Hooray!! Spring break is just a couple of days away!!! This will be the most exciting spring break I have ever had. On Thursday I will be leaving for London, the best part is that my family is flying over from the states to meet me there!! We will spend a couple of days in London and then spend the rest of our time in Paris!! I haven’t been to either place, so it will be a new experience to the max. I have gotten my major work done for school so I won’t have to worry about much over break! It’s especially nice that I have all my major work done, because now I can focus on enjoying the lovely weather in the days before I go on spring break vacation. Except…I got sun-burnt yesterday lol. I am really excited about seeing my family, I miss them so much! I think this trip will be great, because I am getting to explore more of Europe, plus I get to see the people I love; how much better can it get? Well….it would be so much better if I could have my cat here with me in Scotland lol. Today is laundry day, and tomorrow is classes, then flying to London!! Hope everyone else is enjoying their spring break or has exciting plans, and has safe travels!!
Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler
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I’ve been so many places in the past few weeks! Somehow I managed to arrange my schedule to only take classes on Mondays and Tuesdays, so I’ve had lots of time to explore. Two weeks ago, I traveled with a bunch of friends to the Gold Coast and Byron Bay. As we arrived at the airport, we were surprised to find a free wine tasting on the way to the gate. This would have never happened in the US!
The Gold Coast is very similar to how I would describe Miami. There are lots of palm trees and hostels lined along the beach. Both of our destinations were north of Sydney, so we enjoyed lots of warm weather mixed in with a few rainy days. On Wednesday night, we arrived, checked into our hotel and walked along the long chain of shops and restaurants. The next morning, I had to wake up around 6 am so that I could speak to Brandeis about my classes. The time difference here has been generally fine for speaking with friends and family, but the hours of 9am-5pm at home are from 12am-8am which is sometimes hard to deal with. Anyways, once our classes were sorted out, we found a bus to take us to a water park for the day. We hung out on the lazy river, did some water slides, and some of my friends even did a version of bunjee jumping offered at the park (it was only $12 where bunjee jumping usually costs over $100)!
After the water park, we came back to the hostel for a little to relax and then went out for a delicious sushi dinner! Afterwards, we went to a nightclub called East where Thursday night is ladies night and they serve free champagne from 9-11 and other types of free drinks after 12. Definitely the least we’ve had to spend on a night out! Any other night, a drink can cost about $9.50.
On Friday morning, I had to wake up at 7am to speak to Brandeis again and do a phone interview for a position back home! Luckily, we left our hostel a few hours later and got to sleep on an hour and a half bus ride to Byran Bay. Byran Bay is one of my favorite places that I’ve visited in Australia so far. The beach is BEAUTIFUL, and there are lots of local shops and restaurants to walk into. It’s also a very popular place to do skydiving which a few of my friends were brave enough to sign up for (I think I’m holding off until New Zealand!). While my friends skydived, I went off with another group on a two hour hike to a famous lighouse by the beach. That Saturday also happened to be St. Patrick’s day, so even though we were all exhausted, we bought green drinks at dinner to celebrate! I also had my first fish and chips of the semester and they were delicious!
The next day, we took a day trip to Nimbin, a tiny hippie town about an hour from Byran Bay. Apparently, Nimbin is the ‘Amsterdam of Australia.’ Although weed isn’t legal there, our tour guide told us many stories about past tour participants who got high and missed about half of the actual tour. After walking around for a little while in Nimbin, we re-boarded the bus and got to do a waterfall hike and eat a barbecue lunch.
That night, I finally headed back to Sydney. After a week of classes, I boarded the bus again to go on IFSA Butler’s Country Life weekend in Bathurst. This was one of the best weekends I’ve had so far. After about a 4 hour drive, the group split up and each of us got to stay with a host family on a farm! It was so refreshing to stay in a real house and eat a home-cooked meal. On Friday night, we sat at dinner from about 8:00pm to 11:30pm just talking and sharing stories. On Saturday during the day, we met up with the rest of the group and their host families and did a nice walk and ate a barbecue lunch at a park nearby. Afterwards, we got to go for a ride in the back of a host family’s truck and we saw cows and tons of wild kangaroos (I even got a video)! We had a huge dinner that night on another family’s farm and saw so much beautiful scenery including a fantastic sunset. We learned from our host family that this property is so breathtaking that many people rent it out for weddings and other special events! The next day, we woke up early and got to check for any eggs the chickens lay. We found three! And then I even got to hold one of the chickens. Afterwards, we traveled to another family’s house where we had a home-cooked brick-oven pizza lunch and drove around feeding their cows. Finally, we took a quick drive around the famous Bathurst race track before saying goodbye and heading back home. I’m almost looking forward to a relaxed weekend in Sydney this week before I head off to New Zealand for Easter Break!!
Yesterday, my friend and I met at calle Las Heras to buy mate cups. We walked in various tourist-y shops, stores that sold amusing trinkets, and another shop that was entirely dedicated to mate (mate bags, cups, straws, yerba, etc.) before finally buying a ceramic one. I was pretty excited to buy my first mate cup. My host family doesn’t drink too much mate (since my host mom is so busy with work), but I love it and plan on drinking more.
We had a mate fiesta at the IFSA office where we learned about the history and the proper ways to drink and mix mate. We passed around thermoses and cookies while stirring the mate to our liking. Mate can be drunken with sugar, dulce de leche, etc., but in my opinion I don’t think condiments are needed! I should probably stress how common mate is here. Even when you walk down the street or wander through the parks, you can see everyone (the young and the old), sipping on mate cups and pouring hot water from the thermos to get the mixture just right. Drinking mate is symbolic of friendship, community, and culture, but it’s also an enjoyable social activity. After all, it’s beneficial for your health and highly caffeinated (although you certainly won’t receive the awful crash from coffee highs).
Afterwards, some of us trekked to Mailo’s, a delicious ice cream place. Oh man. Desserts are so cheap and accessible here! Granted that my host family provides relatively healthy meals for me every day, I’m still trying to get used to eating between 10-11:30pm then being treated to dessert. How 99.9% of this population remains extremely thin remains a mystery to me.
While we were eating ice cream (I opted for tiramisu and dulce de leche), we received many jealous stares from passerby (we were eating outside), and one man looked so happy by the thought of our ice cream that he immediately went inside and got himself a big cone. Ice cream is popular among everyone
Fueled with ice cream, we walked to San Martin, an extremely busy and commercial street that is always filled with people. Sigh. We were really tired at this point, and I felt frustrated weaving in and out, struggling just to move forward. It was a struggle because a) lots of little children were present, b) the elderly slowly ambled on with their canes, c) people stopped in the middle of the street, forcing us to somehow walk AROUND them, d) there were SO many people, e) people do not weave in and out like we do, and f) the streets are ridiculously long (address starting around the two digits to the triple digits). Oh, and did I mention already that Adele has followed all of us to Argentina? You can hear her at your house (my host sister is blasting “Someone Like You” at this very moment), on the streets, by the people, boliches, restaurants, bars…..personally, I love her music but I think it’s a tad too soulful to be played at lively venues. -___-
Those are some thoughts I have from today! If you have any questions or want to check out my personal blog and see more pictures, feel free to send me an email: email@example.com.
from top to bottom: mate cups/drinking mate/mate ready to be tasted/ice cream
Hey everybody! I just wrapped up an awesome weekend (and great week of classes..) and there is plenty to blog about! So put on your party pants, grab a cold beverage, and be ready for the time of your life.
First off, and most recently, Yogi from IFSA-Butler took us on a full day trip to Phillip Island yesterday. It was amazing! We met her in the city and headed off for a day filled with train rides, koalas, incredible views, and plenty of penguins! The first activity we had was a ride on the “puffing billy”, which was an old steam train that originally began running in 1900. It was considered “fast transportation” back then but I’m pretty sure it took us a good 30 minutes to go about 5-10 kilometers. After the train ride we got to visit a koala conservatorium where we saw at least 15 koalas hanging out up in the trees! There was even one sitting right on the walkway, which I will try and post a picture of. Along with koalas there were heaps of wallabies wandering around the nature paths. After the koala adventure we headed out to The Nobbies to try and catch a view of some fur seals. Unfortunately they were too far out on the rocks to get a good glimpse but the views were absolutely breath taking! After a quick stop for dinner the time had come that we’d all been waiting for… the Penguin Parade!!! This was exactly as it sounds. People literally buy a ticket and sit in a giant grandstand to wait for the Little Penguins to return to land from a day in the water. I think it is the most entertained I have even been by a few little animals. Unfortunately there are no cameras allowed but pictures wouldn’t even do these little guys justice. It was so funny just to watch them curiously poke out of the water and then take off waddling in groups like a scene from Braveheart. As soon as they passed the grandstand you were encouraged to walk back on the walkways and see them search for their burrows. Like I said, very entertaining!
Besides the Phillip Island adventure, there has been plenty more going on around college and Uni in the past week or two. Our UC girls softball team, which me and Brian helped coach (mainly because we know the rules and like doing motivational speeches), took 3rd place in their tournament and our boy’s cricket team took 2nd in theirs! Exciting times at UC. As far as Uni news goes, I turned in my first assignment last week! I would say that is a pretty big accomplishment for any study abroad/college student. Speaking of assignments/class/uni, this brings me to my “Melbourne Uni lesson of the day”. As I promised in a past blog, I’ll talk a little bit about the class structure and learning styles here. After all, I’m sure they didn’t ask me to write this blog just to prove there are koalas and penguins here. So here we go..
First off, I like the class/learning structure a lot more here. It just makes more sense. When you sign up for a subject here, you pick a lecture (or 2 or 3) and a tutorial. By the way, I’m not a science student and their lives are a whole lot different I hear. The lecture is very similar to a comparable lecture at my home university, but the tutes is where I really like this model over ours. A tute is a smaller group of about 15-20 students from your lecture. Depending on the class, you may get your actual lecturer or another qualified tutor. This small group gives you a chance to actually discuss the lecture material, ask and answer questions about the readings, and participate in group discussions, both to better understand material and make a few friends while you’re there. I really like this because it encourages participation that was definitely lacking in my economics classes of 300-500+ back home. It also gives you a chance to connect with your professors and even get on a first name basis! I also like the teaching style that most of them possess, as it is more teaching “to you” and “with you” rather than just lecturing “at you”. Overall, even though this University is about the same (huge) size as my school back home, I think this teaching and learning style already makes me feel like more than just a number here, compared to the lack of individual attention given back home.
Well that about wraps it up for this blog, fingers cross that the pictures I’m uploading will be included on the bottom of this! We (the Americans) are currently trying to book some holiday plans for the upcoming Easter break and possibly a few weekends in the future; I’ll keep you all posted on that.
Lastly, shout outs time! (By request or necessity)
-J-Woww across the hall, a great neighbor with an even better i-tunes selection!
-Roomie Brian, for helping me write this!
-Mom and Dad for mastering skype!
-And FSU men’s basketball, for disappointing us once again.. =(
Wow, I can’t believe it’s already been a month since my last post. Time has just been flying!
This month alone I have ventured across the border to Wales twice, and I’m already planning my next trip. What a beautiful country!
Early this month my flatmate Steffan invited us to stay with his family in Cardiff – obviously we accepted his generous offer. (Oh, and by ‘us’ and ‘we’ I mean me, my flatmates Becky and Hannah, and another friend of the flat Mat.) Through many public transportation struggles we managed to all make it there and back, having a lovely time along the way and meeting some fun people. Steffan started an attempt to teach us Welsh, or at least the Welsh alphabet, but struggled… Here are some photos of Cardiff Bay, one of our last stops before returning to Bristol – so lovely to see some ocean!
Then later in the month I joined the rest of the IFSA-Butler students and staff for an Adventure Weekend in Snowdownia. In all honesty I was quite sore from the hiking and rock-climbing activities for a few days after the trip, but the beautiful landscapes we saw over the weekend have inspired me to make a return trip up to the north of Wales for a little bit more adventure-ing. I’m hoping to head up to Angelsey in May when I have another break from lectures and exams. I have a ton of photos from my hike alone, but here are a few of my favorites:
I was also able to make it on a short excursion to Llandudno, a cute seaport town. A few friends and I had fun just strolling the pier and eating ice cream before the long train ride home.
More news on Bristol and my upcoming Easter Holiday plans shortly!
It’s now officially been over a month since I moved into my flat and Dunedin, and I still can’t quite wrap my head around how quickly it all is going by! I also can’t believe that it took me a month to travel outside of Dunedin, but there’s just so much to get used to and do around campus that I really don’t feel too guilty about it.
Last weekend, one of my flatmates, Jenny, and I went with the University of Otago’s Tramping Club to their Fiordland trip. Jenny is from Colorado and leads a lot of trips back home, so she signed up to be a leader while here in New Zealand. Naturally, I signed up for her trip and was really excited for a fun weekend in one of New Zealand’s most spectacular tracts of land. Our group was assigned the Routeburn track, which is not supposed to be difficult, but still yields some incredible views.
However, with me being me, there was no way that everything could go off without a hitch. I somehow managed to sprain my ankle the day before I left (I’m blaming a combination of wearing flip-flops in the rain and slipping around with going to kickboxing that evening and kicking incorrectly). I went to the university health center on Friday before we left and they gave me a wrap and some ibuprofen. Now, a normal person would have decided (and rightly so) to stay home and sit this one out. But, since I’m only here one semester, I decided I could tough it out for one weekend and be minimally impaired. I mean, a sprained ankle is no big deal, right? WRONG.
For whatever reason, the relative ease and minimal pain that I was walking around Dunedin in led me to think that I could hike with it, especially since the Routeburn considered to be a relatively easy track. What I wasn’t factoring in was how much the rest of your body has to compensate for one injury. My ankle, which was basically useless, transferred a lot of extra stress onto my hip so that by the time we were back home, I was worse off than when I left. I went through the hike Saturday (slowly, but we did it) decently, but then Sunday I could not made it back without the atrocious amount of ibuprofen that I took (probably damaging my liver more than if I had been home for St. Patrick’s Day…just kidding!). I also must say that I owe Jenny a huge thank you for sticking with me throughout both days and keeping me from giving up (she only had to threaten to beat me with a stick about half a dozen times). I should also mention that I woke up on Friday with the cold that went around the flat (of course, I couldn’t have had it earlier in the week like everyone else), and that combined with the higher elevation took a bit of a toll as well.
But anyway, enough about that! The moral of the story is don’t go on a massive hike unless you’re uninjured. Everyone else in the group was saying that they were impressed that I went and that they wouldn’t have gone if they were me, but they (and I) would have been right not to go (as my kiwihost, Mike, said, “A normal person, not Meghann, who actually has common sense, would have known to stay home).But, that being said, I am so happy that I went because it was gorgeous and I was able to take probably the best and most striking pictures that I have since I arrived in New Zealand. We were right among the mountains and the Fiordland has waterfalls EVERYWHERE. If any of you ever make it there, bring the tiniest water bottle you own because there are streams and water probably every at least every 30 feet and that water tastes better than any bottled or purified water you can drink. It’s a beautiful and untamed region that really fits the picture exactly of what many Americans envision when they think New Zealand.
I also must sing the praises of the Tramping Club while discussing the trip. Everyone I met this past weekend could not have been nicer or more enthused about being out and meeting new people. Our group specifically had seven people, including Jenny and myself. We had another leader, who was a Kiwi, another American, a guy from Spain, and then two more Kiwis. There were 78 people on the trip total, so I certainly cannot speak for everyone, but I would assume that the majority of people would all fit that easy-going but adventurous classification.
Let’s see…classes are going well, though the workload is starting to pile up and I actually already turned in my first essay for New Zealand Christianity. It was more challenging than I expected, not only because it was the first of the semester and I am a bit rusty, but because a fact-based, history essay is not quite what I am accustomed to. I also have been on the tour of Dunedin’s best coffee places with my kiwihost, Mike. They have much better coffee here than we do back in the States. It’s also quite different just in the approach that people tend to take to their coffee drinking. Unlike in the States, where people tend to order a giant coffee and then gulp it down while in transit to somewhere else, most people seem to approach coffee drinking as kind of an experience in itself. The cups are smaller and people tend to drink it in the cafes rather than chugging it down and running. The locations themselves are also much cuter than the cookie-cutter generic Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts that we have at the end of every block.
And now, I have some Kiwi lingo to share for any who are curious. Now that I’ve been here for awhile, I think I’ve picked up on most of their different terms for things. For example, Kiwis never say that they ‘want’ to do something or would ‘like’ to do whatever. Instead, they’re ‘keen’ on going somewhere or doing something. You also don’t wait in a line in New Zealand; it’s called a queue. Garbage is rubbish (which, for some reason, still always makes me want to laugh and I don’t know why). They also don’t throw things away; you ‘chuck’ it (which I think is more fun to say). And you don’t have ‘lots’ of something; you would have ‘heaps’ of it. And, perhaps the one that seems the most foreign to me, is calling a jacket a ‘jumper’. Because when I hear jumper, I think of that overall skirt-type item of clothing that little girls wear. I also can’t see to adjust to calling fries ‘chips’ or cookies “biscuits”. But that’s about it. Except that I should probably say that it’s not only Canadians who say ‘eh’ frequently. It’s definitely a Kiwi thing too.
Anyway, that’s about all I have to report for now! But I have some exciting adventures planned over the next few weeks, and hopefully now that I’ve gotten a cold and an injury out of the way, I’m now home free!
I know I start every blog post by saying how long it has been since the last time I posted anything, but I think this time I have a pretty good excuse. Here at UCD we had two weeks off for Spring Break and they have given me some of the most amazing memories and incredible experiences of my life. During the first week my UCD roommate, Rorie, and I went to Paris and Rome and during the second week, my best friend and Butler roommate, Emily, came to visit and she and I took London and Dublin by storm! And to top the break off, as I’m sure you all know, last Saturday was St. Patrick’s Day and I felt so lucky to have the opportunity to celebrate the Irish holiday right here in Dublin.
So I’ll start from the beginning. Paris was incredible! Rorie had done a weekend trip to visit a friend in London so we decided to meet in Paris on Monday. I was super nervous about navigating my way from the airport to the hotel on my own without speaking a lick of French, but it turns out that “merci” and “pardon” were all that I really needed. I had looked up directions for the metro so I got to the hotel in no time. Rorie was supposed to get in an hour or two after I did, but due to some strange turn of events, her train was delayed close to eight hours. I felt so bad for her and I just kept thanking God that I had the hotel reservations because she didn’t get to the hotel until almost 3 o’clock in the morning. Fortunately, we didn’t have any big plans for the evening so neither of us missed anything that we wanted to do. Since I had so much time on my own, I decided to take a walk up to the River Seine. Our hotel wasn’t close enough for me to walk to see any of the sights, but it was really cool to just wander through the less touristy side of the city. I stopped for a baguette and strolled in the rain, feeling like a regular Parisian!
We were moving on to Rome on Wednesday, so Tuesday morning we woke up ready to see everything. We caught the metro from right outside of our hotel to right outside the Louvre, excited to see some famous art and….it was closed. Apparently Tuesday is an off day for the museum. We did get to wander around the grounds and see the Pyramids, though, which I had been really excited about. And it was from the Louvre grounds that we got our first glimpses of the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower! We wandered away from the museum up the Champs-Elysees admiring all the people and theatres and amazing shops. We stopped to get pictures at the Arc de Triomphe, but we decided not to go up so we could save the view for our next stop and I am so glad that we did! Despite the fog and rain, the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower was breathtaking. I couldn’t believe how far I could see and I can only imagine how it looks on a clear day! The sun did start to peek out a little right as we reached the top so it was perfect timing. Even in the cold, I think that I could have stood up there for hours just watching the city. But, in addition to the cold, we were starting to get a little hungry so we went back down and stopped for delicious crepes. Numerous people had told me about this crepe stand by the Eiffel Tower and it totally lived up to my expectations and beyond! Warm Nutella and whipped cream on a fresh crepe. My mouth is watering just remembering it!
The little bit of sun that peeked out while we were at the top of the Tower disappeared pretty quickly and the sky started to get very dark, so we decided to high tail it to our next stop: Notre Dame. By now you have all probably figured out how much I LOVE stained glass windows, so I’m sure you can guess how I felt about Notre Dame. It was so gorgeous, inside and out! It’s so amazing to think of the detail that went into the creation of the Cathedral. All the statues and gargoyles (which were my favorite part!) are so intricate. And what’s even more amazing is to think of how old it is! It’s really incredible to see this proof of what humans are capable of creating with their hands and some tools. My only regret about Notre Dame is that we couldn’t go upstairs because I would have loved to see some of the gargoyles up close! But the gorgeous light streaming through the windows was enough to make up for that. Yet another place where I could have easily spent endless hours just looking around.
By that point we were fairly exhausted from walking around all day, so we decided to pick up some wine and baguettes and call it a night! Wednesday morning we checked out of the hotel and headed straight to the Catacombs. It was quite surreal to go deep under the city to find this network of walls and chambers created out of human bones. It really makes you wonder what’s underneath the ground of your own city! Finally, we headed back to the Louvre for our last stop in Paris. It was so huge that I could easily imagine getting lost in there for days. We saw the Venus de Milo, Winged Victory, the Mona Lisa and Michelangelo’s Captive Slave, among other incredible ancient Greek, Egyptian and Roman art. Again, it was one of those moments where I was just in awe to think about how old everything is and how much skill it took to make these sculptures and paintings. It was another surreal experience to see these things that I have read about and seen photos of. But there is nothing like seeing them in person! It was an absolutely amazing experience.
After the Louvre, it was time to make our way to the airport which just happened to be two hours by train and bus outside of Paris in the city of Beauvais. We arrived in Rome Wednesday night and found our hotel pretty easily, so things started off very well! And then I dropped my contact down the sink. Oops. I was definitely not happy about it, but I decided that there were worse places to be in my glasses than Rome. The metro line in Rome was really great because it had stops at a number of places where we wanted to visit so we bought cheap day passes and started with the Vatican before we worked our way back towards the hotel. Now let me just say I was incredibly excited about Rome, largely due to having read Dan Brown’s “Angels and Demons” numerous times, so I was anxious to see all the amazing things he described in the novel. St. Peter’s Square was brilliant. It was warm and sunny, and they were setting up a stage and some big screens, so I could easily picture the Pope standing on the balcony, blessing the masses. St. Peter’s Basilica was just as beautiful as I had always heard. So many beautiful works of art to be admired and, as a Catholic, I have to say it was humbling to be in such an important place. After St. Peter’s we went to Castel Sant’Angelo and the Bridge of Angels, another prominent setting of Dan Brown’s novel. I could almost picture the book in my head as I was walking along the bridge and I can’t wait to read it again now that I have had the opportunity to actually see everything.
We stopped at the Piazza del Popolo and then found the Spanish Steps and had the best pizza I’ve ever had at a little pizzeria in the Piazza di Spagna. We had delicious gelato and made a wish at the beautiful Trevi Fountain and then wandered around until we found the Pantheon! One of the most striking things about Rome, to me, was how all of these incredibly famous and historic sites, like the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon, just sit right smack dab in the middle of the city, surrounded by more modern restaurants, apartments, shops and businesses. We were searching for the Pantheon, having no idea if we were close or not, and we turned the corner and there it was! One of the oldest building in Rome just sitting there, unchanged from the way it was in the second century, aside from its surroundings. I feel like I had many of these moments where I just couldn’t think anything other than “Wow.” On Friday we went to the Colosseum, Palatine Hill and (my favorite part of the trip) the Roman Forum. The weather was absolutely gorgeous again and we had a bit of extra time before we had to catch our plane back to Dublin so we just spent a lot of time wandering around the ancient grounds of Rome soaking up all the history. After being on the move so much during the week, it was really nice to be able to just sit and enjoy the view for a little while. We found a nice, fairly empty spot with an amazing view of the Colosseum and I think that relaxing there in the sun was the epitome of the trip for me!
After the long week in Europe it was nice to come back to the apartment to recuperate a little bit before Emily got here on Sunday! I haven’t seen anyone from home in two months so I was so excited to see her when she got off the bus! Emily hadn’t been to Ireland before so I had a lot of fun showing her around on Sunday afternoon and on Monday we caught an afternoon flight to London! We didn’t get to our hostel until around seven, so we just decided to do a little exploring by foot since our hostel was so conveniently located. We were super close to Buckingham Palace so we went there first. It was so cool because it was totally empty of tourists. There were only a few other people there because it was around 8 or 9 o’clock so it was really neat to see it when it wasn’t surrounded by people. We walked up the Mall and found Trafalgar Square, which, as a huge Harry Potter nerd, I was really excited about since that was where all the London Red Carpet premieres took place! The other cool thing about Trafalgar Square was that since the Summer Olympics are in London this year, the Olympic Countdown Clock was there! It was so cool to see and to think that in just a few months, people will be coming to the city from all over the world to watch the Olympics so now I’m really looking forward to watching them myself! Before we headed back to the hostel, we had to walk up to Piccadilly Circus which was teeming with nightlife! Everything was alight and there were people everywhere, so I’m really glad we decided to check it out!
Tuesday was our one full day in London so we got up and started early to make the most of it. We walked back towards Buckingham Palace since it was on the way and headed in the opposite direction of where we had gone the night before in order to reach the River Thames. Along the river we saw Big Ben, Parliament and Westminster Abbey and across the water was the London Eye. We thought about doing the eye, but it was very foggy so I don’t think we could have seen very much. Not to mention that it was about £20 which is close to $40, so we decided to spare out wallets and keep on walking. We kept walking until we came upon Millennium Bridge (Harry Potter fans will recognize it from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince). Fortunately, there were no Death Eaters about so we were able to cross the bridge safely so we could see Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre! Someday I will have to go back so I can see a play there! Further down the river we saw London Bridge and Tower Bridge and the Tower of London! Everything was super close together so we really just took our time walking around the city and seeing everything.
After the Tower of London, we decided to walk to King’s Cross Station to see Platform 9 3/4, of course! It took us a little while to get there and once we did, we had a little trouble finding it. We were worried for a little bit because it wasn’t where we expected it to be, but once we asked someone they pointed us in the right direction. As we were searching aimlessly, I just kept expecting (and let’s be honest, hoping) to hear Mrs. Weasley’s voice. “Every year, packed with Muggles of course. Come on! Platform 9 3/4 this way!” It was definitely one of the highlights of the trip! And I could have sworn that I felt the cart move as I leaned against it! Maybe I have a little magic in me after all…a girl can only hope! By that point, we were starving so we, somewhat ironically, had a late lunch at an Irish pub near the station. We made our way back towards the hostel, stopping at the British Museum, back in Trafalgar Square and in St. James Park along the way. By the end of the day, we tallied that we had done nearly 10 hours of walking across the entire city. We were quite proud of ourselves, but totally exhausted! On Wednesday we returned to Trafalgar Square one last time to visit the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery before heading back to Piccadilly for souvenir shopping and catching the tube back to the airport. We arrived at the airport a little early so we have plenty of time to get through security and find out gate. Though in the end, it probably wouldn’t have mattered that much. Our plane was delayed 4 hours, which was a serious bummer at the end of such a long trip. For a little while we were afraid that we would be stuck in the airport overnight, but eventually we made it out of Heathrow and back to Dublin!
I had a lot of fun showing Emily around Dublin and taking her to see the coast in Dun Laoghaire during the last two days of her trip. On Friday night we spent some time in town checking out the city getting ready for all the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. We saw some Irish dancing by St. Stephen’s Green and we went to Temple Bar to listen to some traditional Irish folk music. I even got Emily to try some Guinness! It was a bummer to say goodbye on Saturday morning but we had a great week and I was so glad she got to visit! After I got her on her early bus to the airport, I caught a few more hours of sleep before the Paddy’s Day celebrations! Do note that the Irish are very emphatic about the fact that it’s Paddy’s Day and not Patty’s Day like we say in the states! However you want to say it though, it was definitely a good time! The city was covered in green and there were so many people that I couldn’t actually see the parade, but it was a lot of fun. After the parade we checked out a few pubs and I did have another Guinness in honor of the holiday! It was a once in a lifetime experience and I am so glad that I was able to be in Ireland for St. Paddy’s Day!
By the time I got home on Paddy’s Day, all my exhaustion from the past two weeks caught up with me. I feel like I need another week to recover from my vacation! But after the Bank Holiday on Monday, it was back to classes as normal. Hopefully it doesn’t take me too long to get readjusted since the semester is almost over! I can’t believe that there are only four or five weeks of classes left. The time has absolutely flown by but I’m loving every minute of it! This weekend is the IFSA-Butler Adventure trip! There are all kinds of exciting outdoor activities so it should definitely be a good time and I’m really looking forward to it!
Top O the mornin’ to ya! Can you guess it?? I finally ventured out of the United Kingdom and entered Ireland for the very first time in my life! I was so excited to see some leprechauns and a big pot of gold. Unfortunately, that stuff doesn’t exist in real life (that I know about), but Guinness beer does, and boy was it good. So why Dublin? It was St. Patty’s Day of course! I was the one of many tourists who visited Ireland that weekend to spend all my money in the pubs. Besides celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, this was my trip to visit my friend Norah who is studying at Trinity College in Dublin! What a double whammy. Thankfully, I have a friend in Dublin because accommodation in Dublin was completely booked, including hostels. If I didn’t book my flight as early as I did, I could have been looking at a £200 flight ticket one way. On normal days, tickets could cost as low as £20. Everyone worldwide knows to come to Ireland on March 17.
I arrived in Dublin on Thursday, March 15 around 8 pm after a long day of traveling. Unfortunately, flying out of Cardiff has its challenges. If you look on a map, Cardiff and Dublin are pretty close, so what’s the problem, you ask? Cardiff is not a well known city (despite being a capitol city), and the only airlines flying out to Dublin was extremely expensive. Finding my route to Dublin was a challenge, and I did a lot of homework to figure out how to do it. I first looked at ferries from Wales to Ireland. I would have to travel to Holyhead (northwest Wales), which would have been a 5 hour train ride, and it would have been more expensive taking the train than flying. Flying was definitely the best option, but flying from where? Bristol! Bristol, England is only a 45-minute train ride from Cardiff, and I found tickets very cheap (it does help that I have a student railcard; the discounts are amazing!). On my way to Bristol, I had a lovely chat with my mom on the phone before I headed off on my adventure. Once I arrived at Bristol Temple Meads train station, I took a bus from the station to the airport, which is one of the smallest airports I’ve ever been to. Of course I’m used to O’Hare. I arrived with two hours to spare because I had no idea how long it was going to take me to get through security. It was nice to keep my shoes on as I was walking through the metal detectors. I flew out of Ryanair which is one of the cheap airlines to travel throughout Europe. Sometimes, they sell plane tickets for £12 anywhere in Europe. Too bad there isn’t a Ryanair in Cardiff, or any part of Wales. It’s annoying traveling to England just to fly out of the UK for a decent price.
The flight to Dublin was just less than an hour. I got a lovely new green (of course it’s green) stamp on my passport, and I was on my way. There were green, white, and orange balloons everywhere, along with many decorations inside Dublin Airport. I took a bus from the airport to the city centre at Trinity College/Grafton Street where I finally met up with Norah!! I hadn’t seen her since the fall semester ended in December, so it was a very happy homecoming for the both of us. My first night there was a relaxing one. We watched Forrest Gump at her apartment while we ate dinner. This Forrest Gump night was a long time coming. We planned on having a Forrest Gump night in the fall at Iowa, but with different schedules, it was hard to coordinate a date. Watching this movie in Dublin made the moment a whole lot sweeter.
“My name’s Forrest, Forrest Gump”
Friday was rainy. It was very hard to see the city because it was either misty or pouring. Sometimes it was raining with the sun out to show off some nice rainbows. I hoped there was a pot of gold on the end of them. Why I came to Ireland without an umbrella or a raincoat is beyond me. I think I wanted the weather to be nice, and therefore I didn’t bring appropriate raingear. So dumb. Norah and I mostly ventured into the city centre where we saw a lot of St. Patty’s decorations. We walked around the Bank of Ireland, Temple Bar, and touristy souvenir shops. Eventually, we sought shelter at a pub called MacTurcaills, and that is where I had my very first Guinness! I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I have been saving up for this moment for a long time, and it actually wasn’t bad at all. I don’t know what it tastes like in the States, but in Ireland, it is delicious. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it to the Guinness Storehouse (the Guinness factory) nor the Jameson Whiskey distillery because tickets were all booked. It is a crazy touristy weekend after all. After we finished our pints, we ventured back into the rain and went shopping. Norah needed a green Dublin shirt for St. Patty’s and I was just looking for Christmas ornaments and souvenirs. I ended up getting a shamrock ornament that says Ireland on it, along with a Guinness keychain, which can also be an ornament.
I found a leprechaun!
Hanging out with Molly Malone
Bank of Ireland
Norah and I at Temple Bar
We went back home to escape the rain and dry out our clothes. I was completely soaked. My feet were totally wet, and there is nothing more uncomfortable than wet shoes and socks. After we dried off and took quick naps, we went out again. We picked up sandwiches along the way to pub called Porterhouse where we met up with Norah’s Trinity friends for a pint. This was an interesting pub: they make all their own beer from all over the world. You cannot find a Guinness there. The only downside was that the place was completely packed. We ended up finding a small table available in the beer garden along with all the smokers. It wasn’t too horrible and the house beer was quite good. We went back to Norah’s friends’ apartment where we all hung out until it was time for us to go to bed. We needed our rest; the next day was Patty’s Day!
Getting ready to go out!
Here is my impression of St. Patty’s Day: crowded, loud, crazy, and green. It’s basically what you would expect for an Irish holiday where you celebrate the national saint by drinking your heart out. My day wasn’t that over-the-top extreme, but I had quite a good time. After we woke up and got ready in our green, Norah, Norah’s roommate, and I headed to the parade on Dame Street. It was a beautiful day, except during the parade. The only part it rained that day was during the parade. Go figure. Unfortunately, I am 5’5’’ and couldn’t see the parade. I found out later that there were more than 500,000 attendees. From what I did hear and see, it was pretty good. The music was great and I heard a lot of bagpipes, and some of the tall structures in the parade were interesting. Because none of us could see the parade, we went to the Porterhouse again for a pint. They were giving out free pints so that was awesome. After the parade, we went back to MacTurcaills where the Trinity College International Society was throwing a party with free food. I met some interesting people from all over the U.S., Mexico, Norway, Italy, Australia, etc. I was slightly taken aback when the Australian guy asked me right off the bat if I lived in a red or blue state. I thought that was slightly inappropriate for the very first topic of conversation. We hung out at that pub for a few hours playing fun games and having nice conversation with different people. We tried to go meet up with some other friends at a pub called Peadar Kearney’s on Dame Street. Worst idea ever. The pub was so packed, we couldn’t even make it to the bar. I was hanging out with six other American study abroad students, and there was no way we were going to make it back there. We literally couldn’t move forward, only back out the door. They had live music, and our friends were all the way in the back. Our group went out for pizza and burgers and came back to the apartment to watch…Mulan! Yes, imagine 10 university students watching Mulan on St. Patty’s Day. Yes, it was pretty ridiculous and a lot of fun. The Mulan watching crew consisted of a mix of American and Irish students. It was great when everyone was singing along to the songs, especially “I’ll Make a Man Out of You.”
At the parade. Like my view?
At MacTurcaills with a Guinness
Waiting for the pizza
Some of the Americans in our group had to go back to Limerick, so Norah and I were on our own for the rest of the night. We went back to Peadar Kearney’s again hoping we could get in this time. Our friends stayed there the entire day, but of course, it was still packed with people. They actually had security blocking off sections of the pub because it was still so crowded. We headed back to MacTurcaills for a while and were surprised to see many people still there from the party 7 hours earlier. After some time there, we went back home. Despite not seeing much of the parade, my Dublin St. Patty’s experience was a blast. Dublin itself was a madhouse, and no matter what nationality you were, everyone was Irish that day. My next journey: Mardi Gras in New Orleans (though that might be a few years down the road).
The day after St. Patty’s was gorgeous! Blue skies, sun, and warmth. This was the perfect day to do some sightseeing. We walked around Dublin’s main park, St. Stephen’s Green. The grass was very green and the flowers were an extraordinary color. It had a cute footbridge and lovely fountains. It was extremely lively, especially the day after St. Patty’s. We walked out to Grafton Street where a lot of the main shopping is. Flowers and buskers crowded the streets, but we were more interested in the gelatos we just got. I had pistachio gelato which was absolutely amazing. After gelatos, we went to Norah’s school, Trinity College. It’s the highest ranked and oldest university in Ireland. The buildings were absolutely beautiful, but campus was filled with tourists. Trinity holds the Book of Kells, which I had the pleasure to see. The Book of Kells is a Gospel book in Latin circa 800. I don’t know much about it, but it was very cool. This was a part of the old library which had many old texts out on display. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take pictures of either place, but the library was definitely my favorite part. After visiting Trinity, we went to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I didn’t go in, but there were plants, flowers, and trees everywhere, including a massive fountain. The rest of the day we just hung out, and at night we were finally able to get into Peadar Kearney’s. There was a live musician singing Irish pub songs and people of all ages. There was a large group of mid-twenties Swedes that took up most of the dance floor. Personally, they were the best entertainment. After a pint, we met up with some friends at Temple Bar. I couldn’t find one Irish person in that place. The drinks are outrageously expensive because tourists don’t know any better; it’s such a tourist pub, though it didn’t start out that way. The live music was good, but a large group of French people started chanting and singing French tunes over the live guitarist and bassist. I was extremely peeved by this, and we left the bar soon after.
At St. Stephen’s Green
By some flowers
Seems slightly out of place, but beautiful nonetheless
The front of Trinity College
The Trinity interior
The Book of Kells
Flowers at St. Patrick’s Cathedral
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Fountain at St. Pat’s
At Temple Bar getting ready for some live music
I left Dublin at 8 am the following morning. It was nice to spend three full days in the city experiencing Ireland; however, I need a trip back to Ireland soon. How London is to England is how Dublin is to Ireland; they are cities within a country, but there is so much more to the country than that one city. Once the weather starts getting nicer, I might make a trip to Cork by ferry since the ferry departs from Swansea (an hour west from Cardiff).
I hope you enjoyed your Patty’s Day just as much as I did. As for St. Patty’s in Dublin, that’s one item scratched off my bucket list.
Irish phrase of the entry: “What’s the Craic?” What’s happening? How are you? Craic is pronounced crack.
This post is going to be about my trip to Barcelona. For those of you who don’t know it, Murphey’s Law states that everything which can go wrong will go wrong sooner or later, and that was certainly true for this trip. Still, I had a good time and I’m very glad I went.
The first problem was the flight from London. We got on the plane at a normal time and everything, but they didn’t shut the cabin doors until about two hours after the plane was supposed to take off. Since my flight was already at 5:40pm, this meant that I didn’t get into Barcelona until after 11:00pm. We ate dinner at 1:30am. Also, Asiyla’s flatmates adopted this evil cat. They found her on the streets when she was a kitten, so now she’s really mean to new people, i.e. me. She was especially protective of one of the bathrooms, so every time I needed to pee I had to back into a corner with her hissing at me. She even managed to get through TWO CLOSED DOORS to find her way into the room where I slept the second two nights. HOW DID SHE DO THAT? Terrifying!
The next day went normally enough. I walked around the old part of the city a bit in afternoon with Asiyla, and we went to this museum about the Roman ruins underneath the city. It was interesting and beautiful with the kind of windy streets that I always love. After we ate lunch Asiyla had to go teach a class, so I went to the waterfront to read. It wasn’t a beach – it was the built-up part of the waterfront – but it was really sunny and it felt great to lie on a weird metal bench-thing and relax for a while. Then I wandered over to Las Ramblas, the touristy street with older roads branching off from it. I decided to take one of the tiny winding streets, and I think that was my favorite part of the city. I found so many interesting stores there, and the general setting was really cool. I also went to La Boqueria, the famous market off Las Ramblas. Most of the stands had fruit, though some had sweets or fish. I got a DELICIOUS fruit juice thing. After that I went to a cafe to wait for Asiyla to get out of her class, and then we went to a seafood restaurant where the food was alive like fifteen minutes before we ate it. At the time, this seemed cool and it was SO GOOD. However, it was not cool for very long…
…which leads me to the next problem of the trip. That night we just watched an interesting movie and all seemed well, but by 9:00am the next morning Asiyla was sick. It seems that she got some sort of food poisoning from the fish, which was quite undercooked. We’d planned to go into the Pyrennees that day for a short hike, but obviously that wasn’t going to happen anymore. Asiyla suggested that I go to this hill/park area. I walked around for a long time up there – the weather was beautiful and there was lots to see. I saw an old Olympic stadium and pool, an enormous art museum that looked like a castle (which overlooked some realllllyyyyyy long, grand steps leading to a huge fountain that was sadly not on), a bunch of gardens, a castle where Franco imprisoned his enemies during the civil war, and generally beautiful views of the city and surrounding mountains. That night I basically did nothing, since Asiyla was sick and everything.
The next day Asiyla was still sick so she couldn’t spend time with me. I went to the Sagrada Familia, which I assume everyone knows. Then I went to the beach. It wasn’t REALLY warm enough to hang out on the beach in a sweatshirt – I got a bit cold sitting there finishing my book – but it was sunny and I still enjoyed it a lot. Plus, the walk there was really nice – most of it was down a long street with a pedestrian walkway in the middle. I still regret not getting ice cream on that walk. Then I had another quiet night.
The final problem of this trip was the most potentially problematic, in a way: when I set my alarm for 7:30 on Sunday so that I could catch my flight, I forgot that my phone was still on UK time. This meant that when I woke up, it was actually 8:30 – and I didn’t realize this until 9:00 when Asiyla pointed out the time. I panicked, packed as fast as possible and barely managed to make the next train to the airport. I was supposed to arrive in time for boarding, but my ticket said that the baggage check desk would close an hour before – which was 10:00, exactly when the train was supposed to arrive at the airport. I panicked again, assuming that I was about to have to pay for a new ticket to Dublin. However, when I arrived at the desk it turned out that some other guy happened to be there ten minutes late too, and all was well. Still, the desk was one of the farthest away, the terminal was the far one, and my gate was literally the last one in the terminal. I was lucky to get the flight.
So it wasn’t smooth, but I enjoyed Spain. It was especially fun speaking Spanish. Obviously I did this minimally, but I understood most of what people said to me which was cool. Right now I am at the farm in Ireland, and I have a ton of exciting things to say about it already. However, I think I’ll save that for another post when I’ve been here longer.
I almost forgot – a week ago today I went to Chatsworth. It was SUCH a great day. The countryside around the house was BEAUTIFUL, and the mansion wasn’t at all disappointing. It was so great to see the place I’ve wanted to visit for about six years.
Well, it has been a while—but I’m alive and well with Viña del Mar as my new home! I realized that Saturday was a month exactly since I came here—time flies! The past month has been jam-packed with lots of exploring, cultural adjusting, and Spanish learning. It’s been a lot, but fun all the same.
We are now on our second week of classes and the school experience has been unique all in its own. When we went to our university, la Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Valparaíso to register for classes we had to have 15 CLASS options to write down, different from the typical 15-17 credit hours [approx.. 4-5 classes] of my university in Michigan. The goal of this process was so that we had options if any classes fell through or we didn’t like any of them. Different from the US we registered for all of our options on paper—by hand—and through a process to visit all the different departments and have our names wrote down on the class roster! Different for sure! So, after all this we visited the 15 classes we wrote down to decide which we like best—it honestly sounds more complicated than it was! On the second week of classes, I finally have my schedule set up for the most part and miraculously, I do have classes on neither Monday nor Friday. I also have decided to do a pretty interesting internship with a Chilean organization called Teletón. I will be able to tell you more about that as it develops!
Last weekend Saturday was my birthday! Talk about a different, but incredibly memorable way to celebrate your 21st birthday than in Chile! What a great day it was too! At midnight I was serenaded in my room by my Chilean family and given gifts! Breakfast was served in bed and after lounging around for a while Jorge, my host dad, and I went on another adventure! This time we visited Parque Quinta Vergara which is a park a few blocks from our house that has an old palace and an ampitheatre for outdoor events like the Vina del Mar International Song Festival (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quinta_Vergara_Amphitheater) that was at the end of February. The park is gorgeous with all different types of trees! Then we returned home for lunch and I ate one of the best meals since I’ve been here—which is hard to determine because all of the foods been great! We had an “asado” which is a BBQ but ours was on an indoor grill, but you never would have guessed by the flavors swirling around. It was an awesome combination of food! After a short siesta, Andrea and I headed over to visit with her friend Michelle, who is a past student who stayed with them and later moved back to Chile for good and for the past 7 years. We visited and shared a few birthday cervezas and then all headed back home for once.
When we arrived is when things got a little suspicious. Obviously, when the door is being blocked, you may begin to suspect something. Our group had been planning on going to a night club to celebrate later on and I had sent out a few text messages without reply but figured people were just eating dinner. When the door finally opened, I was greeted by 5 of my close friends from the trip and my Chilean family all singing Feliz Cumpleaños a mi with a cake and 21 candles. What a great surprise! We visited, drank some wine, and ate some delicious food for the next few hours. It was so great when you are so far from home, to feel surrounded by so many people who appreciate you and want to celebrate with you! We were meeting the rest of our group at a nearby club, so we headed out around 11 to meet up with them and had a great night dancing and toasting to my birthday and to Chile!
That’s a short update about life in the last month since I’ve been here! Stayed tuned for more from Chile!