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

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 »

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Casey Finds a Cache

Time November 14th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Wales | No Comments by

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the past two weeks, it’s this: if you ever want to see a part of the world—and really see it, like the locals and tourists see it—open up your geocaching app and start walking.

Cork in Ireland, Fort William, Glencoe, and Glasgow in Scotland, and soon to be Cardiff in Wales, would not have been as interesting if it weren’t for the geocaches along the way. The different caches hidden around these cities and villages tend to have a little description about the place they are hidden in, and that little description is usually pretty interesting to the wannabe queen of quirky fun facts (hey, that’s me!). For example, did you know there’s a clock tower in Cork that is called the Four Faced Liar because each of the four faces on their respective sides tell a slightly different time until the hour hits and they all read the hour correctly?? Or that the “fort” in Fort William wasn’t completely destroyed during a war or battle like most castles and forts were, but by a train company in 1894, temporarily turning the fort into a rail yard?? I didn’t think so.

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As you can see, some of the tidbits of information are a little more historical than others. Sometimes the information about the location of the cache is a memory of the person who hid the cache. Other times the descriptions are blank or don’t have any fun facts, just hints. It’s still fun looking around the area each one is hidden in. Some caches are teeny tiny, only big enough to fit a log for you to sign, while others are huge and hold neat little treasures to trade in and out.


If you haven’t been geocaching, or don’t know what it is, you totally should, especially if you want to know more about the town you’re living in! Even if you just want to pretend your Nicholas Cage, hunting for your own little National Treasure (like me), that’s cool, too! For all my E&H friends back home, there are a couple by Emory that are fun, quick finds—I’d totally recommend it.I’m looking forward to finding more geocaches in more of the places I plan on traveling to. It really has been the best way to find all of the best spots in town. Give it a try—you might just find a new hobby, too!

I’m off to find my next cache! 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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Casey Cuts Class

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

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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Faith Takes Europe

Time April 27th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

One great thing about how UCC does finals is that it includes a study break that’s at least a week long between the last day of classes and your first final. I got a break of almost two weeks– two weeks I know that I could not spend the entirety of studying. Making sure to block off two solid days before my first final to study, I planned my “study break” around Europe. Read More »

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Visiting Kilkee

Time February 16th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

My second weekend in Ireland, a group of American students, including myself, set off for Kilkee. I honestly had no idea why we were going or what of interest we were supposed to find there, but with a name like “Kilkee,” the town had potential from the get-go. Five hours of bus later, we arrived in the emptiest town I have ever seen. It was a Friday evening, and the streets and buildings were dark and desolate. We dropped our bags at the adorable bed and breakfast and walked down to the beach, listening to but not seeing the waves crash on the bay.

In the morning, we went over our plans for the day at breakfast. I have fallen in love with breakfast in Ireland, where cheese, soda bread, scrambled eggs, and smoked salmon have been the norm in many places I’ve visited. Once we were all very full, we set out to the cliffs.

Kilkee is shaped a bit like a horseshoe, with ocean in the middle and cliffs branching off on either side. Every set of cliffs we approached, we stopped to take pictures; each set was more grand than the last. Torrential rain and biting wind whipped around us, and we grasped the handrail to avoid being blown over the edge. The steep drop-offs were slate grey and shear, with dark turquoise waves beating against their bases as if to tear them down. Our group was spread thin across the cliffs, everyone pausing in their own time to take in the enormity of what lay before them.

By the end, I felt very very small. I knew that moments like these were what people were talking about when they say studying abroad is a life-changing experience.

We walked down the middle of a country road back into town, running into no one and gazing upon rows and rows of stone walls and grass so green it looked fake. My walking partner and I decided Kilkee was an entirely different planet on its own.

Back in town, we found a spa that did seaweed therapy, a popular type of treatment in Kilkee. I would’ve never thought a seaweed bath would be so refreshing. We returned to the B&B afterward, sat by the fireplace, and rested and talked. Dinner was fish and chips and seafood chowder and lamb stew (which seem to be on the menu nearly everywhere), and drinks were at the Greyhound, one of very few pubs open during the winter in Kilkee. The locals there told us about 900 people lived there, meaning our small group of 10 increased the town’s population by about 1% for the time of our visit. They further shared that the summers in Kilkee are crazy busy, with about 20,000 tourists coming to swim and gaze upon the cliffs and go to the seaweed spas. They were excited to hear that we were American (another common theme I’ve found in Ireland), and welcomed us eagerly to their lovely town.

Another day of cliffs and hearty food and soul searching followed, along with another five hours of bus back to Cork. Kilkee is a place I will absolutely visit again in my life, during the frigid winter, with its whistling winds and weird seaweed baths and lonely beaches and friendly people.

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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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Blarney Castle and Ending Thoughts on my Semester

Time January 5th, 2016 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

My friends and I decided to end our semesters in Ireland with one of the most quintessential activities of Ireland — visiting Blarney Castle and kissing the Blarney Stone. Below you can see some photos of the castle and grounds, including some beautiful waterfalls.

But this post isn’t just about another adventure I had. Looking back, I realize how little time I’d spent wondering about how my semester abroad would be spent. I chose Galway because of its beauty, but it ended up being so much more than that. Galway became my home base during a three month European adventure, and I definitely couldn’t have chosen a better one. No matter where I was jet-setting off to, by the end of the weekend I was excited to board the bus headed west and see the friendly faces of Galway. Additionally, my semester abroad pushed me to be more independent, something that will become essential in my life as I graduate college and go off into the “real world”. Not only was I really living on my own in a new country, but I was also planning trips and travelling internationally by myself. My semester abroad prepared me for what is in store in just a year and a half, when I leave the JHU bubble and have only myself to count on.

For any future IFSA Galwegians (Galway-ers?), here is my final list of unexpected/weird things about Ireland.

*Note: I’m sure there are more things

  1. It is almost impossible to find normal potato chips. The standard flavor is “Cheese and Onion” (not a personal favorite, but not the worst thing I’ve ever tried)
    1. Note: another common flavor is “prawn”, or shrimp flavored chips
    2. Note 2: it is also nearly impossible to find pretzels in Ireland. This was especially upsetting to me, a self-identifying pretzel addict)
  2. I can’t speak for the rest of Ireland, but at least in Galway, pedestrians do not have the right of way. This is especially important when crossing the major roads nearby when grocery shopping.
  3. The Irish (and much of the rest of Europe) find American politics hilarious, and often make jokes about it during lectures.
  4. While the national language is Irish (note: not ‘Gaelic’ as Americans call it), only a minute percentage of the population actually speaks fluent Irish, let alone those who use it as their primary language. This is odd on its own, however it is stranger even that almost all official signs (e.g. street signs, billboards) are in Irish with an English translation.
  5. While holding up two fingers with the palm facing out is a symbol for peace, flipping your hand so that the palm points in means the same thing as putting up your middle finger. For short: there are no “deuces” in Ireland, so be wary.
  6. Times of day that are 30 minutes past the hour are referred to as “half”, for example “Breakfast is at half nine” or “We arrived at half three.”
  7. While we refer to the school subject as “math”, they make it plural, for example “I study maths at university”.
  8. The last letter of the alphabet is pronounced “zed”. I found this especially funny while listening to Irish friends sing the alphabet song, as it doesn’t complete the rhyme of the song.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my semester abroad. Personally, I’m excited to get back home to my family and friends to have a nice winter break before heading back to school. Happy holidays and have a happy New Year!

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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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Orientation for Cork, Ireland

Time January 9th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

So last week we had IFSA Butler & UCC orientation, and I must say I have a great group.  We have 3 Scrippsies, 4 Colby students, and 9 students from various other colleges.  Day 1 (New Years Day!) consisted of meeting at the airport (I had to take the shuttle back from my hotel), taking a bus to Cork from Dublin (there was a full size rainbow), and having a dinner together.

Day 2 was held in a conference room of the hotel, where we were given the most incredible breakfast I’ve ever had in my life (it was called an Irish Breakfast), as well as the rundown on Irish Culture and Academics and what to expect for the coming year.  We were then transported to our flats (which were surprisingly large) and shown the way to Tesco, basically this country’s version of Walmart.  It was when we were left alone there that the trouble started.

First of all, I’ve never had to feed just myself in my life.  Sure, I’ve cooked often, but I usually make family dinners, and the excess ingredients are used up within the week.  Suddenly I had to deal with the fact that if I didn’t eat it, no one would.  I had absolutely no idea how much to buy, and muddled about picking out things I might like to eat.  Second problem was the fact that you shouldn’t use paper bags if you are going to walk home in the rain.  Yes, Heather thought we were clever at first for not purchasing the bags the store was selling, but in reality those things rip fast.  Luckily those with plastic bags were willing to help out the idiots of the group (including me).  Second, if you are buying a phone, realize that our generation texts, not calls.  I got unlimited calling to all Irish mobiles and landlines, but unfortunately (and intelligently) everyone else in my group got unlimited texting.  Luckily I can change it next month, so all was not lost.

Thursday was our University College Cork (UCC) orientation, which gave us most of the same rundown that Butler did, except it was for all international students.  We also got a tour of the campus in the rain, and our computer accounts.  Classes started on Monday, and luckily I got the ones I wanted! (more on that later)

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