Week One: The Whirlwind
Firstly, I admit that I have been quite busy since arriving abroad, however this does not mean I am unhappy or stressed out. In fact, it has been quite the opposite. There is simply so much to do and see in this new part of the world, and I am eager to take in as much as I am able. Though campus is a bit of a hoof away from Dublin City Centre, I’ve already spent a number of days roaming the city streets and getting a lay of the land. The wonderful people at the IFSA office put us up in a little downtown hotel and showed us around for the first few days, giving us tips and pointers on how to best take in the city and also encouraging us to explore on our own time. So far, I’ve been to a good number of book shops (new, used, and rare), some highly useful department stores, many of the greens and lush squares that are scattered about the city, and, of course, pubs. Lots of pubs. From the crotchety-old-man-in-a-dingy-corner style establishments to the loud-and-raucous-sports-fans-screaming-at-the-TV’s type joints, so far I have loved just about every place I’ve stopped for a drink. The most wonderful part of all of them, though, has been the Guinness. IFSA afforded us a tour of the Guinness factory during this week, where I learned a great number of facts and figures, most important of which was that all the Guinness I’ve ever drank in my life has been, in a word, “shit.” Here in Ireland, Guinness is ever-present, moderately priced, and absolutely delicious. The few cans I had managed to find back in the States couldn’t even hold a candle to the below average bar taps over here. So, whether I’ve been chatting up the locals (many of whom have already mistaken my semi-red hair for that of a fellow Irishman), watching my beloved sport of soccer with a slew of fellow fans, or winding down the night with my fellow UCD students, Guinness always hits the spot. On top of all of the other wonderful aspects of Dublin life, I think I’m settling in quite well, and am ready for four more months of this new life.
Also, briefly, yesterday was the first time I made my way out of Dublin proper, as I took a day-long bus tour to the Western coast. We made stops in the quaint and lovely towns of Limerick and Kinvara, saw a large number of old stone buildings from castles to abbeys to dilapidated shacks, and got to see a large chunk of the Irish country side. Most importantly though, and most breathtakingly, we made an elongated stop at the Cliffs of Moher. For those of you who don’t know, the Cliffs are a stretch of the coastline that project about 700 feet straight up off of the Atlantic with mud and stone paths winding their ways along the top. Fortunately for my tour group and I, the weather was perfect for cliff exploration, with light winds and a sunny sky, so the whole of our time there was spent in a mesmerized awe at the incredible views. We walked for almost two hours from the safe and sound visitor center, past the “Caution: Extreme Danger” signs, and out to the edge, where I successfully stood long enough to snap a picture. And honestly, I’ve never quite seen anything like it. The Cliffs of Moher are a world-class natural site, and if this is the sort of thing Ireland has to offer, I can’t wait to get back out and see it all. At the end of the day, we made our way back to Dublin, where I promptly collapsed in a heap, exhausted from my first full week of Irish life.
All in all, as I’ve said, my stay so far has been fantastic. I’ve met wonderful people, seen incredible things, and much more. But looming is the real reason I’ve come abroad in the first place— school. I am taking a full course load this semester (which means six classes, not five), so I will need to be reigning in my Guinness time in exchange for some study time. But, I have faith that I’ll get through, and hopefully with a smile on my face. It’s all just another step in the journey. Well, I’m off to class. Until next time.