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Mixed Feelings

Time October 8th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This past week has been absolutely crazy! I had a pretty simple week with my lectures and tutorials but the weekend sure made up for it.

My three classes are all very different. The first one, World Politics: War and Peace, is a typical fresher’s course. There are roughly 150 people in the class and it is in a pretty big lecture hall. The lecturer is either American or Canadian, because her accent seems pretty normal to me. I would probably consider her Canadian because when she was describing the course, she kept saying things like “we will discuss why America thinks they are so great” and “who thinks American involvement in Syria is completely inappropriate?” Regardless of how I feel about those two statements, her tone was quite derogatory and she was downplaying America a lot. The course should not be too bad though; there is a pretty light work load and not much independent reading.

My second class, International Relations, is probably going to be my favourite of the three. The lecturer is pretty easy going and throws in a few jokes here and there. He also decided to be the tutor for my tutorial group so that will be good for getting to know him a bit better. This is one of my modules that I can have transfer back to WSU which will count towards my political science degree. There is more reading than I would like but luckily it is a topic I enjoy learning about.

My final class, Northern Ireland: A Case Study, is going to be the most difficult. It is a third year course so most of the students in there are older and have loads of knowledge about the subject already. The lecturer also has a strong accent so he is a wee bit hard to understand. Luckily, another American student from my program is in the class so we can study or work together.

Last weekend, all the American students with IFSA-Butler around Northern Ireland and the Republic went to the Killary Adventure Company in Co. Galway. At first I was a bit hesitant because I did not really want to spend a whole weekend with a hundred other Americans but it was not all that bad. We met people from Stranmillis and Derry before we left Belfast. We left Belfast around half twelve on Friday but did not make it to our hotel until almost nine o’clock at night. Our driver did not seem on top of his game at all. Traffic was not on our side either. Towards to end of the ride, we all wanted to throw up because we were on an extremely windy road and the bus was very warm.

Killary Adventure Company

Saturday was our big adventure day. There were so many different activities to sign up for from rock climbing and zip lining to inner tubing and skeet shooting. I signed up for the rock climbing, giant swing, and abseiling (all three activities were included in the one session) and the zip lining and high ropes course. The rock climbing was fairly easy because I watched other people go up before I attempted the wall. The giant swing was the most fun because it was completely unexpected. You pair up and sit in a cradle type swing and this machine pulls you three stories up into the air. Then, once the word is given, you are allowed to pull a release string and you drop a ways before the rope finally catches you and you go into a steady swinging motion. It was such an exhilarating experience. The zip lining was pretty fun too. The line was not all that long but it was pretty steep so you got some good speed. At the end of the line, instead of there being a landing platform, there was a tire. So once you reached the end, your rope hit the tire and your body got whipped back, and your momentum sent you about a third the way back up the line. Then we had to drop a rope from about 50 feet up so the people below us could grab on and help send us down. It was very different from any zip lining I had ever done, but a lot more intense.

The Climbing Tower

The ride home was not nearly as bad as the ride there. We took a much more scenic route so I was able to capture some great shots from the bus. We passed through so many mountains and small towns. We were also very exhausted from the day before so we all slept for a few hours as well. We all exchanged Facebook information so we could meet up in the future. I did not know until that day that Stranmillis was only five or ten minutes from Elms Village where we live. So I am sure we will all be hanging out a bunch in the future.

Galway

The Irish students are still trying to convince me to move here full time. They realise that it is my life and completely up to me but they just want me to stay. From my perspective, I could picture myself living in Belfast for a few years before I could see myself in Pullman at WSU. I love Washington State University and I will always be a Coug, but Queen’s could very well be my new home. These next couple months are going to be stressful; I am going to eventually have to make a decision. And one thing is certain, it will not be easy an easy one.

 

Lastly, my other blog entries are difficult to find so I will provide to links for the other ones.

1: http://www.ifsa-butler.org/blog/?p=17151

2: http://www.ifsa-butler.org/blog/?p=17183

3: http://www.ifsa-butler.org/blog/?p=17265

4: http://www.ifsa-butler.org/blog/?p=17330

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Just Movin’ Right Along

Time September 30th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

It seems unreal that classes begin tomorrow. I have already been here in Belfast for two weeks and I feel like it has only been a matter of days. I have made many friends in the short time that I’ve been here, and plan to keep on making more.

Last weekend, the international students were given the opportunity to go and experience a Belfast Giant’s ice hockey game. It was an amazing experience because for a few brief hours, I felt like I was watching American sports. The Giants are only a small minor league or semi-professional team, but it was still fun to go out and watch them play. The greatest part of the game was the final two minutes, when they were down 4-3 against the Braehead Clan of Scotland. The Giants scored the winning goal with only six seconds left on the clock. The crowd went absolutely wild. The guy I was sitting next to is from New York so we talked the entire game about American sports. We plan on attending the next game when the Giants take on the Sheffield Steelers in two weeks.

Belfast Giants

The food situation is a bit strange. Being a teenage guy, I tend not to know a whole lot about cooking. I can make a solid macaroni and cheese or bake a frozen pizza. Lucky for me, I live on a floor full of girls so they can give me tips on how to cook different foods. So far, I have been living off of pasta, bread, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I am going to attempt rice sometime this week. It cannot be too hard, right? Just add a bit of water?

I have bonded with the people on my floor so much over the last week. There is one fella from Malaysia, but he does not come around all that often. There are seven girls from Ireland, and two from England. We have all gone out together almost every night that we have been here in Elms. One strange thing is that the Irish go home to their parents on the weekends. It makes the place rather boring because there is never anything going on. The two English girls and I stayed in this weekend because Elms was like a ghost town. We had two nice relaxing nights watching Strictly Come Dancing (the British version of Dancing with the Stars) and eating Domino’s pizza.

On a more serious note, I received my timetable for the first semester. It is a tad different from what I would see back home, but I have no complaints. Students are usually only given three modules (classes) but they meet multiple times throughout the week in both lecture and tutorial form. Lectures are pretty self-explanitory; every student meets in a big hall and is given instruction from the lecturer (they are called lecturers and not professors because the title of professor is a very prestigious honour). Tutorials consist of small groups of students from the lecture, where you discuss the material more in depth. The three modules I was given were International Relations, World Politics: War and Peace, and Northern Ireland: A Case Study. The first week, I am only in for five hours, the second week for seven, and then from the third week on, I am in for eight. That is only about half the time I would spend in class back at WSU but I am sure there will more work and more reading. I am looking forward to starting classes and filling my day with work. You can only sleep in so much before you get tired of sleeping!

I know I have said this loads of times, but I am really enjoying myself here. Some of the Irish are trying to convince me to transfer to Queen’s fulltime, and not return to Washington State University. At first, I brushed it off as a joke, but as the days go on, I am starting to realise how much of a home I could make this place. As of right now though, I am still a Coug. And once a Coug, always a Coug!

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Getting Situated at Home

Time September 23rd, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

The past couple of days have been extremely amazing and extremely tiresome, all at the same time. Before we left the Jury’s Inn hotel in the heart of the city, we decided to go and check out the Titanic museum. The museum is an absolute wonder and I highly recommend it to anybody who visits Belfast. The outside resembles the front of passenger ships and the place is just massive. Right outside, they have the original slipway that they used to drop the ship into the water after it had been built. There is also a memorial for all the passengers and crew that lost their lives during the voyage. The inside of the museum gives so much information; it is almost overwhelming at first. It reminded me of going to the Holocaust museum in Washington DC. They give so much history of before the ship’s creation and about all the industries in the city that help provide goods and services for the ship. The place is very well lit and friendly until you turn this one ominous corner. All of a sudden, … never mind. I am not going to spoil it for you for you! You will just have to come and check it out for yourself!

Titanic Museum

Moving into my new room at Queen’s Elms Village was quite the hassle. I was forced into a temporary room for three days because my official room was not ready yet. I did eventually get to move into my real room, but it was a pain having to live out of a suitcase for an extra three days and having to lug your stuff around the village multiple times. Luckily the two buildings are relatively close together, so it was not too bad. The layouts are the exact same but my new room is much nicer. I have about a six foot long desk with four electrical outlets built in, a radiator underneath the window that does not seem to work properly, and an extremely tiny bathroom complete with a sink, toilet, and shower. My room back home at WSU had a sink in the room, and a bathroom attached to it. So I am used to having this type of accommodation. There are only three real problems with the room, and it is not just here at Elms. 1) The light switches to the bathrooms (everywhere in Belfast) are on the outside of the door. So when I go to open the door, I have to back out and walk to the switch to turn it on. Growing up for 19 years with a light switch on the inside has definitely thrown me off. 2) The doors and hallways are very small and generic. Back home, my building had wide hallways and were painted and styled with colour. Here, the doors need to be forced shut or opened (probably because they are new), and the hallways are beige cinderblock so it looks like a prison. Not sure how much I like that aspect of the village. 3) The showers and sinks are such a tight fit. If you drop your bottle of shampoo, you almost have to get out of the shower in order to pick it up. The sinks have separate taps for the hot and cold, so getting a specific temperature is difficult. And do not bother on having much hot water – it goes out quite quick here. Overall though, I cannot complain too much. The village has laundry facilities very close by (at a slight cost) and has a place called the Treehouse, where you can hang out and grab something to drink.

Temporary Room

One of the events that the RAs in the village put on was a life music and “chill session.” The five of us from our group made our way to the Treehouse around half seven because that was when we thought the show started. When the band arrived (an hour later), they went straight for the bar and grabbed a pint to drink. It was quite entertaining watching them try to set up their equipment while holding a beer. As they started playing, more and more international students began to show up. This was one of the first nights we met people on a large scale. I still talk to most of the people I came into contact with that night. Having a band play ten feet in front of you in your village’s lounge was pretty awesome. We talked to them after the show and they said that they are touring in America next year, so hopefully I can catch them again. Their name is the Hootin’ Annies and they are from Northern Ireland. This is there Facebook page if you are interested: https://www.facebook.com/TheHootinAnnies?fref=ts.

The Hootin' Annies

Orientation over the last few days has been super boring. People already know and understand most of the information they are trying to give us; stuff like how to be safe in the city and how to cook your own food. The sessions are not quite my cup of tea, if you know what I mean! Not all of it was bad though; there were some valuable bits of information. I found out that I can work up to 20 hours a week and that a 70% mark is equivalent to an A grade. The biggest problem with orientation was that for every five bits of information you were given, only one bit was useful. Besides some minor differences, the school and living accommodations are very similar to mine back home. I felt like I was a fresher doing orientation all over again.

The people we have met are just brilliant. We were surprised at how many Americans there are attending Queen’s this year. I would say one out of three people I have met (at the school) are American. The second most represented country in my opinion is Germany. The German students are so friendly and love trying to communicate with people from other countries. There are a bunch of Swedish people here too; not a country I would think of having a ton of people from. And then the rest of the world is covered in various forms. The most interesting countries I have run in to are Mozambique, Ghana, Rwanda (living in Mississippi full time though), and Syria. They are some of the most interesting people to talk to though because from what I understand, their home institution is nothing at all like Queen’s. The Irish kids move in today and tomorrow, so soon enough, us internationals will not be seeing each other nearly as often.

I like it here. I like it here a lot. I am starting to make this city my home.

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Days and Days and Days…

Time September 16th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

After a day and half of preparation and a day of travel, I have officially made it to Belfast. Me being me, I did not begin to do laundry or pack for this epic adventure until the final hours before my plane was scheduled to leave. That is the family tradition! “Why do it today when you can put it off for tomorrow?” I managed to fit nine months of clothing and school supplies into one extremely large and overweight suitcase, a duffle bag that inspired questions from multiple flight attendants, and a shoulder-killing backpack. It may be too much stuff, but I am definitely prepared.

My first flight departed from Seattle at 9am on Saturday. I made it to Chicago around 3pm with just enough time to catch my plane to London. After the one hour layover and the nearly seven hour flight, I made it to the UK around 6am Sunday. After some rigorous security checks (and a layover lasting four hours), I finally left for my new home in Belfast. I landed at exactly 11am, a whopping 18 hours after I had left Seattle (26 hours minus the 8 hour time difference).

Once I gathered my bags and made my way to the taxi, I was finally able to settle down and gather my nerves. The taxi driver was extremely nice and had an exceptional understanding of American football. We talked the entire ride from the airport to the hotel about the Seahawks and his favorite team, the Raiders.

At the hotel, I was greeted by three other American students and two IFSA staff members. One of the staff members recommended that we go down the street to The Crown Liquor Saloon and grab a bite to eat (airline pretzels only go so far…). There, we ordered food and each got our first pint of Guinness to celebrate the start of our trip. The restaurant/pub was really neat because it was so old and everything inside was authentic. Coming from America, there are not many places like that so it was a nice change of pace.

My First Guinness

After lunch, our two staff members took us to the Crumlin Road Gaol (Jail) for a tour. We got see the holding cells, underground tunnels, the room where inmates were hanged, and some other interesting features. The amount of history that the jail has is incredible. From what I hear, it is only one of the many places around the city that has an exciting past.

Crumlin Road Gaol

For dinner, we went to an Italian restaurant called Speranza. I was extremely pleased with the menu because Italian food is my absolute favorite. I stuck to my safe choice and went with the penne and chicken. If/when we decide to go back there, I am going to have to venture out of my comfort zone and try something more local and original.

These last few days have blurred to together in a sense; mainly due to the fact I have not gotten much sleep. I am glad that we are starting to settle into the city so we have a little bit more time to relax. For now though, it is bed time.

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Nine Months in the Making

Time September 12th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

 

When I first started at Washington State University last fall, I knew I wanted to study abroad in another country. My only problem was that I didn’t know where I wanted to go. Luckily, my school has a great global learning center filled with individuals whose mission is to help answer all your questions and get you rolling through the process of studying abroad. After looking through a huge binder full of every major our school has to offer, I chose Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland for political science.

For nine months, I have known that I would be studying abroad at Queen’s. The thing I am looking forward to the most is the fact that I will be out of the country for nine months (besides the three weeks over Christmas break). I have spent upwards to three weeks outside of the country without my parents before, so I know what it will feel like to not have them at my side.

 

A few days ago, I pulled out the suitcases and started making a checklist as to what I would be bringing. The climate is about the same in Belfast as it is here in Western Washington so I do not need to invest in any special clothing. One of my friends at school studied abroad in Poland and she informed me that once I have my suitcase packed, I need to take half of everything that I packed back out. She claimed that I would be bringing home tons of souvenirs so I would need the extra space.

 

In the last month or so, I have spent time with almost all of my friends and managed to see most of my family in Chicago. I wanted to see everybody one last time before I left the country for nine months. Saying goodbye is hard, but I know that my friends and family will be here when I get back so there is not much to get upset about. I feel optimistic about meeting new friends in Belfast through IFSA and at Queen’s. It will be nice to take a break from everything (and everybody) back here.

 

I am excited. These past nine months have been preparing me for the next nine months.

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