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Home again…

Time January 17th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

It is January 17, and I have been home from my semester abroad for almost a month (about 25 days…). It has been a pretty weird experience to return, because some things feel exactly normal (good thing I didn’t try to drive in Ireland…I still know what I’m doing over here, thankfully), while others are very odd. For example – the first four days of being home, the sun was out. I was fairly certain the apocalypse was soon to come, and the monsoon-style rain the fifth day made me feel much better. It is odd to think that the fact that it rained made me feel normal – keep that in mind when contemplating studying in Ireland. Whether it rains or not, it is pretty much ubiquitously gray.
Also, using American money has been a strange prospect – weird both because I no longer have to do conversions in my head to figure out what I’m really spending, and because I keep forgetting what things mean because they don’t have the exact amount spelled out in big letters on them. I haven’t a clue why, but my brain is now certain that quarters are worth 50 cents…which makes life a bit difficult.
Almost a month later, it feels incredible that Ireland already happened. How is it possible that I spent four months across the ocean, making incredible friends and drinking really cheap wine and occasionally studying? Life seems calmer over on the Emerald Isle – it’s been nothing but insanity since I’ve returned. The Irish attitude of “It’ll get done” (invariably accompanied by a shrug) does not fly in my parent’s house, as it turns out…

People are still asking me about Ireland, which seems funny to me because I’ve been back for so long…I have to keep remembering that, if I haven’t seen them, they have no way of knowing other than to ask me when I do see them! For you lovely internet folks, I will simply say that Ireland was great. I now know what life is like at a big college; I better understand the systems in place in Ireland (both in education and in farming – thanks Intro to Animal Science! …here is where a font specifically for sarcasm would come in handy); and I have experienced a completely different world. Having a (mostly adequate) public transportation system at my disposal made it possible for me to experience Dublin in a way that experiencing Baltimore has (thus far) been impossible, and I really enjoyed wandering with Sarah! I wish there had been more sun/less wind, and that getting to the continent had been cheaper…but overall it was an amazing time, and I would not take it back for anything.

I’m going to keep this post short, but I will say that the flight home was no big deal – and turning on my phone upon landing in the US and having fast internet AND the ability to text all of my American friends for free was a HUGE deal. I enjoyed my time in Ireland immensely, and I am so glad that I went (especially because I met Sarah, who I absolutely adore) – however, I have found that home for me is definitely Norwalk, CT, and I don’t see myself living across an ocean (or in such a different time zone) again any time soon.

I hope my blog has been informative and amusing; I know I have enjoyed writing it. It was a great semester…

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Last week of classes..?

Time December 7th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

After Thanksgiving comes…the last week of classes!  I went to research on Monday and Thursday, and classes ended on Thursday as well (as my only Friday course was completed the week before, at our presentations).  Tuesday was entirely devoid of classes (both of my labs are over, and my microbiology class finished the week before), so Sarah and I decided to spend some time wandering in the city.  We had lunch at – where else? – Bewleys, and then headed to Dunnes to buy her a red belt (and I ended up getting really cute black heels – a girl can’t ever have too many of those!).  It was a nice, lazy day, and we ended it with soup for dinner.

Wednesday was really fun – in the evening, Sarah and I went to make use of two vouchers we had purchased through Groupon (the online discount site): we got massages!  The masseuse was a Romanian man who talked to me throughout the massage about moving to Ireland five years before and the differences between the two countries, as well as his youth and some other (random) topics.  I had never had a massage before, so it was a very interesting experience – I was definitely really relaxed right after (and nearly fell down a staircase because of it!).  I’m not sure if I’d get another one, though – the effect didn’t seem to last very long…

Thursday night I met up with two women who were sisters in my sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma, in college; one is now spending the year in Ireland, working, and the other is (I kid you not) a second-year veterinary student at UCD.  Small, small world…we met up at the St. Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre and walked to O’Donoghue’s to have some drinks (being a boring person with an early bedtime, I had water).  It was so nice to meet them – they’re both really sweet, and it made the connection to home feel much stronger!  There are no sororities or fraternities in Europe, so people give me weird looks when I wear my shirt with KKG (for Kappa Kappa Gamma) on it  – it was nice to meet people who understand!  After meeting them, I went back to campus to meet up with Sarah for dinner and a movie – while we never ended up watching the movie (It’s a Wonderful Life – she’s never seen it!!), we did pack and get ready for the weekend…which started really early.

Friday morning we had a cab pick us up at UCD at 5 am (well, we got out there at 5:15…) to bring us to the airport.  What an expensive ride – it was 44 euros!  Never taking a cab to the airport again, that’s for sure…we had a 7:30 am flight to Milan, Italy, landing around 11 am local time.  After buying an all-day travel pass, we took a bus into the city centre (Linate airport is only 7 km, or 4.5 miles, out of the city), getting off at San Babila Square.  From there, we got on the metro (the entrance to which was inside a store – you had to go downstairs into the store and then walk all the way to the back to get into the metro) to the Duomo, the cathedral at the heart of Milan.  We walked from the Duomo to our hostel (about a 15 minute walk with all of our bags) – Ostello Bello.  I would recommend that place to anyone going to Milan – it’s clean, the staff is incredibly friendly and helpful, and the people staying there that we met were fantastic.  You also get a free drink at check-in, so we got hot chocolate – which ended up being hot chocolate pudding; very thick and very delicious, but not really a drink.  I recommend that, too!  We rented towels for a euro each, and went up to our room to unpack and shower; afterwards, we went back down to the reception/bar area to hang out a bit.  Sarah and I immediately made friends with two girls, Apryl and Bec, from Australia who were dying to go see “The Last Supper” (the original painting).  My friend Amanda had originally been planning on joining us in Milan, and had really wanted to go see the painting, so I had bought tickets; however, I wasn’t really so keen on the idea and much preferred to get food instead at that point.  The thing about the tickets is that they are for a specific time and need to be bought at least a day in advance, so Apryl and Bec were unable to get any for that Friday – I happily sold them mine!  They went to “The Last Supper” and Sarah and I went to a café right across the square from the building housing the painting, where I got a pizza and she got a (frozen) lasagna…we thought it was pretty funny that, in Italy, her first meal came from a box and was prepared in a microwave!  Afterwards we headed back to Ostello Bello to hang out before Aperitivos – from 7-9, if you buy a glass of wine at the bar, you can have free food prepared by the hostel.  They had two kinds of pasta, rice with fish, and two dips with bread and chips: quite a filling meal, overall.  We met Apryl and Bec’s roommates at this point – two American girls studying in Barcelona (Emily and Tori), and a girl from Korea whose name I cannot spell who was traveling through Europe by herself for 10-14 days.  After some food and drinks, we decided that we needed to get gelato on our first night in Italy, so we asked the bartender where gelato could be found.  He pointed in the general direction of the Gellateria and we took off without really questioning him in detail…which resulted in us walking down a street parallel that to the street with the store on it!  Nearly fifteen minutes later, we decided that we ought to ask someone as finding this store without more help did not seem plausible, so some nice Italian guys told us that the store was on the next street.  We went to walk all the way back down the street and over when he stopped us, laughing, and pointed to the cross-street that ended up bringing us out almost exactly at the stop.  Thank goodness for nice Italian people!  The gelato was worth the initial confusion – delicious and just what the doctor ordered. :) Afterwards, we decided to call it a night, and planned to meet up with our awesome-Aussie’s at 11 the next morning downstairs in the hostel.  Some of our roommates returned around 2am from clubbing, but they were decently quiet and were asleep by 2:30, so the disruption wasn’t a big deal.

Saturday was spent outside of Milan; Milan is a very bustling, crazy city and we wanted to experience a beautiful place without the insanity.  Sarah’s mother has a friend who grew up in Bergamo, a small town about an hour northeast of Milan, so, with Bec and Apryl, we took a train out there.  Note about the trains in Italy – you must validate your ticket on the platform if you bought it at the station.  Of course, we made the train with a 5-minute window, so we had no idea about the validation rule…and the conductor charged us a 48 euro fine for non-validation!!  It was insanity, and we knew that the conductor was pocketing the money when an Italian man sitting behind us with his family got up and started yelling at him in Italian during the exchange…however, there was nothing we could do about it, so the ticket price changed from 5 euro to 17 euro in one fell swoop.  However, Bergamo was worth it – even in the fog.  There was a cute Christmas market where I bought a scarf (of course, I didn’t bring any scarves with me on my trip) and some trinkets; we then wandered around looking for a restaurant for lunch.  We stumbled upon this adorable tavern that happens to be Michelin-rated (basically, Zagat ratings for Europe) and was only serving lunch for another 30 minutes – so of course we ran in!  It was all decorated for Christmas, and it served the most delicious Italian foods!  Sarah and I shared two dishes (I had gnocchi, and I have no idea what she had, but it was good, too!), and Bec and Apryl shared two – and then we each tried the others’ dishes; we ended up tasting four different Italian dishes.  What a wonderful way to have lunch!  Afterwards, Bec and I grabbed gelato and then we wandered in and out of shops along the route back to the train station.  I wish it had been summer, so it could have been warm/sunny, but it just gives me a reason to return in the future! :)  We didn’t make it to the Citta Alta (upper city) because that would have required an all-day trip, and we wanted to get back to Milan, but the trip was definitely worth it.  We trained back into Milan (after validating our tickets, mine twice) to rest before dinner, stopping at Billa (a grocery store) on the way to pick up pasta and sauce, wine, and a huge bag of clementines!  After resting up, we made the pasta in the wonderful kitchen in the hostel (stocked with pots and pans and dishes galore) and ate in with Bec and Apryl, and Emily and Tori warmed up pizza they had bought for lunch and ate with us.  We had quite an evening, talking about everything and staying up in the kitchen until nearly 1 – when Sarah, Bec, and Apryl decided to go out!  There was a club decently close to the hostel into which all hostel guests have free entry on Saturdays (rather than a 15 euro entry!), so the girls headed there while I headed to bed.  Our crazy roommates (the ones who came back at 2 the night before) came upstairs at 5, bringing with them three loud/drunk Irish guys!  The people in my room yelled at them for nearly 10 minutes before they finally got the message that they had to leave…what a weird interruption to sleep…

Sunday morning we got up around 10 to shower and pack, as checkout is at 11:30 am.  The hostel does have hair dryers that can be borrowed, but they are pathetic and it took me nearly 15 minutes to fully dry my hair (after it had been in a towel for over 20 minutes); however, beggars can’t be choosers..I was just happy that they had a hair dryer!  We packed up our stuff and brought our sheets down, as instructed; we then stashed our bags in their luggage room (more like a closet, but again, not complaining – it was locked!) and headed out to see the Duomo up close.  Sarah and I walked inside with other tourists, being very quiet as mass was going on.  It is an amazing place – holding over 20,000 people – and astonishingly beautiful.  I would definitely suggest going there when in Milan.  We decided against climbing up to the top because the fog/mist would have made any sights impossible; that just gives me another reason to come back in the future!  After the sightseeing, we went back to the hostel (where I grabbed my bag) to meet up with our Aussie’s for lunch. However, Apryl wasn’t feeling well, so only Bec joined us.   We found a little pizzeria nearby that was full of Italian people – it’s always a good sign when locals eat there, and we were not disappointed.  The pizzas were huge – each one was around 10” in diameter – and amazing, and the tea we had after was so perfect.  I’m slightly obsessed with tea at this point, so it was a great way to end the meal.  I decided it was best for me to go straight to the train station at this point, as the airport I flew out of – Malpensa – is much farther from the city, and takes a 40-minute train ride to get to.  The train station was easy to find, and the ticket didn’t have to be validated this time, so I had no issues getting on the train  :)  The Malpensa airport was a bit confusing – check in for flights is on the second floor, security is on the first floor, and the ground floor is zero.  Therefore, I kept ending up on the floor with security, thinking it was the second floor…oh the silly things Europe does to my poor brain.  I finally checked in and breezed through security, and headed down to the gate, where I met Janna, who is friends with Amanda, my friend studying in France.  We took the same flight over to Marseille, and then a bus to Aix-En-Provence, where I will be spending Sunday night through Wednesday afternoon with Amanda.

Life is pretty interesting when you study abroad in Europe – you can go wherever you want with minimal effort (although not minimal cost, unfortunately), so I decided a trip to France was absolutely essential in my semester across the pond. :)

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Thanksgiving Week

Time December 5th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I’m still trying to play catch-up with my life via blog, so please forgive what promises to be another long-winded blog entry…

I finished my last post by talking about Sunday, November 20, so I feel it’s only appropriate to start this one on Monday, November 21.  A rather uneventful day, I went to research and put in some time studying for Animal Form and Function (AFF).  The only interesting part of the day was our dorm-room inspection – apparently, our room was not only unhealthy but also unhygienic!  We were instructed to “sweep all floors, scrub the hob (stove), and remove all tape from the walls.”  Whoopsies…

Tuesday was pretty jam-packed – I started out with an exam for my AFF Practical (I got an A!!), research, and then my last lab for The Microbial World (basically, a 9-5 day.

It was all worthwhile, as my parents and sister, Krystina (Kyna) arrived on Wednesday at 7:30 am to visit me for Thanksgiving break!!  They took the AirCoach from the Dublin Airport straight to the UCD stop, where I retrieved them to bring them back to my dorm.  My parents took a nap in my room while my sis and I watched the movie “Taken.”  After naptime, I showed my family around the UCD campus, which culminated in breakfast in the Arts Café in the Newman (Arts) Building.  I grabbed a banana and a coffee for my mom, like she had asked me to – and it turned out the banana was half-rotten!!  I felt so bad…sorry Mom! :( I called my parents a cab to take them to their hotel, the Maldron on Cardiff Lane, and left Kyna in my room to take a nap while I was in class.  We had a relaxing afternoon, and then my parents came back to UCD so Sarah and I could feed them some of our stew (which they loved!).  We hung around for a while, and then my parents headed back to the hotel; Sarah, Kyna, and I decided that it would be a good idea to watch “Tangled” at this point – Sarah had never seen it!!  However, halfway through, Kyna fell asleep!  To her credit, she had been awake for 31 hours straight, so we couldn’t be too upset at her…

Thursday started off with a tour of the veterinary building at 11 am, guided by Mr. John Buckley, the MVD Programme Manager.  I have met him a few times in the past (he gave me my building tour at the beginning of the semester), and he was very gracious in giving us a full hour-long tour of the building, with a corresponding explanation of the Irish approach to learning about veterinary medicine.  My parents especially loved the building; I think my mom really wants me to come here for vet school…but we’ll see about that.  After the tour, I guided my family onto the 39a (the Dublin Bus that runs into the city) so we could get them each a 3-Day Freedom Pass, which provides unlimited use of the normal Dublin buses as well as the Hop-On, Hop-Off Tour bus.  Our original plan was to take the bus around and get off at each location, taking in the sites; however, after lunch at Bewley’s Café (love that place!), we realized we didn’t have quite the length of time to devote to the tour as we thought.  Therefore, we decided the best course of action would be to get on the bus and simply stay on it for the entire route.  The driver/guide was very knowledgeable and funny, and it was nice for me to finally get around most of the city and see the very tourist-y places.  After the tour, Kyna and I left my parents in the city and headed back to UCD to shower and get ready for Thanksgiving dinner ala the International Students Office.  The meal was preceeded by a mulled wine/punch reception – my first time drinking mulled wine.  It was decent, although very strong – the warmth was what kept me drinking.  My parents met us there, and I introduced them to Stephanie and Elaine.  When it was time to take our seats (everyone had been kept out of the seating area beforehand), I ran in and claimed six seats…with nothing to put on them (no coat or scarf or anything!), I kept having to tell people “I’m so sorry, those are taken…yes, all of those!”  It couldn’t have been more than a minute until my group traipsed in, but it felt like an hour…so nervewracking (‘will I be able to save all the seats?? What will happen if I can’t?!’)!  I did manage to hold onto all the seats (we ended up needing seven, but it worked out perfectly), and the meal, once served, was delicious.  Delicious soup, a heaping portion of turkey with stuffing (who cares about mashed potatoes?? Not this girl – stuffing is where it’s at!!), and a plate with multiple choices for dessert was just enough to induce the traditional Thanksgiving Food Coma.  The president of the university spoke before we were fed – nice, short, and sweet – and the International Office staff recruited students to sing the National Anthem afterwards.  Following the US anthem, the office staff sang the Irish National Anthem, which is, of course, in Irish; while I may not have been able to understand a word of it, I did enjoy hearing them singing!

Following the meal, Kyna decided to take the balloons off the table we had been seated at (red, white, and blue – yay America!), and we headed off into the night.  I had called my parents a cab to meet them at the bus stop, so we dropped them off there, and Sarah, Kyna and I walked back to Merville.  On our way back, we encountered a group of (inebriated) guys, one of whom decided to attempt to take the balloons from Kyna – SUCH a fail on his part.  We arrived home with all three balloons intact, laughing hysterically.  After making some popcorn and sprinkling M&Ms in with it (melts the chocolate for even more delicious popcorn), we again attempted to watch Tangled…just to fail, again!  This time, Sarah was the one who fell asleep…it was actually a pretty funny process.  She was curled up on my right on my bed, with Kyna on my left, and we had warned her against sleeping.  Right as we got to the same part of the movie where we had stopped the night before, I made sure Sarah was awake.  Five minutes later, Kyna said, “Sarah?” to which she responded, “…oops!”  We knew she was a goner after she acknowledged that she was basically sleeping, so we decided to call it quits and try again the next night.

Friday morning dawned bright and early for me, as I had to deliver a group presentation worth 50% of my final grade at my Exotics class at 10 am…Kyna and Sarah took that time to go into the city and shop around in H&M.  Once class was over, I met the girls at a café on Bachelor’s Walk (adjacent to the Liffey River), and then we walked over to board the Liffey River Cruise, where my parents met us.  The cruise was about an hour long and really informative, but I was so tired because of my insane adrenaline rush from my morning’s class that I nearly fell asleep a few times; I would recommend going, but not while exhausted.  After the cruise we all wandered over to the Leprechaun Museum, where we toured through some pretty epic exhibits (including a room depicting what it would be like to be among giants, full of giant-sized furniture!!) and learned about Irish myths and folklore.  The hotel was the next stop for our group, where we hung out and watched TV (again – TV! It’s like we’re real people!…) for a bit before dinner.  My dad had gotten reservations through the headquarters of the company he works for (which is located in Dublin) at Il Posto, which is a great little Italian restaurant in the basement of a building on the perimeter of Merrion Square.  Wenjun and Kate met us there (actually, they beat us) for their introduction to Italian food (neither of them had ever had Italian food before – the horror!!!).  The meal was terrific – delicious food – and so fun!  My parents really liked my roomies and vice versa, which is always a pleasant occurrence; plus, I got to sit next to my sister, who just so happens to be the best little sis in the world, so I was pretty happy.  After dinner, my parents cabbed it back to the hotel and the rest of us headed to the Nassau Street bus stop…on our way, Sarah asked how far away the bus was, so I checked my phone and learned that it was “Due” – as in, would be arriving any second.  We started speed-walking until we could see the bus stop, when we discovered that the 39a was already AT the stop!  Not being willing to wait 20 minutes for the next bus, we took off running down the street, much to the amusement of the other people waiting for buses (some of whom started screaming “Go, go, go!”) – and MADE IT!  We decided after the epic nature of the night, we had to finally watch Tangled all the way through so we made popcorn, melted peanut M&M’s into it, and watched Tangled.  What a fantastic movie; seriously, I recommend it to anyone.

Saturday was another full day, starting with dropping Kyna’s suitcase off at my parent’s hotel room so she would be able to stay with them that night (as their flight was early on Sunday, so they were planning on taking a cab at 7 am – not exactly conducive to prior travel).  This merits a small note – I accidentally left my wallet at the reception desk, and didn’t realize it until much later in the day.  We called and they managed to find it, but when we went to reception around 8 pm they had a different wallet on hand that they thought was mine – oy!  Eventually it turned out that my wallet was also at reception, but it was quite a crazy/terrifying experience.

We made our way over to Avoca so Kyna could experience the adorable little shop over brunch (at that point it was nearly noon), and then we attempted to catch a bus to the Guinness Factory.  However, none of the three buses listed by the Guinness Factory as leaving from the Aston Quay actually had stops on Aston Quay, so we ended up taking a taxi instead.  This was Sarah’s and my second time at Guinness, but it was much more enjoyable than the first time – we weren’t dead on our feet from travel this time! :)  The tour was pretty neat, and the Gravity Bar at the very top (which has a panoramic view of Dublin) is just amazing – the city looks lovely from up there.  After Guinness, I brought everyone to the Kilmainham Gaol – my second trip was just as good as the first one because we had a different tour guide who spouted off different info than I was given on my first tour, and everyone enjoyed it immensely.  We finished up the day by introducing my family to Penney’s, the best, cheapest clothing/accessories store in Ireland – my sister got a fancy black shirt and I got flats – and then heading to Eddie Rocket’s City Diner for dinner.  This name may seem familiar to those of you in America – that’s because it’s the Irish version of “Johnny Rocket’s” at home! Other than the name, it’s the same – a 50’s-style, American diner.  Yum!  After dinner, Sarah and I escorted my family back to the hotel (where the wallet fiasco finally ended) and we all watched The Omen (what a bad idea – I hate horror movies!).  When the movie finished, Sarah and I headed back to UCD so my family could sleep in preparation for their early flight back home…I can’t believe how fast the week went!

My family’s visit to Dublin really made Thanksgiving special for me this year – it was so sad to think about spending such an American holiday abroad, but they turned that frown upside down. :)

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Trips around Ireland, and more Life in General…

Time November 28th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

It’s been over a week since I’ve written again – you might be wondering, ‘What is Claire doing over there?’ And in all honesty, I’m wondering the same thing – I really am uncertain about how time passes so quickly when I seem to do so little…but let me bring you up to speed!
Wednesday, November 16, was a pretty important day for me – not only was it the day for registration for next semester’s classes (all of which I managed to get enrolled in), it was also my orchestra concert!  The build-up to the concert was fairly time consuming: we had rehearsal for three hours each night on Monday and Tuesday, as well as rehearsal from 4:30 – 7 on Wednesday, with the concert starting around 8:30 pm.  It was one of the most fun concerts I have ever played in – nearly all of our songs were accompanied by videos showing on a screen behind the orchestra (which meant that we were in darkness, solely using lights on our stands – a new experience for me!).  To start the concert, we played the soundtrack to “There They Go Go Go!”, a Roadrunner cartoon (you can find it by googling – that’s how I practiced!).  I played the piece without the other oboist (Becky) because it was very open and the conductor wanted each woodwind part to be played solo; that was a pretty terrifying thing because we did not play through the piece a single time straight-through (without errors) once before the concert!  However – we managed it for the concert!  I really hope there is a recording of some kind because I’m pretty proud of how it worked out.  The next song was the soudtrack to a Laurel and Hardy short film, “Big Business;” Becky played that whole song by herself, so I got to breathe and get my heart rate back down to normal after the insanity of the Roadrunner…the last piece before intermission was music from Harry Potter, with a movie showing scenes from the 2001 movie, Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone – I felt so old watching the film!  All the characters were so little!!

After intermission, a violin soloist played a piece Arvo Part and then music from the film Schindler’s List, both with video playing – Becky and I sat in the back of the hall and watched the first of the two, as there were no oboe parts for either piece.  We went back on to play “A Night on Bare Mountain,” a piece you might be familiar from because of the movie Fantasia – I really want to watch it again, after playing the song.  At the completion of the piece (which was the last one listed on the program), the conductor pretended that we were done and walked out of the concert hall.  He soon returned, however, wielding a lightsaber – with which he conducted the final piece, “The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme).”  At this point, a faux-Star Wars credit screen rolled up on the screen behind us, telling the audience about the orchestra (and, at one point, announcing that “Music Played By: University College Dublin Symphony Orchestra” – as if they didn’t know already!!) and concluding the concert.  It really was a neat concert – one of a kind – and I’m glad I got to take part in it (even if my family is visiting a week too late to see the finished product).

At this point I feel like I should backtrack a bit and share what I did during the last two weekends – that of November 11, and that of November 18.

The weekend of November 11 I wasn’t actually planning on doing anything, but you know how things change – Sarah & Stephanie & I ended up going on a two-day Paddywagon Tour to Connemara, Galway, and the Aran Islands.  The first day was spent driving to Galway, and stopping at a few sites of interest – including Cong Abbey and a stop at a lake, where Sarah attempted to catch some sheep (with minimal success, unfortunately) – on the way.  We made it to Galway in time for dinner with Stephanie (who had actually missed the bus in the morning, but took a city bus over to meet us); afterward, we hung out at The Skeff Bar for a while before calling it a night.  The next morning we headed out to the Aran Islands in a very small group – it was just Sarah, Stephanie, myself, and an Austrian man named Sam.  Seeing the island was definitely worth the incredibly wavy/rocky/uncomfortable ferry ride.  Note: I hear “ferry” and think “Port Jefferson Ferry” – the boat that we actually rode on was not nearly big enough to deal with the Atlantic Ocean – sized waves.  I felt pretty sick after that ride, but walking over to our tour guide’s bus made my stomach settle down – and the beauty of the island, Inis Mór, definitely took my mind off of my stomach.  After driving around for a while, we arrived at Dún Aonghasa, a large prehistoric stone fort atop a hill.  When I say hill, I mean something between a hill and a mountain – the cliffs along that part of the island are about 100 meters (328 feet) high!  I’m not a huge fan of heights, so I stayed pretty far back from the edge – but Sarah, my crazy roommate/daredevil sat right at the edge with her legs hanging over!  Sam took pictures for us, and we reciprocated, and then we walked back down to where the tour guide had let us out to get some lunch.  We learned all about Sam being in Dublin for an fast-paced English class, and how his daughter had studied in Ireland for a year or so in college – he was a really great guy!  He’s supposed to email me pictures he took from Dún Aonghasa…hopefully he figures out how to do that!

After lunch, we finished our drive around the island and then wandered through a gigantic sweater store – but the sweaters, while being made of sheep’s wool (which she wants), didn’t fit Sarah in the right way so we all left empty-handed.  Just a side note – sweaters made from the wool of sheep smell like sheep.  And sheep don’t smell that great…so good luck, if you really want one of those sweaters.  You may need to plug your nose.   We went into the American Bar (not owned by an American, oddly enough) to get some tea and then back onto the ferry for the rockin’/rollin’ ride back to the mainland.  All four of us got back on the bus with our driver and we drove straight back across the island to Dublin, getting back a bit after 9 pm.  It was a long day, but really amazing – the Aran Islands are a must-see for anyone in Ireland longer than a week.  So beautiful…just pray for good weather!

After my week following the Galway/Aran Islands trip, I headed up to Northern Ireland with IFSA!  We spent Thursday evening through Sunday morning in Belfast (which is a part of the UK, meaning that our money – Euros – was useless…helpful), learning about the history of “The Troubles” and seeing some amazing places.

Thursday was our travel day, with dinner at the hotel – Jury’s Inn – already paid for!  Love when that happens…real food without financial insanity is something of a rarity here.  Friday morning we drove around to a few different sites in County Antrim; the first of which was the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.  After a 2 km (1.2 miles) walk along the coastline, we arrived at a rope bridge.  Remember that I am terrified of heights…I walked across the bridge behind Sarah, who decided it would be awesome to bounce as much as possible.  Not cool.  After making it to the other side, we discovered that there was nowhere to go – it’s a teensy island that you can’t even walk around.  Basically, the rope bridge exists so that people can walk over it and feel awesome…and not to get anywhere.  I wish I had known that in the first place – I would have stayed on solid land!  On the way back, I again followed Sarah – once she had placed her feet securely on the other side of the bridge, that is.  I wasn’t about to make that mistake twice…the view really was beautiful, though, with the cliffs and the beautiful green/blue sea to look out on during the walk.  After braving the rope bridge, we drove to Dunluce Castle – a 13th century castle on the edge of the sea.  Sarah and Stephanie took a wrong turn and started leading Alex, Hillary, and me down a long, winding set of stairs – however, I balked at the thought of having to climb back up said stairs, and led Alex and Hillary to the opening I had seen other IFSA students go through.  Once we got into the castle, we realized that Steph and Sarah were effectively under the castle – we saw them walking around down there (see the pictures – you’ll understand) while we actually were in the ruins.  Whoopsies!  Finally, we headed over to the Giant’s Causeway to learn about the Irish giant Finn MacCool, who built the causeway so he could fight the Scottish giant Benandonner (or so the legend goes).  The stone formations at the Causeway are really interesting, so I would recommend it to visitors…although it was something of a let-down because it is so built-up by everyone who has seen it that I was expecting something of gigantic proportions (after all, a giant built it!)…overall a good day!  We had dinner at Robinson’s Bar Bistro, which is a block down from our hotel, and then we attended their karaoke later in the evening – the crowd was quite a bit older than us, but we rocked out to the songs and enjoyed ourselves regardless!

The next day started with a “Black Taxi Tour” of west Belfast to learn about “The Troubles” – the conflict between the Protestants and Catholics that led to walls being built between the two sections of the city.  The walls are still up today, and it doesn’t look like they’ll be taken down any time soon – they were resurrected by the request of the citizens, and the citizens want them to remain (for now).  I learned some interesting things on that tour, most of which were very dark – however, I also learned at least once interesting/not terrifying fact: Liam is a nickname for William!  Meaning that Liam Neeson is actually William Neeson…I never knew that!  Apparently, both Catholics and Protestants name their children William, but the difference is that Catholics use the nickname Liam while protestants use Billy!  Yay for random facts…Sarah, Stephanie and I spent the rest of the day exploring the Christmas Market outside of the City Hall (fudge and welders and Matryoshka dolls, oh my!), and then headed to the Victoria Square shopping center for dinner at TGI Friday’s, subsidized by IFSA. Yum!  Sunday was our trip back to Dublin; we got back to campus around 1 pm.

Life has been pretty busy here in Ireland for the past couple of weeks…more updates about Thanksgiving will follow shortly, I promise!

 

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Frienship and LONDON!

Time November 14th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

The week of Amanda’s visit has come and gone, ending with our visit to London Friday through Sunday!  Monday was a really chill, relaxing day, but not entirely of our choosing – it poured all day, and the buses weren’t running their full routes due to the Dublin Marathon…basically, we were stuck at home.   On Tuesday evening, Amanda accompanied me into the city to get registered as a single-semester student by the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB).  I stood in a line for 45 minutes waiting to receive a ticket that would give me my number in the actual line, waiting to meet with a representative to get my registration complete – total insanity.  Thank God Amanda was there with me – she made everything totally bearable.  After about three hours I received my GNIB card, which allows me to travel out of the country (or, more specifically, allows me to reenter the country after outside travel) – 150 euro later, I was free to be on my way.  AHH.  I attempted to introduce Amanda to the Irish drinking scene Tuesday night, but failed pretty miserably: we went to the Student Bar around 10 pm, and found it nearly empty (maybe 20 people inside) – and the lights were on!  We obviously decided to turn around and hang out at home, instead.

Wednesday morning I went into the lab (although Amanda, the technician, was out for the whole week) and did some general cleaning and organization.  Afterwards, Amanda (my friend from home) and I went into the city.  We stopped in at Paul Ryan Woodwinds and picked up my – completely fixed! – oboe.  Thank goodness: I was terrified that it would basically be the equivalent of totaled for a car – just a total loss – but it works like new now!  (Knock on wood…)  After getting my oboe back, Amanda and I wandered around the city for a while before heading back to UCD.

Thursday was really fun – we spent the afternoon visiting two amazing tourist attractions: the Number 29 Georgian House Museum and Kilmainham Gaol.  Number 29 is a restored row house made to look as it would have when a middle-class widow owned it in the late 18th century.  Photographs weren’t allowed inside, which was really sad because it is a tremendously beautiful place!  We missed the introduction film (which encompassed the story of the widow and her children), but the tour guide was very helpful in explaining the details about the house.  Definitely worth the 3 euro entrance fee…Kilmainham Gaol (jail) was another truly amazing site to visit.  I had heard from numerous acquaintances that it is worth the journey (about a 20 minute journey from the bus stop at the River Liffey), so Amanda and I got on bus 79a after lunch.  We had asked the driver how far away the stop for Kilmainham was, and he said 20 minutes; however, the bus stopped about 10 minutes after we had started.  We were sitting on the top of the bus and were unsure of whether that was our stop, but google maps on my phone indicated that we were really close – we went downstairs (while the bus was in motion – a difficult task!) and asked the driver when to get off, and he responded “That was your stop!”  Whoopsies.  Luckily he was in a good mood and stopped the bus right then and there, letting us get off not very far from the original stop; we then commenced the 10 minute walk to the jail.  Interesting sight on the road: a train car.  Yup, you read that right – a train car!  It was on a flatbed truck, being escorted by a “tyre” changing truck and a brigade of Garda officers on motorcycles.   The train car came right down the road we had to walk down (look at the pictures – it’s nuts), stopping traffic everywhere for about six or seven minutes.  Amanda and I just stood and watched for a while – quite a hilarious sight.  A train on a road…I literally could not get over it.  After the train got out of the way, we went into Kilmainham Gaol for a truly fantastic guided tour – Siobhan (pronounced sha-bahn) really knew her stuff and made it a really interesting visit.  Learned all about the Irish revolutionary figures and the insanity that accompanied all the uprisings against the English…very neat presentation.  The jail itself is huge, drafty, and amazing – it was restored in the 1960’s by a group made up entirely of unpaid volunteers (some of whom had previously been prisoners IN the jail!).  It was definitely a worthwhile trip – I might just bring my family there when they visit for Thanksgiving!

That concluded Amanda’s week in Dublin – Friday was our departure for London!  The morning was a moderate disaster for me – I wanted to do my laundry before leaving.  Not a good plan, as it turned out…the closer laundry room is STILL broken (three weeks later, it has yet to be fixed and we have yet to hear anything about it); however, I didn’t find that out until I walked there with my laundry.  It took a full 25 minutes to get from my room to the laundry room I ended up using, but I still had plenty of time so I figured that’d be fine.  I went back to my room and showered, then returned to the laundry room after 40 minutes to move my clothes into a dryer.  Imagine my surprise when, upon opening the washer, I discovered that the clothes had never rotated – the detergent was un-dissolved and the top half of the clothes were completely dry!  In my frustration, I moved all the clothes into the washing machine directly to the left of this broken one – big mistake!  I managed to put them into the silliest machine alive, which counts every minute as at least 2.  Sometimes three.  Meaning that my 40-minute wash cycle turned into 90 minutes…giving me just over an hour until Amanda and I had planned to be leaving my dorm.  Also, the washing machine that counts wrong also refuses to spin dry clothing – I had to take everything out individually and wring it dry onto the floor (it looked like a lake after, no exaggeration, unfortunately).  Put everything in dryers and returned forty minutes later to remove them…and nothing was dry!  AHH. It was the craziest morning…I ended up just grabbing some clean (although wet) socks and underwear and taking clothes that hadn’t just been put through the wash  – thank God I had some left! – with my to London.  However, Amanda and I got on the Aircoach at around 1 for a 3:30 flight and waltzed our way through the Dublin Airport security (score!), so we ended up having time to grab some food at Butler’s Chocolate Café in the airport before boarding.  Funny side note – they list flights as “boarding” when they want you to start making your way to the gate.  We did NOT know this and ended up hustling to the gate just to find out that we had at least another fifteen minute wait to actually start boarding…which they ended up not announcing, either.  It was quite a little adventure…

The flight passed pretty rapidly (although there were no free refreshments, dangit), and we got into Heathrow Airport at around 4:30.  We got onto the Tube together, headed for the London Bridge stop and our hostel – however, there was a minor mix-up when we were switching lines.  I managed to get on the train, leaving Amanda behind on the platform!  Luckily there was another train following a minute behind and she got on the same car as I did (just a train behind), so when she got off at the London Bridge stop I was directly across from her on the platform!  Whoopsies…had quite a laugh at that one.  We headed up to the street and walked over to St. Christopher’s Village, the main hostel that has the reception area for all of the St. Chris’ hostels – we were booked into Oasis, the all-female hostel about two blocks down the road.  Check-in went smoothly, but actually getting our beds sorted wasn’t quite so easy – we were supposed to be in room 7 (on the fourth floor), in beds C and H.  C was occupied when we got into room 7, though…so Amanda & I locked our stuff in one of the trunks under the bed and trekked back to the Village to see what could be done about the room situation.  The guy at the desk was super-accommodating and changed us into room 2 (I don’t remember the bed letters) – and reprogrammed our cards.  It was only after walking back to the hostel and up the four flights of stairs that we realized that, due to the reprogramming of our cards, we could no longer get into room 7, where we had stashed all of our stuff.  After the third trip to the Village, we got everything sorted out and moved successfully into room 2 (second floor for the win!).  We got cleaned up and changed and headed to the Piccadilly Circus Tube stop to wander and look for food.  London is so beautiful at night, by the way!  People everywhere, without the insane hustle & bustle of NYC, and everything was lit up.  I’m a fan.  After wandering aimlessly for about half an hour, we settled on Prezzo for dinner and had some fantastic Italian food – Amanda had pizza and I had pesto pasta. :) Yum.  After dinner we decided to wander around a bit more and see what was going, which led to us finding the most awesome place ever: M&M World!!  It’s the biggest candy store in the world (at least, according to Wikipedia), and it was really fantastic.  It was packed with people and M&M everything – plastic champagne bottles filled with multi-colored M&Ms, walls of different M&M colors, and larger-than-life plastic M&M figures.  I took so many pictures there…such a neat find.  After wandering around in there for a while, we decided to go in search of dessert – and ended up finding a Haagen Das restaurant!  As in, you go in and they give you a menu of all the crazy Haagen Das creations you can have.  It was perfect.  I got something that was completely and utterly sinful – cookie dough ice cream with cookies and brownies and hot fudge…YUM.  After Haagen Das we hustled back to the Tube to catch the last train back to London Bridge and turned in for the night around midnight (travel is hard work!).

Saturday we got up and headed over to the Village to grab breakfast…after seeing what they call breakfast, we decided to grab something at Starbucks instead.  We walked across the London Bridge (NOT the pretty one – that’s the Tower Bridge), and then down the Thames Path towards the Tower of London.  Let me just say, anyone going to London who wants to really experience some history – GO GO GO!  It was incredible.  We joined a one-hour guided tour, led by a “Beefeater” (actual title: yeoman warder) – a member of the Royal Bodyguard.  Our guide made a couple of hysterical statements that I wrote down to share:

The Tower was used as the Mint for England for a long time, and our guide mentioned that Sir Isaac Newton was the minter there fore 30 years, and therefore lived in the outer gate of the Tower.  In reference to Newton, our guide said “Sir Isaac Newton – yes, the inventor of gravity.  Another great invention of London!”

When walking into a chapel: “Turn off those things of Satan – mobiles, cell phones, whatever you call them.  Is there anyone here under 25 years old?? (A few of us raised our hands at this point.) I can tell you categorically that if you turn it off…your heart will keep beating!!”

The tour itself was amazing – the history of the Tower is true insanity, including everything from minting coins to murdering children (because they were next in line for the crown, of course!).  After the tour concluded, we walked around for three more HOURS!  There are numerous exhibits to look at – including one on the menagerie that was kept there before being moved to Regent’s Park as the London Zoo, and the crown jewels – as well as a little café and plenty of photo-ops.  Four hours well spent, in my opinion.

After getting late lunch, we headed back to the hostel for naptime and showers in preparation for our night plans – going to Broadway!  Well, technically the show was on Shaftesbury Avenue, but you get my point…we saw “Rock of Ages”, which I would recommend to anyone who enjoys hilarious musicals (and doesn’t mind good-natured raunchiness).  The best line of the show by far was when one of the characters proclaimed “I’m not gay – I’m just German!!”  The entire audience lost it at that one, and the people onstage had to freeze for a few seconds before they could continue on with the show.  It was an incredible show – the performers were amazing, and there was so much audience involvement!  Definitely worth it. :)  After the show we stopped in a convenience store so I could get bandaids – my heels KILLED my feet so fast! (I realized that I should be grateful that I’m going to be wearing scrubs instead of business casual clothes for work for the rest of my life – heels and I are not friends.)  We were planning on going out but decided getting changed first was a better idea…and then we ended up deciding not to go out at all.  However, by the time we had made this decision, all the restaurants had closed (after having lunch at nearly 2:30, we hadn’t been hungry prior to the show)…so we got junk food at another convenience store and then watched most of the movie Notting Hill in our room.  Yay for being in London and watching a movie based there at the same time!!

Sunday morning we took the Tube over to Parliament so I could see Big Ben (truly a stunning sight) and the London Eye.  Unfortunately I’m terrified of heights, so I kept Amanda on the ground and we shared a fantastic waffle with strawberries and whipped cream for breakfast, instead.  After breakfast we headed out to the Gatwick Airport for our respective flights; unfortunately, they were in different terminals so we couldn’t stay together past security. :(  The flight home was fine – flew through security (after getting a full-body pat down!  They really are as awkward as you expect…ugh.) and then onto the plane with no real difficulties.  I hustled off the plane (I was the third person through the security checkpoint), and then I ran down to get on the Aircoach back to UCD – getting there literally 30 seconds before the bus pulled up.  The trip home was so drama-free and simple – thank goodness.

Woo.  That’s so much for you to read!  Hope it was worth it… :)

 

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Bajillions of updates…

Time October 31st, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hello again from the Emerald Isle – please forgive the delay in writing.  Life is flying by at a slightly terrifying pace, and I keep pushing off writing in favor of other random things.  Desolée.

 

Let’s start about..11 days ago?  Which is, of course, when I last posted (whoopsies) – the weekend of the 20th of October.  Sarah went on a “Shamrocker” tour (google it), but I wasn’t able to go because they left around 8 am on Friday.  Dang class…so I hung around UCD, instead.  Saturday was an epic day in the city centre with Elaine and Abby, another American who Sarah met during a class trip.  We got on the 12 o’clock bus and didn’t get back to UCD until after 5:30 pm – quite a day!  We disembarked at Grafton Street and ate lunch at Avoca, this adorable mini-department store with super-girly kitchen/household goods.  There’s a small café in the basement and a larger restaurant upstairs (the bathrooms are also upstairs, so I got to see both of the eateries).  I had a cheese and caramelized onion quiche, which would have been amazing had it contained about ¼ of the onion that it actually had…slightly disappointing.  I’ll definitely be going back there in the future, though – it’s SO adorable.  After lunch, we wandered around the market that Sarah and I usually visit every weekend, and Abby perused the jewelry and prints in the craft-y section. Next we stopped into a quaint bookstore and perused the selection for about half an hour.  I picked up a few Christmas presents for mi familia at that bookstore – can’t really elaborate on those, for obvious reasons, but they’re pretty hilarious!  Then Elaine introduced me to the fruit market, which boasts 15 apples for 1 euro at some booths!  (I got a selection of 12 for 2 euros, which I was quite content with…)  Abby bought a pumpkin for 5 euro from a vendor for carving, and then we realized that the grocery store was selling them for 99 cents – darnit.  I ended up carrying the pumpkin because I have a humongous bag that fits just about everything in it – it was pretty heavy, I’m not going to lie, but totally worth it. We stopped into the Post Office on the way back so Elaine could send a package, and Abby schooled me in Irish historical knowledge (guess I should have read that history book – sorry, Daddy!).  I ducked into the flower shop next to the bus stop to grab a stem of lilies again, of course, and then we boarded the 39a back to UCD Belfield again.  It was a great day (although I’m still completely befuddled about how it ended up being more than 5 hours!!).

 

Sunday was spent being a Hopkins-student-wannabe – I actually went to the library!  So, so strange – it’s above ground!  I could see grass and trees and some dogs and people walking, which was definitely a (welcome) distraction. J Wenjun showed me her favorite seat in the library and I stayed there from 1 to 5 (with one 40 minute break for unproductive activities, of course); after that, my brain wanted to explode so I headed home.  Also, I freeze if I sit in one place for too long so I could barely use my hands to write after the four hours, so I needed tea and a blanket when I got home!  (Wenjun finally showed up at home after 7:30 that night…crazy woman).  Sarah got home that evening and we made dinner, no big deal.

 

The week was semi-normal – we got groceries delivered and had classes – but it was also not the best.  My oboe stopped working properly on Wednesday, the day of our orchestra rehearsal (which the other oboist, Becky, couldn’t attend…the conductor thought I was crazy and couldn’t play L ), so I brought it to a repair man in the city centre this past Saturday.  I have yet to hear anything good or bad about the diagnosis (dang bank holiday!), but I’m praying it will be good news.  I also got sick to my stomach around the same time.  That lasted until yesterday – it wasn’t queasiness or a stabbing feeling or anything, just general unease, so I didn’t work out much and eating was really weird, also.  I didn’t attend the dissection after my Exotics class on Friday because I figured that could be a terrible decision.  Thank GOD that’s over….

 

It was also a really awesome week at the same time (such a strange, dichotomous life): I started doing research in the Veterinary Parasitology Lab.  The lab is actually run under the auspices of the Vet School Dean, Grace Mulcahy; I think it’s slightly ironic that, as a pre-vet, I’m working in the Dean’s lab…but I’m definitely not going to complain about it.  The purpose/job of the lab is to take samples (can be skin or fecal, etc.) from sick animals and test them for parasites; these samples come from companion animals, a nearby wildlife preserve, and the Dublin Zoo!  So far I’ve tested samples from dogs, a cat, a mara (aka, capybara), and a kangaroo – super exciting.  I’m working under the guidance of Amanda Lawlor, a technician in the lab; she was really excited that I knew how to use a microscope and could tell the difference between debris on a slide and parasite eggs (score one for ALL of my Hopkins teaching labs, I suppose).  I’m going in this week, by myself (read: unsupervised), on Tuesday and Wednesday morning – it’s crazy to me that, after working in the lab three times I’m trusted to go in by myself and not mess stuff up!  (They didn’t even check the slides I plated out last Thursday to make sure I knew what I was doing, they just said – ok, Claire said it’s negative for these parasites so the parasite isn’t present).

 

Now onto this past weekend – Amanda, one of my best friends at Hopkins (who is currently studying in France), is visiting for the whole week!  She got here Friday morning (right as I was going to class, of course, so Sarah was kind enough to meet her at the main entrance to the school and walk her back to the room), after an overnight travel experience (from France to London before Dublin); we both took fairly long naps, and then ordered pizza for dinner.  Two guys from the IFSA program showed up unexpectedly and hung out for about half an hour, but we weren’t really in the mood to go out that night, so they headed out to find something to do and we just hung out.  On Saturday, we went into the city centre to check out the market, and then we had lunch at The Ha’penny Bridge Café.  We managed to knock the saltshaker off the table when we sat down, so the waiter took the salt and pepper off our table…whoopsies!  We were sitting there enjoying our meal (minus the fact that the bacon on the club sandwich Amanda ordered wasn’t actually cooked) when a group of four American girls came in and demonstrated why Europeans think we’re obnoxious – one girl asked for nearly every ingredient in the dish to be changed (cheddar instead of swiss, mustard instead of mayo, etc. ad nauseum) and they were all ridiculously loud.  Grr.  Giving us bad names and whatnot.  After lunch we headed to SuperValu for some groceries, and then back home.  Sunday was a TON of fun – we headed north of the city centre to Malahide Castle,             owned by the Talbot family from 1185 to 1975.  The story of the last two owners (a brother, Milo, and sister, Rose) is quite interesting – as he became older, Milo started to travel throughout the Indies.  He found, on the island of Tasmania, an area named after the county in which the Malahide Estate is found – after retirement, he bought up land in this area and became a farmer there.  His younger sister, Rose, maintained a farm on the 500-acre estate at Malahide until Milo’s death in 1973; however, to offset the death tax incurred upon his death, Lady Rose sold the property to the Dublin County Council.  The 500-acres were set aside for “amenity and sporting purposes” (according to the Malahide Historical Society), and the Castle is open to public viewings – for the moment.  Amanda and I were actually extremely lucky in our timing – Malahide will be closed, from October 31, for the next 2-3 years for renovations!  Just another reason to return – we’re going to need to be able to do a comparison! J

 

I sincerely hope that you’ve enjoyed my commentaries for the moment!  Off to make dinner…

 

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Flowers and Snow Leopards, Among Other Things…

Time October 20th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I’d like to start this post off with a short anecdote that briefly describes why I love Ireland – the people are so dang friendly!  After going to the market in Temple Bar on Saturday morning, Sarah and I crossed the River Liffey to wait at the bus stop.  Right next to the bus stop is a florist, so I stopped in to buy a stem of lilies (all white; two of the flowers are blooming and two have yet to bloom J ) – they make my room smell glorious and remind me of my wonderful boyfriend (the bouquet he sent had them).  After buying the lilies, I checked the status of the bus on my phone (yay for interwebs on my mobile) and found that we had another 15 minutes to wait, so Sarah and I sat on the steps leading up to a building with our purchases from the market and my flowers (completely unwrapped, I was just holding the stem).  All of the sudden an older gentleman comes down the street and sings “You don’t bring me flowers” to me as he walks by.  We just laughed and couldn’t stop smiling – what a silly/friendly thing to do! (And he wasn’t half bad, either!)

 

On to the next thing – snow leopards.  I’ve had dealings with two kinds in the past week, so I’ll tell you all about it (I’m sure you’re dying to hear about it aha).  First, I realized that my computer is two updates behind – my Mac is running on Leopard when it should be on Lion.  Snow Leopard is the intermediary step, and you can’t upgrade to Lion without first upgrading to Snow Leopard soo I had to buy Snow Leopard from Apple.  They’re shipping it to me – hopefully it’ll be here by Tuesday and then I can immediately upgrade to Lion woo-hoo!  Then I’ll be really technologically advanced (..or at least not so far behind)…

 

The other snow leopard story involves the actual physical prowling version.  Sarah & I went to the Dublin Zoo on Sunday – what a cool place!  It’s located inside of Phoenix Park, which is truly gorgeous, and the weather was SO cooperative (aside from semi-gale-force winds which are basically ubiquitous at this point).  I didn’t take many pictures because it was sunny, actually, and the whole shadow thing really makes me nuts…but anywho, the setup of the zoo was really neat. SUCH a fan of zoos. J In two separate places they had lakes with exhibits around them, and little “islands” on the water that attached to the land-side of the exhibits to allow the different animals more room to roam about (each island was separated from the other, so animals from separate exhibits were still apart).  The first was at the beginning of the zoo, with lemurs and spider monkeys and macaques, and the second was a bit more than halfway through, with chimpanzees and gorillas – I thought that was a neat way of doing things.  I really love zoos so much – it is kind of a mini dream of mine to be a zoo/aquarium vet, at least on the side.  Such a wide range of animals with interesting features and characteristics…I think it’d be pretty cool.  So obviously I enjoyed our trip to the zoo.

 

We actually took a kind of round-about route to getting to the zoo, so I’ll put that story on here for your general enjoyment, also.  We started off the day planning to go to Bray, a seaside town about a thirty-minute bus ride south-east of campus.  The route is fairly straightforward – take bus 84 towards Newcastle; the bus was scheduled to arrive at UCD at 11:30 am.  Sarah and I made it to the bus stop with our lunches packed (I mean, what’s better than a picnic on the beach?!) five minutes early; after waiting around for 20 minutes, we decided the bus probably wasn’t going to show (sometimes the buses just don’t show up for no reason…).  We then walked onto campus to attempt to find a computer to use to plan travel to Howth, a location a cab driver suggested we visit at some point – we figured it was a good idea to try to get there.  However, Sunday at UCD means everything is closed (except the library, but we didn’t really feel like going in there…), so we ended up going back to our rooms for the computer.  We ate lunch in our rooms, and amended our plans (again) to going a bit closer to home – Phoenix Park.  We took bus 49a all the way to the end of the route, and then spent about 30 minutes wandering around Phoenix Park, including getting some hot chocolate at The Tea Room (in the park), before heading into the zoo.  After about two and a half hours we were getting pretty worn out, so the 20-minute bus ride was enjoyable – nice and chill.  Overall, even though our plan changed quite a few times, it was a great day!

 

Ok, one more story about Dublin adventures before I let you go on with your life again. J  Sarah and I went into the city on Friday evening for dessert (we made mac and cheese with veggies and ham for dinner first, no worries) – back to Bewley’s Oriental Café.  She got an apple and berry crumble with ice cream which was super-delicious; I got carrot cake (also fantastic).  This is our life – we go into the city just to get dessert!  Our trip home was a bit more than just “let’s hop on the bus” – because the bus never came! L  Sarah actually recognized a girl named ­­­­Bronagh at the bus stop – they are taking a theatre class together.  After waiting for twenty-five/thirty minutes, we decided to give up and cab home; Bronagh wanted food first, though, so we headed into Temple Bar to a “chippery” where she got fish & chips. After she received her food, we got in a cab back to campus; we were becoming acquainted when all of the sudden the cab driver jumped into our conversation (I think it had something to do with Sarah & I asserting that we love Irish people because they’re so friendly).  He was Polish, and had been living in Ireland for five years; however, he thought the Irish really aren’t that friendly – and that people in the US are way nicer!  It was really funny to hear that, coming from the NY/CT metropolitan area – people at home aren’t that nice, although people from the South and Mid-west are…

 

Whoopsies, I lied. One more story! (You can always stop reading if you’re bored, ya know?..)  This regards to fish & chips – it is such a staple of thinking here (you have to get it, etc.), so a while back a whole bunch of IFSA people (probably seven or eight of us) went to Leo’s to get it.  That was my first experience with fish and chips – it’s literally a slab of fish fried in batter with a bunch of French fries (“chips” – potato chips are called crisps here).  Leo’s doesn’t have any seating, so we ended up wandering around for seven-ten minutes looking for somewhere to sit down – our final choice was on a low wall bordering a large intersection.  It was an interesting experience, but I prefer real food for that much money (I think it was 8 or 9 euro for the fish & chips with a half-size can of soda); I think that’s going to be my only fish & chips serving while I’m in Ireland…

 

Ok now I’m done. Hope you enjoyed :)

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Living Backwards; or, How to Prepare for Studying in Ireland

Time October 19th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

I wanted to write a post to let anyone thinking about studying abroad in Ireland know about some issues that exist that make life a bit confusing or interesting, depending on how you look at it…

 

Here’s a “table of contents” of sorts, so you can skip to what you’re really interested in if you don’t feel like reading (each topic is one paragraph):

-Crossing the Street/Taxis

-Dublin Bus

-Bank Account

-Weekends/Partying

-The Gym

-Technology

-Phones!

-Scheduling

 

It feels like everything here is backwards. Not exactly true, but they DO drive on the wrong side of the road, so you have to look right before crossing the street instead of left.  It took me about a month to really get this down – it’s harder than you think.  For the first month or so, I basically just waited until the cross signal (“the green man” vs. “the red man” rather than light-up hands) so I didn’t die.  People in Dublin do not wait for the green man – they cross the street at any possible moment.  Get ready for it.  Also, be prepared to not pay any attention to how the cab driver is driving – buses and people on bikes and pedestrians seem of pop out of nowhere constantly, which makes me a bit nervous, at least…but definitely pay attention to where you’re going!  If you sound American, some drivers will go random, circular back routes…no fun and way too expensive.  Taxis in general are rather expensive (thanks to the Euro…ahh!), so always try to find another way to get around…walk or take:

 

The bus.  Dublin Bus is a pretty decent service – it has routes all over the place, and has a good website (dublinbus.ie) that can help you plan trips and find out when the next bus is coming.  However, like anything else, it is not perfect – there have been four or five occasions on which the bus was due to arrive and never did, even though the website said it should be arriving at the time I was standing at the stop.  Apparently this is a fairly regular occurrence, so just be aware of that. I would recommend getting a student bus pass – it’s 82 euro for a 30-day pass.  The thirty days do NOT have to be consecutive, though, which means you don’t have to worry about going places if you’re not in the mood “just” to make the most of your bus pass.  You need a valid student travel card to have a student bus pass, also – it’s usually 12 euro, but if you open a bank account at AIB (which has a branch ON campus) they give you a voucher that lets you pay only 3 euro for the travel card.  It’s totally worth it – the bus is usually 1.85 euro one way, so the bus pass comes out to being much cheaper.

 

Here I should mention the (potential) necessity of obtaining an Irish bank account for a few things.  First, a few stores don’t accept American credit cards – but nearly all accept “Laser Cards” (which are debit cards).  You will get a laser card with your AIB bank account (I can’t guarantee you will get them from any other banks…) which allows you to shop without carrying cash (something I’m not a huge fan of; I’d much rather have a card).  Now you may be thinking, “Claire, I’m not going to be shopping that much – I don’t need a laser card.”  To this I say – yes you will!  Whether you are buying clothing or movie tickets or groceries, there will be purchases in your future, and a laser card will make them much easier.  In terms of groceries: on-campus housing at UCD does not include any type of meal plan, so all food must either be made or bought at restaurants (EXPENSIVE!).  For those of us lazy college students who don’t want to physically go to the store, Tesco (one of the main grocery stores here) will deliver food to your apartment for a low fee (4 euro, usually).  However – they don’t accept American credit cards.  At all.  If you don’t want to worry about carrying groceries on the bus or taking a cab, getting it delivered is a great option for which you NEED a laser card!

 

Also, UCD is a very interesting school.  I can’t speak for all schools in Ireland, but here at UCD a vast majority of students return home nearly every weekend.  This makes the weekend an interesting time – either make friends with other internationals or plan to NOT stick around…ever.  This also means that Monday through Thursday are party days – to the extreme.  At the IFSA orientation, one of the staff told us to be careful trying to drink the same as Irish people – the legal drinking age is 18, meaning they got fake IDs when they were 15 or 16, whereas Americans get fakes at 18 to pretend to be 21, meaning they can drink much more than us; this seems to be a fact.  Parties rage around us Monday through Thursday; this may not be news to some of you, but, coming from Hopkins, it’s taken me a while to understand the concept of partying on a weekday because the weekends can be super boring – it’s interesting how that happens.

 

Another kind of weird-ish thing about UCD is that the gym is not included in tuition.  I figure this is due to the fact that Irish students have “free fees,” meaning that they are currently paying 2,000 euro a year for college (rather unlike Hopkins’ fee of $55,000, approximately).  This fee does not cover the gym, so no one gets to use it for free…however, this will be changing once the new Student Centre is opened (they will also be getting an Olympic-sized pool).  Hopefully if you come, the new Student Centre will be open; if not, I would suggest joining a club sport of some kind.  It’s 10 euro to join a club and 2-3 euro for each fitness drop-in class – you do the math…

 

Technology is mostly computers, in this post.  UCD has a number of SUAS (“stand up and surf”) stations with computers for free usage by students; however, you will notice some differences with the keyboards of these keyboards.  The enter button is skinny and tall rather than fat and long, the @ symbol is not above the 2; there are a number of other differences.  It’s just a funny example of the little differences between the US and Ireland – things you would never think about.  Ever.  Also, I have a few experiences which point me to the understanding that people here don’t really care that much about emails – they simply aren’t bothered by them.  This is not necessarily true for everyone, but I have seen this in more than one person, so I thought it was worth mentioning.

 

Now on to that all-important topic: phones.  If you’re like most typical American college students (I include myself in this category), you probably have a smartphone and you probably love it.  (Side note: Microsoft Word just wanted me to capitalize smartphone. Not happening – I don’t love it that much.)  The whole “what do I do with my phone?!” question is difficult to answer, but I can tell you my experience and that of my friends.  I brought my Blackberry with me, unlocked it, got an Irish SIM card & plan, and am loving it.  Absolutely.  It’s one less thing I had to learn how to use/do, and I’m such a baby about not having a full keyboard.  The pay-as-you-go phones that most of my IFSA buddies got cost 30 euro (about 42 dollars), which is a lot to pay for something you will not be using after a single four-month period…and they kinda stink.  Sarah’s phone has a touch screen that is very temperamental – plus it’s not even T9 capable (you have to tap three times for the letter O, etc.).  It’s much cheaper to bring your own phone and just get an Irish SIM card – they actually gave me the SIM card for free with my 30 euro top-up (the 30 euro fee for the pay-as-you-go phone does not include any money for calls or texts!).

 

Scheduling is the last issue I want to discuss with anyone contemplating coming to UCD/Ireland in general.  Try your hardest to get Fridays off – seriously! It’s so much better to be able to go somewhere on a Friday morning or even Thursday evening and come back on Sunday than having to wait until late Friday afternoon to head out.  My vet class is on Friday from 10-1 so I’m actually missing out on a bunch of traveling opportunities – so not cool.  Also, plan to be uncertain about your final exam schedule for what feels like FOREVER – we still have yet to hear anything.  According to a 2nd year Irish student I know, the timetable may not be up until the end of November – and the finals period runs from December 14 to 21!  It’s vastly different from scheduling at home, where we find out our finals schedule on the first day of classes…this makes planning for travel during “revision week” or after finals but before you have to fly home rather difficult.  I’m basically just making plans and praying that they work out, at this point – just something to note.

 

Ok, I hope this has been informative and useful.  Ireland is a beautiful place and I’m having a ball at UCD, but this should give you some stuff to think about when you contemplate studying abroad – do you really want to go to a country that uses the euro?!  :)

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Convenience stores really are so convenient…

Time October 13th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hi again!  So d’you remember when I said in my video that we were going into the city to register with the Garda? Well that turned out to be one big failure – apparently the Garda had double-booked all of our appointments, so we all get to devote seven hours or so to going by ourselves and “queuing” (at least “queuing” sounds nicer than “dying waiting around in a line”…).  The Garda registration process sounds scarily similar to getting your drivers license, at least in the part where you wait around for literally hours to sign a sheet of paper and move on.  So silly.

 

The Adventure Weekend was excellent – an adventure from start to finish!  I went to my vet class, where we dissected a chicken, and then hustled back to my dorm to do some last-minute packing before I was supposed to meet Maria from the IFSA-Butler Dublin office in the city.  She called me before I left, however, and offered to come pick me up – of course I jumped at that option, so I went to wait outside for her.  Twenty minutes or so later (darn traffic!) she showed up, and we booked it back to her residence to pick up her sister Isabelle, who joined us for the adventure weekend, before getting on the road forreal.  We headed to Galway, which is just about directly across Ireland from Dublin horizontally; we were planning on picking up another girl who couldn’t skip class Friday in Galway.  The poor student, though, was going to take a bus into Galway (she’s studying at the University of Limerick), and the bus never came!  So sad…so we ended up just driving around Galway towards the final destination, The Killary Adventure Centre.  (Side note – you know you’re assimilating into a different culture when you start adopting their spellings à I just typed “centre” on the first try instead of “center” ahh!)  Most of the ride was pretty laid-back, minus the part where a car with four boys in it pulled up alongside us, then dropped back behind us, and then pulled up alongside us for a second time – with one of the boys mooning us!  Insanity…but after that Maria, Isabelle, and I stopped for dinner at a pub in a small village – I got chicken in gooseberry sauce.  Yay for new experiences that turn out well – the gooseberry sauce was excellent.

 

Here’s where my silly blog title comes into play – after dinner (and delicious apple-blueberry crumble with ice cream for dessert), the three of us walked right across the street into Centra.  Centra has to be the best little convenience store ever, because everything is super cheap and pretty delicious.  I had to laugh a bit that such a small town would, of course, have a Centra…so we went into Centra to get bottled water, because (according to Maria) the water at the Adventure place was going to be pretty awful tasting (she didn’t lie!).  I misunderstood her when she said we were buying water – I thought we were picking it up for everyone, but she actually meant for the IFSA-Butler staff (but she bought me a bottle, too!).  Score for having to go late in the day – I got delicious (free) dinner and a huge bottle of filtered water out of it! J

 

We pulled into the Killary Adventure Centre at right around 9 pm, after some crazy driving on insanely windy/small roads (it was very similar to the roads in North Stamford, but without trees – just brush – on the sides of the road).  Maria actually asked if I was getting nervous, so I explained to her how my brother, James, wants to be a fighter pilot for the Navy (for which he will start training the first week of November!), and how I used to drive around with him all the time, so basically no one else has the power to scare me in a car any more…anyways, the first activity I participated in, then, was the “table quiz” (aka trivia) up in the dining room.  While it was pretty fun, and I met someone from Bridgeport (this is one insanely small world, seriously), it took way too long so everyone basically gave up around 11:30 and bounced.  Bedrooms for the students were similar to what I expect to find in a hostel – six people to a room with three sets of bunkbeds, with a bathroom inside the room – but the staff member rooms looked more like a regular hotel (lucky)…one of the perks of being older & wiser, I suppose.

 

Saturday was jam-packed with awesome activities that have left me sore pretty much all over (and this is Monday morning – jeez!).  I joined Sarah and four other girls in Clay Pigeon Shooting/Archery in the morning – we had Gabriel from Chile as our instructor.  The shotgun we used for the clay pigeon shooting was the first gun I’ve ever held; it was really an interesting experience.  I managed to hit three of the targets (once Gabriel told me to cover the pigeon with the little dot at the end of the shotgun, it got much easier) – pretty decent for the first time using a gun, I think.  It was really cool, but also difficult, so archery was a nice break – the targets are a) huge and b) stationary!  In our points-counting competition, I came in fifth, so I don’t think I’m going to become a master archer any time soon…but it was the first time I’d ever fired a bow, too, so I can now check off two things from my bucket list. J  After lunch back at the centre, I headed off in a group of 15 (four boys, eleven girls) to engage in Laser Combat Sports!  Such an epic game of laser tag has never before been played (or, at least, I’d like to think so) – we all suited up in one-piece camo cover-alls and painted our faces green and black, and headed out into the woods.  Thank GOD for rain boots (excuse me, Wellies) – they saved my leggings underneath from destruction via mud.   The first game we played was supposed to be a free-for-all (we had already been split into two groups, but they told us to wait on the group part)…however, with eleven girls, that had no chance of happening.  Most of us soon formed one big alliance against this one guy who had THE biggest gun, and had positioned himself atop a hill, acting as a sniper and picking us all off.   Seven or eight of us ended up storming the hill and taking him out – it was hysterical.  After that we started playing a real game – green team versus red team.  I was on the green team, which had eight members – four of whom were boys.  The red team was pretty upset about that (their group was composed of seven girls), but the guys running the games reminded them that feminism means that they are “equal” and thus they did not give the girls team any guys.  It was pretty hysterical…so we began the game, and ended up winning (of course!)  After playing a couple more games and getting absolutely covered in mud, we called it quits for the day and headed back to the centre for showers and dinner!

 

Saturday evening involved a bunch of waiting, because there was to be a disco of some sort but no one knew when it would start.  After playing a few games of spoons, we went downstairs and listened to some people jamming on their guitars – there were three guys and a girl who were all really talented playing.  We hung out downstairs for a while (sitting on a pool table), and then went back upstairs to see if the disco was starting – it was.  Funny note – when we went upstairs, “Marry You” by Bruno Mars was being played both by the guitarists downstairs and the DJ upstairs!  We danced around to all the awesome songs that the (rather old) DJ was playing for a while; I ended up going to bed at midnight, but I think I may have been the first person in the entire centre in bed!  (I’m so boring).  It was quite a fun day…

 

Sunday was very chill – woke up at 9:15 to get breakfast, and then hung out at the centre instead of doing any activities (because it was raining and foggy outside, and we wouldn’t have had enough time to shower before leaving for Dublin again).  I played a lot of solitaire (with actual cards), and a bunch of people ended up watching me – everyone was so tired that it was the most fascinating thing going on in the room for a while.  We had sandwiches for lunch around 1, and then headed out at 2:30 on a coach bus back to Dublin.  The ride was about five hours long, and they dropped us off right in the city centre, so we had to catch bus 39a home to UCD.  It was a wonderful, exciting, full weekend – I’m so glad that I got to go!!

 

Sorry for the delay in posting this – I’ll try my best to be faster in the future!  J

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“Bribing the Garda” and other Facts of Life

Time October 10th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | Comments Off on “Bribing the Garda” and other Facts of Life by

View on IFSA-Butler Community website »

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Becoming a Prolific Blogger (aka, The Art of Procrastination)

Time October 3rd, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

After my semi-fiasco uploading the video, I thought I’d stick with wordy blog posts for the time being…I’m much better at writing than at compressing videos, as it turns out! Please forgive the insane length…

 

I have some random commentary on life to start, and then some specific stories about life, so stick with me for a bit!

 

It’s funny how similar life is here compared to home, and yet also how different…a lot of the clothing trends are exactly the same (jeans and boots about), and students here love Hollister and Abercrombie & Fitch (popular brands at home, which I’m not particularly a fan of).  I always laugh a bit when I see those shirts because they usually say “NYC” or “SoCal” – yay for America!  But then it’s also a bit different – girls really like wearing shorts with tights underneath (especially bright or patterned tights); I don’t see that so often in the states.  Also, I saw a Guinness Truck driving around on our campus today, loaded with barrels of Guinness – that would not be so normal on campus at home!  I mean, the fact that we have a Student Pub on campus (between the business school and the international building) speaks to the differences between Ireland and Baltimore!

 

A huge difference I noticed is in regards to my lab/practical courses – in each of my three classes (I’m just going to call them all labs, because the practical is just a shorter lab…), I am required to wear a lab coat – think, doctor in a hospital, white lab coat.  However, I am not required to wear pants or closed-toe shoes!  If you walk into a lab on Hopkins’ campus wearing open-toed shoes, you literally have to go home and change into sneakers or boots.  I wore flip-flops to two separate labs last Tuesday, and no one said anything!  I actually couldn’t believe that one…it seems like they care about keeping the students shirts clean, and that’s about it (goggles are also not required or even available for use, as far as I could tell).  Very strange…

 

Alright – story time!  This past weekend was pretty full, and very fun, regardless of the weather.  It was chilly and rainy on Saturday, but Sarah & I hopped on the bus to go to a farmers market in Temple Bar.  We got apples and veggies for our fridge, as well as lunch (she had quiche and I had a scone – hers was better!), but a lot of the vendors were leaving/already gone by the time we got there around 1:30 (my fault – I didn’t want to get out of bed…dangit!).  I’m excited to go back next weekend – she went the weekend before and said it was much more crowded, with much more cool stuff to look at, when it wasn’t raining.  On our bus ride home, we stopped at Tesco for other groceries like peanut butter.  Sarah was the one keeping an eye out for Tesco and she nearly panicked when she saw one because she had zoned out for a second, so we ended up at some random street going to Tesco; it worked out because there was a bus stop right down the road, so we were ok with getting back.

 

That night we had invited Hillary and Alex, both from the IFSA program, over for mac & cheese (Sarah found a fantastic recipe for stove-top mac&cheese with nutmeg, yum!)…however, the timing got a bit messed up because we were doing laundry by the boatload, and because our roommates were having a dinner party, also!  We ended up starting the cooking process at 8 when we had said dinner at 8:20, so there was a lot of running around the kitchen going on for those twenty minutes…but we got it done, and it was delicious!  So much food…I swear that recipe must be for 12 portions or something! (Score one for having a million Tupperware containers for leftovers!)  We had a great time hanging out with them – they both commented that we (Sarah & I) act like an old married couple, which brings me back to a slightly amusing story from earlier that evening – we didn’t have enough coins to do laundry (six washers-full, four dryers) so we went to Centra to get our bills changed into coins.  The guy at the counter was the same one Sarah gave two 20s to earlier in the year, so he definitely remembers both of us (I’m pretty sure he thinks we’re hysterical).  We asked him to change the money, and he said sure so we simultaneously said, “Thanks so much!” He just looked at us and laughed…

 

DETOUR! I just remembered another story with the Centra guy – I was there with Sarah the other day (we always end up in there together), and she was paying for everything. I zoned out for a minute and thought that she was completely done and ready to go, so I started to walk out.  Sarah said, “Where are you going?!” and I turned back around, so completely confused.  The guy behind the counter was already laughing, so I responded, “I’m leaving you!” to which he said, “At least she’s being honest…”  I swear this guy must think we’re just ridiculous – we always have crazy encounters in Centra! Man…

 

Back to the weekend!  Sunday was spent at a free event hosted by the UCD International Office – the Dublin Adventure Tour!  Wenjun, one of my Chinese roomies, came with me (Sarah had a trip with one of her classes, so she couldn’t join us) which was awesome – more bonding time!  The group was originally supposed to be 20 but it ended up being 12 instead, so we stayed as a single group (instead of splitting into two), which made the day way more fun, I think.  We started the day with a hurling lesson on a nearby field – the two tour guides and an older gentleman taught us how to play the traditional Irish game of hurling.  I learned how to hit the ball (sliotar) with the stick (called a hurley), and how to pick it up off the ground without using my hands – however, it was the first time I had worn clothes-toed shoes since smashing my toe so I was a bit uncomfortable.  I sat out the rest of that portion, taking pictures instead of the little competitions that the other students played, which was actually really fun (so no worries, I don’t feel deprived or anything).  After hurling, we got on the bus and drove to Brennanstown to see the Brennanstown Dolmen, which is similar to the Brownshill Dolmen we saw on the Paddywagon tour.  However, the similarity lies only in the physical building – not in the manner of getting there.  We had quite a time getting there – really put the “Adventure” in the “Adventure Tour!”  We had to climb over a fence, walk alongside the Luas, go under the Luas, and then walk down through what looked like a rainforest (someone said “Oh my gosh we’re in the rainforest of Dublin!”) and over a little river to get to the field where the Dolmen was hiding.  The river part posed a pretty large problem – it had flooded quite substantially because of the rain, so we had to climb on tree branches along the water, over rocks, and through bushes to get to the other side!  The Dolmen itself was a magnificent structure, so I’m glad we made it through!  Coming back was even more interesting…there was a swing on the side of the river we were going back to to return to the bus, so some people thought it would be ok to use rocks to get halfway across the river and then swing over the other half.  It worked for most of the people, but Wenjun actually ended up knees-down IN the river!  Whoopsies…the decision was made to bring us back to UCD to allow everyone to get changed (Wenjun wasn’t the only one who got wet, but she was definitely the reason we stopped to change) before heading over to the People’s Park in Dun Laoghaire to visit another farmers market for lunch!  The same booth that Sarah bought the quiche at on Saturday was present at this market, so I got the quiche for lunch that time (yum – such a good decision)!  It was great to be in Dun Laoghaire because it’s right on the sea, so the smells really reminded me of home (where I can see the Long Island Sound from my front door) – made me miss home a bit, too.  The last stop of the day was at the Dalkey Castle for a theatrical tour, which ended up being hysterical!  Two characters – a queen and Rupert, the archer – led us through the church and castle.  When the queen greeted us, she demanded, “Will you not curtsy and bow before me?!” so we got pretty involved in the whole production – going under a door in the church, we each had to shout “Good fortune!” so we would have good fortune in our lives.  When she brought us into the castle, she inspected each of us for diseases – first by listening for “spirits” in the hair of the visitors while we were singing.  When she got to one of the Chinese exchange students, JJ, she announced that she had heard spirits rattling and then said, “It is widely known, Lord JJ, that spirits enter through the hair. The only way to get rid of them is to cut it all off!”  JJ’s response was hysterical – as she was pretending to sharpen her scissors, he goes “Is it free??”  We all started cracking up – including the actress!  Rupert also demonstrated the terrible hygiene commonly found in the time period in which the castle would have been active – including cleaning a plate by spitting on it, and cleaning clothes by dipping them in urine. Gross!  It was a great tour, and a fantastic end to the day. J

 

Alrighty I’m going to let you fabulous people get on with your life now – hope you didn’t get too bored…enjoy the pictures!

 

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Finally – Video #1 Is Here!

Time October 3rd, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by


Find more videos like this on Institute for Study Abroad – Butler University

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More Pictures Yay!

Time September 29th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

These are pictures of Dublin Castle, taken last Friday during the Dublin Culture Night! Check out my (soon to be posted, I promise!) video to hear some more about it. :]

 

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Pictures from Glendalough, Brownshill Dulmen, & Kilkenny!

Time September 29th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Late, I know…please forgive me.

 

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Health, Views on Life in General, Mail, & Roomie Interventions

Time September 26th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I am currently experiencing my first health issues abroad (I have previously visited Greece with family, and traveled through Austria, the Czech Republic, and Hungary with my youth orchestra), so I’m interested in how the health care works. I had something that strongly resembles strep (but never comes up positive as strep in quick-swab tests), so I went to the student health centre. The doctor asked “What’s wrong?” and I said “I have strep.” A brief conversation ensued (he asked if I’d ever had strep before…which I found slightly silly, being that I straight-out told him I was pretty sure I currently had it, and how would I know what it was without prior experience?), and he prescribed me penicillin! Score! I went downstairs (the student health centre is in the student centre) to the pharmacy, gave them my prescription, and walked out of the building ten minutes later. It was grand.

 

As I waited in the pharmacy for my magic pills, I had a conversation with the girl working at the counter because I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to wait for the pills to be ready (I mean, at home it’s a 20 minute minimum wait). She asked where I was from, and then asked how I liked Ireland. Of course my response centered around the schooling – how it’s strange that there are no required textbooks/homework, etc. While I was talking, she just looked at me; once I stopped, she said, “But what about the life??” It was like a little mini-epiphany – living here is way more important than studying. No worries, I’m not going to stop studying entirely (although, truth be told, I have yet to start in earnest…whoopsies!), but it was interesting to just take a second and realize that there’s a life going on out there, and that I should take part in it.

 

Back to my health issues – the antibiotics cured the strep, but I’m pretty sure waiting in the student health centre gave me a cold (rather unfortunate, considering the fact that I play a woodwind instrument and have my first orchestra rehearsal this evening at 6 pm!). I’ve been sleeping as much as possible this past weekend – two naps a day, as much nightly sleep as I could manage, etc. Unfortunately, I also managed to kill one of my toes: on a 5-am trip to the bathroom to blow my nose Friday night/Saturday morning, I opened the door over my second toe on my left foot. It’s now essentially black…and I’m just waiting for the toenail to fall off. It’s pretty painful, and a real pain that I have to walk just about all the way across campus to get to my classes/rehearsal tonight. Yay for flip-flops…and for being the only person on the 20-minute walk to class wearing them.

 

Alright. Away from sickness/pain and on to a different topic – mail! Mail here is hand-delivered to our rooms at the end of the day (I believe around 5 pm); if you receive a package, they slip a paper under the door stating that you have a package and to please pick it up at your earliest convenience. I finally got the paper establishing that I now have a functioning Irish bank account – I’m still waiting on the Laser card, however. Once I receive the Laser card (essentially a debit card, but it functions a bit differently than credit cards at home), I can order groceries online to be delivered to my apartment – meaning I never have to go to the grocery store again! Unfortunately, they won’t let you order online with an American credit card (silly Irish people – the credit cards work in the stores, why not over the internets?!), so Sarah & I have been waiting impatiently for our Lasers. I also got a slip under my door on Friday night saying I had a “packet” to retrieve from the residence office. I limped down there Saturday morning to find that my boy had sent me his “rush” t-shirt (he’s in a fraternity) – what a cutie.

 

Oh man, long blog againnn. Hopefully no one has gotten too bored yet…this is the last topic, I promise! Roomie intervention – Sarah is a wonderful person, but she’s rather shy (ok, I am too, but..this is about her, not me!). Ameya is determined to make her more outgoing, especially with members of the opposite sex; to this end, I was tasked with bringing Sarah to the student pub on Saturday night and making her talk to men. Female power and all that…anyways. Only in Ireland would the student pub, which is located on campus, be closed on Saturday night! I suppose that, since nearly all the Irish students of UCD go home every weekend, it is not economical to keep the bar open on the weekends…such a strange, strange system. So I will be accompanying Sarah on a trip to the pub tonight, instead – Monday night = pub night? Seriously bizarre – my Hopkins brain doesn’t accept this as being normal, but I’m just telling it to be quiet at this point. I’ll let you know how it goes…wish us luck!

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“Good girls drink milk, Bad girls drink wine”

Time September 21st, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I would like to start this entry with an introduction – I realized I have yet to introduce my suitemates (I’ll come back to the title later, I promise)!  Sarah, as you know, is one of the other people living in my four-bedroom/two-bathroom suite – she hails from Las Vegas, and is studying pre-med at Vanderbilt.  However, this is her semester off – she’s (nearly) done with her pre-med requirements, so she’s doing a semester full of arts courses (mythology, theatre, etc.) – not going to lie, I’m pretty jealous.  The other two girls in my suite are both from China, from the same home university – their names are Wenjun and Kate.  They are both studying business, and will be here at UCD for the last two years of their undergraduate education.  Kate has a boyfriend (also Chinese, from the same home school) who is also studying at UCD, so we don’t see her very often.  However, Wenjun’s boyfriend is back IN China, so Sarah & I get to spend a lot of time with her.  Yesterday, for instance, we were walking to campus together and I reminded Wenjun that she was going to give us Chinese names – she asked if we wanted translations of our names into Chinese, or if we wanted nicknames.  Being greedy Americans, of COURSE we want both!  For my nickname, she chose “purple” (my favorite color)…for Sarah’s, she chose “Cookie” (because Centra sells two packs of cookies for 2 euro, and Sarah’s slightly addicted haha).

 

I love my suitemates – I definitely hit the jackpot this time!  They’re all clean, and super-friendly…and we’ve been decorating our living room together!  Sarah made two paper owls (named them “Pete” and “Tom,” a play on “Peeping Tom” because you can see directly into everyone else’s apartment around the quad) which are now living on the wall, and Wenjun cut out each of our names in our favorite color and those are also taped on the wall.  There are also some balloons, and a satirical poster Sarah & I found at the poster sale in the library this week (I’ll put up a picture later – it’s pretty funny!).

 

The other major room decorations arrived via courier on Saturday – my boyfriend, sent me flowers!  Apparently it was quite a process – he had to get my address and phone number from my sis,  etc. – and it was the most amazing surprise.  They smell so sweet, so when I had to cut the stems, I broke the bouquet up into smaller pieces and spread them throughout the apartment so everyone can enjoy their fragrance and beauty.

 

Alright. It might be a good time for me to expound upon the title of this post – here we go.  As I said, Sarah is pre-med, which means she has to take the MCAT.  She took it in August, and knew that her score would be posted yesterday (between 2 and 4 pm EST – 7 and 9 pm here).  We went to the Rocky Horror Picture Show, screened by the drama society in conjunction with the film society, which started at 7 – while I thought it was hysterical (especially the American girl a few rows back who essentially had a running commentary throughout the entire movie), Sarah got a bit nervous during a 10-minute interlude in the show and didn’t manage to calm down after that.  On the walk back to our room, we stopped at Centra to get her a bottle of wine, ice cream sandwiches, and (of course) cookies – just in case!  I gave her 40 euros (two 20 bills) to pay for the stuff, because I didn’t have an ID on me with my birthday to prove that I’m over 18; we walked up to the counter together, and the guy rang it up to being 11 something euros total.  Sarah got this confused look on her face and then just thrust both twenties at the guy – who laughed, said “Oh, is this a tip, then?” and promptly shoved one of the twenties in his shirt pocket.  It was a pretty funny moment – she was just so nervous that she had NO idea what was going on, and couldn’t figure out why two 20s was an inappropriate payment. (We got the second 20 back, no worries!)

 

We got home, and Sarah ran into her room to check her score – meanwhile, I opened the wine and cookies, and grabbed an ice cream bar for her.  She came back ok (not overjoyed, but not suicidal, either) and immediately demolished the ice cream bar.  Then she set about getting blasted (no judgment, I would too!) – she ended up drinking about ¾ of the bottle alone.  This is where the title occurs – Wenjun came in to the kitchen to get some food, and poured herself some milk.  She saw that Sarah was drinking wine (on a Tuesday) and, before any explanation could be made as to the reason, she immediately said “Good girls drink milk, bad girls drink wine!!”  It was pretty funny, so I wrote it down so I wouldn’t forget about it.  Sarah is a lot of fun when she’s drinking, so we hung out in the living room until a bit past midnight (I made her drink an entire mug of water so her head wouldn’t kill this morning, no worries) and then she went to sleep.

 

Yesterday was pretty excellent – aside from the hilarity of Rocky Horror and the amusement of my roomies, I switched one of my classes from Introduction to Irish Studies to Orchestra (meaning I don’t have class on Friday past 1 – and yes, I did get in to the orchestra!!), I found out that one of the classes I’m taking here will count as a pre-requisite for Iowa State Veterinary School (the only one for which I am considered ‘in-state’), and I worked out a potential schedule of classes for the next three years that will allow me to get the BS in Molecular & Cellular Biology while also picking up a minor in music!  It was a long day (bedtime past 3 = bad), but a very good one!

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Wine from a mug & other secrets to happiness

Time September 19th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Sarah & I have discovered the best way to achieve rapid happiness – buy a 6-euro bottle of white wine and drink it from a happy coffee mug!  The drinking scene is very happening here, but it is also very expensive – bars charge around 5 euros per pint (and more for cocktails), which quickly beaome too much to handle for this conversion-weary American.  Centra, which is the little mini-mart attached to our residence hall, has a selection of 6- and 7-euro wines (haven’t upgraded to the 7-euro bottle as of yet) along with just about everything else you could possibly need (including, apparently, 1-euro garlic bread slices – I am, as of yet, avoiding that entirely), so drinking expeditions don’t take much time or money.  It’s all about the planning!

 

Onto a different topic (I don’t want you all to think I’m some kind of drunken mess – I actually drank water the last time I went to a bar) – I spent today on (and off) a Paddywagon, touring Glendalough, the Wicklow Mountains, Brownshill Dolmen, and Kilkenny!  My first expedition into the Irish countryside was a success, after a harrowing start – there were 8 of us from the IFSA program who all went on the tour, and two cabs were called last night in preparation for the early start (we had to be in the city centre at 8:10 am).  Sarah & I walked out of our building, towards the main entrance, and watched as a cab drove off at 8:49 am – it contained the other six members of our group who were going on the tour.  The second cab was nowhere to be found.  As neither of us had ordered it, we had to retrieve the cab company information from Stephanie – and, when we called the company, they had no record of her hiring a cab for this morning!  They rushed a cab out to pick us up, and this guy drove like a crazy person all through the city (he told us “On Sunday mornings, the game is to run as many red lights as you can!”) to get us to the meeting place – Suffolk Street – on time.  We showed up at 8:14, the driver (JJ) showed up at 8:16.  Slightly terrifying start to what turned out to be a fantastic day!

 

JJ was a very amusing man who told us all about the history of each place we would be going – starting with Glendalough, which is pronounced “Glen-da-lock.”  Lough is the word for lake; when we arrived at the location, he instructed us to “follow the path over there” to find the upper lake.  We started out by touring a cemetery that showed so much love it was incredible – countless tombstones had flowers resting against them, and some graves had been converted into gardens, with riotous blooms covering the area adjacent to the stone.  It was still quite chilly at this point, so Sarah & I went into the little inn/restaurant on the premises and bought hot chocolate to take with us on our trip down “the path over there”, and out we went – onto the wrong path!  We walked on the road, to the right of the lake; regardless of where the path everyone else found started, it ended up on the left of the lake (whoopsies!).  However, the view from the road was spectacular – we saw quaint houses, wild blackberries, and (of course) the lake itself.  Upon returning to the inn, we bought the most delicious scones – eaten with raspberry jam – and enjoyed the warmth for about 25 minutes before getting back on the bus to start the next leg of our journey.

 

Our hour-long trip from Glendalough to Brownshill Dolmen was filled with exactly the kinds of views you hear about from visitors of Ireland – the greenest grass and numerous cows and sheep!  The sheep were all marked to demonstrate ownership with some kind of paint (which seems like a nice alternative to branding, although potentially bad if you’re trying to sell their wool…), and JJ told us about the way a farmer can determine if a female sheep has been “talking to” a male sheep.  Apparently, the farmer ties a loop of string around the males’ belly, with what could resemble a paintbrush (with a different color paint than the ownership marking) hanging from the portion of the string beneath the male.  When the male & female “talk” in the correct manner, the male deposits color on the female’s back – and the farmer knows that the female is taken care of!  Also, JJ called the female sheep (ewe) “yo” – interesting/funny pronunciations are everywhere!

 

Brownshill Dolmen is a tomb of some sort, created somewhere around 4000 years ago, and it’s massive.  Truly, truly massive!  The top stone weighs somewhere in the range of 225,000 pounds – how the Irish people of 4 millenium ago were able to move it into position is quite a mystery still (we thought maybe aliens…seems like the best idea thus far, at least).  It was insanely windy (Irish weather…), so we hiked back to the bus after a fairly short time to start our next leg of the journey – about an hour away lay Kilkenny!

 

The drive into Kilkenny was literally mouth-watering – every kind of restaurant that you could dream of was present along the main street!  Nearly everyone on the bus (all 41 of us) walked down to the Nostalgia Café, where we were promised free soft drinks (water, apple, or orange juice) because of our engagement on the bus.  The food was decent, but we definitely surprised the establishment with our numbers – they seemed entirely unable to figure out how to take care of us (wait time – 30 minutes).  After eating, Sarah & I stopped in at Boots, a pharmacy, to buy some second-skin-type stuff (she chopped off the tip of her thumb while attempting to cut peppers yesterday…whoopsies!), and then we walked over to Kilkenny Castle.  The grounds were beautiful (and free entry made it even more sweet), and we ventured into one of their galleries…which ended up being full of “modern art”, which was just a teensy bit bizarre/hysterical (wish I had taken pictures).  We headed back outside and across the street into the Kilkenny Design Centre, which is a shop containing entirely Irish-made products (they have a store in Dublin City Centre, also) – it was fairly expensive stuff, but postcards were cheap so we snagged a bunch.  After roaming through the store, we walked out of the building and away from the street through a stone archway – and found ourselves in the Butler Gardens!  The garden is tucked away behind the design store (no one else from the IFSA program who went on the trip found it), but it was well worth the wandering – I love flowers and I’m very intrigued by buildings covered with ivy, both of which were found here.

 

The bus ride back to Dublin from Kilkenny was quite fun – the All-Ireland Gaelic Football Final was being played between Dublin and Kerry, and JJ had it playing over the radio.  According to the GAA website, 83,200 people attended the game!  I slept for about half an hour, and then woke up to hear that there were five minutes left in the game – and Dublin had just tied with Kerry.  Dublin ended up winning in an overtime goal scored by their goalie – at which point, JJ literally bellowed in happiness (I cannot think of a different way to put it), and woke up the entire bus.  From that point on, he talked about Dublin, the roads we were driving on, his wife, his parents-in-law, anything and everything because he was just so damn happy!

 

All-in-all, it was a fantastic trip, and it was excellent to come back into Dublin with them just winning the All-Ireland Football Championship for the first time in 16 years!  This is definitely turning out to be an interesting semester, that’s for sure.

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WAKE UP, AMERICANS! etc…

Time September 16th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

The time difference (Dublin being 5 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time) is killing me! I don’t have that many friends in Ireland yet (nearly all of my classes are 200+, so I’m going to attempt to be more friendly with random people sitting around me next week), meaning that I’m still kind of relying on Americans for avoiding boredom. You may not know this, but Netflix, Hulu, etc. do NOT work in Ireland – so unless you bring movies (which I didn’t) there’s not much to do, except talk to people somewhere. And I’m finding it difficult to talk to people at home because they’re all ASLEEP when I’m bored!!

 

However, I am finding things to do in my spare time – like clean and search for stove-top-only recipes (no oven ☹) – and I’ve officially survived my first week of classes! My microbiology lecturer is definitely my favorite to date – he’s enthusiastic and funny. We were covering microscopes and, when talking about the use of phase contrast microscopes, he said something to the effect of “this is all a bunch of physics, which I don’t really understand myself, so don’t worry about knowing everything about it – it’s just useful.” If only they taught like this at Hopkins!

 

One thing I wish I had known before deciding to study at UCD is that nearly all the Irish students go home every weekend – it’s such a short distance home that they all take advantage of it. This is a small issue for us poor Americans who don’t have millions of euros to spend also traveling every weekend (although I’m planning on winning the 250 million euro lotto – just have to buy a ticket or two…), but I have a plan – after I befriend some Irish students, I will beg to join them for the weekend! (Free transportation + free lodging + potentially even some free food = EXCELLENT IDEA!) I’m not so sure how this plan will turn out, but I will keep everyone apprised…in the meantime, I’m planning on using weekends to explore Dublin!

 

To this effect,I’ve written down a list of 33 places I want to visit (the zoo and greyhound racing track of course being included) – 16 of which are free! I’m definitely going to attempt to get to all the free places first; they should all be accessible on the bus. That’s something new to me here, also – the bus system is pretty fantastic (nearly all the time). I got a 30-day student bus pass for 82 euro (such a large sum of money ahh), but it’s really neat because it allows you to use the bus an unlimited number of times for any 30 days. As in, they don’t have to be consecutive! (It’s good until July of next year, actually.) This makes me feel a bit better about spending the money (otherwise I’d feel the need to go somewhere every day and I’m really not that much of a go-getter…), and it also makes me want to start visiting places – after last night, I have 29 days left!

 

What did I do last night, you ask? Wellllll – IFSA sponsored an evening comprised of dinner and a show for all the UCD students! We ate at Milanos (huge portions of delicious pizza, oh man) and then we booked it (service was a teensy bit slow for dinner) over to The Lir to see the show “Cult.” Cult is a comedy about five members of a cult who get left behind during the ascension of their group, and have to figure out what to do with themselves now that they have no leader to follow. The best part of the show was undoubtedly when the fire alarm went off, and everyone had to be evacuated…and we weren’t just brought outside the theatre, we had to walk down the street into a parking lot (or “car park”)! Basically everyone thought that it was part of the show (which it actually wasn’t) until we were in the car park, standing around wondering what was going on…and when we returned to the theatre, the actors were pretty funny about everything. One of the actors asked another “What did Leader Peter have you do before tonight?” to which the guy responded “Other than pull the fire alarm?” It was a pretty epic night – the show by itself was a riot, but the fire alarm just added another level of hilarity.

 

Life in Ireland is turning out to be pretty enjoyable – score for a good semester!

 

PS. I’m writing so many blog entries because I forgot my travel journal at home, and I have a pretty lousy memory (dangit). So if I bother you with tmi, …sowwy? ☺

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It Don’t Get Much Better Than This!

Time September 15th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Three days into classes in Dublin, Ireland, it’s just hitting me that I’m not home!  Everything here is different – the professors suggest (but don’t require) textbooks, meaning that nearly all the material you need to learn is covered in class…and compared to Hopkins, it’s a smaller amount of info!  Oh how I would love to make Dean’s List this semester (even if it doesn’t technically count!) – I’ve made it so close twice, but close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, so…that’s that.

 

I’ve met with my Science Peer-Mentor, Ciaran, twice thus far – he’s a physics major, and studied abroad at Berkeley last year (I can’t remember if it was a full year, or just a semester), so he was able to offer us (being myself and the rest of the peer-mentoring group) a view of UCD as compared to American schools.  He said that, a lot of the time, students will take all 6 courses in their semester (I’m only taking 5…) in one area, such as science.  This means that each class gives less work, because at an American courseload, 6 all-science (or 6 all-anything, probably, I just know science best) courses would be murder – they don’t want to kill their students here!  It looks like I might have time to join some societies (the equivalent of clubs at home).

 

There are signs everywhere for “Freshers Week” – the second week of school is devoted to showing the freshman (or freshers, but they’re mainly called first-years) what life at UCD is comprised of, aside from classes.  The societies range from Law to Drama to Fashion, and everything between; the one thing they have in common seems to be nights out at pubs together! (Irish culture is really really centered around drinking/the pub.)  One of the clubs is even sending its members (old & new) into Belfast for a weekend of fun, which includes accommodation at one of the “biggest party hostels in Ireland” – I might try to sign on for that trip! I’m not that big into partying myself, but it seems like the only way to really meet Irish people!  The main attraction of Freshers Week is that all the societies have tables in a big tent for the whole week where anyone can learn about the various clubs offered and sign up for membership.

 

Attached to Freshers Week is the Sports Expo, in which all the sports clubs and teams open membership.  Sports seems really relaxed here – nearly all the clubs specifically ask for complete beginners in their online info sections.  I’m thinking of trying squash (one of my fellow oboe-players from the Norwalk Youth Symphony played squash and I remember wondering what exactly that entailed…it’s a good time to try it out!), or potentially trampoline – which looks like gymnastics, just on a trampoline!

 

Next week should be very interesting and hopefully a lot of fun – I’m definitely looking forward to finding out more about life at UCD!

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My So-Called Life

Time September 12th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Well, folks, I made it to Dublin! True to form, it has rained every day since I arrived (although it’s not CT or Baltimore rain – it’s more of just a constant, sometimes sideways, drizzle) – and true to what everyone says, it’s beautiful. Green everywhere! I’m going to attempt to tell everything that happened (including my four trips to the Carphone Warehouse – wait for it), so bear with my poor memory & slightly overloaded mind…

 

We arrived on Monday (after taking off on Sunday…no night time for us poor travelers) around 9 am.  My suitemate, Sarah, accidentally left a folder of personal info on the plane, so after making it through the airport easily (no questions at customs, yay!) we waited for her for a while…eventually we left, and she ended up beating us to the hotel.  Funny how things work out…they found her folder after we had all departed the airport, and shipped them to UCD for her, thank goodness.  We stayed in the Mount Clare Hotel, operated by the O’Callaghan Hotels chain; Sarah and I were on the third floor.  It was about a 10 minute walk from Grafton, which is one of the principal shopping streets in the city – it’s entirely pedestrian, except in the morning, when trucks are allowed to drive down it and deliver goods to the stores (Sarah and I discovered this on our 8:15 am adventure on Wednesday).  It has pharmacies and grocery stores and clothing stores and numerous phone stores – I guess it’s time for the great phone fiasco to begin.

 

After napping on Monday, nearly the whole IFSA group met up to go to Grafton Street and figure out phones.  Most of the group bought little dinky pre-pay phones, but I’m a technology freak and completely unwilling to give up my Blackberry, so I decided to simply purchase an Irish SIM card & utilize a popular free-texting plan for 30 euros.  Unfortunately, I forgot to unlock my phone first, so I couldn’t set up the plan when I bought the card – I had to go back to my room and get internet access to find out how to unlock the phone.  Internet access was another bondoogle, but after visiting the front desk 3 times (the girls behind the desk were not the sharpest tacks in the box…) I finally got connected to the worlds slowest internet service.  Slightly frustrating…finally got my phone unlocked, and put in the SIM card, and thought I was close to finished. NOT!  It turns out that the number that the Carphone Warehouse told me to call to activate my phone was wrong…so I went back the next day.  They called in and activated my phone for me – and again I thought, all done!  Funny jokes…Irish networks don’t like me, whoopsies.  The number they told me to text to activate the free texting/internet plan was the wrong one…so I went back the next day.  A nice guy working there attempted to fix the problem by calling Meteor (my network) for me, but I had forgotten my PIN number in the hotel, so we (Sarah graciously came with me) went back a FINAL time yesterday at 8:15….or we tried to.  As it turns out, Dublin is a 9-5 city…so at 8:15 nearly everything was closed.  After waiting endlessly, I got in and got everything worked out.  Then I tried to use the internet, because I wanted to make sure the free internet service had started before texting (I don’t like spending money unnecessarily) – and the internet didn’t work!!  I called in today and found out that, because I have a blackberry, I have to pay 9.99 euro for internet because it has to be connected to a certain network.  So whatever – 9.99 euro was deducted from the 30 I originally paid (and have used none of), and now I can use my free texting and not-so-free internet.

 

WOO-HOO PHONE ISSUES ARE COMPLETE. (Hopefully….crossing all my fingers & toes).

 

So our time in Dublin city centre was used for things other than phone issues, I promise.  Our group went on a Viking Splash Tour at 5 pm the first day, which was really informative and amusing (the driver was hysterical); however, it was also a teensy bit colder than we expected, and raining.  It might have been better had we waited for another day, but it was fun overall.  Afterwards, we ate at Wagamama – really good pan-Asian food, but also really loud, because our group of around 28 was all together.  A bunch of people went out to pubs, and Sarah, Molly, and I attempted to follow – but failed.  We got lost when the rest of the group (who were walking ahead of us) rounded a corner and disappeared…so we ended up going to a pharmacy for a hairdryer, and the grocery store (where Molly got delicious-looking biscuits) instead!  (An interesting first night, at least…)

 

The second day started out with Sarah and I heading to Grafton Street around 9 am for the second trip to Carphone Warehouse…we then had a bunch of meetings at the IFSA Butler office.  A welcome talk, a talk from Garda Paul about safety, a talk by Enda Carroll from UCD about expectations for the university, and a talk from Dr. Tim Conway, the Resident Director of IFSA’s Ireland office.  After all those meetings (snore…whoopsies. I did try to stay awake, I swear), we had lunch at The Exchequer, and then walked over to The Guinness Storehouse for a self-guided tour.  The Storehouse was definitely interesting, and I will be going again when I am not dead-on-my-feet, and can enjoy it fully….Sarah & I took a cab home (the 30-45 minute walk was not appealing at that point), and then (after some downtime) headed off to Dunnes (after the third stop at the Carphone Warehouse…), a super-store with soo much stuff in it that I was in Heaven for a minute there…22 people from our overall group met up at 7 in the hotel to attempt to find a place for dinner, which ended up being Bewley’s Oriental Cafe – somehow, with no prior notice that we would be showing up asking for food, they had a room that fit all of us set and ready for use!  It was pretty good food – 4 of the 6 people, including myself, at my table got individual Margarita pizzas – and didn’t cost us too much…but the Euro to Dollar conversion in my head keeps making me cringe.  After dinner, the 6 of us at my table headed to O’donoghue’s Pub for my first drink in Dublin woo-hoo.  One drink later, it was bed time…still trying to catch up on my lost night of sleep (damn airplane).

 

Ok, even I’m getting tired of all of this insanity.  I’ll try to finish my epic saga tomorrow…wish me luck!

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Finally Enrolled!

Time August 26th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

After quite an interesting chain of events (joining a program [the pre-vet study abroad semester, in this case] in its first year is apparently a rather bumpy road), I am finally registered for my five courses! I’m going to be taking the following:

-Introduction to Irish Studies

-Introduction to Animal Science (a vet school pre-requisite)

-The Microbial World (basically microbiology, also a vet school pre-req)

-Animal Form and Function

-Exotic Species

The last class, exotic species, is a 200 level veterinary course – I get to start my vet school learning just a tad early! I’m really excited to work with veterinary students & professors – we’ll see how it turns out!

I’m a tad upset that my schedule includes a class on Monday at 11 and a class that ends at 2:50 on Friday, which limits my options for travel a bit. Oh well – all of Ireland/England will be my domain! :)

I can’t believe I’m actually going! I have housing and a schedule…insanity. Wish me luck – I leave next Sunday!

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Being Abandoned Can Lead to Feelings of Anxiety…

Time August 25th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hey, I’m Claire, a rising junior at Johns Hopkins University. I’m so excited to leave Baltimore (or Bmore as we normally call it) behind and explore in my ancestral home of Ireland! I’m still two weeks and two days away from departure, but my friends have already started leaving to return to their schools – they’ll nearly all be gone by next Thursday, which is so crazy and leaves me wondering “where did the summer go?!?!”

With everyone leaving to return to school, I’ve had to really start thinking about going to Ireland (which a job, physics 2, and a 30-hour a week internship have kept me from doing previously…) and I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty anxious about it. I like to plan in advance, but I still haven’t been able to register for classes (we did that in March at JHU…) which is scary – what if I get blocked out of everything I want to take/of everything I got pre-approval to take from Hop? Hopefully nothing bad happens with that…I just have to have faith, everyone tells me. I do, however, know my housing – I’ll be in a 4-5 person suite (all single bedrooms) with two bathrooms, a kitchen, and a living room in the Merville Residences (a dorm) – BUT the school won’t release the names of my suitemates. This is a slight issue because there are no meal plans, so I must cook…but I can’t bring any cooking implements with me (pesky 2-bag limit on the airplane…), so I would like to find out what my roommates plan on bringing so I can plan ahead. Oh well…going to have to leave that one up in the air also, as there’s not much I can do to change the university’s mind.

I’m so excited to be surrounded by Irish people! They really have the best accent, and are so friendly overall – I hope I get along with my roommates (I’ve had some issues in the past)!

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