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Back in the Land of the Loud, Home of the Stressed

Time June 9th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

It’s been three weeks since I got back from Ireland and my experience in the U.S. thus far has been an adjustment, but not as much as I thought it would be. That’s not to say that the first couple hours were not an absolute sensory overload. First mistake- flying into Newark airport after 9 months in Ireland. Actually, it’s always a mistake flying into Newark. However this time was particularly taxing on my peace of mind in that there was no room for peace of mind on a shuttle bus to Manhattan full to the brim with Americans and their luggage. The worst part came when we had to walk from the Port Authority bus terminal to Penn Station, with not much time to spare. Imagine pushing a suitcase with 9 months worth of clothes 10 blocks while surrounded by screaming Americans, honking taxi drivers, and guys trying to get you to take one of those hop on hop off tours of the city (dude, do you see this suitcase? move on to the next vulnerable tourist). Finally, we did make it to the train station and I was able to relax and eat a Sprinkles cupcake, a delicacy I desperately missed.

Aside from that initial shock to the system upon entering NYC and reaching for euro coins rather than dollar bills a few times, my transition has been relatively seamless. My week in Vermont before I started working in NYC was crucial. Vermont in some ways is an American equivalent to Ireland with its slower pace, pretty green places, and friendly people. After that week of indulging in local diner food and the incredible scenery, I was ready to move to the big city. It was not too difficult to just slide into a new routine and get excited about all the new exploring I can do right here in America. Speaking of which, I already made plans to visit one of my IFSA friends who lives on the west coast in January.

I’m still in the stage where most people are really interested in hearing about my travels, but I know that won’t last too much longer and that’s okay.

Here’s a very condensed list of things that I’ve learned:

-Anyone who can go abroad for the whole year should do it. I got so much more out of the experience by having time to settle in to Cork and travel more.

-Being abroad gives you clarity about who your true friends are at home

-Travel as much as you possibly can. If a place makes you uncomfortable, that’s not a bad thing.

-The study part of study abroad is meaningful too

-Journal a lot if you have the patience for it. I did some, but not enough.

These photos are from when I stayed with a real life Irish family in April and got a great sense of the western coast through hiking and sailing with them.

sailing croaghpatrick

 

 

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I Got a Lot of Dates in Morocco

Time April 28th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Let me begin by clarifying, by dates, I mean the fruit. Although I was offered various Moroccan husbands along the way in exchange for camels, my dignity, etc., a plastic bag of dried fruit was one of the most memorable pieces of my trip.

I was on the way to go camel trekking and camp out in the desert, typical Monday. Our van driver stopped abruptly on the side of the road and said, “Go get some water at that store over there. There’s no water in the desert, so this is your last chance.” I being a naïve little traveler thought that half a liter of water would be sufficient for one night (it was). However, the driver convinced me otherwise, and thus I reluctantly headed across the road.

After locating a massive water bottle, I proceeded to wait in line patiently but hoping to get back in the van soon enough for a pre camel trek power nap. Since I heard some Brazilians speaking Spanish with the cashier, when it was my turn I decided to give my rusty Spanish a try…“Hola!”

He replied with a smile, “Bonjour!”

For some unknown reason I then belted out, “Hello!”

The cashier stopped what he was doing, gave me the most intense eye contact I’ve received from a stranger, and in broken English said, “I really like you. You’re nice. Merci. Thank you.”

Now that may not seem too significant and in most situations in Morocco, a sales person would say that in preparation to rip you off. In this case, I was already buying the water bottle and he was actually being sincere. I thought that was the end of the encounter, but no, there’s more.

I had gotten back into the van and was ready for the camel trek, which I would later learn is one of the coolest yet most physically uncomfortable activities. The cashier came out of the store and waved at me. At first I assumed it was just a cute farewell kind of thing. Then he put his hand on his heart and started making all sorts of affectionate gestures I wasn’t sure how to interpret. I of course reciprocated with plenty of hand on the heart motions and air kisses. I thought that was the end of the encounter, but NO, there’s more.

This charming fellow motioned for me to come back inside the store. By this point, the entire van was laughing and I was getting a bit skeptical. I continued to hesitate and smile politely from the van. Before I knew it, our driver was chatting with the cashier and clearly discussing me. The driver looked at me from across the street with a huge grin and pointed towards the store. So, I ignored all precautions I was supposed to make as a white single girl in Morocco and trusted the driver who I had met about five hours ago.

When I stepped back into the store, the cashier and the driver were standing in the corner giggling like schoolgirls. More rational people may have walked out then. I followed them into the corner. The cashier then presented me with a plastic bag, full to the brim with dates. He gazed up at me and said, “Take these please. Your face is a thing that I will never forget in my life.” I thanked him profusely, walked back to the van, and immediately gave the dates to my friend because dates are gross.

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The Weather Here is Absolutely Mental

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

In America, talking about the weather constantly is seen as annoying and a cop-out to a conversation of real substance. By contrast, the Irish love to talk about the weather. They love complaining when it’s cold and raining or scoffing at those who overreact to it or on those rare days of sunshine they rejoice very vocally. The funny part is that it rains nearly half the days in a year and yet few Irish people wear rain boots or use umbrellas. People who do take advantage of those tools (me) immediately stand out as a foreigner. The Irish tend to brave the weather because they’re so used to it, but they are equally distressed every time it rains. I actually saw a fiddle player performing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” outside in the pouring rain last week. It’s understandable why the Irish view of weather is a bit conflicted, the climate here is pure chaos or mental as they’d say. Yesterday there was snow, sun, ominous looking clouds, and a rainbow all at the same time. I’ve given up on dressing well for the weather, it’s always a leap of faith when I walk out the door in the morning. I don’t bother looking at weather.com because the predictions will likely change in a few minutes. The lesson has been: don’t stress about the rain, it’ll happen at some point whether you like it or not and you’ll manage. You might get drenched, but you’ll be okay. Then you can complain about how much it sucks and no one will silently judge, they will commiserate right along with you.

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I Got to Help Judge Battle of the Bands

Time February 28th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

As I said before, one of the best ways that I’ve gotten to meet Irish people (aside from dancing in bars), is through the Live Music Society at UCC. I was intimidated to be on the committee at first because it was comprised of almost all guys and I was the only non-Irish person. Throughout the past six months, I’ve become really involved in the society and always appreciated how welcoming the rest of the committee was. We have organized tons of events and I attended nearly all of them. However, this week I got to participate in a new way. Our largest event of the year is the Battle of the Bands competition, where 12 bands compete for some pretty lofty prizes (cash, recording time, etc.). The competition runs for about a month in a local music venue downtown and each week is a different heat. Bands that entered this year’s competition range from indie rock to metal to singer songwriters. Their final score is determined by audience votes and more substantially by a panel of judges. The judges for each heat typically included our society president, another experienced committee member, and a special guest like the previous year’s winning lead singer. This week was the wild card heat to decide the last band that would make it into the final round and I got to be a judge! It was primarily because no one else wanted to do it, but also the committee trusted me enough to put me in that role for the night regardless of my rookie status. I was nervous at first, but judging turned out to be quite a fun challenge. At the end of the night, I got an approving nod as the society president looked over my scores.

BoB
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R&G Week is for Charity, Sort Of

Time February 28th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

They talked about Raise and Give Week, or Rag Week as it’s more commonly referred to, at the first day of orientation. This week was hyped up to be one of the most exciting weeks of the year. Those orientation leaders surely did not exaggerate. Many classes were canceled, special Garda members were placed on campus and at the student accommodations, hoodies with “Breaking Rag” embroidered on the Breaking Bad logo were for sale, and so many Facebook event invites popped up that it was overwhelming. Rag Week is intended to be five days of intense fundraising for charities. Charity is certainly the central focus, but there is way more to it than that. The schedule events included things like a pizza eating competition, silent disco, zombie outbreak, gokart racing, and the nearly naked mile (which I participated in). In the classes that were taking place, barely anyone showed up. The crepe stand and hot chocolate stand were both stationed on campus all week. The real Rag Week took place after school hours. Almost every club in town had featured charity events. It was entirely acceptable and almost expected to go out every night that week. Staying out until 3am Tuesday- Thursday was enough for me and I still got quite the experience. Not surprisingly, Student Health Services has been full to the brim this week after all of the festivities. It’s comforting to know that I am one of the many suffering from a post-Rag Week cold. Totally worth it though.

naked mile
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Studying Abroad is About Studying Sometimes

Time February 19th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

While a huge portion of studying abroad has absolutely nothing to do with school, it is still important, especially in this set up where I’m taking classes with actual, real life Irish students. One of those integrated classes is an English seminar called, Dying is an Art. I’m the only American and everyone else in the room is Irish. There are only 15 of us crammed into a closet of a room that would be more suited to a faculty office, as is typically the case with arts classes in both in Ireland and the U.S. That’s a different discussion though. What I like about this seminar is that everyone is forced to participate, which makes it more engaging. Rather than doze off in a lecture theatre, last week I stood on top of a chair and acted as a psychiatrist in Sarah Kane’s  4.48 Psychosis. As an English major, skimming becomes a habit or else I wouldn’t have a life outside massive reading lists, but I finished Toni Morrison’s Beloved. All of it, the whole thing. I was amazed to find that many of the third year Irish students had never heard of her. Dying is an Art is filled with depressing female authors and poets, but that was part of the appeal for me and the rest of students. It makes for fascinating discussion.

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This is Turning into a Food Blog

Time February 19th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Given that I’m studying in Ireland, not Italy, I never expected that food would be such a significant part of my experience here. I had a kitchen last year too, but the convenience of take out surpassed any desire to cook for myself often. The reason why food is becoming more notable is that I’ve started cooking it with other people. That community aspect makes all the difference. Eating alone is nice in that you can decide exactly what you want, but that can easily turn into a monotonous routine of pasta. Another IFSA-Butler girl thought it would be a nice idea for the group to get together every Sunday for dinner. Everyone brings a different ingredient and a different person hosts each week. So far we’ve made corn chowder, stir fry, chicken curry soup, and eaten an unreasonable amount of baguettes with olive oil. This week, I’m showing some of the group one of the best fish and chip shops in Ireland, Jackie Lennox. The Sunday dinner routine is by far superior to the plain pasta one. In addition to that, sometimes my friends and I get together randomly to make some pretty elaborate meals. For instance, a few weeks ago we made sushi and dumplings from scratch. Last Sunday, the theme was lemon, so we made lemon muffins and lemon snickerdoodle cookies.

The food is of course way better in Italy, but I’m enjoying the way that it brings people together no matter where you are.

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The Cliffs of Perilous Winds

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

Last weekend I finally went to the infamous Cliffs of Moher with a group of other IFSA-Butler students. We got up way too early for a Saturday morning and headed into town to meet the tour bus. First of all, the tour company is called “Paddywagon,” which seems to be a bit derogatory, but I guess if the Irish choose to embrace the insult that makes it okay. Our tour guide’s name was Fergal and yes I’m serious. Fergal was a precious old man with a thick Cork accent who just loved to talk, as he should given his profession. When he ran out of relevant or significant topics, he would just point to random pieces of land and say that they weren’t usually that flooded. We made a stop on the side of the road for photos and almost got knocked over by sea spray. I was starving by the time we got to the lunch spot, a cozy little pub with a fire place. Fergal recommended the seafood chowder and I was pleased I followed that advice. As we were leaving the pub Fergal said he had good and bad news. Good news: the sun had actually come out, a rarity during Irish winters. Bad news: the Cliffs of Moher were unfortunately closed due to dangerous winds. However, Fergal reassured us that the wind hand blown over the barrier to get to the Cliffs of Moher so we were good to go. As we got off the bus, it didn’t seem that bad. Yes, it was windy of course, but we were able to walk steadily enough. That all changed the higher we climbed and the closer we got to the edges of the cliffs. I’ve never experienced that much wind before. Hats were flying off, people were falling in the grass, wallets were dismantled, and we even found a lonely piece of chocolate cake in the parking lot. Despite the potentially hazardous weather conditions, the cliffs were beautiful. The pictures just don’t do them justice.

cliffs1 cliffs2 cliffs3
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Studying at UCC, Take Two

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

It has only been about a month and this semester is already radically different than the Fall semester. I was more disoriented than I expected to be after returning from my Christmas break traveling around Europe. Instead of two Germans and a Norwegian, my apartment was filled with all Americans. For me, it was a version of what they call “reverse-culture shock.” They are perfectly nice and all, but I missed being the only one who’s first language was English. I knew we wouldn’t be cooking German dishes I can’t pronounce. There would be conversations about Instagram and Miley Cyrus now. However, when Brogan and I met the massive new group of Ifsa-Butler students, we quickly realized just how far we’d come in a few months. We could answer essentially any question they had about life at UCC and in Cork. There are loads of other things to be excited about for this semester…. I’ve expanded my cooking repertoire beyond pasta and oatmeal and scrambled eggs. Brogan and I are planning an epic trip to Morocco in April. The weather is becoming progressively better. Tons of new international students means tons of new people to hang out with. I don’t get lost anymore. Game of Thrones is back on in April.  I use the UCC library constantly. The farmers’ market is open again.

I have a feeling that May is going to arrive rather quickly..

peppers
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Va Molto Bene

Time January 8th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Next on my winter break tour was a trip to Italy to meet my family for Christmas. I need to go back there someday because there is SO much more to see. It’s at the top of the list for places that I’ve traveled for sure. It was great because I just got to show up and follow a meticulously planned itinerary that brought us to Venice, Vicenza, Padova, Bologna, Milan, and Verona in only a week.

  • I got to practice my Italian and remembered much more than I had anticipated. It was nice being able to communicate with locals during our most frequent emergencies: getting lost and ordering food.
  • We ate so many good things all the time. Our short stint in Bologna was essentially just for eating their specialties- prosciutto, parmesan, balsamic vinegar, and tortellini.
  • Attended mass on Christmas at the Basilica San Marco and saw the Cardinal, complete with altar boys to lift robes and adjust sashes.
  • Did lots of browsing and some purchasing in Venice’s glass and mask shops.
  • Saw the Last Supper in Milan and apparently it’s painted on an old church wall, not a canvas. Who knew?
  • Saw about twenty other beautiful and ancient churches that put our United States-centric perspective of history and architecture to shame.
  • Took an elevator to the top of a bell tower in Verona and witnessed the best sunset.
  • Didn’t take a picture on Juliet’s balcony, it totally wasn’t worth it.
  • Traveled by boat to get to places in Venice because that’s a thing.
  • Realized how much more efficient and comfortable the Italian railway system is from the American one.
masks grandcanal canal
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I Didn’t Try the Haggis

Time January 8th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

My first solo adventure to a foreign country went pretty smoothly. Here’s a long list of things I was able to see/experience in a mere three days and four nights.

  • Stayed in an 18 person male/female hostel room. Most nights, earplugs were necessary to drown out the snoring, but one glorious night it was just me and 17 empty beds. Yes it was a bit eerie, however it was also very quiet.
  • Went to my first true European Christmas market. While Cork makes its best effort, it doesn’t really compare to Edinburgh’s market.
  • Hiked to the summit of Arthur’s Seat and not get blown over by extreme winds.
  • Visited the Portrait Gallery, Modern Art Gallery, and National Gallery
  • Ate slow roasted pork from a place called Oink where I actually saw the skewered pig that my sandwich came from.
  • Drank mulled wine at the Elephant House cafe, where JK Rowling used to write ideas for Harry Potter on napkins.
  • Climbed steps to get to the top of Colton Hill. That’s where I saw the best view of Edinburgh.
  • Took a daylong bus tour of the Scottish Highlands and obviously didn’t see the Lochness monster
  • Managed to avoid getting lost
caltonhill elephanthouse highlands
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Why I Like Traveling Alone

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

The best kind of traveling is with people you enjoy being around, but there are definitely some perks to solo adventures. For instance:

  • I can make the itinerary however I want. I get to pick the location, the flight, the hostel, the activities, and the food without having to coordinate with anyone else.
  • There is a certain satisfaction in being able to navigate a new city by yourself. Especially not having a smart phone anymore, I’ve developed some serious paper map reading skills.
  • I’m more apt to meet new people. After just one night in a Dublin hostel, I became friendly with a Spanish speaking Japanese girl and another American girl (who happened to share my name) and was in Ireland for 26 days just because she felt like it.
  •  If I want to leave ridiculously early for the airport, I can do that.
  • I can wake up whenever I want to in the morning.
  • I don’t have to be social when I’m tired from traveling.
  • Learning to be confident walking around an unfamiliar place alone is important.
  • People say things like, “Oh you’re traveling alone, I don’t know if I could do that.”
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Finals. Ugh.

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

Here’s what finals mean: studying, then channeling stress into reruns of Friday Night Lights, studying, having popcorn and Ben & Jerry’s for lunch (and your roommates subsequently calling you “such an American”), more Friday Night Lights, paper writing, yoga in the middle of the kitchen, Facebook, resisting the seasons of Game of Thrones sitting conveniently on the desktop because then all studying will surely cease to continue, paper writing, sleeping, more paper writing, and lastly more popcorn.

I am absolutely ready for a break. I’m counting the days until I go to Scotland and Italy for the holidays. It’s strange though, knowing that I have six months left abroad, while most people I know are packing to go home for good. Yes, I will certainly miss all of the great people I met who are only staying for one semester. However, and this is an important however, I’m glad I decided to stay for the year and ALSO they are giving me tons of free stuff. So far, I’ve inherited granola, olive oil, brown sugar, hangers, honey, tea, spaghetti sauce, baking soda, rice, cinnamon, and I’m not finished collecting yet.

I can’t imagine going back to the States now. I don’t think I would be satisfied because there is so much more that I want to do and experience here. It is of course not always easy, but college isn’t easy regardless of if I’m in Ireland or not.

 

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Thanksgiving in Ireland

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

thanksgiving

I’ve never cared too much about Thanksgiving in the past. Christmas was always my favorite holiday. Yes, the break from school, seeing family, and the food is great of course. It just hasn’t been too high up there on my list of things I look forward to every year. It’s strange though living in a country that doesn’t celebrate a holiday that has become so ingrained in your annual routine. While all of my friends in America were going home for the week, I continued to have lectures and studying to do. On the actual day of Thanksgiving, I still had lectures and studying to do. It was just a normal day.

I haven’t had any major problems with being away, it’s been a pretty seamless transition. However, something I’ve noticed is that very small, seemingly inconsequential things can make me miss home. Canned pumpkin. That sounds so ridiculous, but I’ve become very frustrated with the lack of canned pumpkin here. There is an absence of pumpkin flavored foods in general because Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated. Apple crumble is delicious, but I miss pumpkin pie so much. So much.

Thankfully, the International Office at UCC put on a nice dinner for the Americans and anyone else who wanted to join. We had almost all of the traditional food: turkey, potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, etc. Then they asked us Thanksgiving trivia, assuming that as Americans we’d know basic stories and dates. Nope, we were absolutely terrible at it.

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The Music is Rad and the Lights are Pretty

Time November 20th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

tradiohead jazz

One of the aspects that has allowed for me to really integrate myself into the culture of Cork is its vibrant music scene. I’m a public relations officer for UCC’s Live Music Society, so that has introduced me to loads of local acts (and also all of my Irish friends). Every couple weeks we hold showcases in a venue called Cyprus Avenue downtown in the city center. They feature bands from all sorts of genres and some of them are extremely talented. The coolest part is being in a room of only about thirty people and hearing quality bands that could some day have their big break. Last week, I went with a couple friends to see Tradiohead, a group that does Radiohead covers with Irish traditional instruments. The lead singer was terrible, but it was a great experience all the same and one I probably couldn’t have had anywhere else. Guinness Jazz Weekend was pretty incredible in October. Thousands of people came together to listen and play  jazz for four days straight. There was seriously music everywhere, all the time that weekend.

I’ve learned in Ireland that I’m going to continue to have adventures and be exposed to new things every single day, even though I’m living in Western Europe, which could seem not a significant adjustment from U.S. My adventure today was handing in a paper for my Introduction to Irish Traditional Music class. That might not appear to be very exciting, but bear with me. UCC’s Music Building is located off campus and has become a bit of a joke, “Ah you have to walk all the way to the music building, I’m so sorry.” As someone who gets stressed about punctuality and finding unfamiliar places, I had been thinking about handing in the paper for days. I looked on Google Maps about 4 times, double checked the secretary’s office hours, and started walking about 2.5 hours before it was due (it should only take 20min to get there). I don’t have a smartphone, so it was up to my memory to find this place. I just had to walk through the park, across the river, and take a right and I should get there. Easy enough right? In the midst of my stress, I realized what a beautiful walk it was. The leaves were colorful, I crossed an old creaky bridge, and suddenly had the best view of Cork City. Once I crossed the river, I began walking on Sunday’s Well Road, hoping to see a big “UCC MUSIC BUILDING” sign right away. That didn’t happen. I kept walking for a good 10 minutes and still no sign of this infamously far away building. I began to panic (even though I still had 2 hours)  and was in the middle of texting some friends in the class when I heard music coming out of a gorgeous church-like building. I wandered inside, and yes this was the UCC Music Building. No sign on the outside of course.

On Sunday night, there was the annual Christmas Light Ceremony in Cork. It was scheduled to happen at precisely 6:30pm, but typical Ireland, it was delayed. The main street in town was entirely filled with people singing Christmas carols, with children on their shoulders. Finally they turned the lights on and it was the coolest.

prettylights
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Quirky Cork

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

I’ve been traveling so much lately that I haven’t had many weekends in Cork, the place where I’m actually living. I just had the best morning in my charming little city. I’m taking an Irish (Gaelic) speaking class and the wonderfully eccentric professor, Claire, loves telling us about the hidden gems of Cork that you wouldn’t find in a guide book. I have resisted her persistent suggestion to join a rowing club that she was a part of for 20 years (way too cold for that), however I did take note of the farmers’ market that she was raving about one day. The Coal Quay Food Market is barely advertised anywhere in town or online, it has just become a weekly tradition that the locals somehow know exists. As with many things in Ireland, there is no definitive end time, it goes from 8:30am until…..whenever it gets dark I suppose. The market was definitely modest, but that was what made it so great. Walking through the stands, you could tell that many of the customers were regulars and knew most of the suppliers by name and in some cases their entire life stories. The selection of samples were delicious. I tried berry cheesecake, goat cheese, spicy apple chutney, and clementines. I was eyeing a jar of pear & vanilla jam and even though it wasn’t on sale, the woman let me try it and gave me a list of other pear recipes. I finally settled on purchasing a butternut squash, goat cheese, and spinach pie and an asiago cheese pretzel. Both were wise choices. The pie man let me pick if I wanted the very browned pie or the one with the lighter crust. My friend Hannah went for a chai latte from a coffee cart and we met the sweetest Irish woman. She has lived everywhere from Ireland to Peru to Arizona and was so eager to tell us more fun things to do in Cork. Apparently there is a Christmas fair coming up and a craft market and tons of pretty walks by the river. After the farmers’ market we went to a hot chocolate place that I’ve been meaning to try since we got here. I had white hot chocolate with espresso and it was excellent.

butternutpie hotchoc
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Halloweekend in the North

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

giantscauseway

I spent my Halloween on a bus to Belfast. Some fun facts about this brief 6 hour trip to the North- Our bus driver was a stylish older man, with a new colorful scarf every day. He loved to make jokes about leaving us behind. Also, Irish rest stops along the motorway are so much better than the ones in the States. You can actually find healthy food! There was a deli/creperie that made me a delicious goat cheese and spinach croissant sandwich.

We finally arrived at the hotel. As college students we’re accustomed to twin sized moderately comfortable beds and surviving on pasta and oatmeal. So, this hotel with its queen beds, spacious shower, and all you can eat breakfast buffet was heaven for us.

On Friday, we absolutely lucked out with the weather for our day of exploring the Northern coast. The day involved crossing rope bridges, a great lunch (fresh salmon and creme brûlée!) in Bushmills, and seeing the beautiful Giants Causeway. The photos don’t do Giants Causeway justice, it is one of those places you need to experience in person. A few of us spent a solid thirty minutes just lying in the grass along the water and absorbing the scenery. We didn’t want to leave.

prettygreen

Saturday we took a black taxi tour around Belfast with drivers who had lived in the city throughout its complicated political and religious history. They told us stories of violence that occurred so recently that it was a bit unsettling. The best part was seeing all the murals on both the houses and walls that surrounded the neighborhoods. After the tour, and after eating a second breakfast at the hotel buffet, we headed into the city for more exploring. Belfast is such a modern city and very different than anywhere I had been in southern Ireland.

belfastmural
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What it’s Like to Sleep in London Stansed Airport, and Other Adventures.

Time October 28th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

birdsinbath

I went to London last weekend and it was much more of an effort than I expected, not in a negative way though. It was the first time I had hopped on a plane to a different country with no concrete plans aside from the hostel I was staying in. Let’s talk about that hostel for a minute. My friend and I arrived at about 10pm, thus receiving the last choice of beds in the 18 person male/female room. Have you ever heard of triple bunk beds? Apparently they exist and I slept on one, thankfully without injury. There was free breakfast, relatively clean bathrooms, and Scary Movie 2 playing in the common room, so not too many complaints. One unfortunate event in the series of my London adventures was that the Tube line that went to hostel was conveniently shut down for two days. We managed with replacement buses and touristy fold out maps.

While in London we did loads (notice the Irish vocab) of exploring the city. We saw everything from Big Ben to Borough Market to Wicked to this amazing dried fruit store where they aggressively gave you samples (it worked). On our last day, we got on a tour bus to Stonehenge and Bath. Stonehenge was definitely worth the trip, even if the visit was short. It was also an opportunity to see how much foreigners love taking selfies in front of ancient stones. Bath was beautiful and we had cream tea at the Jane Austen center. The photo above was taken by a stranger in eccentric clothing who gave me birdseed. Good times.

Because we took a discount airline from a not so centrally located airport, our flight was scheduled to depart at 6:55am. Rather than sleeping for about two hours in the hostel, we decided to save the money and camp out in the airport instead. When we got to Stansed Airport around 11pm, the waiting area was already full to the brim with other likeminded travelers. It took some serious searching to find a bench that we could only sort of fit on comfortably. People had come prepared with sleeping bags, yoga mats, and pillows. Burger King was open all night and there were surprisingly no screaming children. This experience could have easily been very sketchy, but it wasn’t. Everyone respected each other’s space and just wanted to sleep, not steal things. At 4am, there was a mad dash to check in and go through security. We were then ushered into another waiting area with way more shopping options than any reasonable human needed that early in the morning. Finally, our gate was announced, we made the flight back to Cork, and it was raining. Obviously.

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A List of Things That Are Different Here.

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

  • Irish grocery stores don’t refrigerate eggs. I’m not sure if this is a specifically Ireland or a Europe-wide concept, but apparently you won’t die if you eat eggs that were room temperature for a while. I tried it, I’m still here.
  • Punctuality is not a priority. Everything moves at a slower pace, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Americans are far too rushed. Meetings start twenty minutes late, lecturers forget they’re teaching a class, and people stroll rather than scurry done the streets.
  • People don’t eat while they’re walking. This goes back to the punctuality point, maybe the Irish don’t feel the need to save time by multitasking and instead enjoy two more minutes with that bagel at a kitchen table.
  • Taxi drivers are so friendly. In every taxi that I’ve taken since I’ve been here, the drivers initiate conversation in a completely not creepy way. It’s the norm to chat with them about the upcoming hurling game or why you decided to come home at 12am as opposed to 2am.
  • Irish students go home every weekend. The majority of UCC students live within an hour of campus, so every Friday they head back to their mom’s cooking and a place to do free laundry.
  • Irish students study during the day. In between classes, the library is packed. It works for me because I function much better earlier on in the day. While Americans fill the library from 6pm-sometimes 6am, the UCC library is nearly empty as soon as it gets dark outside.
  • I can watch Downton Abbey in real time because I’m so close to England!
  • Some common phrases/words include: cheers, lads, it’ll be good craic, there are loads of..  (enter every and any noun here), oh you’ll be grand. These and many others are quickly making their way into my vocabulary.

In closing, here is a very cool photo of me on a zip line at Killary Adventure Center.

zipline
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Hiking and the Best Fish & Chips Ever.

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

boughil

The honeymoon is over, I’m actually a real live college student again. This isn’t summer vacation anymore. I’m registered for classes, my Blackboard account finally works, and I’ve started to take out library books. Also, clubs and societies are beginning, which has been an opportunity to really get to know Irish students. I joined the Mountaineering Club and boy was I unprepared. This past weekend I got up at 7am on a Sunday to make it to the bus that would bring us to Boughil Mountain. They had highly encouraged hiking boots and rain pants, but I disregarded that and assumed Nike’s and running leggings would be just fine. Rookie move. By the end, after many falls and puddles and climbs over muddy rocks, I was soaked and exhausted. I had never done hiking like this before. There was no trail, so I had to trust these UCC students with their compass and paper map to not let me die. It was one of the most difficult/awesome things I’ve experienced since arriving in Ireland. Last night, I went to the first meeting of the Live Music Society and can’t wait to get more involved with that!

fishandchips

Surprisingly I’ve been eating better here than I did at home because I cook every day. However, there are a few exceptions. My friend Rachel are on a quest for the best fish and chips we can find in Ireland. So far, the winner is without a doubt Jackie Lennox’s Chip Shop. After a 20 minute trek through a Cork neighborhood we weren’t familiar with, we found the restaurant. You can get anything you want on your chips (that they hand cut!): peas, gravy, garlic mayo, etc. We decided to go traditional with a plain order of fish and chips, along with a cheese onion pie. Rather than serving it to us on a plate or any sort of container, they just wrapped it up in a huge wad of paper. It is probably a good thing that Lennox’s isn’t close to where I live or I would be frequenting it a bit too often.

 

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Week 1: Castle-like Buildings and Tea.

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

castleschool

So my school looks like a castle, or Hogwarts, you choose. It’s old and beautiful and they actually hold classes in its east and west wings. However, the reason why that grassy area in the middle looks so exquisite and untouched is because it is. No one sets foot on the lawn until they graduate, aside from the man who mows the lawn of course (lucky guy!). Rumor is, if you step on the grass you’ll fail your degree. There is also a crest engraved in the center of the main arch that students avoid stepping on due to the fact that it would get you pregnant. Very logical I think. The best is when there is a herd of people rushing to classes, yet there is a pause and a split of the group to the sides as they enter the archway.

Teaapplecrumble

There is so much tea all the time and I’m not complaining one bit. I’m coming to understand that it is an integral part of the Irish culture. Americans tend to rely on coffee for a boost of energy that will make up for a lack of sleep. Tea in Ireland though, is a little more about bringing people together, as well as an individual comfort. It is acceptable to have it at every meal, even between meals too. There is tea in grocery stores, restaurants, pubs, cafes, tables on the street, seriously everywhere. UCC has an official Hot Beverage Society, which is very telling. The other great part about tea is that it is often paired with loads of delicious desserts. I was having afternoon tea with a friend this weekend at Serendipity Cafe and had an amazing apple crumble. I am 100% content with swapping out my coffee habit for a tea addiction.

 

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Ready for Ireland! Maybe. Possibly. Hopefully.

Time August 23rd, 2013 in College Study Abroad | 2 Comments by

hunterboots

I’m a little bit in denial about packing a year’s worth of clothing/other necessities (what’s actually a necessity, I’m not sure) into one suitcase. Other than that, I’m set.

Kidding. I have just about two weeks before I head to Cork for 10 months and it’s all a blur. That is kind of a big deal and maybe I should start thinking about some logistics, aside from YAY IRELAND. For a while now, studying abroad has been this abstract concept that apparently (according to every person I talk to) I’m going to love. I believe them, I do. I am so excited, but a year of my life in a different place with brand new people is tough to fathom.

Here’s a list of things to do, some of which I’ve done because I’m all prepared and such:

  • I said goodbye to most of my friends from school already. CHECK
  • Say goodbye to my cat.
  • I’ve already told my mother that I won’t be crying in the airport and she’s not allowed to either because that would be ridiculous. We’ll see each other in December, it’ll be fine, really. CHECK
  • I purchased rain boots. CHECK
  • Read the Irish history section of that guidebook
  • Don’t overpack
  • Be ready for damp, cold weather. Oh wait, I’m from Vermont, never mind.
  • Not freak out when everyone goes back to school and I have two weeks in limbo before I leave for Ireland.
  • Get insanely thrilled for all of the change and people and culture I’m going to encounter. CHECK

 

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