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Back Home and Bed-Ridden

Time December 18th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

After more than a week at home, I can’t say I am experiencing any reverse culture shock as not much of the world can be observed from the couch. The Thursday after flying into Portland and driving to Bend with my best friend through snow-capped pine forests and frozen rivers, I had knee surgery. The surgery ended up being an hour longer than they expected because I did far more damage than was originally anticipated. So now I’m on crutches for five weeks, unable to walk my dog along the river trail and window shop downtown and even wrap the Christmas presents I brought home from Ireland. I haven’t even been able to go to the grocery store to compare the prices of Irish milk to that from America. Although, I have gathered it is much more expensive here.

I am now completely at the mercy of everyone else around me. All the independence and self-sufficiency I gained since I left home has been thrown out the window. The good thing is that I decided on the long plane ride home not to throw myself a pity party while I am laid up, and more importantly, not to eat my feelings. I am going to re-read Harry Potter, learn how to knit, and build the strongest arms and abs my physical therapists have ever seen. So it’s really not all bad. Although, I have yet to have a mental breakdown about all this and knowing me, it’ll come eventually; and when it does everyone I know and love best be well out of ear-shot. But until then, my life back home has been downright pleasant.

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A Disastrous Week Abroad

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

So my last week in Ireland was pretty much a disaster. First, on Monday night, I realized I hadn’t seen my passport since I got to Ireland and I never found it. So I made an appointment at the U.S. embassy in Dublin for the day my plane was due to leave to go back to America. Then on Wednesday, at my last frisbee practice of the year, I tore my ACL going up for a disc and landing wrong. So I was then facing going up to Dublin, travelling to the embassy, and then to the airport, followed by 17 hours on planes…and all on crutches. Luckily IFSA helped me out and took my bags, paid for my train and taxis, and got me through the entire ordeal relatively pain free. But still, talk about bad luck.

And now I have to get surgery in about a month, which means I can’t play frisbee at all when I get back to Puget Sound. It was the one thing I was most looking forward to doing when I got back. I had improved so much playing with the Irish and I had so many ideas and things to teach everyone. Now all I have to look forward is being a captain, which I actually think I’ll be much better at while not being a player at the same time. It’s just a bummer than I’m dealing with surprisingly well. Maybe I did mature in all my time abroad. And maybe I am now able to see the big picture. I still will probably always ask myself “Why. Why me, why my knee, why now?” But if I’ve learned anything these past six months is that most life events have no rhyme or reason, they just are. I may even learn something from this injury. But honestly, I’m getting a little sick of learning life lessons. I would really just like my life to be simple and easy for a change. While I’ve been very lucky to travel and meet the many characters that have come and gone in the past several months, I’m getting tired of the curve balls. I guess at least now that I’m bed-ridden my life will certainly be simple, just not in the way I was hoping.

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So Much To Be Thankful For

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

Considering the Irish don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, my holiday was great! The International Student Office organized a Turkey Day Feast for 150 Americans and the food was surprisingly just as good as it is back at home. Unfortunately there are some traditions that can never be replaced. The awkward arrival of the family friends you only see once a year, the level of drunkenness that becomes more excessive as the night goes on (particularly for the adults), the civil war game even though you don’t really care about football, and of course the dog begging under the table. Being away from home during this time of year makes the homesickness stronger and the countdown that much more painful. But then you realize that you are actually surrounded by people you care about on the holidays, new friends with whom you will remain close with for years to come. Sharing a holiday meal with people I never would have met otherwise is the truest testament to how far I have come as far as making friends and stepping out of my comfort zone is concerned. With only 3 more days in Ireland, I realize my time here was completely worth it. And for me, being able to say that is a big deal. Considering all the friends I have made and new experiences I have had, despite the more-frequent-than-I-would-care-to-admit waves of depression and angst, there is no where I would have rather been for these past three months. And the most exciting thing about leaving, besides the obvious, is that I’ll probably only truly realize how much I have changed once I return to “normalcy”.

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Inter-varsities!

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

This past Sunday I played in my first and last Indoor Ultimate Frisbee tournament in Galway. UCC brought 3 teams to the tournament, and I was on the second team. We were seeded number 5 out of 16 teams and kept our seed, winning fifth place and playing like beasts the whole way to victory!!! And while fifth place doesn’t sound particularly special, we went up against some really good teams and made them fight for their wins. Our team also won the spirit award, and were given some sweet dog tags as a prize. My team even voted my MVP for the tournament, so needless to say it was a great day of ultimate.

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I got so much closer to all of my teammates, which is going to make leaving next week that much harder, but it’s so cool knowing I’ll have friends in Ireland whenever I want to come back, which I definitely will. I’m really going to miss the whole dynamic of the team too. They are so organized and so freaking good at frisbee, but also humble and the most welcoming group of girls I could have ever hoped for. I never once felt like a temporary player. I was on the starting lineup for the entire tournament, I got more than enough playing time, and my opinions and advice were even taken into account along with everyone else’s.

 

And now I’m even a little nervous to go back to my team at UPS because I have no idea what I’ll be walking into. It’s quite nerve-wracking walking into a group of people who, as much as you would like to think otherwise, have not been sitting around crying about how much they miss me. Nope, their lives have been moving forward just like mine has and seeing them again will be so exciting, but also a little intimidating. I just can’t believe I leave next Friday, just 8 more days left in Ireland. I’m thrilled because I’ve been gone form home so long and I miss my friends and my hometown and what I consider to be “normal” school. But it’s also sad because there’s a strong chance I’ll never see these people again. I guess that’s why Mark Zuckerberg invented Facebook?

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Realizations and Reflections

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

Other than finishing some papers (yay!), I really didn’t do much of anything this past week because I was sicker than usual. It seems that all of us Americans, myself included, have been in a constant state of coughs and sniffles since we arrived in Cork. I may have narrowed the cause down to the pollution, but then again my frisbee coach told me that being sick all the time was Mother Ireland’s way of telling me I need to drink more. He could have a point.

I did, however, go Christmas shopping on Saturday. Cork is beautiful this time of year. Every building is adorned with twinkle lights, every shop window glowing with holly and ornaments. It instantly put me in a good mood, until I realized that I wasn’t home, with the people I love most during the pre-holiday season. At this point, I have less than three weeks left in Ireland before I go home and it’s this awkward in-between feeling because I am finally comfortable here and I have my friends and my routines and everything, but I’ve also been gone from home since May. So as the countdown is starting to get closer and closer to zero, I start to feel more and more ready to hop on a flight home asap.

But along with having a lazy weekend comes the chance to reflect on my experiences over the past several months. I sort of asked myself what I would have missed out on had I not chosen to study abroad. The biggest adventure foregone would have been the WWOOFing and traveling I did all summer. It changed my entire outlook on myself and what I want my life to look like, and that’s not a small thing. My mom would have never had a reason to visit Ireland and she absolutely loved it here! I wouldn’t have met any of the people I know I will have relationships with long after this whole thing is over, including someone from my school back home! I never would have been this challenged to get out of my own way and out of my own comfort zone. And just knowing that I can is enough to make even the moments when I was cripplingly depressed and homesick, completely worth it. I never would have stood on the edge of Ireland’s northern coast. I never would have walked through gorges and kayaked in a fjord. I never would have known about the Northern Ireland conflict. I would still be a mediocre frisbee player. And had I been at UPS instead of Ireland, there is no telling what things could have gone wrong. There is simply no way for me to know if I would actually have liked being home better than being in Ireland. Sure, I missed my friends a lot, but I’ll see them soon enough. And despite the painful realization I came to this weekend that life back home does indeed carry on when I’m not there, that my friends build stronger relationships with the people who are actually there with them while mine stays stagnant, I have to trust that they miss me nearly as much as I miss them. And like I said, I’ll be home soon enough, no need to rush it.

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A New Kind of Craic

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

For some as of yet unexplainable reason, I have been extremely resistant to conforming to the Irish youth’s idea of fun: clubbing. I have never really liked dancing, both because of the surrounding atmosphere and because I’m the least rhythmical person I know. I also abhor the prospect of having my arse slapped by a stranger who is foolish enough to think my body is just something for him to grope and grind on. Call me old-fashioned, but I just think a Saturday night well-spent is one with a good book and a warm cuppa.

But last Thursday I tried something new because, after all, why else did I come to Ireland if not to have new and oftentimes unusual experiences? Turns out, clubbing can be fun if you’re with the right people and, more importantly, in the right mood. I danced, I sang, I drank, I ate (over-priced) chips on the steps of a government building, and I walked…and walked…and walked. And overall I had a surprisingly great time! And it only took me 2 months to realize that trying new things doesn’t have to arouse discomfort. I’m learning, I’m evolving, and I’m experiencing; and that’s exactly why I came to Ireland.

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The North

Time November 5th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

When I decided to come to Ireland, I never expected to find segregation and violence. The IFSA trip to Belfast was the most interesting experience I have had since studying abroad. I thought Northern Ireland was just another part of the “first world”. I was therefore shocked to learn on the Black Taxi Tour through the city of Belfast that Catholics and Protestants are literally segregated in nearly every possible aspect of society. They go to school with others of their respective religion, being taught only the lessons which pertain to their expected political and religious viewpoints. They live behind gated communities, and not the kind that we are used to in the States, where privileged people live in posh houses with pools and housekeepers. The gated communities in Belfast are quite the opposite. The walls separating them were put in place at the request of the citizens themselves and are designed to keep out bombs or any other form of attack from the “opposition”. Memorials stand erect within these communities to commemorate the lives lost in “The Troubles”. There is one wall that stands roughly 45 feet high, much taller than the Berlin wall ever was. We all had a chance to sign this wall that thousands before us had signed as a testament to the desire for peace in Northern Ireland.

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And the gates to these communities close at 6:30 in the evening and reopen and 6:30 the following morning. There are even five months out of the year when Catholics and Protestants cannot step foot on the others’ territory. What’s more is 10 Political prisoners voluntarily died due to a hunger strike in prison just a few decades ago. And this is all happening in a developed country.

On a lighter note, we all had the chance to visit the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge and Giant’s Causeway. These places also reminded me why I chose to study abroad in Ireland. These pictures don’t do these places justice, but they fare better than any description I could ever give.

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Basically, this entire weekend was a much-needed reminder of how lucky I am to be in such a beautiful and unique part of the world. Prior to visiting Belfast, I frequently wished I was back at school with all my friends, doing things that were familiar, with people whom I love and trust. But being given the chance to meet new people and explore a part of the world I probably would have never had an excuse or a chance to visit is something that nothing from home could ever truly complete with. My “emotional roller-coaster” that every study-abroad adviser warns you about before studying abroad surprisingly looked similar to the cheesy graph they showed all of us during orientation: An initial excitement about being in Ireland, a deep drop due to homesickness and missing everything familiar from school, then a climb into contentment. I am finally past that stage of mere contentment and beginning to appreciate and actually love where I am. It took me a lot longer than most people, but at least I’m here now … just 5 weeks before I have to leave.

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Savour Kilkenny Food Festival

Time October 29th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I love food. I love cooking it, eating it, growing it, and just appreciating the many brilliant things you can do with it. So I took a three-hour bus to Kilkenny by myself, stayed in a hostel, and basically watched people cook good food and then ate their free samples…for a constant three days. On Friday, I just explored the town and walked through the Castle Park. I ended up simply sitting on a bench and people watching for a good while.

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For dinner I had a gourmet, gluten-free burger with sauteed onions, a portabello mushroom, and some greens of some sort, plus an enormous portion of chips (aka french fries). I also ate my second gluten-free brownie of the day. If I thought being allergic to gluten would be difficult in Ireland, I was wrong; it turns out they have more options here for any dietary restriction than anywhere I’ve ever been in the US.

Saturday I watched cooking demonstrations all day. I learned a few things about how to cook certain things, but mostly I was just salivating, waiting for the moment they said, “alright now don’t be shy, everyone come up and have a taste.” I admittedly may have had more than my fair share…

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My favorite host/chef was a flamboyant and quite cheeky man named Edward who wore fabulous sweaters and was always throwing in a clever punchline for comedic flare. (This picture does not do him justice)

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Sunday I started off my day with a spiced chai latte and sat in the park again until the demonstrations began. I saw a gluten-free baking demonstration where the chefs made a chocolate roulade with whipped cream, raspberry jam, and strawberries.

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The last demonstration was of a load of Christmas recipes. I swear I have never tasted anything for gorgeous than that ham.

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The entire weekend was such a nice break from my everyday routine in Cork. I got to be on my own for a few days, just doing something completely different and something that I am really interested in. It was honestly like being in another world for a weekend. The foodie culture is as close to heaven as this atheist will admit to. The smells are comforting, the people are more than willing to give you free food (in my opinion, the best kind of free thing there is), and everyone is completely absorbed in all things food and the creation of it. Being away and surrounded by couples or families or groups of friends also made me realize how important simplicity is for me to have in my life. I’m always concerned with what’s coming next, what I have to look forward to, what’s ahead. I very rarely stop to soak in where I actually am. But for the past few days I was content just being. Being solitary, being entertained, being informed, being fed, and being completely, unabashedly gluttonous for that short little while. The only downside is now I have to get back on the tredmill and off my bum, but ohhh was it worth it!

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Frisbee for Life

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

Being sick in Ireland is no fun. Granted, being sick anywhere is never fun, but when you miss your first Frisbee tournament because you’re too sick to get out of bed, you feel extra-bummed to say the least. I was getting really excited about playing in my first Frisbee tournament in Ireland, getting the chance to play with new people and play against some of the best teams in Ireland. But I was too sick to go to all except one of the practices during the week prior to the tournament and was no where near ready to play on Saturday. And I’ll admit, I was really nervous to be playing with a new team, despite my five years of frisbee experience.

Being sick also allowed me to fall into a deep slump of depression. I was too sick to go to Frisbee, the one thing that will get me out of any mood, and I was almost too tired all the time to go to class. Somehow I managed to go to all but one this past week. But over the weekend when everyone was playing frisbee and going to parties, I realized something. I only have less than two months left in Ireland, which I know is going to come and go much too quickly. I don’t have time to wallow in my sickness. So Monday came around and I showered, went to practice in the frigid Irish weather, and felt better than I have in weeks. Every practice I learn so much and I can see myself becoming a better player. It makes me so excited to go back to Puget Sound in January as the Junior captain and teach the team a few new things I’ve learned while playing for one of the best Women teams in Europe! And hopefully we’ll secure a spot to Nationals for the second year, and actually go this time.

To push myself even further, I somehow managed to wake up at 6:30 on Wednesday morning for 7 am training. Later that day I went to All Levels practice and then went rock climbing after that. Needless to say, I think I might be taking the “keep yourself busy” mantra too seriously. I have frisbee fitness training later today and a training clinic all day tomorrow. Frisbee is my life.

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Killary Adventure Weekend!!!

Time October 9th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

By far the greatest few days of my time thus far in Ireland! Over a hundred of us IFSA students took over a hostel just north of Galway in Connemara. For most people it was a weekend of partying and drinking with some outdoorsy things thrown in. For me, it was a chance for everyone to leave behind their cell phones, their wifi devices, and just hang out in nature for a few days. After having spent all summer living on farms, I was hankering for a whiff of fresh air and a chance to get out of my own head.

On Saturday morning, we went Gorge walking and kayaking. I had no idea what Gorge walking entailed, but it turned out to be the most beautiful, surreal experience I’ve had since hiking Mt. Ventoux in the beginning of the summer. We heaved on our wet-suits, strapped on our helmets, and made our way up a narrow creek, scaling waterfalls with nothing but a few ropes here and there, and floating in pools under a canopy of moss-covered trees. It was one of the more Irish experiences I’ve had here. And at the same time, it unexpectedly reminded me of home. Then I got to kayak on a fjord with the greenest hills I’ve ever seen lining the shores. And every so often the sun would peak through the clouds and illuminate one spot on the hillside, making it even greener before. Jumping off of floating trampolines into the water wasn’t too shabby either. I felt like a little kid again.

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After lunch I was the only one of my friends to do the Turf Challenge. Don’t be deceived by the name, cleats were not involved. I basically spent three non-stop hours running from mud pit to rope course, sliding down pipe tunnels into vats of various decaying plant life, and getting yanked out of neck-deep mud as thick (and exhausting) as quicksand, or so I imagine. Before the cliff jump into Ireland’s only true fjord, I looked like a mud-monster version of Medusa. And I was loving every second of the gag-reflex-inducing, nose-hair-burning, retina-eviscerating adventure!

Oddly enough, I felt like I was finally in my element. After weeks of being cat-called from moving taxis in the middle of the day and turning down invites to bars on school nights (drinking on a Monday…and a Tuesday…and a Thursday just feels wrong), I was glad to feel a sense of normalcy and order. Walking through the gorge and running through the mud took my mind off every complaint I have had about Ireland, every desire to be home and at school with my friends, every feeling of utter loneliness that had been occupying my mind for weeks.

Granted, I’m still counting down the days until my flight home (as are most study abroaders I know). But for just one weekend I was able to be in the present moment and enjoy every second of it. Killary is a weekend I’ll never forget!

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From Crazy to Calm in Seven Long Days

Time September 24th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

When you place a bag of popcorn in the microwave and press the corresponding button, several reactions occur. The energy in the microwaves creates heat, which essentially pops the kernels into an edible and often pre-buttered and salted snack. But what’s happening inside that bag to provide you with that snack is pure freaking chaos. I’m not usually one for metaphors, but this one seems to unfortunately epitomize my first week of classes. My head felt like the inside of a bag of popping corn kernels.

I attended far too many courses during the first few days of the week as I wasn’t yet registered for anything, therefore trying everything seemed logical at the time. I also realized in the process of scrambling, or to keep the metaphor alive, popping from one place to the next that there are many things I’m not used to here that I need to accustom myself to as soon as the bag deflates and the chaos subsides. I think I have found a spot in the library, although it is closed on weekends, which the over-achiever and eager student in me is deeply frustrated with. I have devised a schedule, of both classes and a workout routine. And finding time to do nothing, and actually letting the bag remain deflated, well that’s easy; every Irish student in Cork goes home for the weekend. Apparently it’s a ‘cultural thing’ but from where I’m sitting it seems to be a severe kink in my plan to actually meet Irish students. It’s something I might have liked to know before choosing to come here. Then again, Irish or not, people are people and the ones I’ve meet thus far are ones I’m excited to spend the next three months with. Although to be honest, I could be spending these three months with friends already tried and true back home, if I had stayed home. It’s something everyone who studies abroad is thinking, but which very few of them are actually saying. We miss our people, it’s that simple. Nevertheless, it’s the first week and going over what-ifs ¬†and if-onlys is to be expected.

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I am someone who tries to find joy in the simple things. I have accepted the fact that I will never be able to keep up with the Irish drinking habits; it just feels wrong to go out on a school night. So I tend to stick with my own version of fun until things pick up, clubs start, lecturers start giving out essays and homework (both of which are far too rare for my liking). And my week, while insane and stressful, and surely the reason for the many new zits now decorating my face, actually managed to churn out some real highlights. The first Ultimate Frisbee practice was on Wednesday. Being back on the pitch, throwing and running plays and simply being in that environment with the kind of people I can relate to on at least some level made me feel more at ease amid the chaos, more at home in a strange place.

Friday was more of a day for myself. I went to the city library and checked out Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential because I desperately want to be him, although perhaps minus the cocaine addiction. I also checked out and read in two days The Tao of Pooh, which if you haven’t read it, you need to. I found it by happenstance on the bottom shelf of the Psychology and Philosophy section– why I was looking on those shelves I will never know. But it has become this atheist’s version of scripture, of religious text, a sort of non-spiritual, spiritual awakening. And through reading it I sort of reversed everything I wrote in the first two paragraphs of this blog entry. See, if you didn’t pick up on it, there was negativity and self-doubt and a sense of compulsory conformity to which I was cripplingly succumbing to. It turns out I happened to find The Tao of Pooh exactly when I needed it most. The popping in my head is subsiding and the chaos doesn’t seem as loud anymore. Pooh taught me to “enjoy the simple and the quiet, the natural and the plain. Along with that comes the ability to do things spontaneously and have them work, odd as that may appear to others at times.” But this isn’t a book club blog…

So we also went to Fota Island…

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Three guesses which country I’m in…

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You guessed it, Ireland. Where nothing is what you expected it to be.

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Dis-oriented

Time September 16th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Orientation week, regardless of country or school or year, is blatantly geared toward the extroverted. Social events, dances and parties, even speed friending are one’s options. As an introvert, I prefer (without shame) to stay in on a Saturday night eating chunky peanut butter by the spoonful watching Netflix. I am also fully aware that spending my invaluable and limited time in Ireland in such a way would probably be frowned upon by study abroad organizations, my home university, UCC, and the many people I’m supposed to currently be bonding with on some superficial level. But I have done this more times than most people, having gone through an excruciating orientation at my first University in Pennsylvania (the activities during which included several variations of games with the intention of ‘getting to know people’) and then transferring after one term to Puget Sound where transfer students were given a haphazard welcoming. Now I am essentially a freshman for the third time, but the difference is I’m done forcing myself into social situations that just make me uncomfortable.

I also suppose part of my lackadaisical attitude stems from my having traveled around Europe for the past three months. Unlike my peers (all of whom thus far happen to NOT be Irish), who are excited to be on their own in a foreign country where the drinking age is 18, I have already experienced that novelty; it has come and gone. Now I’m simply waiting for classes to start, to develop a routine and establish seemingly trivial things like where my favorite study spot in the library is and where the best chai is and where I like to spend my time between classes. Those are the things, to which I’m sure many fellow introverts would attest, are just as important to survival in a new environment as is making friends.

This is all not to say I have no intention of making friends. I plan to do the exact opposite, but just on my own time and in my own way. It’s possible that traveling all summer has given me this sort of calming, self-assured perspective on the cookie-cutter ritual of friend-making. I want to meet my people–my people of course being primarily Frisbee people. Or rocking climbing people, or outdoorsy people, or environmentally-conscious people, or feminists and activists and athletes and atheists. It just takes a bit longer for me, my awareness of which I’m now realizing is a huge asset to my overarching sanity. I know that my reserved nature does not mean I will never make friends and my entire time in Ireland will be spent alone at the bottom of the peanut butter jar, scraping away every last chunk. I’ve been through this enough times to know that whoever said “all good things to those who wait” was sage indeed. It’s just the waiting that isn’t so good.

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Three Months With Nothing But A Backpack

Time September 6th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

When I got on a plane three months ago to the south of France, I had nothing more or less than a hint of a plan once I hit the tarmac. I knew I would be spending a few days travelling from hostel to hostel until I found my way to the farm where I would be WWOOFing (http://www.wwoof.net/) for four weeks. At the time, I was petrified with fear and confusion, asking myself what could have possibly possessed me to get on a plane, by myself, and willingly live like a nomad for three months. Especially considering I am well-renowned for being a planner, an organizer, a control-freak. I didn’t even have much of an interest in the environment or farming. Quiet frankly I don’t know how I thought a girl who squeals and spasms at every paranoid delusion of a bug being nearby could ever live on a farm. I slept mere inches from spider webs, forced to watch them feast on various insects as I lay my head down in an attempt to get yet another night of mediocre sleep. And while a 6am wake-up call and entire days of weeding and harvesting in sweltering heat might sound miserable, leaving all the comforts of my home and my university to WWOOF and travel for three months was the best decision I think I’ve ever made, without being too histrionic. I discovered wants and desires I never thought I would have. I care more about the food and agriculture industry and it’s effects on the environment than I think I have ever cared about anything else before.

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I was unbelievably ignorant about all of it before I left and now I know slightly more than I used to and only want to learn more. The most amazing thing about my summer is that these revelations and learning experiences happened in the summer. There was no professor telling me what the important lessons were. There were no friends or acquaintances subconsciously influencing my interests. No classrooms, no textbooks (although, yes, there were plenty of other books), no homework, and even no salary keeping me going. And I love school; I’ll be the first to advocate higher education, but there are just some things the system fails to teach. I give the education system an F for educating about the most important aspect of every human being’s lives: food. It’s what we eat, what we fuel our bodies with, what helps us lift our lids and put one foot in front of the other every morning. It’s what is more commonly causing diabetes in children and potentially lowering our generation’s life expectancy to below that of our parents. It is also, if organic, local, free-range, etc. what can solve a majority of the world’s problems. And not just malnutrition and obesity, but global warming as well. And I never knew any of this until I, at 20 years old, for some reason decided to buy a plane ticket and live on a farm merely for the chance to have free food and housing while I “saw the world.”

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If I were to give one piece of advice, it would be to travel, but for you own sake don’t go to France and don’t go alone. Being by myself in Paris or Strasbourg or London or Marseille gave me the alone-in-a-crowd feeling after a while; it’s the loneliest kind of lonely. But Scotland was a magical place. Phantassie Farm, where I spent the best four and a half weeks of my entire summer, was the closest thing to a home I had since leaving the U.S. (http://www.phantassie.co.uk/). There’s really nothing I can say to describe it without short-selling it. I lived in my own caravan among several other similar caravans with WWOOFers from all over the world: Australia, Mexico, Germany, England, Italy, Spain, and France (this Frenchman being the first one I actually took a liking to). We woke up at seven, started working at eight, took tea breaks every two hours until the work-day ended at 5pm. We worked alongside the other employees, mostly all of Scottish decent, but one crass Kiwi did leave an impression. Lunchtime conversations were such that I dare not repeat, partly because of the subject matter and partly because, while they were speaking English, the accents were so think they may as well have been speaking Cantonese half the time. And the best part is I’ve made connections with people from every corner of the world who I fully intend to see again some day. And none of this would have happened if I didn’t decide to study abroad this fall.

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For the past two weeks my mom and I have been on a pre-study abroad trip around Ireland. We started in Cork where I will attend UCC. We got a chance to look at the campus and I already know I’m never going to want to leave. Dublin and Temple bar were next on the tour. My mom actually stayed out with me until 1am listening to Irish trad music in the pubs. We have hiked the Mourne Mountains, walked the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge, stood among stone circles, stood on the Cliffs of Moher, and hiked the Torc Waterfall in Killarney National Park. My orientation in Dublin starts in just a few days and I could not be more ready. I’m ready to play Ultimate Frisbee again and rock climb again and meet even more people (Cork people being the best people). I’m so lucky to be able to spend the next three months living, studying, laughing, and exploring in the most beautiful and kind-hearted country I think this world has to offer. Only time will tell if my high expectations can be met, but then again I have the luck of the Irish on my side.

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