Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

Irish Everyone Would Visit Ireland

Time April 20th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Ireland | No Comments by

When choosing a place to study abroad, I didn’t look in depth. I looked for English speaking and in Europe, and when London and Ireland were my top two, I chose Ireland because of family history. Little did I know the experience I would get from being in Ireland.

Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland combined are about the size of Indiana!!! Shocked? I was too. But little did I know I could travel all around Ireland and love every city more than the next. Impartial, Galway is my favorite, but here are some of the great cities I visited this semester, whether for a day or weekend, each adventure was amazing. Read More »


Outside the Classroom

Time February 23rd, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Ireland | No Comments by

“There is only so much you can learn in a classroom.”

This is one of the quotes I had heard throughout school, but didn’t understand until this weekend. This weekend, IFSA-Butler took the Ireland group to Belfast, Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is ruled under The Crown, part of the United Kingdom, but there is no immigration to get from The Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland (yet). With the students through IFSA in Ireland adding to almost 100 (Dublin, Galway, Limerick, and Cork all combined) I figured we wouldn’t get to do much. Little was I was wrong, and little did I know how much I could learn about Belfast in the two full days we had there. Read More »


Top 3 Activities to do in Northern Ireland

Time November 7th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Ireland | No Comments by


Farewells, Friends, and Lots of Feelings

Time July 25th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

Holy cow, this post is a long time coming! I’ve been home for a little while now, but I’ve been procrastinating on writing this final post because it means that the semester is officially over. I’ve completed my finals, flown home, received my transcript, filled out the surveys, and begun preparing for the next semester. This wrap-up post was the last thing I needed to do as part of my time abroad and I was not ready.

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When the Tourist Becomes the Tour Guide

Time June 6th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

[alternative titles for this post: Spring Break 2016 // I Have Visitors! // Lauren Uses a Map!]

All I want to do right now is close my eyes and breathe. (is that a song?) This is for many reasons:

  1. I finally can do that now that I can breathe out of my nose again after being sick for the last 2 weeks.
  2. The Northern Ireland air is so fresh and crisp and beautiful!
  3. I’m finally done with my three essays and 1 final exam.
  4. I’m leaving in 1 week! HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE? I’M KIND OF FREAKING OUT!!

All of the above are also reasons why I’ve been absent from this blog for a while. Granted, I was already behind, but getting sick really knocked me out. It was terrible timing to get sick right after I came back from England a few weeks ago. I had papers to write and friends to hang out with, but I was also stuck inside for four days in bed while the weather was absolutely gorgeous. I literally sneezed and completely missed Ireland’s spring.

I was able to enjoy the beautiful weather over spring break though. My family came to visit me at the perfect time and enjoy Northern Ireland in all of its glory. I know it’s what you’ve all been waiting for, so without further ado, here’s a recap of my family’s visit during spring break!

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One Month… Already?

Time February 17th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | 1 Comment by

Well lads, it’s been exactly a month since I have arrived here in Ireland.  One month… already? How could that be? People I spoke to who have studied abroad warned me of how quick the time would go, but damn, I did not think it would go this fast.  Regardless, I am having an absolute blast and truly enjoying my time here in Limerick.  I’ve been able to become very comfortable in UL and like I said in my last post, classes are going smoothly thus far.  It’s been great to stay with my Aunt Antoinette and cousins Gemma, Jodie and Mark on the weekends when most of the Irish students go home themselves. They live not more than 5 minutes down the road and have treated me like gold since I have been in Limerick.  Mind you, I only met them upon arriving here.  Their hospitality and good nature has been something I will never forget.  The majority of students who study abroad don’t have this luxury so for that, I thank them.

Tonight I look forward to playing some soccer with Cloughjordan F.C. located in Tipperary.  It is a bit of drive so the manager has arranged a ride for me.  I am still trying to get involved with a local club here so tonight should be a good chance to show what I’ve got.  The manager told me that they are current North Tipperary Premier Shield champs, number 2 in the Premier League at the moment and Tipperary Cup finalists the last two years… I will let you know how I fair!

I have a tripped planned to Belfast, Northern Ireland this weekend which I am looking forward to.  I am very excited to see the differences between what I have seen in the Republic versus the British influence in the North. I will definitely be taking photos and posting to Facebook and Instagram, so keep a look out for those.  This trip includes a full day excursion of the North Antrim Coast. We will stop at the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Dunluce Castle and the Giant’s Causeway, three of the country’s most spectacular sights. The next day I am especially excited for.  We will be taking a “Black Taxi Tour” to get a feel for what life life was like during “The Troubles”.  On the tour, the local taxi drivers will bring me to both Catholic and Protestant parts of the city to explain what life was like during the conflict.

Crazy to think that a quarter of my experience is already over, but I cannot wait to see what the rest of my time has in store for me.  Definitely looking to make a few trips elsewhere, but I will keep you posted about that!

Until next time.



Hi, I’m Lauren and I exude confidence?

Time February 4th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

I have been a resident of Belfast for 13 days. That’s just about 2 weeks. Where has the time gone?!


Ireland-rain Read More »


IFSA Butler Weekend — Northern Ireland!

Time November 11th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

This weekend, IFSA Butler took  all of us to Northern Ireland, which (confusingly) is actually a region of Great Britain. Our first day, we got up early and made our way to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge which connected a small island to the mainland. We were able to walk across and get some beautiful views on the island (and look at how blue the water is! I promise I didn’t do anything to enhance it!)

After this we drive to Giant’s Causeway, which is the most visited attraction in Northern Ireland. It is most famous for it’s ‘hexagonal’ (read: pentagonal, hexagonal, and many other variations of sides) pillars that make up the shoreline. Lucky for us, it was an absolutely gorgeous day outside, so the pictures below show the real beauty of the area.

The next day, we took a Black Taxi Tour of Belfast, where we learned about the violence that’s taken place there in the last 50 years over whether Northern Ireland belongs to the UK or Ireland. We saw murals honoring those who fought for their beliefs, and also the Peace Wall that separates the two factions. We each got to sign the wall and I got some great shots of my friends writing.

After this we had the afternoon to ourselves, so my friends and I walked to the Titanic museum (the Titanic was built in Belfast). Unfortunately it was closed by the time we got there, but you can see below how beautiful the building is.

This was definitely the most educational trip I’ve taken during my time abroad, and I’m really glad that IFSA brought us here together, because I don’t think I would have taken the time to explore this part of Belfast otherwise.


The Blog Where I Try to Describe a Month’s Worth of Activities…

Time December 3rd, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

“Travel is at its most rewarding when it ceases to be about reaching your destination and becomes indistinguishable from living your life.”

Let me start off by apologizing for how long it has taken me to write this post. I went from having almost no homework throughout the year to having 6 essays due within 2 weeks. Not only that but I was sick for about a week and am still trying to shake it off.

So what have I been doing this past month?

I went to Dublin for a few days to show my old roommate from GW who is currently studying in Paris for the year, Casey, around. While in Dublin we went to a Bon Iver concert with a bunch of people from the Butler program, but not before yet again hitting up the Guinness Storehouse and enjoying Dublin. I finally saw the Book of Kells and the library at Trinity College. We even went on a pub crawl and got to go into the bar where they filmed Gerard Butler singing “Galway Girl” to Hilary Swank- a scene the Butler Galway Girls frequently watch while we’re here.

Bon Iver Concert at the O2 Theatre in Dublin. One of the best concerts I’ve been to and I had so much fun with Casey!

Bon Iver performance: [youtube][/youtube]

Live music at the Gravity Bar at the Guinness Storehouse: [youtube][/youtube]

The next weekend was our Belfast weekend. The Butler staff picked us up Thursday and we drove to Belfast and enjoyed a free dinner. The next day we visited the Giant’s Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede Bridge, a rope bridge that leads you to a small island on the Antrim coast of Northern Ireland. It was pretty rainy and cloudy that day so we weren’t able to see the coast of Scotland but it was breathtaking nonetheless.

Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge, even with my fear of heights I managed to not just walk across this but jump up and down and scare some of the people around me. The island was scarier to be on since people kept slipping and falling from the mud!

Rocks at the Giant’s Causeway…either formed by cooling of volcanic rock, or the broken remains of a bridge built by the giant Finn McCool who just wanted a friend.

Do you see the top of that cliff all the way over there on the other side of this second Giant’s Causeway inlet? Yes, well I climbed up the side of the mountain (ok there was a path) and walked all the way to the tip of that cliff. Yea, I know.

And this is where we climbed to. It basically felt like being on the edge of the world.

A view of the Giant’s Causeway: [youtube][/youtube]

On Saturday we took a Black Taxi tour and learned about the Troubles. We visited Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods, learned about the history of the area, and signed our names on the Peace Wall. Asking our driver about his experiences during that time and hearing about how he and his brothers used to be routinely dragged out of their house for questioning by the police, and hearing how he had seen a friend of his killed in front of him is something that I will never forget.

Learning about the Peace Wall and when it will come down, which according to our guide probably won’t happen in the near future since the people want it there.

Later that afternoon we went to the Titanic Museum and learned all about how shipbuilding and other modern industries affected Belfast, as well as everything you could possibly want to know about Titanic (the ship and the movie).

Some of the Galway Girls in front of the Titanic Museum in the Belfast Harbour near the shipyards.

That night the Belfast Christmas Market opened and the Christmas lights turned on. Although we weren’t able to get tickets at such late notice to the  Lighting Ceremony, we did get to enjoy the Market.

Belfast Christmas Market: where kangaroo is a delicacy, obviously.

Beautiful Belfast.

As much fun as Belfast was, I was pretty sure that I got the flu while I was there because upon returning, even though it was our last week of class, I struggled to do anything besides sleep and take hefty amounts of Sudafed.

By the time I got around to feeling any amount of better I had so much work to do- and it was Thanksgiving! My apartment cleaned and cooked all day and borrowed tables from the nearby hotel in order to host Thanksgiving at our place. Everyone showed up with their favorite family dish (or if they couldn’t cook- some wine, store bought food, or plastic utensils). Even though a lot of us were feeling homesick after seeing all of our friends and family talk about the fun they were having at home, it was a successful night. We feasted and all said how thankful we were that our families supported us enough to let us have the best semester of our lives.

Happy Thanksgiving! Half of our food (yes there’s much more) laid out under our very creative sign.

Me and my fresh out of the oven apple pies! Not as good as at home and definitely not pumpkin but still delicious.

Everyone enjoying our delicious Thanksgiving feast.

After this I had a few hours of rest before I hopped on a bus to the Dublin airport and flew to Germany to visit my cousins and have a second round of Thanksgiving feasting. It was nice to see some family especially since Thanksgiving seemed to wipe my immune system and make me sick yet again, on top of the twinge of homesickness I was still feeling. Plus my cousins had brought over the coveted pumpkin (which we could find NOWHERE in Galway, and pumpkin pie is my all-time favorite food), along with other American delicacies to enjoy (and by delicacies I mean Velveeta, Chili mix, cornbread and pumpkin).

Since I returned from Germany it has been nonstop work. All of the essays are due around the same time and I leave for my last trip, a 6 day adventure to London, in just 3 days.

It’s been a hard week all around. Realizing that I have a dozen days left and half of those will actually be in Galway is hard to accept. It seems like yesterday that I arrived in Europe, excited and anxious for what the semester would bring. This semester has been so amazing and rewarding; it felt like it could never end. But the first of our group has left to return to America today, and I feel like there is so much I have yet to do or experience and that these 4 months were nowhere near enough time.  I’m so excited to see my family and friends in less than two weeks, and the fact that I have my 21st birthday, Christmas, New Years, and spring semester to look forward to is comforting. But I am not even close to being ready to say goodbye to my Galway home.


Hello Belfast!

Time February 27th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hello everyone! First of all, I would like to take this opportunity to apologize for my delay in blogging. Since I’ve gotten here, it has been nothing but chaos but also nothing very “blog-worthy” has happened until this past weekend.

One of the first things we did once arriving to Belfast was go on a black cab taxi tour of the city. While Belfast isn’t an overwhelmingly big city, it is filled with history and interesting places to see. One of the main things Belfast is famous for is all of the murals around town. I have included pictures of those below about the time period called “The Troubles” which is Belfast’s most famous piece of history.

Another thing I should mention are my classes! Here at Queen’s University – Belfast, I am considered a third year (just like in America). However, the difference here is that students only complete three years of college. So if I was a full-time Irish student, I would be getting ready to graduate…yikes!

I only have classes on Wednesday and Thursday even though I’m taking 15 credit hours. This is because the English Department at Queen’s is more interested in self-taught reading and then discussion in class. In each of my classes, we read a book a week and then come to class prepared to discuss each one. Let’s just say I’ve been doing a LOT of reading.


City of Murals

Time February 18th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

There are times when borders have no gates and other times when the border is more than just the physical reminders of gates and barriers, but a presence in the air, a sensation that pervades all around you.  When I took the bus up from Dublin to Belfast for one of Butler’s weekend trips I crossed multiple borders; technical and imagined, seen and unseen.

I couldn’t make the first evening and day of Butler’s trip because I had a few classes I couldn’t afford to miss so I only have the word of a number of trusted friends that the sights of Giant’s Causeway and other such highlights were magnificent things to behold and wonder. My journey instead took me by Bus Eireann up to Northern Ireland.  Like Greyhound and other forms of mass transport in the States, Bus Eireann has its fair shares of what some call “Lynch-ian” characters, in other words the bizarre people that seem to only exist on bus routes and disappear immediately thereafter.  There were the rowdy and loud teenagers near the back, the tired and saggy middle-aged and old shutting their eyes from the world around them, the person with absolutely no luggage but five grocery bags filled with food and who-knows-what-else, the college kid with eyes lost out the window…  There was no checkpoint or border stop when we entered Northern Ireland.

Two, three hours later I found myself in downtown, central “South” Belfast. I checked into the hotel Bulter had put us in, which was actually pretty nice.  Since the rest of the Butler crew was still out on their planned adventures I took advantage of the remaining daylight and sunshine while I still had it to go tour around the city by myself and try to get the feel of Belfast.  My aimless wanderings were somewhat aided by the tourist maps and signs posted about the city, since I hadn’t the foggiest clue which way was which.  My little lost feet found me along the river with beautiful buildings and bridges along the waterfront as the sun disappeared to the west and night overtook the city.  My eyes eventually spied a sign that stopped me in my tracks, advertising pints for £2, which, even after the conversion back to euros, meant I could fill myself with wonderful Guinness for half the price I could in Dublin. I firmly planted myself against the bar, ordered my pint and learned, to whatever truth it may actually hold, that the pipes for the Guinness tap have to be cleaned every two weeks or the taste and consistency changes considerably, or so said the bartender to the native Belfastians with accents I couldn’t begin to comprehend, except that they loved Guinness.  It was after a few pints that I was found by a few of the Butler guys at TCD who were on the re way to dinner, so I joined them for a bite and friendly conversation.

The next morning after breakfast they spilt us up into three sections, with each section at a time being taken on the Black Cab Tour of Belfast’s famous “troubled” sites. They explained that in the city center, South Belfast, things were fine nowadays and nothing bad really happens there, but in West Belfast the trouble is still a very felt presence.  At our first stop we were given a brief bit of history of how the calamities began way back hundreds of years ago and how they’ve been evolving yet staying basically the same ever since.  All around us were housing units in decent, not terrible nor fantastic, condition, and almost every single one of them on one end had a mural painted on it.

You can divide the murals into two basic types: peace murals and the violence or war murals.  I care to blanket them into such black and white categories because, from what I saw, they all pretty much fit perfectly into those two choices.  There were murals dedicated to innocent civilians killed in the violence, to murdered children, to ending the hate, the suffering, and the violence. Then there were those proclaiming the justice of the cause, loyalist to Britain or separatist to, dedicated to “volunteers” of the fighting factions.  One that was pointed out to us, a painted mural of a guy in his twenties with a backwards baseball cap and “thug bling” around his neck, had been connected to the killings of somewhere between thirty and fifty people before he was himself killed.  The guide made reference to that by saying it would be akin to Americans painting a picture of OJ Simpson on the sides of buildings, or any other person famously connected with murder.  The impression stayed.

Next they took us to the Peace Wall, a name aptly or poorly fit depending on your feelings about the situation in front of you.  The Peace Wall is a series of walls that separate the Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods in Belfast, thusly creating a semblance of distance and safety from the other group when they would otherwise be separated by a distance of about thirty or forty yards.  On the wall are quotes and signatures of hundreds if not thousands of people who have made a pilgrimage to the site to write words of peace.  You can find quotes from the Dalai Lama, Bill Clinton, and other famous figures whom have traveled there to promote peace between the two sides; you can also find the scorch marks from Molotov cocktails and bomb blasts.  The guides then showed us large gates connected to portions of the wall, leading into the communities inside.  Every night they are still locked and sealed around 9:30, under guard.  Every single night, after all these years.

After the tour a group of us walked around the city center, coming upon a huge open market full of stalls of vendors of every sort. Fish mongers, butchers, bakers, pastry chefs, farmers, weavers, nearly everything you could want and maybe a little bit more.  I got myself a delicious jerk chicken wrap from a Jamaican lady and listened to two young guys on guitars play an eclectic cover of songs, from Rolling Stones, Cat Stevens, to maybe the best cover of the Counting Crows “Round Here” that I’ve ever heard.

I walked on my own around the city for a while, see if I could find some sights.  I had with me a brochure for a tour of the place where the Titanic was built, and since it didn’t look very far away on the tiny map in my hands, I thought why not and went off to find it.  Once again, my poor navigational skills led me astray from my goal and I wound up a few miles down a road I had no intention of going down.  I ended up, I found out later, in East Belfast, a place that hadn’t been named on the tour before. It was walking here that I began to get a feeling in me, an eerie presence I couldn’t quite place, like something was off or that I had crossed over some imaginary line.  As the feeling got stronger, I saw the first mural, a peace one, with a strong message begging for the violence and hate to cease. Thirty feet away was another mural, dedicated this time to the Red Hand of Ulster, the Loyalist forces, which said they would never give up their true and just fight for English rule. A store that sold nothing but Union Jack souvenirs.  Mural after mural, memorial after memorial dedicated to fallen volunteers/soldiers.  At one point, someone pulled out of a parking spot in their car, popping a rock out from under a wheel, which made me jump in fright.  Even though nothing around me was actually threatening, the broad daylight did little to shield me from the primitive fear from hearing all the stories of people being in the wrong place at the wrong time and being killed just because.

During the tour earlier, they mentioned how in Belfast the fighting wasn’t between blacks and whites or other stereotypical fighting like that, it was between Catholics and Protestants. Someone asked if you could tell the difference, if there were signs. They said no, not really, you couldn’t really tell just by looking at someone.  I hate myself for this bit of immaturity, but when I heard that the first thought that came to mind was how stupid it was to fight over such meaningless differences, when you couldn’t even tell by looking at a person. But, really, do looks really matter, either?  In a way, that’s part of the message I took from the tour and the trip.  It was easy to get up caught up on one side, and say the other one was at fault because blah blah blah, and then mock the whole thing for being ridiculous, as opposed to other similar tragedies.  As I walked back to the city center, I went through a street of alternating violent and peaceful murals and unlocked gates.  War and peace until I passed the one I saw when I entered, that rang out a resounding “No more!”