Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

My Posts

{photos, text, video}

After The Return

Time June 27th, 2014 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

“You will never be completely at home again because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”

In my first post I wrote, “taking the time to sit down and post on my blog has forced me to acknowledge the reality that I will be leaving the United States for 5 months.” Well, taking the time to sit down and write this final post has forced me to acknowledge the reality that my time abroad is over.

After five months abroad, I am finally back home again in Indiana (Go Indy 500!). As much as I resisted the idea of leaving Ireland, it is really good to be home – with my friends, my family, my culture, and everything familiar to me.

My first few days back were very chaotic and hectic, which made adjusting back to my daily routine difficult. I read all the material about reverse culture shock before I left for Ireland and at the time I thought to myself, “Yeah, mmhmm, okay. I understand,” but I didn’t really comprehend what it’s like until now. After all the challenges I overcame abroad, I didn’t expect reintegrating into my own culture to be the biggest challenge of them all.

Like I said in my previous post, this was truly the trip of a lifetime full of wonderful memories that I will always treasure.

Over and out –

Allison

 

 

 

Share

Preparing to Return Home

Time May 21st, 2014 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

The funny thing about time is that you can spend it, but never save it … and once it’s gone there’s no getting it back. I knew from the moment the plane touched down in Dublin that my time here would eventually come to an end. However, it’s hard to accept that it’s actually here. My last final is in 6 days and then I’m off to Belgium, the Netherlands, and Spain before returning to Indiana on June 22.

After being away for four months, I am very excited to return home. I’m looking forward to sleeping in my own bed and eating a proper home cooked meal. I can’t wait to see my friends and family. I am also very excited about having a car again! While I’m excited to return home, I am equally sad about leaving Ireland. I’m going to miss this beautiful country and the great people I’ve met in it. I’ve developed several deep friendships over the last four months. The thing is … I plan on staying in contact with all of them and I know we’re going to make time to see each other again after we return to the United States. It’s the people that would always say hi to me in the hallway or the ones that smiled at me in class that I’m going to miss seeing everyday. From the beginning, everyone has been so welcoming and it has meant so much to me. The amazing people I’ve met here are the reason my experience abroad was so wonderful.

When I get home, people are going to ask me about my experience abroad and to be honest I have no idea how I’m going to respond. There aren’t really any words that can describe these past four months. However, I can say this, my study abroad experience has been a wild ride that has come with a whirlwind of emotions, both good and bad. Between the incredible people I’ve met in Ireland and the countless memories I’ve made, I have truly had the trip of a lifetime and I couldn’t be more grateful for this fantastic adventure.

Oh, the places you’ll go –

Allison

Share

The Ring of Kerry

Time May 19th, 2014 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

This weekend I finally made it to Killarney and the Ring of Kerry! Some friends and I took a wonderful tour around southwest Ireland along the Ring of Kerry. It was absolutely gorgeous and the views were amazing! I posted some pictures of my trip, although these pictures do not do the Ring of Kerry justice (I finally figured out how to post pictures, so I decided that I would do a picture blog this time!).

 

dsc00269

This picture was taken at The Red Fox Inn where we stopped for a quick bathroom break and had the option to get some authentic Irish coffee (coffee, Irish whiskey, and sugar).

dsc00286

This was at Kells Sheep Dog Trial. A local farmer gave us a demonstration on how he herds his sheep using his two sheep-dogs.

1172838_0

This picture was also taken at Kells Sheep Dog Trial. One of these things is not like the other.

10175069_10154101424230043_7251904737684866380_n

I held a newborn lamb on Saturday (it was very windy outside). It was absolutely adorable and it started licking my face, which was so cute. This made my day!

dsc00296

This photo was taken looking out toward the Atlantic Ocean between Waterville and Sneem.

dsc00317

This was taken in the picturesque village of Sneem of a beautiful raging river.

dsc00318

This picture is of Ladies View in Killarney National Park.

 

Never stop exploring –

Allison

Share

How my Study Abroad Experience Impacts my Professional Goals

Time May 5th, 2014 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

As a child, I dreamt of being a princess, a boxer, and a professional drummer. Once I was old enough to understand that these were not realistic career options for myself, I began to pursue a more practical career. I began developing a keen interest in the study of medicine and it has become a passion for me. My major is Physician Assistant and I am so excited to graduate to start my career.

Physician Assistants are concerned with preventing, managing, and treating illnesses by diagnosing patients, ordering and interpreting tests, assisting in surgery, and writing prescriptions. They provide a broad range of health care services that help patients, as well as the doctors. Being a Physician Assistant gives the evident and apparent opportunities to help and serve others. However, Physician Assistants also serve others in less obvious ways, such as giving people hope, comfort, and reassurance in a time when they are most vulnerable.

Studying abroad is helping me to achieve my goal of becoming a Physician Assistant in so many different and unexpected ways. As I expected, studying abroad sets me apart from my peers. I have learned a variety of new skills that can be transferred into the workplace. However, I have also learned so many unexpected things that I can apply to my job that just cannot be learned in a classroom. Experiencing a foreign culture has helped me gain a new awareness and expand my view of the world. I have been exposed to all kinds of people with backgrounds different than my own allowing me to gain new perspectives, which will help me relate to my patients better. Additionally, I have had so much freedom here in Ireland and I have become more independent and self sufficient because of it. Studying abroad has pushed my limits and taught me how to better handle new situations, which will no doubt come in handy in the medical field. Recently I have noticed that I have begun to take more of an active role in my life. Instead of letting things happen to me, I have been making things happen for myself. Becoming more proactive and assertive will help me communicate with not only my patients, but my coworkers and superiors as well. Studying abroad has also given me the time and the opportunity to find out more about myself and what drives me to do what I do. From the beginning I have been committed to making the most out of this experience because I believe that being out of my comfort zone will help me challenge myself on a personal level, which will ultimately make me a better Physician Assistant.

More to follow –

Allison

Share

Shakespeare’s Globe

Time April 28th, 2014 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

During my Spring Break I had the wonderful opportunity to visit London for a week. I saw the Tower Bridge, the London Eye, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, the National Gallery, Hyde Park, St. James Park, Windsor Castle, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Covent Garden Market, China Town, the Royal Opera House, Stonehenge, the Roman Baths, Camden Market, and much more (basically anything and everything touristy). However, my favorite part of the trip was seeing a play at Shakespeare’s Globe (I am a huge William Shakespeare fan!). The Globe Theatre, which was built in 1599 by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, was a popular theatre in London during Shakespeare’s time. However, the theater was destroyed in a fire in 1613. Shakespeare’s Globe is a modern reconstruction of the original Globe Theatre located about two tenths of a mile away from the original theatre.

On Thursday I saw Titus Andronicus at Shakespeare’s Globe. This play was one of Shakespeare’s earliest tragedies about murder and revenge. I had never heard of Titus Andronicus, so I did a little research and read the play before I saw it in theatre. The play was absolutely amazing! It also was pretty violent with 14 killings, 6 severed members, 1 rape, 1 live burial, 1 case of insanity, and 1 of cannibalism (according to SparkNotes). Several of the groundlings, people who stood on the floor in front of the stage, fainted during the play due to the graphic violence and had to be brought out of the theater. The attendants acted like this was a regular thing during this play. In addition to the brilliant performances, this play had an all-star cast. Indira Varma (for those of you who are Game of Thrones fans!!!) played Tamora, Queen of the Goths. William Houston, who has been in Sherlock Holmes, Clash of the Titans, The Odyssey, Hamlet, and Fifty Dead Men Walking, portrayed Titus Andronicus. I was a little star struck! Titus Andronicus was such a wonderful production and I absolutely loved it!

All the world’s a stage –

Allison

Share

Advice for Studying Abroad

Time April 14th, 2014 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

So I’ve been in Ireland for 11 weeks now and time is just flying by! I have 7 weeks left until I leave Ireland (3 weeks of school, 2 weeks of break, and 2 weeks of finals), which seems crazy. It feels like just last week I was scrambling around Indianapolis preparing for my trip to study abroad.

A few weeks before Winter Break, the Center for Global Education at Butler University hosted a Pre-Departure Orientation to prepare us for going abroad. There was a question and answer session with other students who had studied abroad, which was probably the most helpful thing from the orientation. They answered questions I didn’t even know I had and gave some pretty great advice that has served me well. I realize that everyone’s study abroad experience will be different, but here is some advice I have for future students studying abroad (hope it helps!).

Packing

I was only allowed one checked item and one carry-on bag, so I had to pack very wisely. I used most of the space in my luggage for clothes, shoes, and toiletries. Pack only the essentials because there isn’t enough room to bring something you’re not going to use. Despite what you may think, you don’t need 6 pairs of shoes, 5 pairs of jeans, 4 handbags, or 14 shirts, for example. As an international student, it is completely socially acceptable to wear the same outfit for several days in a row (trust me on this one). A tip for packing clothes would be to roll everything instead of folding, putting the harder materials at the bottom and the softer materials on the top. This nearly doubled the space in my suitcase! Everything else I needed, such as school supplies, kitchen supplies, and bedding, I bought abroad. Also, realize that you may have to leave things behind if you want to take home everything you bought abroad (or just wear everything you possibly can to the airport to free up space, which is going to be my strategy).

I would also check the weather of your host country before you leave. I checked the weather in Dublin and was pretty confident I knew what the temperature was going to be like. The temperature was in the high 30’s and 40’s in January and compared to the -12 degree weather Indiana was getting before I left, this almost seemed hot. However, Ireland is very humid, wet, and windy, which makes everything seem much much much colder than it actually is. I can handle 40 degree weather in a sweatshirt in Indiana, but I really regretted not bringing a coat to Ireland. I was freezing for the first two months, which was miserable and I was too stubborn to actually buy a coat.

Culture Shock

I was very lucky because I never got past the honeymoon phase of culture shock. I am still completely in love with Ireland and I doubt that is going to change (the down side of not being homesick is the fact that it will just be that much harder for me to leave). However, some of my good friends here did go through the negative phases of culture shock. My advice for this is that you’re not alone and the bad feelings will pass in time.

Staying in Touch

You’re in a new country and experiencing all kinds of new and exciting things, but it is good to take time and call home every once and a while. On the other hand, don’t spend every second you get checking Facebook to see what your friends are up to and calling home multiple times a day. You’re in a new country, so get off the Internet and experience it!

The time difference can make calling home a little difficult at times, so you just have to plan ahead. I call home once a week using Skype or Facetime (depending on the Wi-Fi connection that evening) and I’ve talked with most of my friends from back home at least once so far.

Money

I am generally a pretty frugal person. I usually only buy what I need and then splurge every so often, so I never really had the need to make a budget. However, if you are someone who will spend all your money until its gone, it would be a very wise decision to budget how much you can spend each month and then make sure to follow it. Also, costs abroad are different than they are at home. It’s also a good idea to leave extra money in your budget for unexpected things, like a spontaneous weekend trip.

Another thing to consider is the exchange rate. Right now, 1.00 euro equals 1.39 dollars. While this is constantly changing, it is usually not in favor of the dollar (… don’t even get me started on the pound). Things cost the same as they do back home, but because of the exchange rate things will end up costing more. This can be a bit overwhelming, but knowing this in advance can help with planning.

I set up an Irish bank account so I wouldn’t have to use my American cards here. I was very opposed to this idea at first, but it was actually rather painless and really easy to do. If you don’t want to set up an international bank account, then just make sure you check with your bank to make sure they won’t charge you any insane international fees. Also, let your bank know you are studying abroad so they don’t shut off your cards when you withdraw from a foreign ATM.

Phone

I decided to buy a cheap 20 euro phone with a pay as you go plan. I don’t use my Irish phone that often, but it is nice to use in emergency situations. However, I do have friends here that just brought their phones from home and bought a pay as you go plan, which saved them the cost of the phone. If you do this though, make sure to talk with your provider and unlock your phone. My iPhone was still in a 2-year contract, so I couldn’t unlock it unfortunately. I brought my iPhone anyway to use when I have access to Wi-Fi. Since I have an iPhone I can use iMessage to text other people with iPhones. It is just like texting normally and it is free since it uses the Internet. There are also a lot of apps that you can use to text and call back home using the Internet.

Housing

I live in an on-campus apartment, so transportation to and from the university hasn’t really been an issue for me. I have my own bedroom and bathroom, so I haven’t had any roommate issues either thankfully.

There is no meal plan on campus so I have had to cook for myself, which has been a new experience. We have a kitchen in our apartment and we were provided with some cookware. However, we were not given everything we would need to cook here, such as a baking pan or an oven sheet (which doesn’t really matter too much because our oven is broken anyway). I decided that I wasn’t going to buy a bunch of cookware to just have to throw it all away in a few of months (I’m frugal remember?), so I’ve been living on cereal, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and pasta for the past two months. Even if I did have proper cookware, I would probably still be eating cereal, PB and J’s and pasta, which is sad, but true. This is no exaggeration. So be prepared to learn how to cook or eat the same thing for every meal!

Laundry is very expensive at my university. We have a washer and dryer in our apartment complex. The cost to use the washer and dryer is 3.20 euros each. So if you would like to wash and dry your clothes, it costs around 9 dollars. The worst part of this is that the washer is so small that you physically cannot fit more than a weeks worth of clothes in it (I’ve tried and it doesn’t work out very well). So there is no separating clothes by color here (not that I did that at home) or waiting several weeks to do laundry. Sometimes I’ll dry my clothes on the radiator in my room when I don’t feel like paying for the dryer.

Courses

Take the courses that are required for your major, but aside from those take classes you will enjoy. There are so many things that you can’t learn in a classroom setting. I’m not saying take the easiest classes you can find, but this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and you don’t want to waste it studying in the library.

Studying

Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try, you will have to do a little work while you’re abroad (who knew there was a scholastic component to STUDYING abroad?). You don’t want to blow everything you have been working towards because you partied too hard a semester abroad. While I am doing significantly much less work here than back at home, I still do work and have somewhat of an idea of what is happening in class. Play hard, but work hard too.

Public Transportation

Public transportation is wonderful in Ireland. You can pretty much get anywhere you want by bus or train and, if necessary, taxi for a reasonable price. The only complaint I have about the public transportation is that busses and trains often never depart when they say they will. They are usually late, but a friend and I actually missed a bus because it was five minutes early. Also, taxi drivers are the friendliest people and love to talk to you.

Traveling

You should take every opportunity to travel, but at the same time don’t over do it. Over break, I had the chance to go to Scotland for a week. My friends and I planned the whole trip. We wanted to do so many things and tried to make it all happen. We would visit two cities in one day and sleep on the train ride to the next city. It was exhausting because we tried to do too much with the little time we had. Also, take several trips to other countries, but make sure that you have time to travel your host country. You don’t want to get to the last week of your program and realize that you haven’t seen any of your host country.

Plan trips out before you go, but leave a little time for relaxing and unexpected things. In my experience, just “winging it” has never worked out. Also, book everything online. During our first study break, some friends and I took a bus to the airport at 300a on a Tuesday. There were so many people at the bus stop, which was surprising for 300a. The bus had completely filled up and because we booked our tickets in advance we got a seat, but several people who were relying on this bus to get them to their flights on time had to wait until the next bus in a hour and a half.

Also, don’t be afraid to travel alone. If you want to go somewhere that none of your friends want to visit, don’t let that stop you. It might seem scary, but it is actually a good experience. You can do whatever you want whenever you want without having to consult the people you’re traveling with, you meet people you wouldn’t have met if you were surrounded by your friends, and the best part is all the confidence you gain afterwards.

First Generation College Students

My main concern abroad has been finances. My advice to this would be to save money as soon as you know you want to study abroad. You might want to buy that new DVD that just came out, but you’re going to want to go on a weekend trip to Belfast even more, for example. Also, don’t be afraid to tell people no when you’re abroad. What I mean by this is that sometimes your friends are going to want to do things that you will have to say no to. I have had to tell my friends that I can’t go out to eat with them or travel to Budapest for the weekend or buy several drinks at a bar, which is always hard especially when you want to do these things, but sometimes it has to be done.

Freshman year when we were advised to think about studying abroad I completely blew off the idea. I didn’t have the money, I didn’t have the time, I didn’t want to leave home, and it just wasn’t for me. Besides, people in my major rarely study abroad because of the strict courses we are required to take. However, by the end of freshman year I was scrambling to make my study abroad experience happen second semester sophomore year (I know this blog says I’m a junior, but I’m actually a sophomore). I have never met anyone who has studied abroad and regretted it. So if you are deciding whether you want to study abroad, the answer should be yes and you will find a way to make it work. It truly is a privilege to study abroad. You have four carefree months that you get to immerse yourself in another culture, travel the world, and have unforgettable and life changing experiences. It doesn’t get any better than that.

I know this is a very long post, but I don’t know the next time I will have the opportunity to blog. Procrastinating has caught up to me this week, Spring Break is next week, and then my parents are coming to visit Ireland the week afterwards! It will be a busy few weeks!

Let go and let’s live –

Allison

Share

Adventure Weekend

Time April 2nd, 2014 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

Last weekend IFSA Butler hosted another amazing trip to Carlingford Adventure Centre! Like Northern Ireland weekend, all the IFSA Butler students from all over the country met up in Carlingford, which is located halfway between Dublin and Belfast, for a weekend full of adventure.

On Friday we all settled into our rooms at the Adventure Centre and had a relaxing evening. We took a tour of the town and ate dinner at a local pub afterwards. For the rest of the night, I just hung out at the Adventure Centre, which I enjoyed because it gave me the chance to meet other IFSA Butler students outside of my program at Maynooth (a.k.a. Caitlin, Amy, and I). The real adventures began on Saturday. My friends and I signed up for the challenge course, laser combat, and the high ropes course.

There were eleven of us total who signed up for the challenge course. This course was full of various physical and mental exercises designed to build trust as well as test our capabilities. We completed around nine mini-challenges as a team, although I will admit we failed about half of them (nevertheless, we had a great time doing it!). These challenges required a lot of teamwork and cooperation. The challenge course wasn’t what I was expecting, but it was still a lot of fun and very entertaining.

I really enjoyed Laser Combat as well because it was like laser tag to the extreme and also every IFSA Butler student signed up for it. We were all given camouflage jumpsuits to wear and a laser gun. We walked 20 minutes through the countryside to this outdoor arena in the forest. The area was very large and had barricades, forts, and bases scattered throughout the forest.  We were split into two teams and played Annihilation where one team would try to kill everyone on the opposite team. It took me a couple of rounds to get the hang of it, but when I did I was unstoppable (at least I like to think I was … actually, I was probably the least threatening person on the field).

The high ropes course was no doubt my favorite part of the trip. There were two activities we could do in the high ropes course: Jacobs Ladder and the Totem Pole. Jacobs Ladder was this giant ladder suspended from two large poles. The rungs started close together, but got wider the higher you went. The goal was to work with three other people to reach the top of the ladder. Our team had five minutes to climb the ladder and we all made it to the third rung, which I am proud of. The other team event we did was the Totem Pole. The goal of this activity was to climb up a 44-foot pole and balance on a platform at the top with three other people. This platform looked like it was only supposed to hold one person. It was nearly impossible fitting four people onto this very tiny, shaky platform! I didn’t know the three other members of my team before this challenge, so it was like an awkward, but fun meet-and-greet on the platform as we were all embracing each other to keep from falling. At 44 feet above the ground all social boundaries flew right out the window. I realize that 44 feet is not really that high, but when you’re at the top it feels like you’re looking down from the Empire State Building. It was absolutely terrifying! I loved the adrenaline rush from the high ropes course, but I also really liked that no one was taking themselves too seriously. Everyone was being silly and having a good laugh at each other. For a moment I could take my mind off of everything and just live in the moment.

Adventure Weekend was an incredible experience and a great adventure!!

That’s it for now –

Allison

 

 

Share

Everyone’s Irish on March 17th

Time March 26th, 2014 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday celebrating Irish culture and heritage all over the world. March 17th began as a religious feast commemorating the day St. Patrick died. However, today it is a day of pride for the Irish as well as a day of celebration.

 Indianapolis celebrates St. Patrick’s Day every year with the Greening of the Canal (dying the downtown canal green!) and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Everyone puts on their greenest outfit and comes downtown to enjoy the festivities, which can get a little overwhelming. However, St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin was unlike anything I’ve experienced before.

At 800a, I met a large group of international students at the bus stop in Maynooth to ride into Dublin together. We got off the bus at the last stop around 900a. The streets were fairly empty aside from the parade personnel who were getting ready for the parade. We weren’t sure what time we would have to start lining up to get a good parade spot, so we left earlier than we needed. The streets were beginning to get busy around 1015a and by 1100a all you could see was green. We found a good spot to watch the St. Patrick’s Festival Parade. Unfortunately, as more people showed up to watch the parade, the further back we were pushed. We apparently weren’t being aggressive enough to keep our good spots at the front. The parade lasted about an hour and a half and was made up of bands, floats, performers, and dancers.

After the parade finished, everyone seemed to be running around aimlessly and there was complete pandemonium. It was crazy, but a good kind of crazy. The best way I can describe the moments after the parade ended is Wal-Mart on Black Friday. Once we got away from the heavy crowds, we checked out several pubs. We also stopped by the Irish craft beer and food market. We were all starving by this point because every restaurant had a line outside the door, so we were shamelessly eating all of the free samples. After the market, we just enjoyed the atmosphere. It was an incredible feeling to know that we were celebrating St. Paddy’s (not Patty’s) Day in Dublin. I got a lot of good pictures of the parade, but my camera battery died later in the day, which is just as well because sometimes the best moments in life aren’t caught on camera.

What a day –

Allison

Share

Why Maynooth?

Time March 10th, 2014 in First Generation Scholars | 2 Comments by

I am often asked the question: Why did you choose to study at National University of Ireland, Maynooth? Honestly, the answer is process of elimination. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to study abroad through IFSA-Butler in an English speaking country in Europe. This narrowed down my choices to England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. The next decision I had to make was when I wanted to return to school. Butler’s winter break officially began December 21, which was a week later than in previous years. Some of the universities that I was interested in started their spring semester as early as December 31. I felt I wouldn’t have enough time to adequately prepare to study abroad in ten days (the extended winter break was also an added bonus!), so the start date of the program influenced my decision as well . The last and most important thing I needed to consider was the required classes I needed to take this semester for my major, Physician Assistant. Ultimately, NUIM ended up being the only university that would transfer the credits I needed back to Butler. This is how I decided to study abroad at NUIM and I am glad I did!

NUIM has a remarkable reputation for academic excellence, excelling in the sciences and humanities. Additionally, this university is in the perfect location. NUIM is located in a charming university town that is only 15 miles west of Dublin. Everything is very accessible in Maynooth and within walking distance, which is great for those who don’t have access to a car (like me!). However, when you want to go into the big city, it’s only a 45 minute bus ride away. NUIM is split into North Campus and South Campus, which combines the contemporary with the historical. North Campus has state of the art teaching facilities and modern research institutes, while South Campus houses the beautiful historic buildings that date back to the eighteenth century.

However, my favorite thing about NUIM is the social life. Even though Maynooth is a relatively small town, there is always something going on. I joined several clubs and societies at NUIM. I am in Banter, Rovers, Kickboxing and International society, which keeps me plenty busy. Last Tuesday I went to BJ’s in your PJ’s (don’t worry, BJ stands for Ben and Jerry’s), which was hosted by Banter society. Several international students and I walked to the event in our pajamas. I was initially planning on spending an hour at the event, but I ended up chatting with other members in the society and eating ice cream for four hours. It is the little things like that that are making my college experience here truly amazing.

The people are so friendly and welcoming, which makes the atmosphere uniquely personal here. One moment somebody is a stranger and the next moment you’re talking like you have known each other for years. Maynooth is a home away from home.

Cheers –

Allison

Share

Northern Ireland Weekend!

Time March 3rd, 2014 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

Last weekend IFSA Butler hosted a trip to Northern Ireland! Students in the IFSA Ireland program from all over the country met up in Belfast for an unforgettable four day weekend.

We toured the Antrim Coast visiting Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Giant’s Causeway, and Dunluce Castle. The coastline was absolutely breathtaking! There were rolling green hills and sheep grazing on the side of the mountains. The scenic landscape of Northern Ireland is the most beautiful I have ever seen.

Our first stop was Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. This bridge connects the mainland to Carrick-a-Rede island. The rope bridge was built by fisherman to help catch salmon, but it is no longer in use. It is 20 meters long and 30 meters high. This bridge originally consisted of one rope handrail with widely spaced slats; however, the bridge has since been reinforced for safety reasons (thankfully!) as this is now a popular tourist attraction.

Next, we visited Giant’s Causeway. Around 60 million years ago this stunning geological formation was created as the result of ancient volcanic eruptions. As the lava cooled, the characteristic hexagonal basalt columns were formed. Nevertheless, the legend surrounding Giant’s Causeway proposes a different origin. According to legend, the Causeway was created by a giant. Back when the Causeway connected Ireland and Scotland, an Irish giant named Finn MacCool was trying to reach his love on a Scottish isle. However, he was challenged to a fight by a Scottish giant. When the Scottish giant realized he was no match for Finn MacCool, he fled back to Scotland destroying the Causeway so that he couldn’t be followed.

The last site we went to was Dunluce Castle. This medieval castle was built in the 13th century and was the home of the MacDonnell Clan. One notable feature about this castle is that it is located on the edge of a cliff. There are extremely steep drops into the sea surrounding the castle on several sides. As the legend goes, in the early 1600’s on a stormy night, the kitchen fell into the sea taking several servants with it. The castle was abandoned shortly after this and it began deteriorating into the ruins that are there today.

This weekend was an incredible adventure and I have fallen in love with Ireland all over again! There is something undeniably special about being here. It is a truly surreal and wonderful feeling!

Stay tuned –

Allison

Share

Adjusting to a New Educational Landscape

Time February 19th, 2014 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

I have successfully completed my second week of classes at NUIM!!! While it might seem like Ireland and America have similar academic systems, I have already begun to notice some of the differences:

1. The biggest adjustment American students have to make when they attend an Irish university is adjusting to the different methods of assessment. In the United States, we are continuously assessed throughout the year. For example, in one class we may have two essays, three tests, a project, and several homework assignments, as well as a final exam that will determine our grade for the semester. However, this is not the case in Ireland. Here, your grade is mainly based on one end of the year exam. In my Microbiology class, the final exam at the end of the semester is worth 70% of my final grade, while the other 30% of my grade is from the lab portion of the class.

2. Another major difference is the cost of tuition. I am not completely sure how this all works out, but I believe the Irish government pays tuition fees for Irish citizens (who qualify for it) studying at Irish universities. Also, Irish citizens cannot pay over a certain amount for tuition (if they don’t qualify for free tuition). The maximum amount they can pay is around 2500 euros per semester (or something like that). Anyone studying at an American university can quickly spot the difference here.

3. The courses available to students are also a little different than in the United States. Students here specialize in their field of study much earlier than we do, so they are more advanced in their program than we are at the same age. Also, the minimum amount of credits you need to take in order to be considered a full time student at NUIM is higher. You must take 30 ECTS (15 U.S. credits) minimum at NUIM instead of 12 U.S. credits minimum at Butler.

4. A minor difference between the schools in America and Ireland is the time things begin and end. While the time spent in class is roughly the same as back home, the starting times are different. At Butler I had 800am classes Monday through Friday (despite all of my efforts to avoid this). Here my earliest class starts at 1000am and on some days my first class isn’t until 200pm. However, the drawback is that classes end later. I might end class at 700pm here, where as in the U.S. I would be done with classes at 100pm.

5. The dress code is also slightly different. In the U.S. it would be socially acceptable to go to class in sweatpants or even pajamas (if it’s an early class). That doesn’t happen here much. I haven’t seen one person wearing sweatpants to class and certainly no one in their pajamas.

6. One thing that surprised me is the amount of older students that are taking courses at NUIM. One of the history classes I am taking only has four students, including myself, that are in their early twenties. The rest of the students are in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, and even 60’s. You don’t really see much of that in the U.S. (although the cost of tuition might have something to do with this).

7. The grading scale is also different. In the U.S. we have a top down grading system. The grading scale starts at 100 and we are marked down based on what we get wrong. For example, if you missed 2 questions on a 20 question worksheet, you would score a 90% (assuming every question is worth one point). Ireland has a top up grading system where they give you points for what you do right. For example, you could score a 70% on a paper and this would be equivalent to a low A. Also, 40% is considered passing.

8. Last but not least, there are some differences in terms used here.                                                                                  Credits = ECTS (European Credit Transfer System)                                                                                               Module = Course (It took me a while to get used to this one!)                                                                               Lecturer = Professor (A professor is a title you must earn here.)                                                                       University = College (People don’t say college here.)                                                                                          Tutorial = Small Lecture (You must take tutorials to supplement your modules.)                                                                                                    Session = House Party (Yeah, this one has nothing to do with studying like it sounds.)

Even though we speak the same language, the academic systems between Ireland and the U.S. are very different. I had a rocky start trying to figure out how to work the Irish academic system the first week, but I ended on a high note. There was a lot of information we were expected to know in a very short period of time, but you adapt quickly and most of the lecturers are very understanding.

More to come –

Allison

Share

Settling into my New Home

Time February 6th, 2014 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

I’ve been in Ireland for about two weeks now and I am not sure where to begin. So much has happened I can hardly put it into words, but I will try for the sake of the blog. So … Ireland is pretty amazing. Everything is so much better than I expected it to be, although I admit I am in the “honeymoon phase” of culture shock. The people are very friendly and I haven’t seen one bug the entire time I’ve been here (this is a big deal for me)!

I arrived in Dublin last Monday and stayed in the city for three days before going to my university, National University of Ireland, Maynooth. During that time I toured the city with two other girls that are also studying at NUIM through IFSA Butler. Their names are Amy and Caitlyn and even though I didn’t know them before this trip, we’ve become good friends. I really enjoyed visiting the Old Library and Book of Kells Exhibit at Trinity College and the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. On a side note, I tried really hard to attach a picture of Caitlyn, Amy, and I with our certificates for pouring the “perfect pint” of Guinness. However, it doesn’t seem to have uploaded correctly … or at all for that matter. Anyway, after becoming a little more familiar with Dublin, we went through orientation led by Suzi, a student services advisor from the IFSA Butler office in Ireland.

On Wednesday we arrived at NUIM and were given the keys to our on-campus apartments. There are four other international students living in the apartment with me, but we each have separate bedrooms and personal bathrooms, which I really appreciate. Over the next few days, we went through another orientation. Both IFSA-Butler’s orientation and NUIM’s orientation were very helpful, but were also extremely overwhelming. I thought going through orientation would help calm my nerves, but my anxiety levels just increased. My to-do list just kept growing and the things I was expected to know kept increasing.

I started classes this Monday and it was like the first day of freshman year all over again. However, this time I was in a different country and at a new university. On the plus side, I’ve met so many new and interesting people asking for directions! Starting classes this week brought me back to reality.

Needless to say, I’ve been too busy to be homesick. However, I have been talking with my friends and family (thanks to the invention of the Internet) through email and Skype, which has helped me adjust to my new settings. Hopefully during the second week of school things will settle down a little for me!

So far, Ireland has been treating me well! I will keep you updated as I get further into my semester.

Slán go fóill (Bye for now) –

Allison

Share

Pre-Departure: T-minus 10 Days and Counting!

Time January 17th, 2014 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

Hello everybody!

So, finally taking the time to sit down and post on my blog has forced me to acknowledge the reality that I will be leaving the United States for 5 months. I realize this is quite obvious considering I am studying abroad, but it really hasn’t sunk in until just now. I will be studying at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, which I am beyond excited about, but I also have some reservations about it all.

For me, studying abroad will be a drastically different experience than leaving for college. I go to Butler University, which is located in Indianapolis, commonly known as the home of the Indy 500 and the setting of the 1986 sports film Hoosiers. Indianapolis is also my hometown. I live 30 minutes away from Butler (on a good day!) and I am fortunate enough to be able to have my car on campus, which means frequent trips home throughout the semester. When I am tired of the food in the dining hall or don’t feel like paying for laundry, for example, I would just make the short drive home. I have gotten in the habit of using that safety net at college and it will be a huge adjustment being nearly 4,000 miles away from home. I am less anxious about what I will encounter in Ireland as I am about what I am leaving behind.

Needless to say, I feel very unprepared to board that plane for Dublin (well, Newark and then Dublin), which could have something to do with the fact that I have no idea what to pack. Reading the material from IFSA-Butler and going through my study abroad checklist has helped with all the anticipation though.

Undoubtedly, I will miss my friends and family, but I will also miss the little things, such as the free Wi-Fi in public places or peanut butter. I had the opportunity to study in Mexico the summer before my freshman year of college through the Indiana University Honors Program in Foreign Languages. Before I left I was worried about leaving all of the people I cared about for two months, which is the longest I had ever been away from Indiana. Little did I know the thing I would miss most during the entire trip was air-conditioning. There were a lot of things that surprised me in Mexico (in a good way, of course) and I can’t wait to find out what I’ll be most surprised by in Ireland! I plan to make the best of whatever comes my way!

Until next time —

Allison

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share