. I know this does not seem like a big deal to most people but if you know me at all, I like having short hair. There were plenty of places I could have gotten it cut in Belfast but I wanted to go to my specific hair guy Wayne who I have been going to for about three years. That was my first priority after landing and it was the first thing checked off my list.

I then got to go see Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees play his final game in Seattle against the Mariners. Jeter, arguably one of the best players to ever play the game, is making his “farewell tour” around the country as the season progresses. I was lucky enough to see him in his last performance at Safeco Field. It is sad to see such an amazing athlete leave the game after such a long time. I may not like the Yankees, but I have the utmost respect for Derek Jeter.

Jeter's Last Game

Keeping up with the baseball theme, I got to meet rookie centerfielder for the Seattle Mariners James Jones at a meet and greet. I got a picture with the potential all-star and was fortunate enough to get his autograph.

Me and James Jones

Again, sticking with baseball, my parents and I went to the movies and saw Million Dollar Arm for Father’s Day. It is about this guy who tries converting a couple of Indian cricket players in major league baseball stars. It is an amazing film – alongside Moneyball with Brad Pitt – and based on a true story! I really recommend seeing it if you get the chance.

Yesterday was my best friend Eric’s birthday so I hung out with him for a while. The strange thing about our friendship is that we do not have to do anything extravagant to have a good time. All we did was go to the Department of Licensing to get his license renewed and played Xbox for about an hour but it was still a great time. You know a friendship is real when the most basic/minor things are fun. I cannot wait to spend my summer with him.

Later that night, I went up to Seattle with my really good friend Matt. We went to a couple different parks and got some beautiful pictures of the Seattle Skyline. It made me happy because I had almost forgotten what I was missing these past nine months while in Ireland. I may not live close to Seattle, but I still regard it as my city. It has partially defined who I am and the person I am still becoming.

Seattle

This first week back has been spectacular, but like I said before, it does not compare to my experiences in Belfast. Since being back, the weather here in Washington has been awful. I can recall maybe two days of warm sunshine but the rest of the week has been rainy/gloomy. To be honest, my last week in Belfast was actually warmer than this past week has been in Graham! The weather is just a small aspect though. What really matters is the people – the friends I made while abroad. They are the ones I miss. They are the reason I want to go back so badly. I think I am starting to get a “homesick” like feeling in relation to Ireland. I know Belfast is not my true home but I did live there for nine months and met some lifelong friends during that time.

Sometimes I will catch myself looking at Arthur, the Irish teddy bear that Danielle got me… or the scrapbook that all the girls made for me… and they make me feel bittersweet. Those items are reminders of the amazing friendships that were formed in my second year of college. They keep me looking forward to the time I get to go back to Ireland and reunite with them all.

Take me back.

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This is it…

Time June 6th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

My nine months abroad come to a close in just two days. I leave Belfast around noon on Sunday and plane hop my way back to Seattle, getting in around 11pm. This experience has been so surreal and I cannot imagine my life being any more perfect. I am fortunate enough to have two wonderfully supportive parents that can provide a trip like this for me. And I am even more fortunate that on this end of the world, there are people who are constantly looking out for me at every turn.

I had my last exam yesterday for my Security and Terrorism class. It went much better than I was expecting it to. On my two essays, I talked about how a state can act as a terrorist and why counter-terrorism efforts are hard to coordinate internationally. I really enjoy this class because it covered a lot of what I want to do in the future. I hope I can find classes back at Washington State University that challenge my views in the same ways this class did.

After my exam, I went into the city and met up with an old friend of mine. We met when I first visited Northern Ireland back in 2010. It was great getting to catch up and talk about our lives over an amazing chicken lunch at Nandos. She is planning a trip around America in the near future so that would be great if we had the opportunity to meet up again!

Last night was our last big outing as a group. It started off kind of emotional when Caitriona, Danielle, Niamh, and Vicky presented me with a scrapbook of memories and an Irish flag. I would be lying if I said I did not cry while reading it. Looking back at only a small portion of all our fun times together really got to me. I then presented them with my individual cards and pictures to thank them for being a part of my life. We tried to rid the emotions by going out on a little pub crawl. We started at one of my favorite places, Ye Olde Eglantine Inn (the Eg) and then worked our way to a flat favorite, the Parlour. After the Parlour, the emotions came back when I had to say my final goodbyes to Nathan. Nathan has been there from close to the beginning and our bromance is so strong. After that, we ended our journey at Scratch. Danielle continued on like a trooper and Caitriona and I had a heart to heart on the walk home. Looking back on the night, nothing too crazy happened but it was spent with the people closest to me and I will remember that night forever.

Nathan!!!

These girls have made my experience in Belfast unforgettable. I know I continuously say stuff like that but it is undeniably true. They always know how to cheer my up when I am feeling down and never fail to put a smile on my face. I know saying goodbye to them is going to be hard because we have grown closer than just friends. My relationship with each of them is special and nobody can do anything to separate us. I know at some point in the future our paths will cross and we will meet again. I cherish the thought of that day.

The Girls!

As for Belfast and Ireland as a whole, this island has been my home for almost a year and I have made it mine. Graham, Washington and “the 253” will always be my real home, but I know I have a special place waiting for me here once I decide to return. I could not have asked for a friendlier, livelier, or more perfect place to spend my time studying abroad.

Girls and the Flag

“Good times, good friends, good health to you… And may the luck of the Irish be always with you!”

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Light at the End of the Tunnel

Time June 3rd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Exam time is the worst! Sitting down and scribbling all of the knowledge that you have memorized over the past four months is not the ideal way I want to spend my final weeks here. Unfortunately, they have to be done. I am two-thirds the way done with my exams, and have my final one on Thursday before I am officially free for the summer!

My first exam was for my intro level Social Policy module. This was by far my least favorite class that I took while here in Belfast. The lecturers were very boring and did not do anything except read off of the PowerPoint slides (something we learn to not do in the 6th grade). I mistakenly signed up for the class thinking it was about policy development within the government but it ended up focusing solely on specific British policies. I did not spend as much time studying for the exam as I should have, but I got lucky. The exam consisted of six questions – of which we had to pick two and write an essay for each over the course of two hours. We were told to review eight different topics but I only focused on four. Lucky for me, two of the questions on the exam were the ones I actually prepared for. I am just glad that that class is over with.

My second exam was for Media, Politics and Conflict. I really enjoyed this class because we got to look at specific case studies of the media being used during different conflicts. A lot of the course was centered on the American media and conflicts involving the United States, and that really pleased me. The structure of the exam was the same as the first, but I actually studied thoroughly for this one. The two topics I knew best were actually on the exam (9/11 and citizen journalism) but I do not think I did a good job of getting my points across. I could not find an efficient way to get my thoughts into words so I am hoping that because I did well on my essay earlier in the semester, I do not get too low of a final mark.

My final exam is in two days and it is on my second year Security and Terrorism module. I am really looking forward to this exam because I am pretty comfortable with the material and it is more theory-based so the questions can be answered in many different ways. Unlike my other two modules, there were specific answers that were required and if you could not produce those answers, you were not going to do well. I still need to go over my notes a bunch more but I am not too worried about this exam. I did well on the essay I wrote for this module too, so ironically, I can use that for a bit of security!

After the clock strikes 11:30 Thursday morning, I will officially be done with my second year of college and the academic portion of my nine month venture abroad. The last half of this semester has just flown by. It seems like just the other day I was boarding the ferry for Wales over break (despite that being in late April)! I only have four full days left on this beautiful island that has been my home away from home.

As much as I am going to hate leaving, I know that this summer will be amazing. Within the first two weeks of being home, I have a friend’s wedding to go to, two best friends turning 21, and tickets to two baseball games up in Seattle. July will consist of me driving 2000 miles across the country to visit family and friends in Chicago. I also have tickets to see two different baseball games while there too. When I get back from Chicago, I have a couple concerts planned, a hike up to the summit of Mt. St. Helens, and I continue the baseball trend with another game in Seattle. The thought of all these fun outings relieves some of the sorrow I have about leaving Belfast. I simply cannot wait to be home.

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Benefits of Choosing IFSA-Butler

Time May 27th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Traveling has always been such a big part of my life so I knew from the moment I started at Washington State University that I wanted to study abroad. I had no clue where to begin but luckily my university has an amazing global learning center that provided me with all of the information I needed.

When I first went to the office, I did not even know where I wanted to go or how long I wanted to go for. There were so many different options like six week summer programs, faculty-led semester programs, and others including the full academic year program that I chose to go with. The first priority I had was choosing a country and university. I had only taken two years of high school German so I knew I was limited to English speaking countries. I was in Australia with my parents earlier that year so I crossed that off my list. That pretty much left me with the UK, Ireland, or Canada. Canada was way too close to home so I was forced to narrow my choices from within the British Isles. There were tons of schools in England but nothing about them really stood out to me. I had visited Ireland on a trip I took in 2010 and remembered seeing Queen’s University here in Belfast. I looked to see if they offered politics, which of course they did figuring it is Northern Ireland! It was decided. I was going to Queen’s.

My next important decision I had to make was choosing a program to go with. I had no clue what to do so luckily there were a couple interest meetings that were able to answer all the questions that my parents and I had. When do I go? How long am I there for? Do my credits transfer over? And most importantly, how much was it going to cost? When it was all said and done, the people I was in contact with at the global learning center helped me choose IFSA-Butler (Institute for Study Abroad). From that point on, I would be doing everything through them. The few people I talked to in the following months were very helpful and supportive. They handled my application process and all of the logistical things like my accommodation and orientation stuff.

The IFSA staff here in Ireland is absolutely wonderful. When I first arrived in September, I spent a week with them and the other Americans while they showed us around the city, took us out to eat, and helped us move into our accommodation. I was really scared when I first landed because I did not know if people like them would be here to get us settled in. Fortunately, they are great at their job and super friendly!

I have also met our local Belfast “coordinator” Eibhlin who looks after us at Queen’s and Stranmillis. She plans little outings like group dinners or shows and goes with us on our big IFSA excursions. I first met here last semester when I went to Galway for our adventure weekend. Since then, we have been to the Belfast Winter Wonderland, Dublin, the Antrim Coast, and Carlingford together. She is so good at making those trips fun and definitely knows how to have a good time!

Me and Eibhlin

Part of choosing IFSA was getting to participate in those trips to Galway, Dublin, the Antrim Coast, and Carlingford.  The cost is included in our initial payments so it is worth your while to go on them. I have written about those trips before so I will not go into too much detail on them. During those big trips, us Belfast students get to meet up with all of the other IFSA groups studying on the island from places like Cork, Limerick, Dublin, and Derry. Sometimes being with 100 other Americans can be a bit much, but at the end of the day, it is still a lot of fun to meet up with them.

1st Semester Group

I really do not have anything negative to say about IFSA. They have been nothing but supportive and have made my time here insurmountably better. They made the application process very easy to understand, they know how to welcome students and make them feel comfortable in a foreign environment, and they have a well trained staff that is always willing to work with you to make your experience that much better. I really recommend going through IFSA-Butler if you wish to study abroad in the future.

Before I end this, there are two very special people I want to give exclusive shoutouts to. These people have been in my life pretty much the entire time I have been in Ireland and I do not know what I would without them. That sounds pretty cliché but they really are some of my best friends.

First off, Nathan Harrison. I got to know Nathan pretty early on in the first semester. He started coming over more and more and our friendship quickly grew from there. Our simple friendship has evolved into a lasting bromance than I am not ashamed to publicly announce. He is an amazing guy and hope we can stay in touch after I go home.

Me and Nathan

Secondly, Danielle Goligy. Danielle lives right across the hall from me and is so much fun. I will start off by saying she has a great taste in TV shows. She has introduced me to Breaking Bad, House of Cards, Prison Break, and Vikings. And I will admit that I have binge watched each one of them. On a more personal note though, she is wonderful to talk to. She is studying law so we always have some pretty intense government conversations. Her feisty personality is quite entertaining to mess with. No matter how much I get on her nerves though, we find a way to move on. She is truly incredible and I am going to miss her with all my heart.

Me and Danielle
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Events That Shape Time

Time May 23rd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I will start off this blog by apologizing; I have been quite busy lately and have not had much time to sit down and write. With that said, there is a lot to recap on from the past three weeks!

When we all got back from Easter break, we kicked things off as if none of us had ever left. My birthday was the first Tuesday we were all back and it was fantastic. The girls here made it the most memorable birthday I have ever had – not only because it was the big 2-0 but because it was my first (and probably only) birthday in Ireland! We started the festivities off quite early, or at least I did anyway. They tried to make it as American as possible so they got me a set of beer pong cups and balls which absolutely made my day. I had been talking about that game from about day one back in September. A couple friends from Stranmillis and some of the other Americans came over to help celebrate with us. Towards the end of the night, some of us to decided to go out to the Bot (a local bar within walking distance of Elms) to just grab a drink and relax. I cannot think of another way to describe the night than amazing. I spent my 20th birthday in Ireland some of my best friends. Perfect.

Birthday boy with his girls!

Just two days after my birthday, we were able to celebrate Caitriona’s birthday! It was another great night with all of our friends. For whatever reason, we did not end up going out after we had our pre-party back in our dorm. It would have been fun if we could have gone out but I think some of us were a bit exhausted. Either way, we had a good night staying in! At the beginning of the year, Caitriona had introduced me to a TV show (and movie) called the Inbetweeners. It is a very crude show but extremely funny for people our age. The main characters have a running joke where if one of the guys mentions another friend that they have that is not a part of their little group, the others give him a hard time about have a “frieeeend!” They add to the insult by giving an exaggerated thumbs up. It may not sound funny at first but I will provide a clip to better explain it. Anyways, I got Caitriona a shirt with two thumps up that “Friend!” across the front of it. Caitriona is one of my closest friends here in Ireland and I am glad we could celebrate our birthdays with each other!

Here is the Inbetweeners friend clip. It may be a little bit inappropriate but it is extremely funny.

Caitriona's birthday!

The next weekend, Cloda and Sophie came over from Stranmillis to hangout and watch Britain’s Got Talent. Sophie’s birthday was the day before but unfortunately we did not party-hardy like the previous week. Caitriona, Vicky, and I love when they come over because they make the weekends in Elms fun. At the beginning of the year when we found out that almost all of the Irish students go home at the weekends, we were a little bummed out. But we quickly started inviting our new Stranmillis frieeends over to spend time with us. This may sound weird but those little nights in where we just sit around, eat pizza, and watch TV will be some of the moments I talk about most later on in my life. When I am older and trying to tell stories of my time here, I will come back to those little chill nights. It may sound boring to you but that is what I love – just kicking back and relaxing with your close friends.

The next big event was Lily’s birthday. Lily is one of the Americans here with me thru IFSA-Butler. We met shortly after Christmas break, along with all of the other Americans, and have been pretty good friends ever since. Her birthday was an absolute blowout! Like me, she has a great group of flatmates that care about her a lot so they went all out for her 21st birthday. At one point in the night, I am pretty sure there were 30+ people in the kitchen/common area on her floor. The music was going and everybody was having a blast. It looked like a scene out of an college cult-comedy film: a really crowded environment with tons of Americans partying their heads off! I guess when you turn 21 in a foreign country, you have to make it big! Over the course of the night, I met some of Lily’s flatmates and we ended up going to the Parlour to get a couple drinks. That was probably one of the most fun birthday blowouts I have ever been to.

On a more serious note, this week was the start of the exam session. We have finished our lectures and have transitioned to studying. I have three exams again, one for each module. Mine start relatively late compared to everybody else. I start on the 29th but that seems to be when everybody else is finishing up. I feel pretty confident about my two politics modules because I did really well on the essays. I will probably have to spend the majority of my time reviewing for my social policy class.

It is so weird to think that I only have 16 days left in Ireland. Seriously… that is insane. I ONLY HAVE TWO WEEKS LEFT… Leading up to this moment, I have been telling people that I am ready to go home. I do not mean I am ready to home because I hate it here or because I am homesick; I meant I am ready because I have accomplished everything I wanted to. I have seen everything I came here to see and have put in the nine months I had originally planned on. I guess a good word to describe it is “exhausted.” Exhausted in the sense that I am tired of missing my friends and am just ready to be back at home. Do not get me wrong, I am going to HATE leaving Ireland and I will instantly want to come back as soon as I get to Washington, but I know that there are bigger and better opportunities for me in the future.

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Easter Break, Part 3: Beginning of the End

Time May 2nd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This is my final blog post about Easter. The first one was about my two weeks with my parents and the second one was about my week in Wales. I regret to inform you that this one might be a little bit more on the depressing side of things, but there is not much I can do about that.

After I got back from Wales, I stopped to realize what I had just experienced. I spent two fantastic weeks with my parents in five different countries and I travelled through Wales on my own for a week. I got a tad bit upset when I thought about how I had to go back to class the very next day. But then it hit me. We only have six weeks left (five as of the time I am writing this). I have already spent seven and a half months in Belfast (minus the three weeks for Christmas and three weeks for Easter). When I first got here, I never thought the end would come. It seemed so far off in the distance. And now things are moving a lot faster and the end is closer than I ever could have imagined.

Over my seven and a half months, I have met some of the best people this world has to offer. I have been fortunate enough to be placed on a floor with some great people and have had the opportunity to branch out from them and form other really close friend groups. Practically everybody I have met can be attributed to the people I live with. They are my main connection and without them, I would be lost. I love knowing that I have a firm base that I can always rely on if anything were to happen.

Night out at Box!

When I first moved here, I never expected to become as close of friends with these people as I have. I thought this because last year (my first year), my closest friends were not the people I lived with. I had a great group of friends that I had met on student government and I spent most of my time with them. I did talk to the people in my halls occasionally, but overall we did not interact a whole lot. I can honestly say I am only in close contact with one of them to this day, and that is my old RA Kathy! So I was (and still am) surprised that I ever got close with any my flatmates this year.

One of the things I am looking forward to most when I get home is seeing all of my friends. The friendships and relationships you have with other people define who you are and I would not be the person I am today if it were not for Eric Bair, Nick Larson, Noah Bush, or Matt Qunell. Besides my family, they are my three closest friends and I love them to death. Going on a trip like this really makes you think about those friendships and you begin to cherish them more than ever before.

Applebee's!

Awhile back, I received an email from somebody in response to one of my blog posts. Her name is Olivia and she had a couple questions about studying abroad and my experiences in Belfast. It turns out that she is going to be studying abroad in Belfast next year too! I am glad I have had the opportunity to help her and answer any questions she has about the university system, the city, or the culture. We have since become close friends and I am looking forward to meeting her in person over the summer.

After this weekend, we only have one week of instruction, one week of revision (studying), and three weeks of exams left. I have almost two weeks of exams off because mine do not start until practically the last week. The simple fact that my final Queen’s lectures are next week is mind-boggling. I love Belfast, I love Queens, and I love my new friends. But I know I will love going home. I know it will be such a tough thing to go through and I am dreading the day. On the other hand, I can use this to my advantage to make the most of my remaining time and enjoy life as much as possible with the people around me.

Caitriona and Danielle!

 

38 days until I go home.

 

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Easter Break, Part 2: Back to the 13th Century

Time May 1st, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Part one of my three part Easter break recap was about my first two weeks that were spent going around Europe with my parents. This second part is going to be about my third week of Easter break, where I spent my time exploring castles and cathedrals in the great country of Wales. For anybody that has never been, I highly recommend visiting Wales if you ever make a trip to the UK. It is surrounded by a lush countryside, rolling hills, and some architectural gems.

I knew that I would only be spending two of my three weeks off with my parents so I had a big choice to make. Do I stay in Belfast and just do local excursions or do I venture off and explore other parts of Europe? And if I did decide to venture out, where would I go? What would I see? Who would I go with?

I decided on Wales by weighing the pros and cons of the three places I was most interested in. My number one choice was Switzerland because of the vast amounts of hikes and skiing I could have done. But I ruled against it with a simple travel and accommodation price search (who knew the Swiss charged so much?!). My second choice was also just across the sea in Scotland, but everything I wanted to do while was pretty spread out and I would have spent more time travelling than I would have sightseeing. My final option was Wales where I could throw myself back into the Late Middle Ages to explore the 400 or so castles that litter the country.

I started my journey the day after my parents left Belfast. As sad as it was to see them leave, I had to embark on my next adventure. I had a nice meal at Nando’s with Sophie, Harry, and Daniel from Stranmillis the night before I was scheduled to leave. My ferry left at around 10am the next day and did not dock in Liverpool until about 6:30 that evening. I had a bit of trouble finding the train station when I got to Liverpool but once I figured it out, I was on the way to my hostel in Conwy. I was a little nervous when I first made it to my hostel because I had never stayed in one up until that point. It was quite what you would expect from a £10 per night place – an uncomfortable bed, overpriced wifi, and disgusting shower conditions. I sucked it up and made the best of it; I realized I was only using it as a cheap place to sleep.

My first day was spent in Conwy and Caernarfon, where I checked out the two castles that stand within the walls surrounding the towns. Conwy Castle and the walls around the city were really well preserved. I was able to walk around about 90% of the original walls and go up into every tower and turret within the castle. That was one of the coolest opportunities because in Germany, many of the castles are closed off or only offer guided tours through particular sections of the castles. In most of the Welsh castles, you are allowed to roam anywhere you want! While there, I also got to see the smallest house in Great Britain and the port that has been used for the greater half of a millennium. I then made my way to Caernarfon which is about an hour west of Conwy. There were also walls surrounding the town, but these were closed off to the public. I did the same thing and went through every part of Caernarfon Castle that I could. It was really cool at the top because I was able to look out over the town and surrounding countryside. I could only imagine what it was like 800 years ago when it was in its prime.

Conwy Castle

My second day was spent checking out the town of Llandudno and Penrhyn Castle. Llandudno is northeast of Conwy and also sits right on the water. It is much bigger than Conwy and Caernarfon and it is evident right away. The roads are much wider and the town centre is more than just one street. There was a really cool pier there that had little food and game stands. Up from the pier were some short hikes through the hills along the coast so I went up and did some of those. After I was done in Llandudno, I went to Penrhyn Castle. Penrhyn Castle is about halfway to Caernarfon, so in retrospect I should have seen that the day before. But Penrhyn Castle was probably the number one place I visited while in Wales. The gardens around the castle were absolutely stunning. It was only a prelude for what I was to see on the inside though. Normally the inside is open to the public to explore but they do restoration and preservation projects on Tuesdays (the day I went) so they had cordoned off most of the public spaces. To accommodate for this, they do guided tours of different parts of the castle that are not open to the public (so I got kind of lucky because my tour was more exclusive!). The inside was absolutely beautiful. I have never really appreciated interior decorations and designs until I went there. The curtains, doorways, and rugs were some of the best pieces of craftsmanship I have ever seen. During the tour, the guide mentioned that in today’s money, it would only cost about £12 million to replicate the inside of the castle. I would definitely say that is a reasonable goal to shoot for!

Penrhyn-Castle

I knew I wanted to get around to a more urban part of Wales so I only planned on staying in Conwy for a couple days. I took the train down to Cardiff the next day. The hostel I stayed at in Cardiff was very nice; it was such a big improvement from where I had just come from. They had free breakfast, free wifi, countless maps and brochures for attractions in and around the city, and the two owners were extremely nice. After I got settled in, I did a little bit of wondering. The hostel was located about two minutes from the main train/bus station and sat right across the river from Millennium Stadium. I walked through a couple parks that are situated right on River Taff and just enjoyed the natural environment.

Millennium Stadium

When I woke up in the morning, I went down and got recommendations of places I should go. The two owners gave me a huge list and helped me narrow it down to fit my time and interests. I decided for that day that I would go just north of the city and see two castles that are quite close to each other but very, very different in nature. The first was Castell Coch which was more of a replication/house than it was a castle. It was built on the ruins of a 13th century castle but nothing of the original castle remains except the dungeon. The other castle was in the town of Caerphilly, just east of Castell Coch. Caerphilly Castle had one of the smartest designs I have seen. Instead of just having one set of walls with a moat in between, this castle had three sets of outer walls! Unfortunately, it did not work as planned seeing that it was conquered/overran a couple hundred years afterwards. But it was still really cool to see. When I made it back to Cardiff, it was still light out so I walked around a little bit of the city and saw Cardiff City Hall, the outside of Cardiff Castle, and a couple local markets.

Castell Coch

The weather the next day was awful. It was raining from the moment I woke up to the moment I got on the train to go back to Cardiff. I was not going to let that get in the way of my trip though. I started out by going pretty far outside of the city to Chepstow Castle. This castle was built in three different phases by three different groups of people, which was evident in the architecture. I did not spend much time there because I wanted to move on as quickly as possible. My next stop was Tintern Abbey. Tintern Abbey used to house monks hundreds of years ago but has since fallen into disrepair. It has been preserved in recent times and is a very picturesque place. The massive walls and pillars are still present and make the trip worthwhile. The way the light comes through the window holes is so cool. I really wish I could have gone on a clear day. I finished that day by stopping off by Raglan Castle. Unfortunately I got there kind of late so I could only take pictures from the gate. I was pretty tired though so I did not mind much.

Tintern Abbey

My last day was going to be a long one. My train to back to Liverpool was not until 4pm and my ferry did not leave for Belfast until 10pm. I had the whole day to check out the rest of Cardiff. I went to Llandaff Cathedral and the walked around the gardens surrounding it. I then worked my way to Cardiff Bay on the south side of the city. This is one of the nicest places in Cardiff that I saw while there. The bay has a bunch of film studios, theaters, fancy hotels, and the home of the National Assembly for Wales (same as their congress or parliament). I took about an hour out to get a free personal tour of the National Assembly. I learned loads about the history of the National Assembly, like the fact it has only been around since 1998 and that only 60 members represent the entire country. I was able to go down to the assembly floor where legislation is discussed. One interesting feature is that it is situated in the shape of a circle. This is intended to create more of an open forum, unlike the structures of the British parliament or US houses.

National Assembly for Wales

The journey back to Belfast was quite tedious. I had to get on a train to Liverpool that lasted about three or four hours and go on an eight hour overnight ferry. Luckily for me, there were no little kids running around on the ferry like there were before. I was able to find a semi-comfortable chair and fall asleep. I was surprised but I actually was able to sleep a solid five hours! We docked in Belfast around 6:30am and I was back in Elms before 8:00.

My trip through Wales was quite an experience. I learned a lot about myself and how to handle certain situations on my own. I was by myself for the entire week so I figured out how to cope with the boredom and loneliness. It would have been nice to have other people with me but this way I could see the things that I wanted to see and do them at my own pace. I was not restricted to a group and could take my time with whatever I wanted. Wales is often underrated and a lot of people do not think of it as a popular tourist destination. I can say with confidence that Wales is beautiful and full of history. You should try to find some time to see the many castles, cathedrals, and cities it has to offer.

Llandudno
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Easter Break, Part 1: 2-3-5

Time April 28th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

It has been quite a long time since my last blog post, but that it because I have been on my three week Easter break (I will take that over my one week American spring break any time!). But to make up for my lack of blogs, I have decided to split my Easter Break recap into three different sections. There is simply too much to try and cram into one so I figured I would split them up so I could go more in depth into each of the topics I want to talk about.

This first part entitled 2-3-5 is symbolic for many reasons. In the most basic terms, it means “two weeks with three Kadolphs in five countries.” The first two weeks of my break were spent with my parents traveling through Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, the UK, and Ireland. I also uploaded almost exactly 235 photos to Facebook over the course of those two weeks. And lastly, by the time I go home in June, I will have been in Ireland for approximately 235 days. The last two may be a coincidence, but there is something to say about the significance of it all.

My journey began on Saturday the 5th when I flew to Germany to meet my parents in Dusseldorf. Unfortunately, my first flight was delayed an hour so I ended up missing my connection flight in London. But I eventually got it all sorted and was only put back a few hours.

For the first couple of days, we stayed in the old town we used to live in called Haaren which is located on the west side of Germany close to the Netherlands and Belgium. It was so neat going through the town because I got to see our old house and all the other local landmarks that I kind of grew up with! Our hotel was above this restaurant that we always used to eat at when we lived there. Our first full day there was spent in the Netherlands where my dad and I got to go indoor skiing. It was a really cool experience but I do not think I would ski there again in the future. There were multiple runs closed off because of a youth competition that was going on and the run that we were on was not as challenging as I would have liked. But it is something I can cross off my bucket list! We also went to the town of Maastricht while we were in the Netherlands. It was a nice little town with plenty of shops and cafés to check out.

Old House

After Haaren, we made our way down to Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Before we went to the walled town, we stopped in Würzburg to see Festung (Fortress) Marienberg. It was quite a cool castle to walk around but we were unable to go inside. We walked around the town center for a bit to see what it was like. There were some interesting cathedrals that we got to go through which was nice. The town of Rothenburg that we were staying in was a walled town from the 13th century. Like the other places we had visited, there many shops and cafés to explore. It is also a Christmas town so many of the shops there sell Christmas decorations year round.

Rothenberg

We then went down to the town(s) of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. We got to stay in the Olympiahaus which was a hotel created for the 1936 Winter Olympics. The ski jumps outside are still used in the winter months when there is snow. While there, we got to visit Neuschwanstein Castle which is probably one of the most recognized castles in the world. I had been there two or three times before but remember nothing of it. It was really cool to walk through and see all the original artwork and craftsmanship that has been preserved. My dad and I also took the opportunity to go skiing up in the Alps but the weather was awful. The snow was much better than in the Netherlands though so that was a plus! And the bad weather is not such a bad thing; it just means I have to go back again sometime so I can properly ski in the Alps!

Olympic Ski Jump

Our final destination in Germany was Munich. On our way there, we stopped to visit the Dachau concentration camp. As you can imagine it was one of the most depressing places we could have gone to see. It compares to the Holocaust museum in Washington DC. It was strange to see that right outside the camp walls were residential neighborhoods. People live right next to the camp. I am not sure if those houses have been there since before the war or if they just do not think it is at all creepy. But either way, it was still strange to see. The city of Munich was quite hectic. Traffic was a nightmare and parking was a hassle. The city is very big and can be really confusing with all the different roundabouts and one ways (especially when all of the signs are in a different language!). We walked around Marienplatz for a while which is a large shopping area in the city center. As nice of a city as Munich is, I do not really see myself going back there any time soon.

Dachau Concentration Camp

We only spent a week going around west and south Germany but we saw so much in that short amount of time.  We easily could have spent another week there but my parents wanted to see where I have been living for six months and the rest of Ireland so we decided to fly to Belfast. Luckily this time, none of us missed our connection flight (although my parents were running through the airport trying to make it to the gate before it closed).

We spent the first couple of days in Northern Ireland so my parents could see what Belfast had to offer. We went through the Titanic Museum and up to the Antrim Coast to see Giant’s Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. We took a more “rural” route back so we could stop by the Dark Hedges (I just wanted to see where the King’s Road in Game of Thrones was filmed!). I got to walk them around Elms Village and Queen’s University so they could see my accommodation and pick up some school apparel.

The Dark Hedges

Because neither of my parents had been to Northern Ireland or the Republic before, they wanted to experience as much as they could. We went down to Dublin for a couple days after Belfast to see that other major city. Our hotel in Dublin was probably one of the nicest hotels I have every stayed in; it used to be a castle! The lobby was decorated like a castle, complete with banners, thrones, and old paintings. We could not have done Dublin properly without seeing the Jameson Distillery and the Guinness Storehouse. It was a tad unusual because neither of my parents drink so in retrospect, those were probably not the best places to go see. But they were still enthusiastic about the tours. They really enjoyed checking out Trinity College and the Old Library.

Clontarf Castle

To get away from the city life for a while, we made an excursion out to Killarney (in southwest Ireland). I had visited Killarney in 2010 and wanted my parents to see what it was like. While there, we went to the Muckross House and Gardens and Ross Castle. We spent a day taking a boat tour around the three lakes that Killarney is situated by and took a trap ride (a horse with a miniature carriage) up through the Gap of Dunloe. Fortunately the weather held out for us and we were able to get some really good views of the Irish countryside. It was all just as I had remembered.

Ross Castle

The final day was spent driving back up to Belfast. That night, we went out for a good dinner to reminisce about our two weeks and share stories of our time apart from each other.  The next morning, they were on a plane back to Washington.

My two weeks with them were unforgettable. I will not deny the fact that we did get frustrated with one another every once in a while, but that was expected seeing as it was only the three of us together for such a long time. It was one of the best vacations of my life though and I would not take any of it back. I love my parents so much and am so thankful that they can provide for such amazing trips like this. They truly are the two greatest people in the world.

Parents 1

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Cairlinn, Kerlingfjǫrðr, Carlingford

Time April 1st, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

After a week or two of copious amounts of Red Bull, little-to-no sleep, and stress beyond belief, I have finally finished all of my essays! I had one due for each module and they all needed to be between 1500 and 2000 words. I feel confident about two of them; however, the third one will be a little iffy. But there is nothing I can do about it now so I might as well just enjoy the free time I have! It is surreal to think about the fact that there are only four weeks of instruction left, this week and three weeks after Easter break.

Over the weekend, I got to go to Carlingford with all of the Americans studying with IFSA in Ireland. It was similar to the previous adventure weekend we had last semester in Galway, but this one was so much better for so many reasons! It was practically better right from the start because it did not take us eight hours like the last trip did! The town is only about an hour and a half south of Belfast on the Irish Sea.

Carlingford

Much like the Killary Adventure Centre in Galway, the Carlingford Adventure Centre had a high ropes course, water activities, and lazer tag. But what makes them superior in the activities category is the fact they had zorbing! If you do not know what zorbing is, you pretty much get in this massive plastic/rubber ball thing and roll down a huge hill (you can thank the New Zealanders for that!). It is quite like a rollercoaster, except you cannot see where you are going and get to see the expressions of the person sitting across from you! I wish I could have gone again because one time does not do proper justice.

Zorbing Zorbing Hill

I also got to do a bit of archery, some “team building” activities, and the high ropes challenges. One thing I did not like was this “maze” that they had set up. It definitely was not the most orthodox maze you would come across. It was in a box, roughly the size of a shipping container and there were no lights. We (our group of about 12) had to crawl through this three-levelled box and try to find our way out without any lights. It was pitch black. I am not claustrophobic or scared of the dark, but I felt quite uncomfortable inside of there. I probably will never do something like that again.

The town itself was really neat. I took some time to walk around and explore some of the local landmarks. A town that has been around for the greater half of a millennium definitely has some interesting places to visit. The ruins of Carlingford Castle are right on the coast and would have acted as defence for the city. Right in the middle of the town are the ruins of Taaffes Castle which has been converted into a restaurant, bar, and club and the Carlingford Priory and Friary. It is really odd seeing these structures that have been standing for 700 years right next to a modern café or bistro. The Church of the Holy Trinity was pretty modern in comparison to the other landmarks. The hostel we were staying at was right in the middle of the Old Town, surrounded by the original walls that wrapped around the town in 1326. The whole town was so beautiful; it had such an Irish feel to it. I wish the weather would have been a bit nicer so we could have seen the luscious green hills in the background. 

Carlingford Castle Taaffes Castle Church of the Holy Trinity The Old Town

My time here is quickly coming to a close. After this week, we have three weeks off for Easter break, only three weeks left of instruction, and then three weeks for exams. After that, my time in Ireland is up. I cannot wrap my head around the fact I have already been here for six and half months. I am in the home stretch and the end is in sight! As exciting as it is to think about, I really hate the realization that it is all almost over.

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“When in Ireland, do as the Irish!”

Time March 20th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Last Monday was St. Patrick’s Day and I was lucky enough to spend it in Ireland of all places! I think everybody should have the opportunity to spend a holiday that is not their own in a country that they are not from, like Independence Day in the United States, Cinco de Mayo in Mexico, or St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland. It is an absolutely unreal experience and unless you yourself go through it, there is no way to accurately explain how it feels.

On Friday, I took a personal day to get away from the hustle and bustle of Belfast proper. I started my day by going to Belfast Castle and Cave Hill Country Park. I did not go into the castle because I wanted to move onto the hike up to Cave Hill. The trail I took on the way up was quite steep and very short. Little did I know that there was a much easier trail that people use for strollers and dogs on the other side. The view from the top was phenomenal though. I picked a really good day to go. When I made it back down, I went over to east Belfast to see the Stormont Parliament Building. I took the bus that got me really close but I did not realize I would be walking through such a rough neighborhood. It reminded me of going through west Belfast where all of the peace walls are. The parliament building was really nice though. The estate that it is on is very well maintained and looks like something out of a picture.

Belfast Castle Cave Hill Stormont

All of the St. Patrick’s Day festivities started late last week when Vicky’s boyfriend Peter came back to visit. We instantly reconnected and started prepping for the big day. Over the weekend, we stocked up on “supplies” and found some green hats to wear because neither of us have green clothing. The city centre on Saturday and Sunday were insane. There was a massive police presence to try and control the day drinkers and all of the other shenanigans that go along with them. If you did not know that there was a holiday around the corner, you could have easily thought something bas was going on.

Peter!

St. Patrick’s Day started quite early for us. Peter, Vicky, and I went to Maggie Mays to get a solid lunch in our stomachs before we were to go out. Cloda and Sophie, some friends of ours, came over to our flat from Stranmillis to join us on our journey. We started at the flat and had a mini house party with card games and dancing before moving on to the bars. On our way to the bar, we decide that we should do our own little pub crawl up the Malone Road and on into the city centre. We slowly worked our way into the city, making it to three different bars while still managing to sneak in a few games of pool and some KFC. (Random side note: the KFC by my house does not sell popcorn chicken… How miserable is it?!). On our way back, I ran into some other friends that also live in Elms so I finished the night off at their place.

The Group

I understand that cities across America like Chicago, Boston, and New York have St. Patrick’s Day parades and all that jazz, but it is completely different being here. I am in the motherland. I am in the country where it all started. That is a personal experience that I cannot correctly describe to anybody. It is the feeling and meaning behind it. I spent one of the greatest holidays with some of my best friends. That is something that is mine. It is my memory and the only advice I can give is to visit Ireland in March!

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Down Deep in Dublin

Time March 14th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

While in Ireland, the one place you MUST go to is Dublin. I was there last weekend with the Americans and it was one of the best weekends I have ever had. I thought Belfast was great but I never knew what exactly I was missing. The amount of history in one city, combined with the festive night life makes it one of the best cities in the world. I wish I could have spent more than just two days there because there is so much I did not get to see.

When we first arrived in Dublin after checking into the hotel, we had a pretty early dinner scheduled at this restaurant called Le Bon Crubeen. The food was good but it took an hour or so to get everybody’s order to the tables. I was getting pretty impatient because I had just sat on a bus for two and half hours without having lunch beforehand. After dinner, we rushed a few blocks down the road to the Abbey Theatre to see a play called Sive. I will admit that I started to fall asleep at some parts… but that is not to say it is a bad play! I was just tired from the long journey down. Once we left the theatre, a couple guys and I decided to have our own little pub crawl. We went to three different pubs around the city to experience what a real Irish pub was like. “When in Ireland, do as the Irish!” We ended the night by heading back to our first pub and meeting up with some of the other Americans that came down later that evening. As exhausting as the trip down was, it was nice to relax with everybody.

Dublin

Saturday was our big exploration day.  We woke up early enough to catch breakfast and go about our day in due time. We first went to Trinity College to see the Old Library and the Book of Kells. I enjoyed seeing the Library because it was just row upon row of books and the fact there have been 200,000 books there for over 150 years is astonishing. When we were done going through the Library, we started walking through the city to see which churches we could find. We stumbled upon Dublin Castle, but only stayed long enough to get a few pictures. We eventually found the Christ Church Cathedral and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. These churches are absolutely massive and have been standing for around 1000 years. After we went to the churches, we made our way to Porterhouse Central to watch the rugby match between Ireland and Italy with some friends. It was probably one of the best moments I have had since being in Ireland. The atmosphere was unreal. Mostly everybody in there was wearing an Irish jersey and was yelling at all the different TVs that were showing the game. It reminded me of back home when everybody wears Seahawk jerseys on Sundays. We stayed for a couple hours and threw back a couple pints each to properly enjoy the match. When the match was over, we went to dinner some place around the corner with Eibhlin and some of her friends (Eibhlin is one of our Irish coordinators that help plans some of the events). We ended that night similar to how we did the night before; we went back to the hotel to change and made our way to Temple Bar. Temple Bar was quite the experience. There were tons of international people and just bar after bar on every corner. Our group ended up getting split but that did not stop us! We spent a little bit time there but called it a night relatively early. We were pretty tired from walking around the city all day.

Trinity Old Library Dublin Castle St. Patrick's Cathedral

Sunday was probably the most relaxed day we had. We were unable to go to the Guinness Storehouse the day before so we decided to go before our bus left that afternoon. The streets leading up to the Storehouse and the walls around the factory were really neat. The self-guided tour is very well laid out. You start out at the bottom where you can see the original 9,000 year lease that Arthur Guinness signed and work your way up the seven floors. At one point, we learned how to pour a perfect pint and finished it by sitting atop the Gravity Bar, located on the seventh floor, looking out over the city of Dublin. It was a pretty surreal experience to actually have a Guinness at the place it has been brewed for around 250 years. That is the definition of the Dublin experience if there ever was one! After having our drinks, we made our way back to the hotel so we could catch the bus back.

Guinness Wall Guinness Gate Guinness Certificate

The weekend was short, but absolute class. If I had to rank it, it would probably be somewhere in my top 10 greatest weekends ever. Just the fact that I got to go to Dublin, see some of the oldest churches in the world, and enjoy Guinness with some amazing people is perfect in itself. Add in all the stories that were shared and the memories that were made and that is what places it so high up on my list. I sometimes think what my experience abroad would have been like if I chose to go to Dublin instead of Belfast. I do not regret coming here one bit, I love it. But I also would have had an awesome time if I had chosen to go to Dublin. They are very different cities and should not be compared to one another. I cannot wait to show my parents around when they come to visit next month!

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Academia

Time March 6th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Studying abroad is about more than going out to different pubs and exploring ancient castles; there is a clear academic aspect that many students often underestimate. There are different approaches to how you spend your time abroad, and I have opted to take a very split approach. Some students wish to spend most of their time studying and preparing for classes, leaving little time to go out and embrace the culture. Others choose to spend tons of time traveling across the continent without caring much for the academic side of things. I feel like I have split my time evenly between the two.

Since I arrived in Ireland, I have not travelled off of the island, but I have done a lot of sightseeing here. My mentality is that if I am going to be living here for nine months, I want to spend the majority of my time getting to know the place. The city of Belfast has so much to offer and I have spent loads of time here. I have gone to multiple Belfast Giants hockey games at the Odyssey Arena, shopped all throughout the city center, and walked through some of the most segregated neighborhoods in Ireland. In October, I went on an outdoor adventure weekend with the Americans in Galway. In November, I went to Newcastle with a couple friends to hike up to the Mourne Wall. In February, I went up to the Antrim Coast with the Americans to see the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and Giant’s Causeway. This weekend, I am going to Dublin with the Americans to see what that is like.

Over Easter Break in April, my parents are taking two weeks off work to come visit me. For the first week, we are going to go to Germany and the Netherlands to ski in the Alps, visit some castles, and look at the old town we used to live in. After that, we are going to spend a week here in Ireland. My parents have never been here before so I am glad I get to share that experience with them and be their quasi-tour guide. We want to spend a couple days in Belfast so they can see where I live, a day or two in Dublin (because it’s Dublin… why would you not go?!), and a day or two in either Limerick or Killarney. I visited Killarney when I was here in 2010 and I think my parents would really like it. I am already counting down the days until I get to see them! I am trying to figure out a trip to do for the last week of Easter break. I might head over to either Scotland or England. I am not too sure yet… still trying to figure something out!

As fun as travelling is, studying abroad is about just that – studying. When I decided that I wanted to come to Ireland and spend a year of my life here, I knew it would not be a complete vacation and that I would have to do some real school work. Fortunately enough for me, politics classes only consist of a couple essays here and there and a final exam. There is usually no real work that goes along with the course. That makes it really easy for me to balance my time evenly. Sometimes I wish that I would have more work or more time in class because I sometimes find myself having too much free time midway through the week.

I have been in constant communication with my advisors back home about registering for classes at WSU for the fall semester. After tons of emails back and forth, and discussions with my parents, I figured out how I want to spend the rest of my time in college. I have decided to enroll in Air Force ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) which is a minimum three year leadership program that prepares individuals to become an officer in the Air Force. With the fifth year of college I would have to do, there is a strong possibility that I will be able to double major, or obtain two degrees. In addition to majoring in political science, I will also be seeking a degree in criminal justice. It took me quite a long time to make my decision but I now know it is the right thing for me.

The classes that I have signed up for will finish off my UCORE requirements (University Common Requirements; similar to general education classes) and will get me going in the right direction for AFROTC and my criminal justice degree.

  • AERO101 – Foundation of the USAF 1
  • AERO201 – The Evolution of the USAF Air and Space Power 1
  • AERO203 – Leadership Lab
  • BIO150 – Evolution
  • CRMJ101 – Introduction to the Administration of Criminal Justice
  • H_D205 – Developing Effective Communication and Life Skills
  • MUS262 – Rock Music: History and Social Analysis

 

I am happy to be here in Ireland and am lucky to have the opportunity to both travel around a very cultured island and to study at one of the best schools in the UK. I want to experience both of these things equally because I know my time here is limited. I am really looking forward to traveling around Europe and seeing how my classes will turn out in the next couple months.

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Companionship

Time February 24th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

People always say that some of your best friends are the people you meet in college.  I can definitely say that this is true for me. I already know that some of the people I have met here in the last five months will be life-long friends of mine. The experiences we share and stories we have are priceless and nothing leading up to this point in my life comes close to paralleling them. Every single day, new things are happening with us and our friendship is constantly growing. I never imagined that I would meet such great people in the short amount of time I have been in Ireland.

Last weekend, Caitriona invited two of her friends from Manchester to come stay with us. We had planned on going out so Eleanor and Paige could properly experience Belfast for the first time but things got a little too crazy. Long story short, we did not make it out to the club. But everything was cool and we just relaxed the rest of the weekend. Hopefully they can find time to come back so we can rightfully party it up in the city!

This time of the year is when students start looking for houses to live in for the next school year. It is fun getting to listen to what everybody has to say about the showings they go to. Some houses seem like mansions and others sound like places my parents would not allow me to live in! Caitriona, Danielle, Niamh, and Vicky found their future house last week and they all seem pretty excited for it. I was talking to Caitriona and Danielle and they decided that want to make a bunk bed so that they have more room to do activities! I am sure that if they go through with the bunk bed idea, the extra room will be used as a massive walk-in closet! I hope I can find some time next year to come visit them!

Caitriona and Danielle

Tuesday is the big night to go out to a nightclub called Box at the Odyssey. This last Tuesday, I spent a lot of my time with the guys. It is nice to have some “bro time” when you live on a floor with nine girls. Jonathan and Ryan are two really close friends I have here and they are so much fun to go out with. They really know how to have a good time and when they are out, they just let loose. I have crawled out of my shell a lot since I have gotten to know them! I never stop looking forward to next time I get to hang out with them.

Box

On Friday, I got to go to the Antrim Coast with the Americans. We started at the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge, then went to Giant’s Causeway, and finished at the ruins of Dunluce Castle. We had a tour guide on the coach with us so he gave us tons of information about everything the entire way up. The last time I was here in 2010, the entire island of Carrickarede was open to walk on. Unfortunately for us this time, it was a little too windy so we could not go out on top of the island. Giant’s Causeway was not as interesting as I thought it would be. Again, I was here in 2010 so I got to see this all once before. Hexagonal shaped rocks are only so interesting… But we had pretty good weather so my pictures turned out great! Dunluce Castle was our last stop and that was really cool. I had never been there before so I did not know what to expect. Apparently the castle has been there since the 13th century! Caroline and Lily (two of the Americans) wanted to pick out rooms as if we were to move in together. They said that I would get to live in the kitchen (or what remained of it). Jokes on them though – I can only make pasta and rice!

Carrick-A-Rede Giant's Causeway Dunluce Castle

Saturday night was just as relaxed and fun as always. Since all of the Irish go home on the weekends, the English and I tend to spend a lot of time together (which I love!). Most of the time Caitriona’s friend Cloda comes over from Stranmillis to spend the evening with us. We usually just watch “cringe-worthy” reality shows and maybe a movie or two. This last time, Cloda came with her friend Sophie. We ordered Domino’s (which is the greatest thing to ever happen to the pizza industry), watched the UK version of the Voice, and watched the movie the Lovely Bones. I really enjoy the weekends because they give me a chance to catch up on sleep and just kick back with friends.

English People

I have been having a great time with everybody these past few weeks. It seems that our friendships are getting stronger with every moment that passes. I know for a fact these people will be a part of my life for a very long time!

Oh, and on a completely random side note, shout out to Peter Tresnan! Because why not?!

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10 Things You Should NOT Take For Granted

Time February 11th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | 4 Comments by

I have been in Belfast for almost five months now. I am more than halfway through my time here and it does not seem to being slowing up at all. I am just about cured of my most recent outbreak of home-sickness. This last occurrence has by far been the worst and longest of any homesickness I have had since arriving in September. I would probably say it was because I was in America for three weeks and just forgot how much I missed being there. But I had long heart-to-hearts with friends back home and abroad and I am starting to realize that my time here is limited and that I need to utilize it as much as possible. It is just hard leaving the only place you have known as home for the last thirteen years of your life.

Being homesick, you start to think about the things you miss most in life so I decided to compile a list of things that I miss most. Hopefully future study abroad students (or anybody for that matter) can learn from this and possibly be more appreciative of what they have (I know I could be!). These are in no particular order and they are only 10 of the many things I miss.

  1.  A pantry full of food: I cannot begin to explain how nice it is open the door to the pantry and just see all of the foods you might be desiring at that time. In my little cupboard in the kitchen, I have rice, pasta, and peanut butter; in the fridge, I have soy sauce, Magners, and jelly (or jam as the Irish would call it). I could easily go out and just buy loads of junk food but the point is when you live at home with your parents, you do not really think about all the extra food they buy you (thanks Mom!).
  2. Unlimited supplies of Dasani water: In our house, we drink bottled Dasani water. My dad and I swear that we taste a difference compared to the cheap store brand water AND the plastic is firmer so you do not spill water all over yourself when you are trying to take the cap off. It is so nice being able to grab a water on the way out or when you get home. Something about foreign tap water just does not cut it for me.
  3. A vehicle waiting to be driven: I have been driving since I was 15 and have had my license since I was 16. Not being able to have the freedom of going wherever you want, whenever you want is quite unbearable. Sometimes I daydream (or night-dream for that matter) when I am in the front seat of a taxi about having a steering wheel in front of me.
  4. Adequate water pressure: This may sound like an odd thing to point out but it really bothers me. Back in Graham, our house has amazing water pressure – all of the taps flow perfectly and the shower water hits you just right. Here in Belfast, it is not the same. The sink taps have water coming out at weird angles and uncontrollably fluctuate in the amount of water that is released. And the showers do not spray hard enough so when you are trying to wash, you constantly hit your hands on the walls because you are forced to be so close. Yes, I know… this is strange. But you never really think about how perfect your own water pressure is until you have to live with something less superior.
  5. 3G / 4G LTE: First world problems, right? I never realized how attached I was to my phone until I came here. Because of my phone plan, I am forced to use WiFi if I want to connect to the internet here. And like most places in the world, WiFi is not available in every place you want. Luckily, the two places I am at most (Elms and Queen’s) have decent enough WiFi so I try to utilize that as much as possible. It would just be nice if I could use my phone to lookup the best places to eat on a night out or the bus schedule when I am in the city. The upside to not having instant internet access is that you actually get to live. You get to go out and experience everything on your own. It can be challenging at first but not being restricted to electronics is a great feeling once you are used to it.
  6. Xbox: I have been playing Xbox for about six or seven years, and over that time have gotten pretty close with a couple individuals (this is where my inner-nerd comes out). I have been playing with the same three or four people the entire time I have been on Xbox, so when I am stripped away from them, it is just the same as being taken from your real life friends at home. Fortunately, we have Facebook and can still communicate that way.
  7. Skiing: My dad got me interested in skiing when I was only five or six years old. Since then, it has become more than just a recreational activity; it has become one of my most cherished passions. When I am up on the mountain, whether it is at the peak of Crystal looking out towards Mt. Rainier or in the bowl at Schweitzer gazing out over Lake Pend Oreille, I feel at one with the world (that sounds pretty funny and a tad cliché but whatever). That is my sanctuary – where I feel most comfortable and at peace. Nothing else matters when I am up there.
  8. Silence of the night: I describe Graham as being on the border of civilization and the country. It is one of the last “towns” before you start being able to drive endlessly for miles into heavily wooded areas, and eventually to the mountains. I love where I live and would not trade it for anything. One thing that I never really thought about before I came to Belfast was how quiet it can be in Graham. At night, you can step outside and actually hear nothing. Sometimes you can hear trees rustling in the wind or coyotes howling in the distance, but besides that, it is silent. And the view is incredible. You can look in any direction on a clear night and literally see hundreds and hundreds of stars. When the moon is visible, you can clearly make out the outline of Mt. Rainier in distance. Here in Belfast, I live close enough to the city that you cannot achieve that level of isolation and solitude. It is really quite depressing when you think about it.
  9. The company of your best friends: This may sound obvious but the relationships you have with your friends is sacred. I have a good amount of friends back home but my three best friends are who really matter. I think this experience will teach me to enjoy the time we have together when I get back because you start to realize that everybody eventually goes their own ways and that they may not be there forever. If Eric, Matt, or Nick are reading this, I want you to know that I love you all and cannot wait to be reunited. Keep holding down the fort until I get back!
  10. The limitless love and support for two caring parents: Being an only child, I get an inconceivable amount of attention from my parents. Many of you already know this, but the truth is I am a “momma’s boy” and I have a “like father, like son” relationship with my dad. Last year when I went to college, I never really got homesick to the extent I have here. I could call home whenever I wanted and tended to drive back every three weeks or so. It was not until I got here that I finally felt alone. At first the freedom was nice and I loved it. But as these five months have passed, I have come to the realization that I do not show my parents enough how much they really mean to me. They truly are the reason I am the person I am today, and without them, I never would have been able to see the things I have seen or do the things I have been able to do. They are the most important people in my life, and no amount of distance between us will ever change that.

 

 

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Why Belfast?

Time February 6th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

One question that I have been asked loads of times is why I chose to study in Belfast. What differs is the way the question is usually asked. Americans have a certain way of asking which is quite different from how the Irish ask. It is a weird thing to notice and point out but I thought I would bring it up anyways.

(This is in no way intended to disrespect anybody. I am only making a blanket statement about something I have noticed.)

Back in the states, my family and friends were eager to find out why I wanted to study in Northern Ireland for a year. The way they asked me showed their enthusiasm for my choice. Most of them said something along the lines of: “What made you decide on Queen’s University and Northern Ireland?” They said it in a positive manner that allowed me to answer in almost any way.

It is a different story here in Ireland. Most of the people I have met were excited to find out that I am from America, but their tone usually changed when they asked about Northern Ireland. In most cases, it went something like: “Why would you want to study in Ireland/Northern Ireland?” It sounds negative when compared to how my friends back home asked.

My answer to both groups is always the same though. I mention that I visited Northern Ireland and the UK back in 2010 and that I loved what the country had to offer. My brief time in the British Isles was very appealing so I chose to come back and spend a year of my life here. I also mention that I am studying political science and that Northern Ireland is a perfect place to do that. It is one of the very few places in the “western world” that is currently having an ethno-national identity struggle. I find this place fascinating; who would not want to study here??

Again I say, these are just generalizations and they do not account for everybody. I have been fortunate enough to find some amazing people here in Ireland that have my same lust for knowledge and want to grow academically.

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Taking a Step Back

Time January 29th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Exams are finally over! After three long weeks of looking over notes, rereading journal articles, and stressing out beyond belief, I can finally relax. I am pretty confident that I passed all three of them, but definitely not with extraordinary marks. All of my exams consisted of two essay questions, and on each exam, I did really well on one of the essays but not so well on the other. So hopefully it all evens out in the long run. I think I find out my results sometime next week or so.

Last week, Caitriona’s friend Yoon flew over from Manchester and spent a few days with us. We went to the city one day to do some shopping and to kind of show him around Belfast. There was a little bit of miscommunication the night we were supposed to go out and our group ended up going to two different places! But overall, it was really great getting to have him as our guest. Hopefully he can find some time in the future to fly back over here.

Yoon

The new Americans from IFSA flew in last week and we have been able to go out a couple times together. I feel special because I get to tell them all the little tips and tricks about being here, from basic stuff like what certain words or phrases mean to which towns or cities are best to visit. Even though they have only been here a few days, I really enjoy having other Americans around that I can hang out with. Sometimes you just need people you can associate with better when you are feeling homesick or alienated.

Speaking of homesickness, I am experiencing some of that right now. I have been back in Belfast for about three weeks and I am glad to be back, but I wish I would have had more than two weeks at home with my parents and friends. My parents are coming to visit in April but it still sucks knowing that I have to wait another four and a half months to see all of my friends back in Washington. It really makes you appreciate the small amount of time you have with them when you are home.

131 more days.

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Back with my B’s

Time January 15th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Belfast. Books. Blogging. What did you think I meant..?

I am back in Belfast and things are really getting hectic! It is exam season and my mind is in a million different places. I have my first exam on Thursday, my second next Monday, and my third the following Monday. I am fairly confident that I will do well on two of them, but I am worried about my third year Northern Ireland case study module. The other students in the class have lived here for 20+ years and have been studying the subject for three years at the college level. And then you have me… a foreigner who has about three months worth of knowledge on the subject from one textbook and a semi-biased perspective from only being in contact with people from one side of the debate. Hopefully all of the cramming I have been doing pays off!

I am glad to be back in Ireland but I do really wish I had more time at home. I spent about two weeks at home in Graham with my parents and then a week in Chicago with the rest of my family.

I have been in my current house for about 14 years and I am still in awe when I see Mt. Rainier. To me, the mountain makes my home special. It is not just a mountain to me anymore (or most people in Western Washington); it is a part of my backyard. I am only a one hour drive from the most topographically prominent mountain in the lower 48 states. Now that is cool! I can honestly say I missed seeing it. People here might think I am weird for loving a mountain, but it is something I have grown up with.

Mt. Rainier

A couple days after Christmas, some of my family from Chicago flew into town to spend a week with us. My uncle Andrew came with his wife Stefanie and their adorable daughter Samantha. My aunt Katie also joined us for the week. They had not been to Washington in a couple years and they wanted to spend time with me and my parents. Usually my parents and I fly to Chicago and see all of them because it is easier for the three of us (my dad has eight brothers and three sisters – my family is HUGE) but they decided to make the journey for themselves. It was nice change of pace to have family in our house, because it is a pretty rare occurrence when most of them live 2000 miles away.

Andrew, Stefanie, Samantha, and Katie

After my first two weeks off, I flew back to Chicago with my uncle and aunts and spent a week at their house. I love going back to Chicago because like I said, I have a huge family and I love being around all of them when I have the opportunity to be. My uncle took me shooting for the first time while I was there and I got to test out his three pistols. I can officially say I am hooked and will be purchasing one in the near future (sorry mom!). My Irish friends think I am a crazy American for it – hah!

Alex and Jacob

While I was there, this magical thing called a “polar vortex” decided it would be a great idea to hit and spread snow from Idaho and Utah all the way across to the Eastern Seaboard. I experienced to coldest temperatures of my life (literally, that was the coldest I have ever felt). One of the days, it was -14°F / -26°C. I have no clue what it was that night but businesses and schools across America shut down. It was pretty intense. It is also kind of funny because Andrew and Stefanie (the family I was staying with) took me to a baseball game a while back where I experienced the hottest weather of my life (108 °F / 42°C). I now know that anytime I am with them, I need to prepare for the extremes!

Chicago Snow

My time at home and in Chicago was much needed, and I am glad I got to see all my family and friends while I was there. I wish I had more time with them because three weeks simply is not enough when you are living in a foreign country for nine months.  On the upside, my parents and I are going to spend a week in Germany and a week here in Belfast over Easter break. My uncle and aunt might fly out here too during that time! April is a great time to come not only because I have three weeks off, but because it separates my time here into roughly three month increments.

My classes for next semester are not yet set in stone, but I am pretty sure I will be taking PAI1005: Media, Politics, and Conflict, PAI2055: Security and Terrorism, and SPY1001: Finding out about Social Policy. I have an additional hour in my week (a total of nine hours – six in lectures, three in tutorials) but I still have Fridays off which is nice. My first priority though is to make sure I make it through exams!

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Happiness

Time December 19th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

This is my last blog post from Ireland in 2013. In two days, I will be flying home to good ol’ Graham, WA. These past three months have been some of the greatest of my entire life, and I would not trade my experiences for anything. I know that the people I have met here are going to be some of my best, longest-lasting friends in the world.

Last Friday, the Americans had our last big group outing. Most of the ones from Stranmillis and Queen’s went to Winter Wonderland in the city. We were given free vouchers to ice skate, for food, and for one ride. The ice skating a was a bit dodgy because the skates were rubbish and the ice was not very clean. I cannot complain much though because it was free! The food definitely made up for the ice skating. I had a German sausage which was to die for! The rides were pretty basic; they were like anything you would find at your small local town fair. It was nice to get together with everybody one last time before we all have to head back to America. I am the only one staying for a second semester so it was our final group outing. Hopefully we can all stay in touch in the future because they all are really great people!

Me at Winter Wonderland The Group at Winter Wonderland

Vicky’s boyfriend Peter unfortunately had to leave on Monday, but the time he was here was grand! We spent a lot of time relaxing around the flat just talking about random things (and watching Strictly Come Dancing!). We went out one night while he was here and it was so much fun. It was not anything major like going out to a club, but we went to a local bar called the Parlour. We just sat around the table “shootin’ the shit” and enjoyed the moment. Sometimes, you just need a simple night out with the people closest to you.

Peter and the Family

Our flat decided to do a Secret Santa for Christmas this year. Last night, some of us exchanged our gifts and I found out that one of my closest friends – Danielle – had my name. She ended up getting me an Irish teddy bear and a Guinness mug. If any of you are not aware, I am a pretty sentimental guy so it really meant a lot to me. I will definitely be taking Arthur with me to WSU next year!

Secret Santa Gift

The last week of classes for 2013 has been pretty good. Two of my lectures have been cancelled and I have been given massive clues as to which subjects will be on my exams in January. One of my lecturers actually gave us the six questions that are on the exam so we know exactly what to study for! The exams, or “finals,” here are quite different from those back home. I am used to a final being a set of multiple choice questions on the most recent topics covered in the course (which happen to like). Here at Queen’s, exams are administered over the course of two hours, and in those two hours you are to answer two of six questions in an essay format. A good majority of the modules at Queen’s follow this format for their exams. I have been fortunate enough to have lecturers that drop strong hints as to what I need to prepare for, so hopefully I will do alright!

In my mind I keep thinking that I am leaving for good, when in reality it is only for three weeks. That goes to show how much I love this place and the people I am with. The thought of being away from them for the greater half of a month upsets me. They really are family. And I do not want to leave them.

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It’s Time to go Home

Time December 12th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I only have 8 days left in Ireland this year. I get to fly home to my family in 8 days. I cannot overstate how fast my time here has gone so far. Some days seem to drag on and on, but in the big scheme of things, the last three months have gone so quickly.

Last Monday was my dad’s birthday and unfortunately I was not there to celebrate with him. We probably would not have done a whole lot if I was there, but we do not need a lot in our lives to be happy. A simple movie or watching a game on TV after going out for dinner would have meant the world to both of us. I am not sure anybody really realizes how close I am with my dad. He is my best friend, and I cannot wait to see him.

This is not to say I love my mom any less. That is absolutely not the case. When I first came to Ireland (and for about two months after), I was talking to my mom almost every day on Facebook. Lately, for about two or three weeks, we have only talked for a little bit. I will admit at first it was a tad frustrating always getting messages asking how I was doing and if I was having fun and stuff like that. At the time, I did not want to spend my time explaining the same things over and over again; I wanted to go out and live my life. But with the recent absence of conversation between us, I have really started to miss those talks. I may find them annoying at the time, but at the end of the day, it is nice to know that I have somebody that will always be there for me 100% of the time. The hardest part is finding a happy-medium where we are still in weekly contact while giving each other space to live our lives.

The holiday season has not hit me in the same way that it has in the past. In previous years, I have been able to experience driving past houses with Christmas lights, setting up decorations in the house with my parents, and participating in winter activities with my closest friends (whether it is Christmas shopping at the mall or going skiing in the mountains). This year is very different. I have gone to the Christmas markets in the city with friends here but it just was not the same. Some businesses have set up trees in the windows and put up lights, but it does not have the same personal feeling as going through the areas you have grown up in and are familiar with. I am afraid that when I go home, I will not have enough time to fully embrace and enjoy the season. Christmas is coming quick this year and will be over before I know it. It really makes you realize how special your own memories are, regardless of their simplicity. I know it sounds cliché, but the small things in life are sometimes the most important things.

I do not want people to take this as me being homesick or being negative. I am really enjoying my time here and part of me does not want to leave. Vicky’s boyfriend Peter just arrived and we have tons of time to go out and live it up. Our floor is doing Secret Santa, so that will be fun. We always tend to find things to bring us all together. It really shows how much of a family we all are.

Leaving for three weeks will be hard, because I have been living with these people for three months now, but I have to go home. I need my family, I need my friends, and I need America. In 8 days, I have all these things.

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Smooth Sailing

Time December 2nd, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Last Thursday was Thanksgiving. This is was first time I had ever been away from my family on Thanksgiving, and I absolutely hated it. Family is the most important thing in this world, and I did not get to see mine. Fortunately, I have formed a new family in the two months I have been living here in Ireland. The ones on my floor were very supportive of Thanksgiving and all decided to chip in and celebrate, as a family. Words cannot describe how lucky I am to have met all of them. They are some of my best friends, and Thanksgiving was perfect.

It is hard to imagine that I have been in Ireland for two months already. It seems like just last week I was getting off the plane and unpacking my bags. That goes to show that you have to cherish every moment you have because it will be over before you know it.

I have finished the bulk of my coursework for this semester. I had one essay due for each of my modules the past few weeks, and they really took a lot out of me. The ones on my floor can vouch for me when I say that I was absent from the group for most of that time. These essays all count for 35% of my final grade, so I really needed to work on them. Yes I procrastinated, and I take total responsibility for that, but if you know anything about my work ethic, you would know that my main motto is “why do it today when you can put it off for tomorrow?” All that matters is that my essays are done and all I have to worry about is getting to my lectures until exams in January.

Awhile back, Vicky had her boyfriend Peter stay with us for a couple days. We only hung out together one night, but we bonded pretty quickly during that time. In 8 days, Peter is making his epic return and he is staying with us for an entire week! It will be nice to reconnect and have another guy to hangout with during the days. Sometimes I think I am more excited to see Peter than Vicky is!

Peter

After Peter comes to visit us, Niamh’s twin brother Rhys is coming for a week too. I have not met Rhys yet, but I have heard a lot about him and am really looking forward to meeting him. Like Peter, it will be nice to have another guy on the floor to chill with.

This portion of the semester is beginning to come to a close. I have finished my only essays, Thanksgiving was a massive success, and two friends are coming to visit for the remainder of the year. Time has already gone quickly, and it is about to go much faster. I only have 19 days left until I get to see my family. Before I know it, I will be on my way back to good ol’ Graham, Washington!

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What Goes Up Must Come Down

Time November 19th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

After having a great few weeks, this last one has been just miserable.

Last Tuesday I went to Newcastle with two of my friends, one from IFSA and another from Germany.  We caught a couple buses into the town in the early morning (around 10am, but for me, that is quite early) and made our way to the Bloody Bridge trailhead.  From there, we went down to the water (the Irish Sea) and took some pictures to warm up our cameras.  After spending about 20 minutes down there, we decided it was time to head up to the Mourne Wall.  Getting back into the “hiking-groove” was very fun.  As many of you know, hiking is a big part of my life.  The trail was very well maintained in most parts, and was actually a gravel road at one point.  Towards the top, the trail became mucky and you were forced to watch your step if you wanted to stay dry.  The hike up took around three hours because we stopped to take tons of pictures along the way.  We only spent maybe ten minutes at the wall itself because it was extremely windy.  We made pretty good time back down, and once we got back to the start, we waited for a bus back into town.  When we got back into Newcastle, we realized that we had two or three hours to kill before the last bus left for Belfast so we decided to walk around for a bit.  The small town was pretty neat.  It was located right on water and had tons of little shops to explore.  We stopped to eat at this little Italian restaurant before we went home.  We could not have picked a better day to go given the time of year.  The weather was beautiful and there were hardly any “speedbumps” along the way.

That was one of the last overall good days I have had this past week.  Since then, I have been pretty ill with a strong cold/light flu.  I have not left my room much except to get food from the shop and to go to class.  I have done more sleeping than socializing, which is rare because I am usually in the kitchen/lounge hanging out with everybody else.  I also opted out of going to Dublin with the other Americans from IFSA.  I thought it would be in the best interest of everybody if I stayed home.  Unfortunately, I do not feel any better than I did on Friday so I probably would have been okay to go.  It sucks seeing peoples’ pictures because it looks like they all had a great time.  To add to this, I have two essays due this week as well.  I fully accept responsibility for my procrastination – I have known about these papers for some time now, I just chose not to start until this weekend.  It is not over after this week though; I have another essay due the following Wednesday.

One thing that is strange is that I am more homesick now than I have been at any other point during my stay.  I understand that there is a “honeymoon phase” and that once that is over, you fall into a slump and then you get back on your normal path.  But I have been experiencing a different kind of slump.  My worst case of homesickness is coming now, two months into my journey when it should have been over ages ago.  I blame part of it on technology and part of it on the quickly approaching Thanksgiving.  Facebook, Snapchat, Skype, and email allow for me to stay in close contact with friends and family back home.  This is great, except when it is making me miss them.  Which is a lot of time.  Also, Thanksgiving is right around the corner.  This will be the first Thanksgiving without my family.  It is hard to explain to non-Americans why this is so difficult.  There is no way to put into words how much family is a part of Thanksgiving.  Fortunately, I have bonded with the members of my floor to the point that they are working together to create a flat family Thanksgiving for me.  My mom has also played a huge role in making this happen by providing us with materials and recipes, which only makes me miss her more.

To sum all this up, this past week has been my worst week here thus far.  Newcastle and the Mourne Wall were great, but everything since then has been miserable.  I am not afraid to admit that I miss my friends, my family, my dog, and my home.  33 days until I get to see all these beautiful things again.

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Me and Everybody Else

Time November 7th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I am going to start off by saying that this post may be construed as harsh and offensive. My aim is not to offend you, but to express my thoughts and explain why I am upset.

I have been doing a lot of thinking over the last week about opinions, perceptions, and attitudes. As a political science student, I look at everything in the world through political and social lenses – everything from the terminology people use and the views they have to the way the system works and the implications those systems reproduce. I have always looked at the world this way, but over the last week or two, I have been doing so more than usual. My modules are starting to talk about ideas and facts pertaining to the United States (whether they are good or bad is irrelevant). Learning about the United States from a foreign perspective is quite an experience. Some emotions I have and reactions I express have come off as arrogant, nationalistic, and immoral to the locals (notice how they are all negative traits). I am going to give context into the situation, express my thoughts and ideas on the issues, and justify myself for my beliefs.

My World Politics module has been talking about military power, national security, and Middle East (primarily concerning Iraq and Afghanistan). The general tone of the lectures have portrayed America in a negative light – stating that America is too coercive in its foreign relations and that we are hypocritical when it comes to international law and order. Whether you believe this or not is totally up to you, and I am willing to accept your opinion. However, when people in my modules get up and state explicitly that the attacks on September 11th were not that bad in the big scheme of things, and that we as a nation over reacted to the situation, I get upset. I do not appreciate people from a foreign country disrespecting our patriotism and our regard for the safety and security of our country. 2,977 innocent people lost their lives on that miserable day. I do understand and respect when people disagree with our intentions of going into Iraq and Afghanistan (even if they are ill-informed of all the facts), but they lose all credibility and legitimacy when they discuss American reactions in the fashion that they do. From my perspective, that is like me saying “Catholic nationalists in Northern Ireland overreacted during the Troubles because the terror inflicted upon them was not that bad.” I would never say something like that (even if I did believe it). I am not speaking on behalf of all the students in my lecture or for the people of Ireland; I am only talking about those people who spoke up against America during that discussion.

I find myself talking about the racial issues in America quite often. Some Irish people that I have encountered simply do not understand how we (“the white people”) could look down on minorities. My first retort is that I simply do not understand why Catholics and Protestants continue to “fight” about the settlement of Northern Ireland (but that is beside the point). My second retort is that not all white Americans hate minorities. That is the biggest point I try to make. Just because I am a white male from a well-off middle class family does not mean that I look at other people not in my situation any differently. My parents taught me that everybody is just the same, no matter if they are white, black, green, blue, or purple. The color of your skin does not define who you are, so it does not affect the feelings I have of you. Unfortunately, there are people that do judge you based on your race. There are racist, ignorant, bigoted individuals in the world that do look down on certain groups of people. It is a sad reality, but that is exactly what it is: a reality. The few intolerant, narrow-minded people (such as members of the Westboro Baptist Church or the KKK) do not represent America. As an American, they embarrass me. They are the reason I get asked questions about racism and hatred in America. A co-worker of mine once told me that at the end of the day, we all have to wipe our “you-know-what” with toilet paper. No decent person is any better than the rest.

I am a Republican. I do not support all Republican ideals. Like I previously stated, the few people who get a bad reputation give off an undesirable perception of the entire group. The few radical Republicans or extreme Tea Party members in America make me as a Republican look bad. They do not represent my party, and I do not want to be associated with them. I support the legal possession of guns as a constitutional right. I support a smaller federal government and increased state’s rights. I support capitalism. I call myself a Republican. Please respect that. I do not go around shouting my beliefs or trying to convince people that my idea of the world is the correct one. I simply state my beliefs and justify them with personal experiences and facts. If you disagree, that is just fine. That is one of the greatest things about democracy: we are allowed to have differing opinions and discuss them openly. I watch an HBO series called The Newsroom, and I have a clip that explains perfectly how I feel about this issue.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGAvwSp86hY#t=145

As I mentioned in the very beginning, I am not trying to step on anybody’s toes here. I am only expressing the thoughts that are running through my head.

On a more pleasant note, I had an AMAZING time at the Brit Floyd concert. I was in the fourth row so I had a perfect few of everything on stage. You could see the facial expressions of the band members, their fingers moving up and down the neck of the guitars, and even the sweat dropping from the hair as the drummer and keyboardist rocked their heads back and forth. It was quite sad at the same time though because I first saw this band in the States with my dad, and I know he really would have enjoyed it. He is the reason I like classic rock, and I go to every show with him. This is the first classic rock concert I have ever been to without him. As great as the concert was, it just was not the same without him there at my side.

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The Craics Ninety!

Time November 4th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Another successful week? Another successful week!

My time here is going by so quickly! I cannot believe that I have already been in Belfast for 47 days. These seven weeks have been the best of my entire life. The friends I have met, the places I have been, and the experiences I have made are worth more than anything in this world, and I would not give them up for anything.

Last weekend, I went to the cinema with a couple guys and saw the film Captain Phillips. It was such a great film that I decided to go a second time with the girls on my floor. If you do not know much about the film, it is about an American ship that gets hijacked by Somali pirates and follows the story of the main captain. I think I enjoyed it because it is based on a true story and it shows how much effort went in to recovering Captain Phillips. Also, Tom Hanks is just brilliant. He does such a great job of portraying emotion and fits the role perfectly. I highly recommend seeing the film (and going a second time!)

On Wednesday I got watch the Boston Red Sox make history! Well… I was not really “watching” them per se; I was getting live play-by-play updates on the computer. I had to try and explain to everybody that the Red Sox are my favorite team despite me living on the other side of the country from them. The easiest explanation was just that I do not like the Yankees! In all seriousness, the Cardinals played a good series and were gentlemen about it all. One thing that is strange about baseball (and most professional sports) is that the teams that usually go to the playoffs and the championships have been there multiple times before. This is the third time that the Red Sox have won the World Series in the last ten years. And the Cardinals have won twice in the last ten years. Oh well, that does not change the fact that I had an extra excuse to celebrate!

This week two of my lectures were cancelled because of a strike. I am not too sure what the strike was about, but from what I have gathered, the lecturers have taken a 13% pay decrease over the last few years so they were trying to get their voices heard. I have mixed feelings about the strike as a student. I support their cause because nobody deserves to have their pay taken away (or cut) when prices and the standard of living are increasing (at least lock their pay at the rate of inflation). On the other hand, I do not support it because the students are paying tons of money to be here and if the lecturers decide not to teach, we are essentially wasting our money. My two lecturers told me that they are not going to reschedule the lectures or post the notes online because that would defeat the point of the strike. A strike is intended to disrupt the system, so I understand where they are coming from. At the end of the day, it is unfortunate that I missed out on valuable material, but I cannot complain too much because I had all of my Thursday off from school!

Thursday also meant that it was Halloween! Halloween here in Ireland, much like back at WSU and the rest of America, is a week-long event. People dress up every day from the weekend before Halloween to the weekend after. It is absolutely mental. Despite all of the craziness, last night was one of the most fun nights I have had since coming here. I met loads of new people and got on great with them all. I dressed up as Walter White from the first episode of Breaking Bad. I ended up running into three other versions of my character, but from different seasons. One guy was dressed up as Heisenberg and two were dressed up at Walter in the cooking outfit. It was so much fun!

Halloween

Tonight at the Odyssey Arena I am going to see Brit Floyd, a Pink Floyd tribute band. I have seen them once before in the States with my dad and thought they were amazing! I purchased fourth row seats because I thought if I am going to see a group that I really like, that I am going to want to be up close. I ran into another American awhile back and he said he was also going so I might head out there with him.

My time here just keeps getting better and better. I say this all the time, but I love Belfast.

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For You and Me

Time October 21st, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I cannot believe that I have been in Belfast for over a month now. Time is going by so quickly! It seems like just a few days ago I was plane hopping my way to Belfast City Airport, and now I have already been in classes for 3 weeks.

This blog is dedicated to the members of Ash 4, floor 1. I want to say something special about each individual because they have accepted me as a part of their family and I feel like they should all know!

Anna:

Anna is the honorary mother of our floor. She is such a warm and caring person. She seems to know everything there is to know about cooking and is always willing to help you when confronted with a kitchen dilemma (I should really take some recipe tips!).

Caitriona:

During my first couple of weeks here, Caitriona was my translator. She helped me understand some of the words and phrases that the Irish were using when I was lost. When I was sick a couple weeks ago, she made me chicken to put in my pasta! She is such a fun time and stays in Elms over the weekend with me, John, and Vicky.

Danielle:

When I was feeling down about a week ago, Danielle made me hot chocolate. She seems to know when something is wrong and is willing to ask me if I am alright. She studies law so we have had some deep conversations about politics (which I obviously like!)

Emma:

Emma lives in the room next to me, so we can hear all the insanely drunk people coming home at 3 in the morning. It makes for some interesting stories the next day when we discuss what we heard!

John:

John is the only other guy on our floor. He does not come around all that often, but when he does, he usually has some pretty good music playing on his phone. His friend Jonathan lives above us and comes by frequently, so we talk to him a lot.

Louise:

Louise was the very first person I met on the floor. She was super excited to meet an American. Whenever she would introduce me to people, she would start off by explaining that I was an American before she even told them my name. Even after a month, she still mentions my nationality first!

Niamh:

Niamh is one of my closest friends on the floor. It is strange that we get along so well because we have differing opinions about almost everything. She is trying to teach me the type of sarcasm that the Irish use because I still take everything they say seriously.

Philana:

Philana is such a nice and friendly person. When she comes in the kitchen/lounge, she always asks everybody how they are doing or how their day is. It really is a kind gesture and she is always a good listener!

Teresa:

Teresa is another person on the floor that I can talk to about politics. She is studying math but she knows so much about how economics work. Sometimes we get too excited about it and other people try to change the subject (it is probably a good thing so we do not get into more debates or disputes!)

Vicky:

Vicky is another person that I am really close with. She acted as a good “shoulder to cry on” when I was homesick awhile back. She has introduced me to Strictly Come Dancing (the British version of Dancing with the Stars), and I have to admit, I really enjoy watching it!

These ten individuals have opened my eyes to so many different aspects and perspectives of the world. They have helped change my opinions and have made me a better man for it. I may not thank them or show my appreciation enough, but I really do care about them. They are my family, and I cannot wait to see what these next eight months have in store for me!

Despite all the support from my family back home, and my new family at Queen’s, these past few weeks have been very stressful. I have unexpectedly fallen in love with the city of Belfast and the Irish culture that encompasses it. I began thinking about transferring to Queen’s as a full time international student instead of just studying abroad here for one year. I consulted my parents, my friends, advisers at WSU, advisers at Queen’s, and mostly myself about whether or not I wanted to spend the next 3+ years in Northern Ireland. On the upside, I love the city life of Belfast more than the small town feeling of Pullman. Queen’s University is also a better academic choice compared to Washington State University (I have nothing against WSU, and it is a really good school; however, Queen’s is relatively more prestigious than WSU and I would get more out of my time in college). The counter-argument to these things is that my entire life is in the United States; my friends, my family, my college… everything. I am pretty sure I would be able to build a new life here, just as much as I built a life in Pullman when I first went to college. But after weighing all of my options and looking at the potential outcomes, I think the right choice for me and my future is to continue my education at Washington State University next year.

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Random Food for Thought

Time October 10th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

These are the random thoughts that constantly run through my head.

  • Walking:
    • I probably walk four miles a day when you add up going to and from class and going out at night.
  • The Irish:
    • The Irish students go home at the weekends because they are “homesick.” Boo hoo. You live 30 minutes from home. I live 4,500 miles from home. It is not that easy to fly 13 hours back to my house.
  • Graham:
    • There are green vans that drive around with the word “Graham” on the side. I get a wee bit sad every time I see one.
  • Mac and Cheese:
    • I found three boxes of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. I bought all three without looking at the price. Only one box remains.
  • Five Legs:
    • We have two table benches in our kitchen. One of them has six legs, and the other has five. The five-legged bench bothers me.
  • Fire Drills:
    • Elms Village has fire drills. College students live in Elms Village. They are making college students (legal adults) participate in fire drills. I thought that was over in high school.
  • Lukewarm Water:
    • My shower is never hot. Just lukewarm. The only upside to that is that my showers are always super quick.
  • Double Duvet:
    • The mattress on my bed is terrible. I bought a second duvet so I could sleep on top of one, and still be covered. Best £5 I have spent since I got here.
  • Laundry:
    • The laundry facilities are a rip-off. £2.50 for a wash and £1.50 for a dry. A girl on my floor informed that her mum is willing to do my laundry on the weekends, so I might take her up on that offer.
  • Posh:
    • Elms is in a very posh part of Belfast. I like it. The cars, the houses, the landscaping. All posh, and all good.
  • Bagels:
    • I am averaging one bagel every day. Semi-cheap and very good.
  • The Botanic Gardens:
    • I get to walk through the Botanic Gardens on my walk home from campus. Nice change of pace from the atmosphere in the city.
  • Jaywalking:
    • Jaywalking is perfectly acceptable, and if not encouraged here in Belfast. People would rather cross the street illegally than force cars to stop and hold up traffic.
  • Right-Sided Driving:
    • The strangest thing in the world is getting into the front seat of a taxi on the left side and not having a steering wheel in front of you.
  • Not-so-Late Outings:
    • People here go out super early compared to Americans. If I wanted to go out with my friends back home, I would wait until 10 or 11 at night. Never go at 8 o’clock like people here.
  • Soda:
    • Most of Europe has different coloured and flavoured drinks because they do not add all that fake unhealthy stuff that us Americans do. I am always taken back when I take a sip of Sprite or Coke.
  • 72:
    • The amount of days until I leave for Graham.
  • Driver’s Ed:
    • Will I remember how to drive when I get back to America? Or will I need to learn again?
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