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

Saying Goodbye

Time May 16th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Ireland | No Comments by

When Ashley, our IFSA-Butler Ireland representative sat us down for our Welcome Event, she mentioned how fast this semester would go. Through the ups and downs, the cold showers, the studying late nights, the friendships, the traveling, and everything in between, I never thought Ireland would really become my home in such a short time. And I never realized how fast the semester would really go.

Luckily, I didn’t have to do it alone. With the other 15 IFSA-Butler students, and a few honorary members, we became a group of strangers to a family. I hope you enjoy my last few photos in Ireland as much as I do.

They say that some memories can make you happy, and some can make you sad, but the memories that make you the happiest looking back years later are the memories of travel. I’m so lucky to have traveled throughout Ireland during this semester, and am so thankful to IFSA-Butler for helping me through this crazy change in my life! Read More »

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Daily Life as an Irish Student

Time March 7th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Ireland | No Comments by

Life in Ireland, wow, it’s amazing.

Of course, it has its ups and downs, but that’s just life in general. The best part is, every low is “higher” than the lows at home, because I’m here!

The most notable thing about Ireland that differs from The University of Tulsa would be the daily life. Here, I live in an apartment with four other girls, have a 20 minute walk to class, cook for myself, and have to adapt to the weather at any given moment. But hey, I’m learning how to live on my toes!

The best advice I can give to a student who is looking to study in Ireland is to pack with the weather in mind. The Irish students dress up, for classes, but only under their coat and rain jacket! A big hood is a must, layers, a scarf, and although they don’t wear rain boots a lot, when it pours they’re needed. The rainbows are beautiful, the grass is green, the walk to class is reflective as we pass the Irish countryside. Learning to cook has been a bit of a struggle, but luckily the other IFSA students and my Irish roommates are phenomenal chefs!

Daily life of an Irish student involves waking up in a snuggly bed and having to get up out of the burrito, put on some fuzzy slippers, and shower in the morning while the water is still warm. Put on a couple layers, make some breakfast and pack a lunch, double check that my charger is in my bag, and head to campus for the day. As the twenty minute walk is enjoyable with nice weather, I always have my rain jacket and enough homework to keep me on campus if it starts to pour, because the weather changes every 30-45 minutes. Tutorials (larger lectures) and Seminars (smaller discussions) throughout the day, studying and socializing in between, and making sure to keep up with the weekly socs (societies, which are like our clubs) email! Campus is always lively, whether it’s the cafeteria, Smokey’s Cafe, the library, the Arts Concourse, or the campus bar, Sult. With coffee and soup a day, I’m starting to feel more Irish. Hopefully I’ll turn a little greener for St. Patrick’s Day!

But until then, stay warm (and dry)! Read More »

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Triumphs and trials in the Islands

Time February 28th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | 1 Comment by

The transition from staying with my friend and her family to traveling on my own with a limited budget was a bit rough at first. But I have been glad to have my travel buddy with me to do all of the tourist activities that I missed out on in my first week in Cartagena. Not to mention he has successfully restored my confidence in my Spanish-speaking ability by comparison to his own. No longer able to rely on others to communicate for me, I have felt dually electrified and terrified by the challenge that traveling alone has posed and, more so, by the effect that is has had on me. Within a few days, I began to feel Spanish words and phrases coming to my mind with increasing speed and clarity. Within a week, I had my first dream in Spanish (Shakira took me shopping – it was awesome, she says that red is my color).

Our first day as tourists in Cartagena was spent on the beach in Boca Grande where I learned that laying in the equatorial sun at mid-day means multiple sun screen applications always. Later, we went downtown for a free walking tour of the oldest part of Cartagena. There are free walking tours offered in most every major city in South America and I strongly recommend them as the tour guides are extremely passionate about their cities. In Cartagena, free tours are offered in Spanish and English. We over confidently joined the Spanish group and ended up quietly slipping away to join the English one after five minutes of sheer confusion. As it turns out we don’t have much of a repertoire when it comes to Latin American history vocabulary. After two hours of learning about Colombian history and architecture, our guide ended the tour with an impassioned speech about his love for his country and how proud he is that Colombia’s international reputation is evolving from a country wrought with corruption and violence to a country of beautiful landscapes, rich culture and loving people. Read More »

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Academics Away from America

Time February 2nd, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Ireland | No Comments by

Academics Abroad: The reason why you chose the country/program you chose. The most important thing about studying abroad, the studying! And yes, I still focus on school while I’m abroad having fun, but going through IFSA-Butler made it so much easier.

Prior to leaving: I had no idea where to go. I knew I had to make sure I would still graduate on time, since I had not planned to go abroad (again). I knew I had two psychology classes and statistics that I needed specifically, and two electives. I made many phone calls and emails to the IFSA staff once I had chosen Ireland, wondering how many classes Irish students take (typically 6, or a lightened course load of 5). I knew I needed Tulsa to approve the classes before I left. I had Tulsa approve 8 classes with the help of the IFSA staff and their syllabus bank, and contacting a professor as statistics can have prerequisites and as a sophomore I was planning on taking the senior-level cognitive psychology class! Ah! Luckily they had previous students take the psychology classes that had passed the class. Statistics was still in the air, but we would see when I got here.

While here: I got to meet the other 15 IFSA students here. Luckily, I had students in both of my psych classes, and one of my electives, Celtic Mythology! As I went to my first sociology lecture, I realized it wasn’t for me, but here at NUIG there is a two-week add/drop period. I contacted Ashley, the IFSA rep, and asked for help to switch into Celtic Archeology, another elective class that had many IFSA students in it. She easily helped me and I emailed the international office here to get a course outline, to email back to Tulsa! And within a few days Tulsa had approved it too, yay! The only thing left in the air was statistics, so I waited after the first lecture to introduce myself to the professor, who was incredibly kind. He said that last semester half of his class got high honors (basically an A) and he wanted to help me achieve that. His office was open Monday – Wednesday for tea and help, gave me two class representatives to ask, and the campus resources and the hours that they have statistics tutors. I knew I could succeed in such a positive environment (he also passes around candy each class, so that was a perk). After the two-week add/drop period, we had to register online to get Blackboard and register with IFSA. Ashley came to campus to help us through the process – wow! Read More »

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Casey in Class

Time October 3rd, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Wales | No Comments by

Now that I’ve accomplished what seemed impossible last weekend–enrolling in classes–and have completed my first week of classes, I feel like I’ve had a decent amount of time to compile the list below:

​10 Things to Know About Uni When Studying Abroad in the U.K.:

  1. Courses are called modules. Classes are called lectures. Schedules are called timetables. Semesters are called terms. If the accent doesn’t give away the fact that you’re from the US, using any of these “American English” terms will.
  2. Professors are not called “Professor” until they’ve earned the title, much like how you wouldn’t call a professor who hasn’t gotten their doctorate “Dr. So-and-so.” Lecturers is a more appropriate term.
  3. My lectures have between 30 and 230 students in them, as opposed to back home, where I’ve never been in a class with more than 20 students. I definitely just feel like a number here (except for in the class in which I was called out for “being the American who emailed a lot of questions ahead of time.” I felt more than just a number in that class for sure…).
  4. University (Uni, for short) and college are not the same thing here like they are at home. When people ask what school I go to back home, I feel like I have to explain myself every time I say “Emory & Henry College.”
  5. Students attend Uni for 3 years, not 4. They don’t use freshman, sophomores, juniors, and seniors as descriptors, but say they are in Year 1, Year 2, or Year 3.
  6. Every lecture is set up the same way. The lecturer stands up in front of the class, opens up a PowerPoint presentation, and begins the lecture, not a second too early and not a second too late.
  7. Lectures are once a week. Not Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Not Tuesdays and Thursdays. Just one day a week.
  8. Lecturers will send/upload the slides for their lectures before the actual lecture, sometimes as far as two weeks in advance apparently. Students are expected to look at the slides beforehand, take notes on the slides, read out of 20 different books, take notes on those, and then show up to lecture just to take more notes, which they should review and rewrite later, combining them with the notes they took before the lecture. When looking at the amount of prep work students do here compared to the amount I do at home, I feel like I’ve been “college-ing” wrong this whole time.
  9. There is no such thing as a liberal arts education. It is completely unheard of to take classes in different schools. Students pick a school (or major) they want to be in and will only take classes in that school. For all of my E&H readers, this means no Transitions, no Foundations, no GWIC, no Connections, no Modes, etc.
  10. There are no pop-quizzes, no quizzes in general, no tests, no mid-terms, no reflection papers, and hardly any coursework. You can wave participation grades goodbye because there aren’t any of those either. Most of the time, each module will have one or two grades total. Whatever those grades are amount to your final grade. In a couple of my classes, I will have one graded written exam–a 2000 word essay–and in others I will have two written exams that will be averaged together. Yikes!

Side-note: I don’t mean to generalize with this list. It is just what I found to be true with my experience. Although some of these things will probably be a little difficult to get used to, I still feel like I am a normal college student, boarding the struggle-bus and fighting the battles of non-essential spending and procrastination.

In the end, my lectures seem like they’re going to be pretty interesting! I’m already super excited about this semester, and it’s only been a week! 10 more weeks to go! Wish me luck!

Want to know more about me? More about my adventure? More in general? Check out my travel blog “Casey in Cardiff” by clicking here or typing the following into your browser: www.caseyincardiff.weebly.com

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College and Uni: Going from Liberal Arts to Abroad

Time August 9th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Australia | No Comments by

There’s been a lot of new slang I’ve had to learn since coming to Australia. Usually, everything is shortened and that was the case with the word university. The word college is basically non-existent here and even saying university can be a bit of a stretch. No, the word Aussies prefer is short and sweet when it comes to their schooling: Uni. That’s only the beginning of the differences between small liberal arts colleges in the U.S. and giant universities across Australia. Being in classes for two weeks now, I’ve slowly adapted to the giant lecture style classes and more independent teaching method found here at the University of Adelaide, and hope I can provide some insight for future liberal arts students looking to study abroad.

First off, it has just been plain bizarre even being back in classes when I see my friends posting photos on Facebook hanging out on the beach, going to concerts, and enjoying their summer when I’m off to my 10:00 AM lecture in 50 degree weather. Getting back into the school work grind is a process in itself, but throw in an entirely new university and teaching system and it becomes a whole new journey. The biggest course I was ever in at F&M had about 35 people in it while the biggest lecture I have here in Adelaide has about 150 students. So besides the obvious size difference, what are the big differences in course work, teaching method, and overall university life in Australia versus that in the U.S.? Read More »

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This Can’t Be Real

Time January 20th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

I think I attend the most unreal school in the world.

Coming from an 800-person, STEM liberal arts college, I would think it’d be hard to find a less real-seeming school. But I found it in University of College Cork (or Coláiste na hOllscoile Corcaigh in Irish, which I’ve learned is also an unreal language).

On my first day, after crossing the River Lee twice to arrive on campus, I was directed to the “Hogwarts Building.” So named because, sure enough, this building could have materialized straight out of a J.K. Rowling novel.

And sure enough, UCC has a flourishing Harry Potter Society, in addition to fashion, drama, musical, music, fermentation and about 100 other clubs and societies (the ones listed got my enthusiastic approval and signup). I found it very interesting that every society advertising itself had a bin full of gummy candies to entice passerbys. Every single one. Gummy candies must be like mints in the United States? Investigation pending. Also, Fermentation Society? A society dedicated to cheese, bread, wine, and all things fermented? How can you not sign up for a society like that?

As it turns out, the creative societies throw a ball at the beginning of this semester. Not a dance, a BALL. With an ORCHESTRA and BALLROOM DANCING and LONG DRESSES. I approached the ticket booth and asked if I would need to know how to ballroom dance to attend the event. One of the people behind the counter hopped up and cued music, “I’ll teach you how to ballroom dance, right here, right now!” And he did. In the middle of the academic basement.

I’m telling you, this school can’t be real.

In fact, this whole city can’t be real.

As someone hailing from both Northern and Southern California, I don’t see many bodies of water that aren’t the ocean. The fact that the city center of Cork is surrounded by two substantial rivers still blows me away. The buildings and bridges are straight out of fairy tales, and all Cork residents seem to accept this otherworldliness as the norm.

And they’re the friendliest people on Earth! Always eager to answer questions, lead to destinations, recommend the best pubs, give the in on the live music around town. Cork is an easy city to navigate, not because of the winding streets and alleyways, but because of the walking friendly roadmaps that every citizen seems to be.

I’m busy planning trips across both Ireland and Europe: Kilkee, Ireland, a busy summer location but absolutely empty in the summer; London, England, where a friend of mine is studying at QMU; Glasgow, Scotland, for the beautiful hills and social atmosphere; Paris, France, for wine- and cheese-tasting; Venice, Italy, for the food and the beautiful canals; Zurich, Switzerland for the landscapes and castles; and anywhere else that is just a hop, skip, and a jump away. This continent is so dense with culture, and the close proximities of other countries makes it easy to see it all.

Next post will be about my trips to Kilkee and the Ring of Kerry, so stay tuned!

 

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Just a Backpack and a Suitcase

Time January 5th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

It hasn’t hit me yet that I’m studying abroad.

Nearly three months ago I got my acceptance from University College Cork.

Two weeks ago I packed up my entire dorm room and said goodbye to all my friends.

Yesterday I got my euros, bought my suitcase, and double-checked my flight.

I remember a very similar feeling—a concern that I wasn’t more concerned about such a big change—when I first left for my home college, Harvey Mudd. I packed up everything I needed to survive college into a car in order to start a new life somewhere else. If you’re a college student, it’s likely you’ve experienced the same thing; maybe instead of a car you had a moving van, or maybe you had just a suitcase.

For all you “just a suitcase” people, all of you that moved from your hometown to your college via plane, I salute you. Because my dear transnational and international friends, I am currently feeling your pain.

Suitcases aren’t very big. But our lives are huge!

As I mentioned, I just packed up my college dorm room—that took twenty boxes. And then I packed my bags for coming home for the holidays—that took a box, two backpacks, and one giant suitcase. Now I have to pack one backpack and one medium suitcase (both according to strict international flight size restrictions) that will sustain me for the next five months of my life.

My life has gone from twenty-boxes-sized to one-backpack-and-one-suitcase-sized.

And I’m terrified that I’m not more terrified.

I am one week away from studying abroad.

I am one week away from flying across the world to a country I’ve never visited, to live with people I’ve never met, in a culture I’ve never experienced.

I am one week away from the inevitable culture shock and missing my friends and family, armed with only my backpack and suitcase.

I’m also just one week away from the most amazing experience of my life.

I do get excited for my trip when I consider all of the adventures I’ll be going on, ranging from hostel-hopping to finding the nearest grocery store; from flying across Europe to figuring out how to be a vegetarian in Ireland.

And I hope this blog will be an opportunity for you to follow right along with me!

To give you some background, I am an industrial engineer from Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California. In my spare time, I enjoy costume design and construction and late night hot cocoa and boba runs. It was important when choosing my abroad college that it was English-speaking, offered certain technical courses, and was populated with friendly, fun people. Everywhere I looked, everyone I talked to, Ireland came up as the country with the loveliest people I could ask for. I’m going to be honest: that was about the extent of the research I did before making my decision. I chose University College Cork over University College Dublin because, coming from a very small school already, I wanted to stay at a relatively small college. The more I learn about Cork, the more and more happy I am about my (nearly blind) decision (Are you ready for culture shock to hit me like a brick in the face? Because I sure am!).

Even though I have yet to process this adventure that’s occurring in my very near future, I know it will be the adventure of a lifetime. I’m excited to have you along for the ride!

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Adjusting to Home

Time September 15th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Well, I’ve been back in Seattle for about two months. My summer was crazy busy, and now I’m back at Saint Martin’s. Being home and adjusting back to home has been weird, and at times it’s been uncomfortable.

The hardest part of adjusting back into my group of friends and my family was that, at times, it felt like everything had changed without me there. Other times, though, it felt like I had grown and changed SO MUCH and everyone else had stayed exactly the same. Also, no one really wanted to hear about my whole five months in Argentina, which was hard because I wanted to tell everyone about every little thing that had happened.

Over the summer, I stayed really busy. I spent a couple weeks with my friends, went to a family reunion, performed in a musical, and then spent time with family from out of town. Now, I’m back in school, and it’s different. My classes are more difficult, although it’s kind of weird to have all of my classes be in English, and I feel like I have less time to get out and explore my surroundings. I guess I don’t need to, but it’s weird how I feel like I know Recoleta and Palermo better than I do the town I’ve lived in for the majority of four years.

The other hard part is remembering that a semester passed here without me; the memories of SMU that seem so recent to me are almost a year old. Especially odd are the “recent” memories I have with one of my best friends – he studied abroad the semester before I did, so we barely saw each other for the entirety of the last school year. It kind of feels like I existed for five months in an alternate universe.

I think maybe this post makes it sound like I hate being home or like adjusting back to the US was the hardest thing I’ve ever done – I dont, and it’s not. Some days are harder than others, and you keep the experiences you’ve had close to your heart, and falling back into step with your friends does have it’s tough moments. However, getting to cuddle up with my dog pretty much makes every hard moment worth it. I loved my time in BA, I wouldn’t trade it for the world, and I think I’d like to go back there someday, but at least until I graduate, I’ll be staying in Seattle.

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Wale, Wale, Wale(s) What do we have here?

Time January 26th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Wales | No Comments by

What we have here is my first week in CARDIFF! It feels incredibly surreal to finally be here, especially after all of the planning and research time that I’ve put into this trip. Obviously a weekend in London was cool, but I’m finally in the city where I’ll be living for 5 months. Holy cow.

Read More »

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Coming Home

Time June 2nd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Well, after 5 months and 8 countries, I am back on US soil.  It took two planes and 12 hours in the air, but I am finally home.  I keep finding myself pointing out every single difference to friends and family as I acclimate, and luckily they haven’t become bored of my random exclamations yet.  Some of the more common ones are ‘I hate dollar bills, why don’t we have coins’ ‘Everything is so cheap here’ ‘I keep looking the wrong direction while crossing the street and almost getting hit’.   I already miss Ryanair’s 15 euro flights to Scotland, and the walkability of Cork City.  I live in LA, which is pretty different from Cork.  I find myself melting in the heat, confused about the fact I have to drive everywhere, and sad that I can no longer chill in the city centre and then be home after only a 30 minute walk.

Cork was an experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life, and I hope I can go back someday.  Ireland is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, even with its rain.  Studying abroad allowed me to pause for a moment and discover myself without all the societal pressures of America (although Ireland has their own unique ones).  I learned how to be an outsider, a completely new experience for me.  I have a newfound appreciation for being able to drive to the store instead of walk 30 minutes, but I will miss how healthy those walks made me.  The European education system was terrifying, but I learned to navigate it.  It may be a cliche, but Ireland honestly made me more independent, and I’m so glad IFSA-Butler allowed me this opportunity.

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Home Again

Time January 29th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

“We are torn between a nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange. As often as not, we are homesick most for the places we have never known.” – Carson McCullers

So I’ve been back in the US for a while now.

Being back is possibly the strangest feeling in the world. When I first got back I was exhausted. I was so happy to be home to see my family and my friends and celebrate my 21st birthday the American way, celebrate Christmas and New Years with people I love and hadn’t seen in months. And it was especially bittersweet as I had only recently found out that my family would be moving in a few months, so I was trying to soak in every moment in Memphis that I could. It was normal being back, or as normal as going home for the holidays is when you’ve been away at school.

But now that I’ve been back at college for a couple of weeks, I’m realizing just how strange being back is. I don’t exactly know how to explain my experience abroad. I loved traveling, seeing new things, meeting new people, forcing myself to be more confident in my abilities, creating deep friendships in short periods of time. When people ask me, “How was it?” all I can say is, “Amazing, life changing.” I don’t know how else to describe it in a short, conversational way. I don’t want to dominate the conversation with all my tales, which I could easily do with the amount of things I experienced.

A lot of people go abroad at my school and most of us live in a building together, so it’s nice to be able to compare experiences or commiserate, whichever we feel like. But I miss the group I went abroad with. I miss feeling like every moment was a treasure and you couldn’t waste it because you never knew when you’d be in that place, in that moment, again. I miss the feeling of adventure and mystery. And I know that I can travel here, meet new people here, see new places, try new things. But I guess it just doesn’t feel the same. It has inspired me to want to be more involved at my home university in an effort to get that feeling back. And I’m hoping that I won’t miss Ireland, and Europe, and all my friends so much as time goes on.254857_4374867528855_1012273642_n 246497_10152144752640089_301287136_n 281458_10151221655944417_124949117_n 335162_10152144749030089_453677619_o 374028_10151221654114417_1931392003_n 534582_525007824179103_1293993088_n 536548_10151271779475879_46586729_n 32383_10151221676354417_632995287_n.

But for now I just flip through all of the pictures and videos I took of all the beautiful places I visited and all the amazing people I met and hope I can travel again soon, even if it’s just across the country.

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The End.

Time December 14th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

“Never say Goodbye, because Goodbye means going away, and going away means forgetting…” – J.M. Barrie

Well this is it.

The end.

And I feel completely unprepared for it.

I feel like there are so many things I didn’t get to see or do or enjoy enough. But then I also think even if I were here for a few years it wouldn’t be enough time. But 4 months is definitely not enough time; that I know.

I don’t think I can adequately express how much I have loved the past 4 months of my life. All of the amazing people that I have met and who I know will be my friends for the rest of my life. All of the breathtaking sites I have seen. Every note of music I’ve heard. Every interesting taste or smell that I know I won’t find at home. Even little things like just walking through town or experiencing the disorganization of a Ryanair flight. Hearing different types of Irish accents around me at any given time, or hearing people speak Irish at the Tesco down the road. Digestive biscuits, fresh doughnuts (emphasis on the dough), mulled wine, pints of Guinness, street performers, the Citylink bus to Dublin I took more times than I care to admit, crappy instant coffee, the 20 minute walk into town, all of the construction on campus, tiny showers/toilets, paying for public toilets, train rides through foreign countries, getting lost in foreign cities and discovering beautiful gardens and buildings. I’ll miss it all.

Yea, some of those don’t sound so great and I’ll probably miss some things more than others, but with the ever-growing-closer date of departure looming a mere day ahead of me, I feel nostalgic for it all already. I went Christmas shopping today on Shop Street and looking at all of the Christmas decorations, which in DC makes me a little homesick for my family, made me incredibly sad to think that I wouldn’t be spending Christmas here, in Galway, in Ireland, in Europe.

I am, of course, beyond happy when I think of seeing my family, my friends, my house, my own room, my dog. I will soon be able to go to the grocery store and recognize every brand, I will spend money without doing conversions in my head all of the time, I will drive a car, I won’t have to walk to the store, I will eat some of my favorite foods and get delicious home cooked meals. I will celebrate Christmas with my loved ones, as well as my 21st birthday and New Year’s. Even with all of that though, and even with one last daunting final to complete, I really, really, REALLY don’t want to leave what has come to be my home, Galway.

Galway Girl

With a broken heart and a ticket home.

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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]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QGzFFMmIOo&feature=youtu.be[/youtube]

Live music at the Gravity Bar at the Guinness Storehouse: [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vr1o0t9VaM&feature=youtu.be[/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]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWyWaMtSaCs&feature=youtu.be[/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.

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“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.”

Time November 2nd, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Embarrassing…only half this post went up and I’m not sure why. So here it is again, but different because of course…I didn’t save the original!

Last weekend I took my first international weekend trip since I’ve been to Ireland! I traveled quite a bit before arriving in Galway but it was my first trip to Hungary (the country where my dad’s side of the family immigrated from), and the first time where coming back to Ireland felt like coming home.

Unfortunately, a few nights before I left my wallet was stolen at a bar in Galway. In all honesty it was probably more my carelessness that enabled someone to take it than anything else since I’m the only one from my program to experience any kind of problems here.

Luckily my immigration card wasn’t in my wallet but I did lose some money, my NUIG student ID, and most unfortunately, my debit card. On a positive note, I have some amazing friends who helped me out and loaned me money while I cancelled my card and ran out of the cash I had at home. Since I opted not to open an Irish bank account and my bank is a smaller state bank, I had to wait for them to send my card to my home address in the US and have my mom forward me my card here, where it got stuck in customs for a few days because it needed some kind of special form to be filled out. Then there’s no post on Saturdays and Sundays and this past Monday was a bank holiday so again the post service wasn’t open. I finally received my card though, and all is well. But a little word of advice: maybe don’t bring your card with you when you go out and also have some kind of contingency plan with your bank so that there’s a faster way for you to regain access to your money!

Luckily, this little hiccup did not stop me from having an amazing time in Budapest! It was really one of the best trips of my life and I am already trying to find a way to return.

Alleyway in Budapest. St. Stephen’s Basilica is in the background covered by the smog/haze that seemed to coat the city.

View of the Danube River and the Hungarian Parliament building from the bridge leading to Margaret Island.

Hungarian lace and linen at the little market we ran into on the streets of Budapest.

Me standing on the Chain Bridge that leads over the Danube to the Budapest Castle, it was absolutely beautiful!

Stall at the market where the delicious Transylvanian Chimney Cakes were being roasted over a coal burning fire. These were so good and unique tasting that we went back the next day for more!

And of course we had fun at our hostel when they organized an open mic night and some of the guys sang part of a song…over and over again! [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jmcj1Ilqysc&feature=share[/youtube]

Since I didn’t have much money, I had a nice excuse to have a weekend exploring Galway, something I should have done long ago. I went to the fresh market Galway has on Saturdays downtown, and on Sunday walked to Salthill, a suburb right on the beach outside of Galway.

We got some delicious hot and fresh donuts from one of the stalls at the fresh market! Seriously it was so fresh and hot that it got squished from being in the bag for only a minute or so.

Fresh carrots and onions from one of the vegetable stands at the market.

One of downtown Galway’s main roads on an early Sunday afternoon.

Galway Bay, on the walk to Salthill

View of Salthill from the diving platform…where we saw several people swimming in the freezing cold water, some of them not even wearing wet suits!

The little explorations of Galway came at just the right time, though. After having so much fun in Budapest I was feeling the excitement of Ireland starting to wind down after being here for 2 months (especially since school was starting to get a little more serious with midterms and essays and presentations due and that was what I had to look forward to on my return from Hungary), I was just feeling a little tired of Galway. But exploring the city and the surrounding areas got me excited about Ireland again. Sometimes you just need to change up your routine a little to shake off any bad feelings.

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