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Time May 26th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Well, well. Here we are. Back where it all started. I am writing this from the very desk in my bedroom from which I wrote my first-ever IFSA blog, meaning that I am safely Stateside and the five-month odyssey that was my study abroad experience has come to a close. I have actually been home for a couple days now, but the process of readjusting my sleep schedule and slowly assimilating back into my American world that, believe it or not, continued existing during my absence prevented me from gathering my thoughts until now. Though, I must say that even now I have not quite come to terms with the end of this semester. Frankly, I’m not sure that I ever will. While this blog has served as a great outlet for me to document and reflect upon my time in Ireland and beyond, it never has and never will completely sum up my time there and all that I learned from it.

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The End of the Road (Almost)

Time April 29th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

As crazy as it seems to say, I’ve come to the end of my time here at UCD. After four months, I have successfully passed in the final assignment of my semester abroad. Though grades won’t be available for a matter of weeks, I can safely say that I am free of academic burden for the time being and feel very much ready for the summer ahead. As I have alluded to in the past, I am starting this break off with a bang. Tomorrow I leave for a 10-day trip that will take me to four new cities: Budapest, Prague, Berlin, and Stockholm. I will then return to Dublin, where I will meet up my family and kick off another 10 days of exploring Ireland and England. Then, after almost three weeks of travel, I will finally fly home. I can’t quite express how surreal that all seems to me. Even as I type this out, it hasn’t quite sunk in. But here I am, standing at the precipice of it all, ready to take on all that comes.

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Merseyside Musings

Time April 8th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

I’m getting to the point in my semester abroad where things are starting to get serious. Well, by “things,” I really mean school. While I’ve been doing my best to keep up with lectures and assignments all semester long, the structure of the Irish university system puts a lot of emphasis on final exams and papers. So, with only a couple more weeks of classes left ahead of me, pressure is starting to mount. Luckily I have a solid plan for tackling all that lies ahead, so if I stay focused I should be able to avoid any truly soul-crushing stress levels. But before that all descends upon me, let me tell you about my most recent trip. UCD’s four-day Easter break was one of the last travel opportunities of my time here, so I decided to pop over to the English city of Liverpool to see what I could see.

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Spring Break, Part 2: The Emerald Isle

Time March 23rd, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

This past week was arguably the single most exciting week of the year to be in Dublin. The heart of that excitement, as you might guess, is the one and only holiday named for the one and only patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day. March 17th had on my radar long before my arrival abroad, and I had high expectations for not only the holiday, but for the whole week surrounding it. I foresaw this time as the perfect opportunity to engage with Irish heritage and culture at its celebratory peak. Now, I had heard from a few different sources that the St. Paddy’s celebrations held in America and beyond aren’t exactly true to the Irish tradition, and that many of the people flooding the Dublin street for this weekend would be seeking the “tourist-y” side of the holiday. Accordingly, while I can’t admit that I entirely avoided the tourism aspect of Ireland’s most famous celebration, I did my best to fill my St. Patrick’s week with as many authentically Irish experiences as I could.

My first such activity was a day trip to two ancient Irish archeological sites: the Hill of Tara and Newgrange.


For much of history, the Hill of Tara was considered the spiritual and cultural center of Ireland. Being one of the highest peaks in the country, Irish kings chose the top of Tara as their royal seat, built a slew of monuments and structures to commemorate various Irish rituals, and fought battles to both protect and extend Irish influence. There is even an old legend that St. Patrick himself was once summoned to Tara, and that he used the prominence of the place to spread the Christian word to the Irish people. Today, while Tara’s legacy has mostly fallen into the history books and a majority of its landmarks have sunk into the landscape, the place is still regarded as one of the foremost of the Republic’s heritage sites. Visitors can walk the rolling hill, interact with the select few monuments that still stand, and take a look at the looming statue of St. Patrick that overlooks it all.

Newgrange is a circular, hilltop tomb in the rural Boyne Valley. While it carries less cultural significance than Tara (in fact, they aren’t quite sure what it was used for), what is most notable about Newgrange is its ancientness. Experts say that the 80m-diameter structure is approximately 5,000 years old. That puts its construction before that of Stonehenge, before that of the pyramids of Giza, and before, well, just about everything else. This startling age is what makes understanding Newgrange’s purpose so elusive, and it has muddled archeologists for centuries. However, one thing is certain: the orientation of Newgrange was intentional. That is made obvious by the fact that, every year, on the winter solstice (December 21st), the rising sun perfectly slots down the entryway of Newgrange, illuminating the dome-shaped chamber within. This astronomical alignment adds to the alluring mystique of the ancient place. Unfortunately, for preservation reasons, photography is not allowed within the tomb (though I did get to enter with my tour), so if you’re interested in seeing it you’ll have to visit for yourself. Fortunately, doing so is simple. I booked through a smart and lovely tour guide by the name of Mary Gibbons. Her website is, and while it’s a bit archaic (she does her bookings by hand), I can’t suggest her highly enough.


After my day of ancient exploration, I spent the better part of my week in and around downtown Dublin, where there was plenty of modern-day fun to be had. For the entire week, the area of the city known as Temple Bar was an absolute zoo. Admittedly, Temple Bar is the ultimate tourist trap in Dublin. Drinks are shockingly overpriced and most of the people around are visiting from out of town. Most of the locals that I talked to about it made it clear that Temple Bar is a no-go zone for most Irish people (especially during Paddy’s weekend). However, simply for the sake of human spectacle, Temple Bar around St. Patrick’s Day weekend is a must-see, and the whole area plays host to some infectiously high spirits.

Another place I visited for this past week was the massive Irish national stadium, Croke Park. Croke is the home to all of the country’s top-level events within the sports of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), most notable of which are hurling and Gaelic football. Both sports are immensely popular here in Ireland, and have been since the GAA was founded in the late 1800’s to foster their popularity. For my visit to the park, I was lucky enough to get two games for the price of one, with the two hallmark Irish sports on display back-to-back. Over the course of about four hours, I sat in a mixture of awe and confusion as the games played out before me. Though they have the same field size and scoring system, hurling and football are pretty distinct. Hurling came first. It is played with a small ball that gets whacked around by the players’ wooden sticks at absurd velocities and distances. According to many people, this makes it the single fastest grass-based game in the world. Football, on the other hand, is a little slower but also a little more accessible. A vague mixture between soccer, rugby, volleyball, and mayhem, Gaelic football is the single most played team sport in Ireland. And, though the 80,000+ seat stadium was far from full during my visit, the atmosphere inside Croke Park for the contests was incredible. As far as Irish experiences go, I’d say it was absolutely worth the visit.


Finally, on St. Patrick’s Day itself, Dublin was home to a slew of festivities, central to which is a parade through the city streets. Spectators of all shapes and sizes donned their green, white, and orange and took to the parade route, cheering on the various marching bands, floats, and carriages that passed them by. Now, I’ll admit that parades aren’t normally my thing, but I can’t deny that the air of celebration that surrounded Dublin during and after the Patrick’s parade was unlike any I had seen before. All day long, people were crowding the streets, the pubs, the shops, and (most importantly) the public restrooms in joyous celebration of Ireland’s favorite Saint. It would have been hard not to enjoy myself.

All in all, my St. Patrick’s day/week experience was a memorable one. While my curiosity prompted me to dip into the tourist-oriented side of the holiday at times, I made an effort to seek out certain invariably Irish places and events. And, as far as the second week of my Spring Break goes, I can’t really have asked for much more. I feel incredibly lucky to have spent this time in my new home of Dublin. After this, though, it’s back to the books. My final month of classes kicks off this Monday. While I may be out of touch with this blog in order to focus on my slew of upcoming assignments, I will keep you all updated as more of my adventures unfold. Stay with me.





Spring Break, Part 1: The Mainland

Time March 16th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | 1 Comment by

Here I am, back at my desk in Dublin and facing the halfway point of the Spring Break that marks the halfway point of my time here in Ireland. So far, as any reader of this blog can probably tell, it’s been quite the adventure. And, despite all the great things I’ve done and seen, I think the happenings of this current break might just take the cake as the most enjoyable part of my time here thus far. Without further ado, let me fill you in on my recent adventures in the wonderful cities of Amsterdam and Copenhagen.

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Before I Break

Time March 6th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

It’s been a while since I last posted, as I’ve been busy focusing my energies on other pursuits. As of this past weekend, assignments, field trips, and other class-related duties were flying at me thick and fast, all needing to be squeezed in under the deadline of this Friday, which marks the half-way point of the semester. More excitingly, it also marks the beginning of UCD’s Spring Break. And, as of about thirty minutes ago when I hit “send” on the my final assignment, I am officially free. Tomorrow morning, I take off for a seven-day jaunt about the Netherlands and Denmark, from which I will return to Dublin just in time to celebrate the most sacred of Irish national holidays: St. Patrick’s Day. More on all of that to come. For now, given that it’s been a while and I’ve had too many days to describe in full, I thought I’d resort to a list for some of the highlights of my life over the past week or so.

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Neighbors to the North

Time February 23rd, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

This weekend I, along with just about every other IFSA-Ireland student, took a trip up to the Northern Irish city of Belfast. Now, for those of you who are out of the loop, Northern Ireland is actually a separate country from the Republic of Ireland, located in the northeast corner of the same island. While the Republic became independent from British rule in the early 20th century, Northern Ireland opted to remain with the crown and is therefore part of the modern day United Kingdom. This distinction has many different manifestations, from the currency to the religious landscape to the accent. From what I know, Northern Ireland has two main areas of appeal. The first is the coast, home to some truly remarkable geographical formations and sights. The other is Belfast, the capital and the largest urban area, brimming with social and aesthetic appeal but unfortunately haunted by its own recent history. Over the course of the weekend, I got the opportunity to see both of these aspects of the country in full swing.  Read More »


Getting High in the Lowlands

Time February 17th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

This weekend, I took the short flight across the Celtic Sea to visit the Scottish cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Both are situated in the southern, relatively flatter region of Scotland (aptly dubbed the Lowlands), with the former representing the largest city in the nation and the latter serving as the capital. While I primarily explored the cities at ground level, I also took an opportunity in both to hike to the top of prominent hills that overlooked much of the metro area. For your information, these literal changes in elevation brought about my catchy title. So get your mind out of the gutter. Read More »


A Lot on my Plate

Time February 10th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

This past weekend, as I alluded to in my last post, I travelled to Poland. There, some friends and I spent a few days exploring the wonderfully quaint and snow-swept city of Krákow. We were fortunate enough to stay in a hostel overlooking the edge of the city’s historic center, a formerly walled-off section of the town whose defensive ramparts of yesteryear have been replaced by a lovely park. This section of Krákow has a striking balance of old and new. Having survived all of Europe’s various wars in tact, some of its buildings (including the one in which we made our temporary home, pictured below) are remarkably old fashioned, with large wooden doors and looming stone facades. However, also sprinkled around the grid-patterned streets are brightly colored, modern buildings and storefronts. This gave Krákow a richly cultured and lively glow.  Read More »


Never a Dull Moment

Time February 2nd, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | 2 Comments by

When consulting my calendar during a trip-planning session last week, I selectively sought out the few days that have just passed as a period of relaxation, intended for the resting of both my legs and my wallet. This was in anticipation of the fact that I will be traveling away from Ireland for all three of the next weekends. With busses and planes already booked, I have many adventures in my immediate future. However, there will come a time to recount each of those adventures and my various musing therein, and that time is not now. Now is the time to tell you that my weekend of “relaxation,” which I foresaw as a few days of laziness and relative lameness spent in and around Dublin, turned into one of my favorite weekends in recent memory. Read More »


Alone, but not Lonely

Time January 27th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

My primary takeaway from my second full week in Dublin has been that, despite the excitement of a Study Abroad semester and all of the wonderful, exciting people I’ve met and done wonderful, exciting things with, sometimes what I need is a step back. A step away from the wonderful, exciting madness here at UCD. In a lecture this past week, I heard the phrase “loneliness is not the same as being alone.” This phrase stuck out to me. And, in the time since, I’ve used it to both reflect upon and guide on my still-young time here in Ireland.  Read More »


Week One: The Whirlwind

Time January 19th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

Hello again. As of the moment I am writing this, it is Monday the 19th of January, meaning that I have now been in Ireland for just over one week. And let me tell you, it has been quite the eventful just over one week. I’m currently sitting at a nice little window seat in the wonderful and massive James Joyce Library, right in the heart of UCD campus, awaiting my first class of the semester, and I feel as if this is one of the first chances I’ve taken to get in a good sit and few deep breaths since landing at the Dublin Airport. So, with time now (briefly) on my side, I thought I’d organize my thoughts.

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Is This Thing On?

Time January 12th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

Why, hello there. My name is Owen. And this, right here, is a blog. My blog, no less. Who am I, you ask? I am an average-heighted, thickly bespectacled, ginger haired boy of twenty years hailing from just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. On top of that, I am a junior at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee majoring in Creative Writing. Well, that is, I would be a junior at Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tennessee, were it not for the fact that within 24 hours, I will be leaving behind the comfort of both the nation and academic system that has raised me well over the past two decades, in favor of a new, untold, and exciting semester abroad in Ireland at University College Dublin.

This will be my very first time in Ireland and, though I’ve traveled to some parts of both the UK and mainland Europe, this Study Abroad stay will be the first such trip that I will have undergone on my own. I will be living sans family, sans established friendships, and sans a “comfort zone.” I will also be cooking for myself, cleaning up after myself, and generally finding my own way. It is certainly a lot to wrap my head around, given that my independence will go hand in hand with an entirely new setting, culture, and surely a new way of life.

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