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Farewells, Friends, and Lots of Feelings

Time July 25th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

Holy cow, this post is a long time coming! I’ve been home for a little while now, but I’ve been procrastinating on writing this final post because it means that the semester is officially over. I’ve completed my finals, flown home, received my transcript, filled out the surveys, and begun preparing for the next semester. This wrap-up post was the last thing I needed to do as part of my time abroad and I was not ready.

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Visiting Friends at the Very End

Time July 25th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

When I tell people I studied abroad, usually someone says that it’s so cool that I’ll be able to couch surf around the world and visit all of the friends I’ve made. Free accommodation is definitely a perk of visiting international friends, but I’ve realized that visiting a friend and traveling with them is such a different experience than visiting a country and touring on your own. Even though you might miss out on some of the historical facts and trivia provided by the youth hostels’ free tours, you get to go to the really interesting places that may not be included on those tours. Having a friend as your tour guide gives you the chance to live like a local, which is an incredibly unique experience, no matter how short the trip may be. During my last week abroad, I visited my friend Leor at her home in Switzerland and those four days were some of my favorites of the semester.

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Touring London at Lightning Speed

Time June 20th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

I never really made a study abroad bucket list before I left for Belfast. My daily planner had a small list towards the back where I would jot down a few countries I was interested in every now and again, but nothing was set in stone. Ultimately, my plan was to take advantage of every opportunity that came my way while abroad. I knew going into the semester that I wouldn’t be able to visit every country in Europe and beyond, but I was open to get as many passport stamps as possible.

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Conquering My Fears One Passport Stamp at a Time

Time June 6th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

As I entered my freshman year of college, I remember I was so nervous about sitting by myself at lunch. I wasn’t afraid of the coursework or the large campus, but the idea of being alone worried me the most. On the very first night at school, my entire floor ate dinner together in the dinning hall and my fears were suddenly gone. I realized that I was surrounded by people experiencing this new, strange stage of life together. I wasn’t alone. (and if I’m being honest, after a while I actually enjoyed the lunches when I could eat and read a book by myself!)

Starting study abroad made me revisit some of those fears. I approached this semester much like my first semester at UVM. I’d be with a new crop of students at a brand new school. However, this time around I knew from experience that I wouldn’t be alone so I wasn’t as nervous.

Throughout this past semester, I have found myself doing many things that I never thought I could do or wanted to do before because I was afraid or nervous. Usually I’m quick to say no before I say yes, and I’m beginning to notice this more and more. Before I left for Belfast, my mom told me to say yes to everything instead of missing out on once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. That really stuck with me and now I think carefully before I say no, or I just say yes before I have the chance to think about it and change my mind. This new mindset has really changed my semester for the better, and as a result I’ve been able to conquer some of my fears along the way.

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When the Tourist Becomes the Tour Guide

Time June 6th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

[alternative titles for this post: Spring Break 2016 // I Have Visitors! // Lauren Uses a Map!]

All I want to do right now is close my eyes and breathe. (is that a song?) This is for many reasons:

  1. I finally can do that now that I can breathe out of my nose again after being sick for the last 2 weeks.
  2. The Northern Ireland air is so fresh and crisp and beautiful!
  3. I’m finally done with my three essays and 1 final exam.
  4. I’m leaving in 1 week! HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE? I’M KIND OF FREAKING OUT!!

All of the above are also reasons why I’ve been absent from this blog for a while. Granted, I was already behind, but getting sick really knocked me out. It was terrible timing to get sick right after I came back from England a few weeks ago. I had papers to write and friends to hang out with, but I was also stuck inside for four days in bed while the weather was absolutely gorgeous. I literally sneezed and completely missed Ireland’s spring.

I was able to enjoy the beautiful weather over spring break though. My family came to visit me at the perfect time and enjoy Northern Ireland in all of its glory. I know it’s what you’ve all been waiting for, so without further ado, here’s a recap of my family’s visit during spring break!

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I Keep Forgetting I Need to Study During Study Abroad!

Time April 29th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

My goodness these blog posts are long overdue! It is so easy to lose track of time over here. Since Ireland is technically an island, I think it’s acceptable to say that I’m permanently “on island time.” 😉  It has already been three weeks since spring break and wow has it been a busy three weeks. School-wise, this semester has been the least stressful out of all of my time in college. The courses work a bit differently here than they do back home. We have lectures once or twice a week for each class, with an additional hour-long tutorial, where the class is split into smaller groups to discuss the week’s material. That being said, I’m only in classes three days a week and I have Mondays and Fridays free. By the time Saturday rolls around, I usually forget what day it is because my schedule is so wacky!

picnic Picnic in the Botanic Gardens after class

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Am I Homesick or Weathersick?

Time April 4th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

Weeks ago I was so jealous every time I opened Snapchat, Instagram, or Facebook and was greeted by pictures and videos of sunshine, beaches, warm weather, oh did I already mention sunshine?!! All of my friends were on their spring breaks and from the looks of it, they all had so much fun! Now, don’t get me wrong, but how are the people in Ireland so friendly all of the time? Is seasonal affective disorder a thing here? Normally I don’t mind the rain, in fact, some of my favorite days are rainy Fridays. However, the rain is getting a bit redundant. Or at least it was when my friends were at the beach. Then, the week of Saint Patrick’s Day, the weather was gorgeous! And it has been for a few weeks now!  (Natasha, is this where I pew pew pew?)

water

I think I’ve transitioned to studying abroad fairly well if I do say so myself. I was tired from traveling at the beginning so I don’t think I actually had jet lag (as for daylight savings, I’m struggling big time with that). It feels like I’m still just away at college, which I am, but instead of being an easy four-hour drive away, I’m a six/seven-hour flight across an ocean. I talk to my parents more frequently than I do when I’m at UVM, and just about the same amount with my brother.

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Lots of Good Craic!

Time March 28th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: where has the time gone?! Last week I remembered that it was two weeks since I had gone to Dublin with the IFSA group. The morning before we boarded the bus to leave, I submitted my most recent blog post. Now another week has gone by and I’m about to submit this post. How have 3 weeks already passed? This Friday I’m heading on another IFSA weekend trip, which means that it will be a month since the Dublin trip. Oh, and it’s spring break and April begins on Friday. Is this some mean April Fools’ Joke? Do I really only have two months left in Belfast?

The saying “time flies when you’re having fun” could not be more accurate when describing my experience. I learned in orientation that craic means fun, so I guess you can say that I’ve been having a lot of craic. (now that’s fun to say out loud! It sounds like crack!)

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It’s Just Like the Movies!

Time March 4th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

Adele was in Belfast this week, kicking off her tour at the SSE Arena. I WAS IN THE SAME CITY AS ADELE!!! Ok, it would have been cooler if I actually saw her, but knowing that she was just a few miles away was thrilling enough. Currently, I’m having my own mini Adele concert in my room while writing this post. My top favorites are Send My Love, Water Under the Bridge, and Make You Feel My Love.

I was just listening to When We Were Young, and the lyrics that struck a chord with me were, “It was just like a movie; it was just like a song.” Lately, That’s how I’ve been feeling about this study abroad experience. Everyday when I wake up and find my duvet on the ground (seriously, does Primark sell bed sheets? I need them!), I think to myself, is this a scene in a movie? Am I really living in Ireland? Then I say to myself, “Lauren, snap out of it. This is not The Lizzie McGuire Movie or Passport to Paris, you have class in 45 minutes.”

(speaking of Mary Kate and Ashley, who has watched the whole season of Fuller House?)

view

Over the weekend, Cassie and I decided to explore Belfast since we had the day free and it was beautiful outside. We walked to the PEC and followed the Lagan Towpath along the river. We spent four hours roaming around the Lagan Valley Regional Park, and it was probably one of my favorite days in Belfast so far. We explored a part of the city that we had never been to before and ended up in a forest, so it felt like we weren’t even in the city anymore. We stumbled upon what we think was a rowing competition, watched a bit of a rugby match, and ate lunch at the Lock Keeper’s cottage in the middle of the park.

trees

At one point we were walking up a hill and it hit me that I’m in Ireland. Up until one month ago, I had only seen pictures of Ireland online and in the movies. P.S. I Love You and Leap Year taught me that Ireland is green, rainy, and grassy (and the perfect setting for a romance movie). This walk certainly confirmed that. So did the IFSA tour of the Antrim Coast. That day I saw a lot of sheep too, and even more of the countryside that I had only dreamed about before. When we were walking along the hills at the Giant’s Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, it really did feel like we were on the set of a movie. Turns out, Game of Thrones films by the shore where we walked along the bridge!

coast bridge castle causeway

This weekend I saw more of the Games of Thrones “sets” on a tour. Contrary to many of the avid fans in the tour group, I have never seen an episode of the show. Well, I guess I technically did once, but I fell asleep after a horse’s head was sliced by a sword. I wanted to go on the trip to see more of Ireland, and even though I had no idea was our guide was saying the whole day, it was worth it! My favorite part of the trip was our walk through a forest that led to the spot where the “direwolves” make their first appearance. It felt like the forest could be magical. There were small waterfalls, lots of moss, super tall trees, a stone path across the river, bridges, rocks, and just whole bunch of nature. The forest reminded me of Twilight.

dire wolf moss

In addition to using movies as references for all things Irish, I’ve found that most of the information the international students have about each other’s home countries comes from movies and TV. Every time we meet new people and say where we’re from, we immediately think of a reference to the foreign place. This has probably been one of my favorite things about meeting new people from all over the world. Once we confirm whether or not what we see on TV is accurate, we begin to tell each other about foods we like, popular clothing trends, how our school system works, what the weather is like, etc.

Last week, two other American students and I made mac and cheese with our international friends. What I consider to be a staple in my diet was unfamiliar to them! They had seen actors eat it in the movies, but they had never tried the cheesy pasta themselves. It was my first time making mac and cheese from scratch, but I’d say it was a success! The day before we had all gone to karaoke and that was a ton of fun too! Again, it was obvious that movies reach all corners of the world because so many students from all different countries came together to sing songs that ranged from “Don’t Stop Believin’” to “Wannabe.” My favorite performance was when some of the guys sang “Mamma Mia!” Even though we didn’t speak the same language, we all sang the same ABBA lyrics.

rocks
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Let’s Go to Scotland!

Time February 19th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Scotland | 1 Comment by

Before I share the tale of my fun-filled Scottish adventure, I’d like to draw your attention to the fact that I have been in Ireland for just about one month now!! Where did the time go?! We already have our first IFSA-Butler weekend starting tomorrow, and the other trips are right around the corner. Time most definitely flies when you’re having fun, avoiding homework, constantly socializing, and getting very little sleep.

Two Saturdays ago, I went to St. George’s Market with Cassie and Natasha, two of the other IFSA group members. It’s probably a good thing that we went close to closing time because we could have easily spent hours there, spending all of our money on food. The market is like a cross between a farmer’s market and a craft show, which are two of my favorite things. (Mom, you’d love it too!) The hall is packed with vendors ranging from fish sellers, to clothing booths, to lollipop makers. I was so excited to come across a booth that just sold vegetarian food!

market

TANGENT: When we first arrived in Belfast, I was a little nervous that my meat-free options would be limited, but so far, every restaurant and café has been super accommodating. Maggie Mays even has a vegetarian menu that I plan to work my way through! Tesco also labels everything if it’s “suitable for vegetarians” which is really helpful and makes grocery shopping a lot easier.

As I was saying… after circling the stalls at least two and a half times, we finally decided to divide and conquer, conquer our lunch that is. I ordered the macaroni and cheese from the vegetarian booth and it was the best macaroni and cheese I’ve ever had. My mouth is actually drooling thinking about it right now. It was cheesy, but not too cheesy, the noodles were just the right texture, and there were even vegetables mixed in. Oh, and it came with a side of buttered bread. To top it all off, I bought a hunk of chocolate-orange fudge that was supposed to last me a few days. I finished it in a few hours.

Ok, I just used 182 words to describe the food I ate last Saturday…. There is a connection between the macaroni and cheese and Scotland, I promise!

While we were devouring our delicious food and listening to the live music in the center of the market, Cassie looked up from her plate and asked Natasha and I, “do you want to go to Scotland next weekend?”

Ummm… Yes!!! Within a matter of seconds, Natasha, Cassie, and I decided to plan our first solo trip to another country. By the end of the day we added Jenny and Brooke to our travel group, and by Tuesday, we booked our ferry and bus tickets, as well as our hostel. Four days later, we arrived in Edinburgh, Scotland and embarked on a whirlwind 48-hour adventure.

group castle

I’ve been using the word adventure a lot in my posts, but I honestly can’t think of another way to describe this whole study abroad experience. When I updated my Facebook profile picture earlier today, I captioned it with a quote from Helen Keller, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”

Everything about studying abroad is new and exciting, and for me, that is the ultimate adventure. It was so obvious that we were tourists in Scotland because we were simply in awe of our new surroundings, and we practically shouted it from the rooftops. Every little thing was new and exciting, from the food we ate, to the crispness of the air.

I’ve been on a ferry before, but this ferry wasn’t like the one on the Long Island Sound, this ferry crossed a border between two countries! This ferry was like a mini cruise ship, complete with a restaurant, shop, and even cabins with beds!

I have never stayed in a hostel before, and I have definitely stayed in more comfortable accommodations, but it was still exciting to spend the night in a room filled with 3 bunkbeds, 1 of which housed a stranger. The thrill of the independence that came along with checking into a hostel without my parents, or booking the ferry tickets on my own was enough of an adventure for me! BUT, the adventures didn’t end there!

Helen Keller’s quote can pretty much summarize our trip. There was not a moment when we did “nothing.” Sleeping doesn’t even count because we barely did any of that.

Royal Mile

The hostel offered free walking tours, so bright and early Saturday morning we began Expedition Edinburgh. (It should be noted that the forecast wasn’t consulted prior to booking the trip, so some of us were not as prepared for the snow as we could have been. Ahem… me… i.e., I left my trusty Bean Boots in Belfast)

Our tour was led by a wonderful Scotsman named Greg, who reminded me a lot of Merida’s father in Disney’s Brave. Even though his stories and accent were captivating, the five of us made the educated decision to leave the tour halfway through and seek shelter in a pub. We watched the snow fall while cradling warm cups of coffee and hot chocolate and learning what authentic haggis is, and then watching Cassie enjoy said haggis.

emblem statue

After our lunch, we continued to explore the Royal Mile and made our way to the castle. Boy was that a sight to see. The castle resides on top of an extinct volcano and looms over the rest of the city. Within the castle walls are multiple museums that share the history of the prisoners, soldiers, and royalty who spent time on the grounds. At night, we went on a ghost tour of the underground vaults in Old Town. Not naming names or anything, but a few of us were a little freaked out… Afterwards, we ended up at a club and proceeded to dance the night away!

castle view

We returned to the hostel in the wee hours of the morning and only got a few hours asleep before our final adventure, hiking Arthur’s Seat. Even though I go to school in Vermont, I can count the number of hikes I’ve been on with one hand. On any other vacation, I probably wouldn’t go on a hike, but when you’re abroad, nothing is off limits. Sunday was the perfect day; the sky was blue, the sun was shining, and the air was fresh. The whole walk up to the summit was spent admiring the breathtaking views of the city below us and the surrounding water. Mountains in the distance were dusted with snow, and the hills below were as green as can be. The pictures barely do the view justice, but you can take my word for it. It was gorgeous up there!

mountain view mountain view 2

Every time I needed to take a break and catch my breath for a second on the walk up, I called it a “picture break,” and took out my phone to take some pictures of the view. While looking through my phone, I realized that I never actually took any photos on the way up the mountain. When I stopped walking, I simply turned around and took a moment to take it all in. I want to do that frequently while abroad, just pause, take a deep breath, and look around at my surroundings. By June, I’ll probably have a suitcases full of souvenirs, and a Facebook album of photos, but what I’ll treasure most are these moments, the ones where I stop for a moment and remember why I’m here, what I’m doing, and how much fun I’m having (which is a lot by the way).

LP hike
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Hi, I’m Lauren and I exude confidence?

Time February 4th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

I have been a resident of Belfast for 13 days. That’s just about 2 weeks. Where has the time gone?!

QUB

Ireland-rain Read More »

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Saying Hello to New Adventures

Time January 20th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

Wow. 2 days left of my winter break. TWO DAYS! In 48 hours I’ll be boarding a plane to Belfast and saying good-bye to my family and friends… and my dog…and my cats…and my house… and my school… and everything else in the United States!

But on the other hand, there are so many things I’m going to be saying HELLO to: new cultures, new friends, new food, a new school, a different currency, and newfound independence.

Before I say hello to the many new adventures that I’ll begin to experience in 2 days, I should say hello!

Hi! I’m Lauren!

I’m a junior majoring in anthropology and sociology at the University of Vermont, and I’m originally from Connecticut. I love to laugh, I dream of becoming a yodeler one day, and I experience the world by traveling and reading books. I love telling stories and I love listening to other people’s stories, especially through daily blogs and vlogs. This study abroad blog is a way for me to tell my own story, which is one that I hope to reflect on for the years to come.

williams-in-winter Williams Hall, home of the Anthropology Dept. at UVM

 

This story of my study abroad experience probably begins at the many college visits my family and I attended during our big college search. Each university advertised the numerous programs that allowed their students to explore the world. During their presentations, I always imagined myself with a camera in hand and a book in the other, studying and exploring in a foreign country. That vision seemed like it could be a possibility the more I attended these visits.

eiffel-tower I got my first taste of traveling during a 10th grade trip to France

 

When I chose anthropology as my major, I knew that I’d virtually be able to travel anywhere because culture is everywhere! The only problem was, I had no idea where I wanted to travel because the options were endless! For me, Europe was given, and during my program search, I was drawn to Ireland. The magnificent landscapes that compose the countryside and the active city life sealed the deal for me.

My dream of studying abroad is finally becoming a reality!

I don’t think it has really sunk in yet that I’ll be living in a new country by the end of the week. This break has been super overwhelming because it feels like there are a million things to do at once in order to prepare for the trip, but at the same time, I feel like the past few weeks have been a bit underwhelming.

Maybe I’ve been avoiding thinking about the fact that I’m actually going to Ireland because it doesn’t seem real, or maybe I’ve been avoiding it because I know I’m going to be a nervous wreck by the time Thursday morning rolls around. This past week, I have actually started to be proactive in my packing, planning, and preparation, and low and behold, once I began thinking about the trip, I had a few nervous breakdowns. My parents have talked me through multiple panic attacks where I’ve second guessed basically every life decision I’ve made up until this point, and they’ve helped settle my fears and get me excited for what’s to come.

You see, even though I’m a huge procrastinator, I am also a big planner. I need to know what is going to happen before it happens. When I drive to new place, I study the routes I’ll take over and over, even zooming in to see which lanes I’ll need to be in on the road. I have no idea what is going to happen this semester, which is both exciting and is also freaking me out.

I received a few guide books for Christmas, one of which lists 200 things to do in Belfast.  Wouldn’t it be neat to cross off each activity as I go, so by June when the semester is over, maybe the book will be completed?! If one activity leads me to another, one that may not follow my original plans, that’s ok too. I need to remind myself that this semester is all about seizing spontaneous opportunities, and saying hello to new, unexpected adventures.

Now for the biggest adventure of all: squeezing my closet into my suitcase…

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