We arrived on Wednesday at around 12pm. Although many of us had just met, after a long flight and layover times it really felt like we knew a whole lot about each other (despite the fact that most of us couldn’t recount the names of most everyone). The airline that IFSA-Butler had booked, Virgin Atlantic, was phenomenal. It is beyond a doubt the best airline I’ve ever encountered: free blanket, socks, toothbrush, toothpaste, dinner, wine, breakfast, snacks, dessert, salad, water, pens, movies, TV shows, music albums. These were the outstanding features bestowed upon us by Virgin Atlantic (not to mention a funny introduction cartoon). Upon arrival at Edinburgh airport, we met with Ruth, Deirdre, and Katharine, the Scottish representatives for IFSA-Butler. They were (and continue to be) very friendly! We hopped onto two shuttle buses which drove us to our destination, the Apex International Hotel. Again, an outstanding part of the trip. The Apex is a premier hotel throughout the UK (and possibly Europe?). According to my British friend, Rosanna, it’s quite “swish.” The rooms, which are big and awesome, come fully furnished with a large flat screen TV, free Wi-Fi, two queen beds, tea, coffee, water, and one of the oddest bathrooms I’ve ever seen. The shower doesn’t have a curtain, it has a glass cover which only goes past half of the bathtub-oriented shower. It’s very confusing. More on the topic of confusion is the toilet, which will be an utter mystery for uninformed Americans. It took days to figure out, but we finally found an answer: there are two buttons on each toilet, a large one and a small one. The small one is for number 1, and the large one is for 2, but don’t expect them to flush like American toilets. Instead, they are slow and gruesome. The first night, though very slow and full of jet-lag (though not for me personally… I have a great ability to stay up for long periods of time), involved a small (student-organized) pub crawl, a popular activity for students in Edinburgh. On that note, I’ll end this post for today. Enjoy the video! The next post will contain some information on the drinking culture in Scotland (and the post should surely calm the nerves or a worried parent).
Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler
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This past weekend Dublin celebrated its “Trad Fest,” a festival dedicated to traditional Irish music, and did so by hosting several dozen, if not many, many more, Irish groups who played various venues all around the city, focusing most of their efforts in Dublin’s Temple Bar area, which happens to be just a few minutes’ walk from my flat. I had actually forgotten that it was happening this weekend; I had been so busy with all the events going on at Trinity during the week that the weekend was blocked off as recovery time without plans to do anything, but as it happened I was going out to do errands Saturday morning, picking up groceries, visiting farmers’ markets and the like, when I ran right into the middle of all of the festivities.
I had been looking to hit one of the farmers’ markets so I could grab some cheap and fresh foods, like salmon, goats cheese, breads, veggies, all of that good stuff, when I found that their usual area had been blocked off for a big stage. Admittedly, I was a bit ticked off about this, I had been looking forward to getting my food and now it was nowhere to be seen. I followed the signs’ marked arrows to where there might be my elusive vendors, made more difficult when I realized the signs weren’t made for any particular direction so the arrows were useless on any and every level.
As I walked about Temple Bar I looked at all the posters for upcoming concerts when I heard a voice, directed at me, say, “Hey, wanna come in?” I turned to the voice, and it came from a guy standing in the doorway to the Button Factory, a popular club/bar/concert venue that I had been to before, most notably several months back when I get to see the musician Imogen Heap perform there and I stood about three feet away. “Sorry?” I said back, not really knowing what he meant. He told me they were “open” today and that I should come in. I was still confused, but went in anyway just to see what was going on. Inside, the people there told me I could tour their recording facilities since it was the school’s Open Day (I learned that besides owning the Button Factory/numerous other venues, the recording studio there also ran a music engineering school). They offered me free tea and coffee and said the tour was only about a half an hour, and as long as I was interested it was worth it just for the free drink. Since I’m a sucker for free things, and I didn’t have anything better to do with my afternoon, I said screw it and joined the tour.
The five other guys on the tour were all clearly interested in sound/music engineering/production of some sort and had at the worst at least a limited background in the subject, whereas I hadn’t a clue about any of it. But I got to tour a real fancy recording studio where a lot of major Irish and other acts had recorded music (Bell X1, Gemma Hayes, Rihanna, Black Eyed Peas, Republic of Loose, etc.). Ironically enough, I seemed to have more interest and excitement about taking courses there, and seemed to get the attention of the instructors and directors than the actual potential students. Whatever. The best part though, besides seeing many millions of dollars worth of recording equipment, was that we visited the studio where they shot part of the film Once, during the recording scenes of the movie. The tipoff for me was the basement studio we visited, where Marketa Irglova’s character plays the piano. Really cool little surprise I thought. Not a bad little treat that only cost me an hour of my day.
From there I finally found all my little vendors and their goods, as well as stalls of farm animals full of chickens, sheep, and goats for the little city kids to see and pet. Quite cute. I also came across two large-enough stages with musicians playing their traditional songs, old or new, again, for free to the whole public. While the music was good and fun, the real magic came from being able to walk through the crowded sheets, though not so crowded as to drive you mad, with wonderful weather, and everyone in good and happy spirits just enjoying their day. Families with little kids running about, old folk being old, brats being brats, couples being cute and couple-y, and friends walking around and taking everything in.
With so much going on, I could have spent all day and then some just walking, watching, and listening, and I nearly did. The simplicity of it all struck a chord with me as one of those days meant to be just taken in and enjoyed for what it was, no fancy ribbon attached. Pleasure the was pure and good, and a lot of times hard to find, but this weekend it was clear as the sky above.
I think it’s important that the first thing I share on this blog is that I hate packing. Anyway, moving away from the mundane (hopefully) I am about to depart for Buenos Aires a few weeks early! Once there, I am going to work on an organic farm (through WWOOF) until the start of the program. I have contacted a bunch of farms but haven’t finalized anything, so I am going to stay at a hostel for a few days until I get a response. Internet access from the farm will most likely be non-existent, but hopefully I will get some good video to post when I return!
Well, I have been in Ireland a little over a week, and it has been AWESOME (such an American term, I know). I flew into Dublin on Sunday the 17th, and met up with the program I was traveling with (IFSA-Butler). We spent a few days in Dublin, learning about Ireland, and seeing the sights (Guinness factory!). It was great to see Dublin, and to meet a lot of people before heading to the university. It was nice being able to go to Limerick and know you will know people there.
While in Dublin, my group caused a bit of a stir at the Guinness factory. None of us really liked Guinness, so we put our full glasses back on the bar table. The bartender gave us the worst look, as if he was thinking “who on earth would not drink their full pint of Guinness?!”.
On Wednesday we drove down to the University of Limerick. I absolutly LOVE the campus. It is set up like American schools (a real campus), as opposed to the rest of the Irish Universities, which are spread out over the city. My dorm is amazing. I have my own room, with a huge desk, a full size bed, and MY OWN BATHROOM!!! Needless to say, I was very happy to discover this. I got lucky and was put in the best dorm! I share a living room and kitched with 5 other people (all Irish), who are very nice. I have spent many a evening watching Friends with them in the living room.
I have just finished the first week of classes, and so far I like them. I am taking Cognitive Psychology, Social Psychology, Irish Language, Irish Music and Dance, and Renaissance Literature. In Irish Music I am going to learn how to play the bodhran, the Irish drum! I am really looking forward to that.
Today I am heading out to Limerick city to explore with some fellow IFSA students. There are a couple of free museum we are going to check out. Then tonight we may head out to the pub (there is one on campus called Stables).
By the way, Craic is the Irish word for fun. Hopefully today will be full of lots of Craic!
I’ve never written a blog before. Then again, there was that one time I wrote a story for my sister on a blog where I turned her and my other sister into a. a cow, and b. an ugly woodland troll. But this is beside the point.
The point is I’m trying to pack for Australia, and I have absolutely no idea what to bring.
I’ve been told it’s a basic rule of thumb to bring the things that mean the most to you, as in the things you can’t buy while abroad. But where do you draw the line between necessity and frivolous trinkets? It’s as if my parents don’t believe I need to bring my lucky wooden pig I made at summer camp when I was fourteen, despite the fact that he’s remained perched on my desk at school for the entire semester. Sure, his head fell off when I brought him home a month ago, but a little bit of super glue fixed him right up. I can’t buy him in Cairns, so is that an excuse to shove him in my suitcase and hope he doesn’t get too shaken up on the insanely long flight?
And what about pictures? And candles? And my memory foam mattress pad?
My mom just poked her head into my room to remind me to look at the list of things I need to pack in my carry-on. In all honesty, I’m going to forget something anyway, which is why I much prefer having someone else pack for me. That way, when I show up in Cairns with only one sneaker, I can blame it on them instead of my horrible memory.
Surprisingly, I’m not too nervous about the fact that I’m going to spend the next four and a half months in a country halfway around the world. A month ago I was freaking out. A year ago I remember lying awake and thinking, “Oh my gosh, I’m going to Australia in a year!” to which I replied to myself, “Cool it, you’ve got a while . . .”
I don’t have a while anymore, and I have the feeling that, in a few days time, I’m going to be freaking out again.
But until then, I’ll try to pack only the basic needs. If I manage to fit all those things and still find space in my suitcase, then I’ll go crazy with “frivolous” things. . . .
With the last of the wintery weather hopefully behind us, the spring semester at TCD has finally begun, its doors open to a whole new realm of possibilities for misadventures within the confines of the college, the city of Dublin, the green acres of Ireland, and all of the shores and lands a short toss of the stone away, paid in by pennies in comparison to the hellish fees that US airlines subjugate you to. I thankfully avoided all of the horrors that my friends found themselves in while trying to get home from places like London; another wonderful benefit of being gone for a year and having no intention or desire to return to the freezing and godforsaken tundra that is oft called Minnesota is that I didn’t have to worry about storms closing down airports in two different places. I’ve expressed little interest (read: none) to my friends and family in going back to a place during when there are blizzards every day, you never see the sun, and for weeks on end the temperature is -40 which means it doesn’t matter which temperature scale you use because they meet up at that point, which is an awful thing to think about, so I won’t, and don’t.
Besides the usual drudgery of returning to school and thus the Irish version of work, of which I have come to love for how the ease I found in adapting to such a relaxed form, a new semester of school brings new surprises into the mix outside of the usual academic switch-a-roos. Like a new season of a television show, a new semester is a chance to introduce brand=spanking new characters into the situation to give it some spice, get rid of old characters for dramatic effect or because they just sucked, and push the show into new directions. The end of the fall semester meant goodbyes to friends who had to leave to go back to their schools back in the US (though I never actually said goodbye to anyone), but the opening of the spring had Butler building up their cast of students from just myself and my flatmate to an additional eleven students, bringing the total of Butler TCD students to an auspicious thirteen. Not only does the introduction of so many people change the feeling of the program, though neither a bood or bad direction, simply neutral, the bigger whopper in terms of dynamics is the wildcard of a new flatmate being tossed into the mix. Like any successful show, forcing in a new main character completely transforms the experience; for better, for worse, for anything?
I will admit a certain kind of disregard, which sounds so much harsher than I mean, for the new Butler students, not for their behavior or personalities, of which I’ve really enjoyed whenever I’ve gone out with them as they tend to have high and jovial spirits with a treasurable excitement for the adventure they’ve just begun. No, my distance from them is instead out of a fear that I might get caught up with them precisely because they are a fun lot that is so readily accessible, but they’re not the reason why I’m here: Irish kids are. One of the reasons I picked Ireland was that I knew that not only no one else from my college was coming here, but also fewer people tended to come to Ireland than say Scotland or England. Being in a program where I only had one other person that I could possibly spend time with “automatically” forced me to go out and find people to make relationships with, locals relationships, and now I have a healthy amount of Irish friends, something that I found my friends going on other non-Butler programs in England or wherever they went didn’t get, ironically so for a study-abroad program. Which is to say nothing of any of the new people or their reasons for being here, and already I am noticing their making local friends and finding their own lives is already happening, but the fear of having an easier path to slip onto was, and still is, a great fear of mine.
Away from that fear though, is a semester that I can look forward to, with classes I know I’ll enjoy that are full of friends previously made, events around Dublin up the wahzoo, and trips all over to make the most of my remaining months in Ireland; I have friends to visit all over Europe, like Spain and Austria, I’ve already lined up a pilgrimage to visit the concentration camps around Krakow, there’s a Butler trip to Northern Ireland in a few short weeks, I plan a return to England to visit more friends there, Scotland as well, and if all works out I may find myself back on the Aran Island with two of my best friends from home to celebrate Tedfest V, a tribute to the late, great, television show, Father Ted, held on the islands where my friends and I might find ourselves living in a Mongolian Yurt for a weekend. And of course, possibly the most celebrated holiday in all of Ireland, with its ripples felt round the world, Saint Patrick’s Day. Excitement is in the air, my notebook is ready, Ryan Air’s jets are fuelled and ready to go for cheap, and the Guinness is delicious, so, once more, into the mystic I go.
The countdown is now at two and a half weeks, and we are on the millionth snow fall of the 2010 -2011 winter season. I am NOT a fan of the cold weather, but at school it never really seemed so bad. I was talking to one of my best friends from Lehigh this morning who is at school, and she was telling me that a bunch of my friends are going sledding this afternoon. I wish I could go sledding with them!
Instead I’m in New Jersey, completely snowed in. Today is my day off from work and I had a day full of errands planned. I wanted to order Australian Dollars, do some summer clothes shopping, go to the gym (bathing suit weather in less than three weeks?! Uh oh…), and so much more. But I’m still managing to be productive! I’m reading my IFSA-Butler brochures, making to-do and packing lists, thinking about budgeting while I’m abroad, and actually cleaning my room a little. Not too bad for a snow day!
That’s all for now. Unfortunately, working two jobs doesn’t make for a very exciting life (but it does make for a lot of money!). At least I have so much to look forward to in just a few weeks!
I’m Cassi and this is my blog/vlog. Welcome, welcome.
I’ve already left home (Troy, Illinois), beginning my journey in Chicago, where I am visiting a friend until my flight out of O’Hare tomorrow afternoon. (It’s much cheaper for me to fly out of O’Hare rather than Lambert in St. Louis, so why not visit someone while I’m here?) Tomorrow, I’ll fly to Boston for a layover and then out again to London for orientation.
I leave in about 12 hours and find myself overcome with many different emotions. I’m excited to go, yet apprehensive about leaving home for such a long time. However, I won’t let this get to me! I know that this is the greatest opportunity I’ve been given and I can’t wait to get started and make the most of it!
I’ll be posting videos of my experiences, for myself and for others, so feel free to check back in or subscribe to my youtube!
I’ll see you again from the other side of the pond!
January is moving right along and I am still on school vacation. I spend most of my time reading, sketching, and going to the movies, the mall or coffee shops. I have done a little bit of traveling too. In reality it has been pretty slow around here.
New Years was very similar to Christmas Eve Dinner, although it was a much less formal occasion. My tica family and much of their extended family met at my “sister” Sophia’s house. Many friends of the family came over for dinner too. At midnight we went outside to see the fireworks that are set off from all corners of Heredia. Afterward I went out on the town with my sister, Mariann.
A popular New Year’s tradition in Costa Rica is “Las Corridas de Toros.” It is a combination of the Run of the Bulls in Spain and the traditional bullfighting seen in other Spanish-speaking countries. Here in Costa Rica a bull is antagonized and riled up and then released into an arena with a crowd of participants. The bull tears about the arena as people try to evade it. Once the bull has calmed down, it is roped and taken out of the arena, and another bull is released. There are other games and events as well, such as bull riding, roping, and so forth. Although the bulls themselves don’t really suffer any injury, there are a significant number of hospital visits from participants. There are “Corridas” all over Costa Rica, but the two that I have heard about the most are in San Jose (which just recently ended) and in Palmares (which just started).
Since I don’t have any school work or responsibilities right now, I had time to go to the Poas Volcano. It is actually very close to Heredia; by bus it takes about two hours to get there, making it an easy one day trip. However, I might go again in February or March, because when I went, it was extremely cloudy and very difficult to see anything. I had been told that the clouds and the tourists roll in at 10 a.m., but I didn’t think it would be that bad. When I got to the crater a little after 11 a.m. the clouds were a lot thicker than I had expected. Fortunately there were a couple breaks in the clouds, so I was able to get a few quick glimpses of the crater.
I have also gone on two trips with my tica family to the beach. The first trip was with a large number of their extended family and we stayed in little cabins near the beach Playa Avellanas. It was a lovely four-day trip—a day of travel, two days at the beach, and then the trip back home. The first day at the beach, I took several short walks and enjoyed the cool surf. Even though I used 50 spf sunscreen, I got a beautiful sunburn. My tica sister, Mariann, used spf 4 sunscreen and got a beautiful tan. Gotta love my white skin. So due to the sunburn from the first day, I spent the next day hiding from the sun and reading a book. Honestly I didn’t mind. It was still very pleasant to sit in the shade with my toes in the sand and read. Coming home was definitely an adventure due to all of the mechanical difficulties amongst our cars, but we made it back. It wasn’t that bad—just a good exercise in patience.
I also went on another trip to the beach with my tica family. We went to Playa Bejuco, roughly a two hour drive from Heredia—perfect for a day trip. Many of my tica family’s extended family were there too, leaving me to wonder if this is common among ticos. Are trips always a big family event? This beach wasn’t quite as secluded as the Playa Avellanas, but it wasn’t full of people either. It was a simple day—time spent on the beach, a small BBQ-style lunch, and time spent chatting. We made it home later that evening.