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 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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Dublin Street Art

Time October 28th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Ireland | No Comments by

Daily inspirations I walk by on my way to school and throughout Dublin.

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The Quest to Find the Best Cafe in Dublin

Time October 10th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Ireland | No Comments by

Attempting to find the perfect cafe with

  1. Good (cheap) coffee
  2. Wifi
  3. Ample seating

Right now (for studying purposes), KC Peaches is in the lead because they have great wifi and tons of table space for studying.

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My First Week in Dublin ♥

Time September 12th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, Ireland | No Comments by

I believe that there are few things that are as chaotic as your first week in a foreign country. Everyone around you is scrambling to get kitchen supplies, food, mobiles, travel cards, friends—the full gamut of human panicking upon realization that ‘I’m going to spend a semester in this place.’

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Lots of Good Craic!

Time March 28th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: where has the time gone?! Last week I remembered that it was two weeks since I had gone to Dublin with the IFSA group. The morning before we boarded the bus to leave, I submitted my most recent blog post. Now another week has gone by and I’m about to submit this post. How have 3 weeks already passed? This Friday I’m heading on another IFSA weekend trip, which means that it will be a month since the Dublin trip. Oh, and it’s spring break and April begins on Friday. Is this some mean April Fools’ Joke? Do I really only have two months left in Belfast?

The saying “time flies when you’re having fun” could not be more accurate when describing my experience. I learned in orientation that craic means fun, so I guess you can say that I’ve been having a lot of craic. (now that’s fun to say out loud! It sounds like crack!)

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Dublin to Limerick!

Time January 21st, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

I still can’t conceptualize that I am here.  Dublin was pretty sick and I had a great time for the first few days I was there.  I was so lucky to get the chance to spend the night with my best friend from home, Pat.  He had spent the previous week in London with a couple buddies from home and had a layover in Dublin the first night I got in.  Naturally, we went out on the town.  Our first stop was in Temple Bar at a local pub that had a band playing sing-along hits of the ‘80s and ‘90s.  After a few drinks and some good conversation we decided to go over to the band and listen.  As the acoustic duo started to tell pub-goers their set would be ending soon, they got the crowd riled up by playing (insert song name here), a classic way to end.

 

We then decided to see what Dublin nightlife was all about.  We exited the pub and quickly found a carriage cyclist.  I asked him where the best spot was and he mentioned Dicey’s Nightclub… I now know why my trip advisor purposely left it off the list she had prepared for me earlier in the day.  Needless to say, we had a fantastic time together.  Not to mention it was easy on my wallet with drinks for only two Euro!

 

Oh yeah, jet lag is definitely a real thing.  I was a disaster the next day.  Surprisingly my head was clear as could be, but damn, I was so fatigued.  After some pre-orientation stuff over at University College Dublin (UCD), I had to head back and get some rest.  This put me right back on track and when I woke up in the morning, the jet lag was gone.

 

Now, off to Limerick. I can’t wait to meet some of my friends and family.  Apparently they have stuff already planned for me.  We shall see…

 

Talk soon.

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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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Free Laughs in Dublin

Time November 1st, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hello All!

This weekend I had a grand old time going to a free comedy show in the basement of a pub just off of Grafton Street. I believe it was called “Stag’s Head”, but the event was certainly named Comedy Crunch. All of the acts were Irish folks, but interestingly there were equal number Irish people attending the event as there were performing! That equals 6 Irish folks in the audience to 6 Irish comics. It was shocking considering the basement was jam-packed with likely over 80 people. The first comics decided to take a survey of the room to get a feeling for the makeup of the crowd, which was quite diverse. There were a pair of Dutch gentlemen, three bankers from Scotland, a handful of English ladies, a couple tables of Spanish people, an Argentinian fellow, a Brazilian couple, a few Canadians, a couple of French Canadians (friends of mine), a couple of French people, an overwhelming number of Italian people, and a handful of Americans (including myself). Yet, there were only two small groups of Irish people, one group was a rowdy bunch of Dublin marathoners and the other a group of college aged kids. Impressive in the amount of diversity there was, but strange in the lack of local attendees. The comics were all entertaining, I noticed each of them made a joke about America likely because I and a few other Americans happened to be sitting right in front of the stage. A couple of them were also quite critical of Ireland’s financial situation often relating it back to the EU’s financial situation as a whole. I was surprised as one of the comics was quite dour the entire time he was on stage, not sure if it was part of his act or if it was his personality, but his jokes fit well with his demeanor. In any case it was interesting to see and my friends and I had a great time, plus it was free!

A few other things I noticed while walking in Dublin this weekend were the people, mostly about the modes of transportation. Recently, I’ve noticed that, despite the stereotype that Europeans all drive tiny cars, that seems to becoming less and less true. I keep seeing larger sedans (Mercedes), SUV’s, and even a few mini vans; they’re not hard to pick out either in comparison to the numerous tiny cars that still populate the streets. It may be that the large-car craze is catching on in Europe. Secondly, although Dublin is a big city, by any standards, the people don’t seem to walk as the stereotype is for city-folk: FAST. I’ve never lived in a big city (Philadelphia, New York City, etc), but I’ve been to these places and the people there do tend to walk quite quickly. I tend to walk fairly quickly, but not at an NYC pace. It was only this weekend that I noticed people in Dublin, on average, walk noticeably slower than I do. I was a bit surprised by this as I was expecting fast paced, big city walkers. But, I suppose it’s hard to do that when people are stopping to listen or watch street performers, which is definitely one of the coolest parts of downtown Dublin. Additionally, it could be that the volume of people walking on the sidewalks is too much to maintain a fast pace as many of the sidewalks are narrower than those found in more modern big cities, much of the architecture, including the streets, is quite old in Dublin (another facet of the city’s charm).  Just a few more observations, Halloween is tonight, going to a few events, Halloween is huge in Dublin, but more on that later.

Cheers,

Wesley!

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Meeting up with friends in Dublin

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

After we got back from dinner with my family we decided it was too late to go out (I know we’re boring).  Granted we had been up since 4:30am, so we planned what we wanted to visit on Saturday and headed to bed.

We got a much later start to Saturday than we were expecting, so we had to cross off some things on our list like The Book of Kells.  Luckily, my cousin gave us the lowdown on what to expect there.  His words not mine, “You go into the library and see all these old books and think, ‘that’s cool, but they’ll probably all fit in a Kindle anyways.’  Then you see two pages of the book of Kells and you’re done.”

We used the app Hailo to get a taxi from my cousin’s house.  *If you’re ever traveling and have a smart phone download Hailo.  It’s the best app for hailing a taxi.  It will give you the name of your driver, the license plate, and the ETA.  The best part is that you can also prepay using a credit card, so that they can’t overcharge you!*   And then we were off to Kilmainham Gaol.

Kilmainham Gaol was built in 1796 and was known as a “reform jail”.  Instead of having a ton of prisoners crowded into one room, each prisoner had his/her own room with a cot, a candle that had to last you two weeks, and a bucket (you know what for.)  This way you never knew who was in the cell beside you.

 

A typical prison cell

 

 

 

Door of a prison cell with a tiny hole

 

 

This is where Liam will go next time he gets in trouble

 

hundreds of cells with a pulley used to bring food upstairs.

Part of the rich history of this jail is that of the Easter Rising. 16 Irish men led a rebellion for Irish Independence on Easter morning 1916.  Unfortunately for them, it didn’t work out so well and they were all sent to Kilmainham, where they awaited death by firing squad.  The amazing this is what happened after.  One man in particular Joseph Mary Plunkett was able to mary his long-time love, Grace, moments before his death in the chapel at the jail.  This heart-breaking story is what caused many Irish to be moved and fight for independence.

Chapel where Grace and Joseph were married.

 

Cross that stands where 15 of the 16 were executed.

I would definitely recommend visiting Kilmainham Gaol if you’re ever in Dublin.  Our tour guide was great and it was really neat learning about the rich history that surrounds the Republic of Ireland.  You might even get lucky and have a girl who at the conclusion of the tour asks, “So is Ireland it’s own country now?”

 Next up was Temple Bar.  This is a really touristy area, but we were determined to get fish and chips and of course a drink at Temple Bar.  The Temple Bar area was really neat filled with little shops, pubs, and restaurants.  I was determined to find a 99 on the way from the jail to temple bar and in the temple bar area, but unfortunately we were unable to do so.

 

Fish and Chips at Burdocks

 

 

From Temple Bar we ventured to Dublin Castle, which was really pretty on the outside.  We were expecting it to be just as grand on the inside, but it wasn’t.  Troubled by the fact that a room entitled, “Queen’s Bedroom” did not contain a bed, we decided to ask one of the workers.  Apparently the Irish government is allowed to use the Castle for conferences whenever they wish, so they keep as little things as possible inside the rooms, so that it’s easier to set up for events.  Most of the original pieces are hidden away in storage!

 

Dublin Castle

 

Entrance to the Castle museum

 

Next up was St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  We were too late to go inside, but the outside was so pretty!  The park would be a perfect place to study if you’re studying in Dublin.

 

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

 

Pretty water fountain in the middle of the park

 

Outside the entrance

 

I was a little sad that I wasn’t staying later on Sunday, because it would’ve been wonderful to go to mass at St. Patrick’s, but after taking some pictures of St. Patrick’s we were back to the house.  We got ready fairly quickly and were off to see Caroline.  Caroline and a couple of other Americans studying at Trinity live in this beautiful big house.  To my surprise all the other Davidson students were there as well.  It was so much fun to see everyone.  We hung out at Caroline’s for a little bit before heading out to a pub and then a club called Dicey’s.  It was really fun at the club dancing with Americans (British people tend to not move a lot when they dance).

 

Davidson students do Dublin

 

Caroline and I
Dicey’s stamp on my hand

I had an awesome time in Dublin and am excited to be back there soon.  It is a much smaller city than London and is definitely a must see if you’re looking for the same social culture as London, but in a walkable place.

xx,

Francesca

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A weekend trip to Dublin

Time October 28th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Top of the morning to you!

 

Two weekends ago on October 11-13 I took a little weekend trip to Dublin with a couple of friends from Queen Mary.  Myself, Chelsea (who you’ve already met), and Allison (a student from Lafayette College) came and stayed with me at my cousin’s house. The reason for this trip was that I really wanted to visit one of my best friends from Davidson, Caroline, who is studying abroad at Trinity College.

By coincidence Chelsea also has a good friend that goes to F&M with her who is on the same program with Caroline.  We decided this weekend would be perfect as it was her friend’s birthday weekend.  Unfortunately things didn’t go as planned and Chelsea’s friend had to fly home due to a family emergency.

 We left for Dublin early on Friday morning.  The flights we’ve been booking recently have been leaving really early, so it’s been quite a hassle getting to the airport with the tube opening later, but we’ve found one of the most convenient modes of transportation… The National Express.  The National Express is a 24/7 bus service that picks up right across the street from our tube station, Mile End, and goes to a variety of places including Stansted Airport.  So, we boarded a 5:17am bus to Stansted airport and off to Dublin we went.

 At the airport we met up with other Davidson students studying abroad in London, who coincidentally picked the same weekend to go to Dublin to visit Caroline.  We didn’t realize that you had to queue in order to get seats on Ryanair.  We thought the number on our ticket was the order you boarded, so we decided to join a bachelor party in line that had the most awesome t-shirts.   Our flight was extremely late, arriving an hour late to Dublin, but I guess that’s typical of Ryanair.

 We got a taxi at the airport and were off to my cousin’s house.  We ate lunch and then headed to the Guinness Storehouse.  There we met up with the other Queen Mary students and had a fun afternoon learning how to make Guinness, sampling, and enjoying the view from the top of the Brewery.

 

Queen Mary students do the Guinness Storehouse

 

“It’s supposed to taste like chocolate and coffee…”

 

 

Allison, me, and Chelsea with our pints

 

The view of Dublin from the top of the brewery

 

Me, Chelsea, Jessica, and Allison with our pints

 

After the storehouse we went back to the house, where we met up with my family for dinner. We went to an Italian restaurant in Dundrum, which is a large shopping center with really funny flat escalator ramps.  The dinner was so good I got a pasta dish and then my favorite dessert, tiramisu.  Dinner took a while so we headed back to the house after and planned what we wanted to do on Saturday.  I will update you on our adventures in my next post!

 

Meeting up with Family in Dublin

 xx,

Francesca

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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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An Irish St. Patrick’s Day

Time March 22nd, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Top O the mornin’ to ya!  Can you guess it??  I finally ventured out of the United Kingdom and entered Ireland for the very first time in my life!  I was so excited to see some leprechauns and a big pot of gold.  Unfortunately, that stuff doesn’t exist in real life (that I know about), but Guinness beer does, and boy was it good.  So why Dublin?  It was St. Patty’s Day of course!  I was the one of many tourists who visited Ireland that weekend to spend all my money in the pubs.  Besides celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, this was my trip to visit my friend Norah who is studying at Trinity College in Dublin!  What a double whammy.  Thankfully, I have a friend in Dublin because accommodation in Dublin was completely booked, including hostels.  If I didn’t book my flight as early as I did, I could have been looking at a £200 flight ticket one way.  On normal days, tickets could cost as low as £20.  Everyone worldwide knows to come to Ireland on March 17.

I arrived in Dublin on Thursday, March 15 around 8 pm after a long day of traveling.  Unfortunately, flying out of Cardiff has its challenges.  If you look on a map, Cardiff and Dublin are pretty close, so what’s the problem, you ask?  Cardiff is not a well known city (despite being a capitol city), and the only airlines flying out to Dublin was extremely expensive.  Finding my route to Dublin was a challenge, and I did a lot of homework to figure out how to do it.  I first looked at ferries from Wales to Ireland.  I would have to travel to Holyhead (northwest Wales), which would have been a 5 hour train ride, and it would have been more expensive taking the train than flying.  Flying was definitely the best option, but flying from where?  Bristol!  Bristol, England is only a 45-minute train ride from Cardiff, and I found tickets very cheap (it does help that I have a student railcard; the discounts are amazing!).  On my way to Bristol, I had a lovely chat with my mom on the phone before I headed off on my adventure.  Once I arrived at Bristol Temple Meads train station, I took a bus from the station to the airport, which is one of the smallest airports I’ve ever been to.  Of course I’m used to O’Hare.  I arrived with two hours to spare because I had no idea how long it was going to take me to get through security.  It was nice to keep my shoes on as I was walking through the metal detectors.  I flew out of Ryanair which is one of the cheap airlines to travel throughout Europe.  Sometimes, they sell plane tickets for £12 anywhere in Europe.  Too bad there isn’t a Ryanair in Cardiff, or any part of Wales.  It’s annoying traveling to England just to fly out of the UK for a decent price.

The flight to Dublin was just less than an hour.  I got a lovely new green (of course it’s green) stamp on my passport, and I was on my way.  There were green, white, and orange balloons everywhere, along with many decorations inside Dublin Airport.  I took a bus from the airport to the city centre at Trinity College/Grafton Street where I finally met up with Norah!!  I hadn’t seen her since the fall semester ended in December, so it was a very happy homecoming for the both of us.  My first night there was a relaxing one.  We watched Forrest Gump at her apartment while we ate dinner.  This Forrest Gump night was a long time coming.  We planned on having a Forrest Gump night in the fall at Iowa, but with different schedules, it was hard to coordinate a date.  Watching this movie in Dublin made the moment a whole lot sweeter.

Forrest Gump

“My name’s Forrest, Forrest Gump”

Friday was rainy.  It was very hard to see the city because it was either misty or pouring.  Sometimes it was raining with the sun out to show off some nice rainbows.  I hoped there was a pot of gold on the end of them.  Why I came to Ireland without an umbrella or a raincoat is beyond me.  I think I wanted the weather to be nice, and therefore I didn’t bring appropriate raingear.  So dumb.  Norah and I mostly ventured into the city centre where we saw a lot of St. Patty’s decorations.  We walked around the Bank of Ireland, Temple Bar, and touristy souvenir shops.  Eventually, we sought shelter at a pub called MacTurcaills, and that is where I had my very first Guinness!  I honestly didn’t know what to expect.  I have been saving up for this moment for a long time, and it actually wasn’t bad at all.  I don’t know what it tastes like in the States, but in Ireland, it is delicious.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it to the Guinness Storehouse (the Guinness factory) nor the Jameson Whiskey distillery because tickets were all booked.  It is a crazy touristy weekend after all.  After we finished our pints, we ventured back into the rain and went shopping.  Norah needed a green Dublin shirt for St. Patty’s and I was just looking for Christmas ornaments and souvenirs.  I ended up getting a shamrock ornament that says Ireland on it, along with a Guinness keychain, which can also be an ornament.

Lep

I found a leprechaun!

img_8454

Hanging out with Molly Malone

Bank of Ireland

Bank of Ireland

Temple Bar

Norah and I at Temple Bar

We went back home to escape the rain and dry out our clothes.  I was completely soaked.  My feet were totally wet, and there is nothing more uncomfortable than wet shoes and socks.  After we dried off and took quick naps, we went out again.  We picked up sandwiches along the way to pub called Porterhouse where we met up with Norah’s Trinity friends for a pint.  This was an interesting pub: they make all their own beer from all over the world.  You cannot find a Guinness there.  The only downside was that the place was completely packed.  We ended up finding a small table available in the beer garden along with all the smokers.  It wasn’t too horrible and the house beer was quite good.  We went back to Norah’s friends’ apartment where we all hung out until it was time for us to go to bed.  We needed our rest; the next day was Patty’s Day!

Ready for St Pattys

Getting ready to go out!

Here is my impression of St. Patty’s Day: crowded, loud, crazy, and green.  It’s basically what you would expect for an Irish holiday where you celebrate the national saint by drinking your heart out.  My day wasn’t that over-the-top extreme, but I had quite a good time.  After we woke up and got ready in our green, Norah, Norah’s roommate, and I headed to the parade on Dame Street.  It was a beautiful day, except during the parade.  The only part it rained that day was during the parade.  Go figure.  Unfortunately, I am 5’5’’ and couldn’t see the parade.  I found out later that there were more than 500,000 attendees.  From what I did hear and see, it was pretty good.  The music was great and I heard a lot of bagpipes, and some of the tall structures in the parade were interesting.  Because none of us could see the parade, we went to the Porterhouse again for a pint.  They were giving out free pints so that was awesome.  After the parade, we went back to MacTurcaills where the Trinity College International Society was throwing a party with free food.  I met some interesting people from all over the U.S., Mexico, Norway, Italy, Australia, etc.  I was slightly taken aback when the Australian guy asked me right off the bat if I lived in a red or blue state.  I thought that was slightly inappropriate for the very first topic of conversation.  We hung out at that pub for a few hours playing fun games and having nice conversation with different people.  We tried to go meet up with some other friends at a pub called Peadar Kearney’s on Dame Street.  Worst idea ever.  The pub was so packed, we couldn’t even make it to the bar.  I was hanging out with six other American study abroad students, and there was no way we were going to make it back there.  We literally couldn’t move forward, only back out the door.  They had live music, and our friends were all the way in the back.  Our group went out for pizza and burgers and came back to the apartment to watch…Mulan!  Yes, imagine 10 university students watching Mulan on St. Patty’s Day.  Yes, it was pretty ridiculous and a lot of fun.  The Mulan watching crew consisted of a mix of American and Irish students.  It was great when everyone was singing along to the songs, especially “I’ll Make a Man Out of You.”

parade

At the parade.  Like my view?

decorations

Decorations

at macturcaills

At MacTurcaills with a Guinness

waiting for pizza

Waiting for the pizza

Some of the Americans in our group had to go back to Limerick, so Norah and I were on our own for the rest of the night.  We went back to Peadar Kearney’s again hoping we could get in this time.  Our friends stayed there the entire day, but of course, it was still packed with people.  They actually had security blocking off sections of the pub because it was still so crowded.  We headed back to MacTurcaills for a while and were surprised to see many people still there from the party 7 hours earlier.  After some time there, we went back home.  Despite not seeing much of the parade, my Dublin St. Patty’s experience was a blast.  Dublin itself was a madhouse, and no matter what nationality you were, everyone was Irish that day.  My next journey: Mardi Gras in New Orleans (though that might be a few years down the road).

The day after St. Patty’s was gorgeous!  Blue skies, sun, and warmth.  This was the perfect day to do some sightseeing.  We walked around Dublin’s main park, St. Stephen’s Green.  The grass was very green and the flowers were an extraordinary color.  It had a cute footbridge and lovely fountains.  It was extremely lively, especially the day after St. Patty’s.  We walked out to Grafton Street where a lot of the main shopping is.  Flowers and buskers crowded the streets, but we were more interested in the gelatos we just got.  I had pistachio gelato which was absolutely amazing.  After gelatos, we went to Norah’s school, Trinity College.  It’s the highest ranked and oldest university in Ireland.  The buildings were absolutely beautiful, but campus was filled with tourists.  Trinity holds the Book of Kells, which I had the pleasure to see.  The Book of Kells is a Gospel book in Latin circa 800.  I don’t know much about it, but it was very cool.  This was a part of the old library which had many old texts out on display.  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take pictures of either place, but the library was definitely my favorite part.  After visiting Trinity, we went to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  I didn’t go in, but there were plants, flowers, and trees everywhere, including a massive fountain.  The rest of the day we just hung out, and at night we were finally able to get into Peadar Kearney’s.  There was a live musician singing Irish pub songs and people of all ages.  There was a large group of mid-twenties Swedes that took up most of the dance floor.  Personally, they were the best entertainment.  After a pint, we met up with some friends at Temple Bar.  I couldn’t find one Irish person in that place.  The drinks are outrageously expensive because tourists don’t know any better; it’s such a tourist pub, though it didn’t start out that way.  The live music was good, but a large group of French people started chanting and singing French tunes over the live guitarist and bassist.  I was extremely peeved by this, and we left the bar soon after.

park walkway

At St. Stephen’s Green

me by flowers

By some flowers

footbridge

The footbridge

flowers and palm trees

Seems slightly out of place, but beautiful nonetheless

gelatos

Gelato break!

trinity front

The front of Trinity College

Trinity Interior

The Trinity interior

trinity building

Trinity building

book of kells

The Book of Kells

flowers at st pats

Flowers at St. Patrick’s Cathedral

St Pats cathedral

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

fountain at pats

Fountain at St. Pat’s

flower pots at pats

Flowerpots

temple bar

At Temple Bar getting ready for some live music

I left Dublin at 8 am the following morning.  It was nice to spend three full days in the city experiencing Ireland; however, I need a trip back to Ireland soon.  How London is to England is how Dublin is to Ireland; they are cities within a country, but there is so much more to the country than that one city.  Once the weather starts getting nicer, I might make a trip to Cork by ferry since the ferry departs from Swansea (an hour west from Cardiff).

I hope you enjoyed your Patty’s Day just as much as I did.  As for St. Patty’s in Dublin, that’s one item scratched off my bucket list.

Irish phrase of the entry: “What’s the Craic?”  What’s happening?  How are you?  Craic is pronounced crack.

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In Dublin’s Fair City

Time January 13th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | 4 Comments by

Hello from Dublin!

I have only been here for four days now, but I’m officially in love with this city. Everything has been fantastic so far. All throughout Christmas break, I had to continue reminding myself that I was really doing it, really moving to Ireland for 5 months. It didn’t quite feel real. Sunday morning, I was (of course) a bundle of nervous energy and tears. But as the plane took off in Cincinnati, it really hit me and, while I was still quite nervous, the excitement really began to make an appearance. Even now that I’m here and settled into my apartment (I’m sorry, my flat), the reality of what I’m doing still has somewhat of a dreamlike quality, but things are really beginning to sink in and once classes start on Monday, I’m sure I’ll be fully aware!

We arrived around 7 or so on Monday morning (2 am US time…and of course I didn’t get much sleep on the plane) and Maria and Geoff, representatives from the IFSA-Butler, Ireland office met us at the airport and got us on a bus and to our hotel. The first thing I noticed when I stepped outside of the airport was a patch of bright green grass. The second thing was a misty rain falling on my face. But after being on a plane for the past 10 hours, it felt like heaven. We stayed at the Mont Clare Hotel on Merrion Square, just a short walk from Grafton Street (the big shopping area) and Temple Bar (the big drinking area). We had a few hours to get breakfast, nap and freshen up at the hotel before we took a land and water Viking Splash Tour of the city, which was just like the Dukw Boat Tours they do in Boston. It was a great introduction to the city and to get our feet wet, so to speak.

After the Viking Splash Tour, the IFSA-Butler reps took us to dinner and afterwards, we had some time to explore a bit on our own. Even after napping, everyone was still pretty jet-lagged, so we decided to hit up a pub for a drink before calling it a night. A group of about 11 of us decided to check out a pub mentioned on the tour called the Dawson Lounge, the smallest pub in Dublin (probably the smallest pub in the world, or so they say). And they weren’t kidding when they told us that it was small! It only holds about 25 people, so we were a little worried about having such a large group, but when we went inside it was completely empty. Perhaps because it was only about 6:30 by that point, but we were all running on about 30+ hours without sleep, so we were exhausted. So of course, at the Dawson Lounge, I had my first true Irish Guinness! The barman was really nice, so he added a shamrock in the foam since it was our first night. And I have to say, it was pretty good. Much better than American bottled Guinness. But I still don’t know how the Irish can drink it every night. One in the evening was more than enough for me!

The next day, IFSA-Butler Orientation began and we got some handouts and other information about classes and culture and traveling. They’ve been feeding us very well here, so after orientation we headed to lunch and then to a self guided tour of the Guinness Storehouse. It was a really neat place, like a museum dedicated to the history of Guinness and how its made. I did not learn how to pull my own pint (I took a picture of how to do it) and instead, chose to have a free pint in the Gravity Bar at the top of the building. The bar had an absolutely incredible panoramic view of the entire city and the sun was shining down on everything. You could see the coast to one side, the hills and fields to another and beautiful brick buildings and old churches everywhere in between. It literally took our breath away. As we stepped on the elevator and got our first look, everyone gasped in awe. It sounds dramatic, but it was true. I didn’t think it could even be that amazing of a view. I got a few pictures, but they really don’t do the view justice.

We had to find our way back from the Guinness Storehouse to the hotel, but we were done with IFSA-Butler stuff for the evening, so a couple other girls and I decided to head to Grafton Street to buy phones. Fortunately, one of the girls had the good sense to keep a map in her purse. Of course, mine was conveniently located in the front pocket of my backpack…on the chair in my hotel room. Oops! Anyone who knows me will testify that I am not always the best with directions in the first place. But don’t worry! The map now resides in the front pocket of my purse. It was a bit of an adventure getting to Grafton Street, but we managed to do it, and get back to the hotel, pretty easily! And, since we didn’t always know where we were going, we just kept walking down random streets that looked vaguely familiar, which was a great day to see some more of the city! And I saw some reminders of Butler along the way when we passed The Clarendon Bar and Butlers Chocolate Cafe. I wish I would have gone in the cafe, but we were too busy trying to take in as much as possible. One of my favorite things from the city would have to be all the different colored doors. Houses, apartments, shops and even churches all sported red, blue, yellow, green, orange and pink front doors and I loved them! They looked especially awesome against the bricks of the Georgian style homes.

We had the rest of the evening to ourselves, so my hotel roommate, Susan, and I decided to find a cheap place for dinner with a couple other girls. We wandered around the Grafton Street area, but everything was fairly pricey or closed. We were so hungry that we had almost resigned ourselves to Subway when we found a promising place called the International Bar, which advertised Sandwiches for €3.50. It turned out to be one of the sketchiest places that I had ever encountered. We walked in and were sent downstairs because the upstairs bar was pretty full. Aside from the barman, the basement was totally empty. And silent. Some guy eventually came in, turned on some old American music (think Green Day, Snoop Dog, Fergie and JLo) and brought us our food. As strange as it was, the food was actually pretty good and cheap, which was even better!

We finally moved out of the hotel and into UCD housing on Wednesday! It’s great to be here and unpacked, working on settling in. The UCD International Office has hosted some dinners and get togethers for International Students and American Students, so I’ve met a lot of great people from all over! In addition to UCD students with the IFSA-Butler program, there were also about 15 students attending Trinity, which is located downtown, and I’ve gotten to meet most of them as well. I was surprised, though, when a number of the people that I’ve met told me that they didn’t know that Butler was an actual school. I guess the fame of Butler Basketball has not yet reached every American!  

Overall, everything has been grand! The IFSA-Butler people have been super helpful and everyone has been so nice! From the woman who sold me my mobile to the UCD lectureres we’ve met on campus for orientation, everyone is very welcoming. And, as a side note, the weather has been beautiful for us! A little bit of misty rain here and there, but mostly sunny and fairly warm. Much warmer that I hear it is back home anyway! Tomorrow we’ve got some down time, so I’m looking foreward to getting a little shopping done so I can really get everything organized before classes begin.

Slainté!

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The Parting Glass

Time July 25th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

As someone who finds it hard to be compelled to change very easily, it is both a shock and, in a way, a welcome relief to find myself very much changed from this past.  In a sense, I think I have found or understood more of who I am and what I want to be in life.  This past year has been like a series of windows into my character.  To try and state directly what that is like would be impossible, or if not impossible, beyond my grasp to attempt.  Instead, I shall offer a glimpse of my experiences so that whoever may read this may see what possible opportunities await, and maybe then an idea of what I wish to get across will become more apparent.

In terms of music, I was beyond fortunate.  From small gigs in the basements of pubs to sold out concert halls I saw more acts than I could have possibly imagined, two of which were the greatest concerts of my life.  Dublin’s music scene is pretty top-notch, and because the Irish truly love their live music they send incredible amounts of energy to the bands which results in a much better performance on-stage.  In order of appearance, I saw: Imogen Heap, Mystery Jets, Chuck Ragan, Gaslight Anthem, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Gemma Hayes (three times), Iron & Wine, Gogol Bordello, These Charming Men (a Smiths cover band), Josh T. Pearson (who announced he learned his father died not an hour before the concert began), Drive-By Truckers, Noah & The Whale, Belle & Sebastian (in Vienna), Explosions in the Sky, The Submarines, The Mountain Goats, Harvest (a Neil Young cover band, twice), Villagers, Beach House, and Stornoway. Plus numerous little unknown bands, friend’s bands, and the like.

Had I been able to see all the theater I wanted to, this next list would be about the same length as my concerts.  Still, I did see a fair share for a student.  Ibsen’s John Gabriel Borkman (starring Alan Rickman), Shaw’s Pygmalion, Martin McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane, as well as McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmore.  Trinity Dublin’s theater society, Players, put on a number of their own productions, some typical, some avant-garde, and both serious and hilarious.  Some of those included the Laramie Project, Oedipus Rex, and a friend of mine’s musical that he wrote, Jurass-tastic! the Jurassic Park themed musical, set to the music of Elton John, Beastie Boys, and Lady Gaga.  I was nearly in tears for most of the show.  There was also the Dublin Shakespeare Festival, in which I saw a number of small performances of scenes from various Shakespeare plays put on by my friends at Trinity.

On the subject of festivals, it seems every other week there is another festival of some sort in Dublin.  I experienced at least a half-dozen theater related festivals, a Fringe Fest, foreign film festivals, LGBT Pride Week, traditional music festivals, literary themed fests, and so on.  What “festivals” usually means are free performances, live music, or anything else of that sort.  There is also Culture Night, in which every museum, art gallery, performance space, and anything else is open free to the public, and the entire city seems to go out to enjoy it and the city’s collective spirit seems to be quite jovial.  At the start of the summer there were free movies in a park on a big screen, with movies like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Inception, and How To Train Your Dragon.  A Zombie march with thousands of participants dressed and acting as the undead.  On June 16th, Dublin had its annual celebration of Bloomsday, the date that James Joyce’s Ulysses occurs, and the streets were filled with folks in Edwardian garb, recitations or performances from the novel, and countless copies of the book in hand of Dubliners and tourists alike.

I visited a half-dozen countries around Europe, such as England, Scotland, Austria, Belgium, Spain, Gibraltar, and Poland. .  I’ve tasted dozens of beers from probably as many countries and eaten amazing local delicacies.  Visits have included gorgeous natural landmarks and scenes, and horrifying displays of human evil in the form of Nazi concentration camps.  I’ve gone to the tip of Northern Ireland, I’ve seen the murals of Belfast depicting “heroes” and victims of the violence there, the southern tip of Ireland near Cork by Kinsale and eaten the seafood there, explored the Ring of Kerry and hiked through its lakes and valleys.  And I’ve gone through Galway on my way to the Aran Islands and biked across Inis Mor to gaze across the Atlantic Ocean, with rainbows around me, while waves crashed against the cliffs I stood on.  I’ve listened to old-timers regale tales of the revolution and civil war in Ireland, and I’ve heard songs of joy and songs of sadness.

Some of my journeys and adventures I owe directly to the Butler Program staff and many others I owe indirectly, because of the kindness and support I received from Geoff and Maria.  Not only did I have an amazing flat in an incredible location.  They took me around the country and where they didn’t take me, they had suggestions and ideas of where to go and what to do.  They showed me the hidden spots of Dublin that only a local would know, and treated me not as an advisor would treat an advisee, but as an equal and a friend, which they surely have become.  And I cannot forget my amazing flatmate Heather, who has become a trusted friend after starting off as complete strangers thrown into a flat together.

I have made friends from around the world while here on this small island nation.  From the café I briefly worked at I made friends with Malaysians, Brazilians, Poles, and others.  During my travels I have met people from dozens of countries and all walks of life, not to mention all of the friendships I have made and built up over my year at Trinity.  Some will be remembered for the fun times had and the memories they hold, and others will be held near and dear to my heart for what they have taught me about the world, others, and myself.  And, thanks to the age of Facebook, most of these friendships will be maintained for years to come.

I cannot begin to stress what this year has meant or done for me.  It would not be the same for everyone that came to Ireland, but I hope that all who go abroad would have a similar experience if they were willing to give themselves to the experience, the people, the cultures, the countries you visit and the country you choose to call home for a period of time.  For me, I can’t imagine having a better experience than the one I had in Dublin; one that was more suited to who I am and the journey that I am on.

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Saint Patrick’s Day

Time April 4th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

For the past several weeks whenever I have talked with anyone from the States, I invariably get asked the following question: “So what was Saint Patrick’s Day like??!?” It makes me pause and reflect each time and every time.  Do I tell them what they want to hear? Do I make up a story about what it was like?  Or do I tell them the truth? I usually end up choosing a light blend of each, so that I don’t feel guilty about completely making it up, while also covering up a fair amount of the harrowing truths that I don’t feel completely comfortable delving into each time.

In a nutshell, Saint Patrick’s Day in Dublin is exactly what you would expect it to be, but when you’re actually there it may not be something you necessarily want.  The day started off quite quietly and innocently; the other Butler folk decided to hold a little shindig in their apartment above mine, with a little bit of Irish coffee and a few other beverages to get the day “started off on the right foot.”  Not being one to snuff a party so close to my door, I attended the 9 am party, in my pajamas and martini in hand a la Hawkeye Pierce from M*A*S*H.  I was applauded and congratulated for my classiness. Following drinks, I went with one of my flatmates to go watch the parade passing by near our flat.  I didn’t really want to go watch it, not being a parade person myself, but I had been harassed by Irish friends of mine to go see it just once, and I have to say it was worth it, though in a surprising fashion.

We were taken aback by the, well, bizarre approach the parade took in its choice of floats and costumes and whatnot.  Other first-time viewers I talked to in the subsequent weeks agreed to this.  It felt like I had stepped into some wormhole into another dimension where I was watching a parade that was a mix of a Fringe Festival and some ridiculous New Orleans celebration.  Giant three-headed dogs floats were a common motif; one was hellish black and another fabulous pink.  Creepy human-like puppets that just passed over the edge into the Uncanny Valley of uncomfortable.  Jackalope skulls playing jazz instruments.  The list goes on and on.  There were plenty of opportunities to scar and give children nightmares for a good while.  Apparently it was all designed to a story by Irish writer Roddy Doyle that he wrote for the parade, too, which is something I’ll have to read, because damn, what the hell was all that about.

Most of the day was rather low key as I waited to get a text to a party some friends were throwing. Around 9:30 or 10 at night, I got bored waiting for the party to start so I went off to go witness what havoc Dublin was visiting upon itself.  I got my wishes and a little bit more.  Visiting the Temple Bar, which is admittedly incredibly touristy normally and for this it was probably entirely so, I saw nothing but blocks upon blocks of drunk souls.  Imagine, if you will, Time’s Square on New Year’s Eve waiting for the ball to drop and the amount of people there.  Now imagine if they were all outrageously drunk.  That is a good starting point for what was before my eyes.  As I walked around for a couple of hours scouting things out, I must have witnessed at least a half-dozen separate ambulances drive up to places to bring out someone and take them to the hospital, and that’s just what I personally saw by chance.

Eventually I got the anticipated text, found the party where I actually didn’t know anybody except this random girl who invited but wouldn’t actually talk to me there, but found only good spirits, in both senses, and congenial manners.  Drinks were had, laughs made, introductions found, friendships bonded, and so forth into an enjoyable evening.  Or, rather, an enjoyable morning, since I didn’t get there until after midnight and the party dragged on until nearly 5, when the last few of us rolled out and back to our homes.

My Saint Patrick’s Day was not the typical foreigner-in-Dublin’s experience, and I’m glad for it.  I enjoy my drink as much as the next person, but what I saw horrified me and a number of other people I know, many of whom I would define as “excessive partiers.”  After a certain point the gluttony just becomes too great, and while interesting to take a step back and watch, and becomes less about celebrating anything, even partying, and just envelops itself in disheartening excess.  Instead of “going with the flow” and participating in something just for the sake of, I actually had a fantastic night and made a boatload of friends.  So, thanks Saint Patrick, for, whatever, I guess.

 

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Into the Mystic…

Time September 29th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | Comments Off on Into the Mystic… by

My body was still fighting all of the sleeping pills I took for my flight over the Atlantic when the adrenaline kicked in as the green isle appeared through the plane’s windows.  Like a cliché, Ireland was shrouded in mist along its coast, and I could make out small towns and villages nestled near the shore as we made our way towards Dublin.  My legs tapped together uncontrollably while the couple next to me talked about the preparations they needed to take care of before they got back to their house.  A few minutes later we were on the ground.

Going through security and customs was unbelievably simple and easy, with the officer at immigration displaying the overly nice Irish temperament by cracking jokes and telling me what a “brilliant time” I would be having.  Shortly after, I had my luggage, went out the front doors, and got onto a bus to take me into Dublin’s city center.  When I stepped on the bus the radio was playing Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back In Town” and I thought there couldn’t be a better way to welcome me to Ireland than that.  Once I arrived in the city center, right at Trinity College in fact, my attempt at trying to navigate through local and tourist-filled streets with two large pieces of luggage being dragged behind me was not the most engaging task, especially since I got off at the wrong stop and thus I had to walk an extra fifteen minutes past Trinity to Butler’s office on the other side of Merrion Square, but still I endured.

After a few small adventures on my part, the people at Butler’s office took me over to my flat on Whitefriar Street, which to give a perspective is just about a block from the beautiful Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.  I can’t begin to describe the joy I felt when I saw the flat I would be spending the next seven or eight months in.  Right next to a number of run down and beat up apartments, my place was quite modern in style and came complete with its own concierge and electronic security gate to the outside.  Inside it was just as marvelous, if not even more so.  It wasn’t huge by any means, but for just two people it was clearly more than enough.  Said other person in the “we” there will join the story a bit later.  Two bedrooms, two complete bathrooms, a living room with a television, two couches, wireless, a small dining table, and the most delightfully cute kitchen that has just about anything one could need or want as a college student, except for perhaps a device that magically creates pizza.

I spent the evening with two friends from high school who were in Dublin for a few days.  We caught up over dinner, bangers and mash for myself, and Guinness at the Brazen Head, which claims to be Dublin’s oldest pub.  It isn’t.  It was great fun though.  The following day I was on my own, running around trying to find grocery stores and build up supplies for the next few days, and for the year as well.  To say my flat is in a wonderful location is an understatement, by about a hundred fold.  A seven or ten minute walk from campus means I can get back and forth whenever I want without worry or real effort on my part.  Most students at Trinity College Dublin, also called the University of Dublin, live off campus, often at home, and are anywhere from a twenty minute walk to an hour-long bus ride or more.  For reference, some friends of mine that I met who are going through Arcadia live about thirty or so minutes away by foot.  I do believe I win in this instance.

In five, ten, or fifteen minutes I can get to about a half-dozen different grocery stores, music shops, restaurants of every variety, movie theaters, drama theaters, concert halls, and more pubs than you can shake a cat at.  Old pubs, new pubs, cheap pubs, expensive pubs, good pubs, bad pubs, local pubs, touristy pubs, student pubs, young pubs, old-people pubs, gay pubs, you-name-it pubs.  There are even pubs that are old, have been remodeled, cater to an older crowd on certain evenings, and on other nights cater to a young gay crowd.  It’s fabulous.  It’s also dreadfully expensive, but so it goes.  It’s basically a perfect location, and my return to Hartford, Connecticut or rural Minnesota next year is already looming in my mind in a dreadful way.

The day after that, my poor, dear flat mate finally arrived after harrowing experiences with airports for several days and being stuck in one place after another, but she did arrive and arrived alive.  Butler gave us a few brief lectures that morning on what to expect, some stuff about safety from police-man Paul (called the Garda here), and a lovely, and quite yummy, cooking session with a delightful woman named Jess.  We had two more “Butler activities” the following day, one of which was a terrific brunch with the Butler crew, and then followed by a tour of the Guinness factory.

I have heard many a-story about visiting the Guinness factory while here in Dublin and how it is “a must.”  They were spot-on.  Guinness did a fantastic job with their museum tour-thing.  For the showing and explaining the process of brewing beer, something I wouldn’t think would be all that appealing, personally, they somehow made it rather exciting and interesting.  Even if it hadn’t bee, it would have been worth it just for the end.  At the top of factory/museum/tour, which is shaped like a pint glass, you enter a 360 bar, where you not only receive a free pint of Guinness, what else, but also the most gorgeous and unforgettable view of the entire city.  To one side, you see Dublin’s port and harbor, on another side are open fields, and in another breathtaking hills with clouds hanging just over them.  We probably spent a good forty or so minutes just looking at over the city.  We found Trinity, and, after a while, our flat too.  It gave me an idea of what the city actually looked like beyond just a street-level view, and what its surroundings were.  The final touch, were quotes from various James Joyce books, printed on the windows, so that when you looked past where the quote was, you could see the actual place Joyce was referencing.  A literary dream.

Coming up soon: things to do in Dublin (so much!), Trinity’s different “Societies” (so many!), and classes (so something!).  Same bat-time, same bat-channel.

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Waiting For My New Life To Begin

Time September 15th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

In a few short hours I’ll make the long drive to the airport with my parents, say those bittersweet clichéd goodbyes, and then board my first flight of the day that will eventually get me to Dublin, Ireland.  My clothes, my face, and my hands are covered in sweat and dust, fragments from my last night here in Minnesota working at a kiln, firing pottery with family friends.  My bags are all packed, not with my whole life but with just enough necessities for a year that I can carry easily with me across the pond.  I’ve done my goodbye’s to the few friends remaining here at home, the rest having already headed off to their own respective colleges and universities around the country and world as I normally would have done.

I’m going to Dublin for the year to study at Trinity College, under which halls the likes of Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett once walked, and through the same streets that James Joyce and many of his character’s treaded.  I’ll be honest and upfront and say that I know relatively little of Irish culture and history outside of what I gleaned from reading Martin McDonagh plays and watching reruns of Father Ted on BBC.  What attracted me wasn’t a familial connection, I don’t have a drop of Irish blood in me, nor was it some desire to be in a particular place, though the reality of tracing the footsteps of Leopold Bloom through Dublin does grab my nerdy bookworm-self as rather exciting.  No, what the draw was for me were a few different factors.  Partly it was for academic reasons, Trinity being a fantastic institution, so I hear.  Looking through their previous year’s course catalogs made me feel giddy with delight at the possibility of taking classes ranging from Shakespeare, Ulysses, to a class that focuses on the modern American novelist and essayist the late David Foster Wallace, all at the same time.

The other big pieces that helped me choose Ireland and Dublin were a mix of personal wonders and desires.  Beyond the tried concept of trying to find myself in a foreign land, à la Eat, Pray¸ Love, I want to look for and find the natural beauty in the rolling green hills of Ireland and understand how that contrasts with the seemingly unending struggles that the country faces, whether in the form of famine, war, economic downfall, or the emotional struggles people of a rainy nation must face.  The country has a rich history of prose, poetry, lyrics, music, and theater that comes from those that face such plights and then use them in a creative outlet.  I find great admiration and awe in those that understand their troubles and can use that suffering to create something beautiful, and if I can learn that skill to unlock my own soul then I will be a better man for it.

I’m saying goodbye to my room like I do every year.  My books and my record collections, to my cats.  My clothes are sealed in vacuum bags looking like beef-jerky now.  Everything’s set and ready to go.  Nothing else to worry or be anxious about, and everything that I could worry about is either in the hands of the airline companies, Butler’s International Office, or the gods.  So I release myself from conscious worry and let my subconscious find ways to make its anxieties known, like nibbling away at my fingernails.

I’m lost somewhere between being excited and being nervous.  I’m used to being far away from home and dealing with culture-shock; I think college should help you prepare and deal with that pretty well so I’ve gotten past that fear.  At the same time I’m also not excited because I’m leaving a home, my home university, that took a year and a half of struggling to make my niche, and in doing so finding a family in my friends at my college here in the US, and while I had an amazing time this past semester and I look forward to two more when I return in a year, I fear the old adage, “You can’t go home again.”  It’s certainly proved true for my home in Minnesota, where most of my connections to the place have burned away and I know I probably won’t return again for quite some time.  I’m excited for all the opportunities that I have ahead of me and the memories waiting to be made, but a doubt has surfaced in my mind about what I might be missing here.

I’ve been trying to deprive myself of sleep so I can slumber for most of the way to Dublin, an attempt to realign my body clock to its new time zone.  My record player is coming to its end which is my signal to finish writing this and then catch a few hours of sleep before I begin this journey.  The deep smell of smoke from the kiln is lingers on my body still and the memory of this night holds fresh in my mind.  Closing my eyes I think of the stars shinning bright as if to wish me a safe voyage across the ocean, the half-moon lighting my way home, and the heat of the kiln slowly fading from my body as I venture away from the bosom of the Mississippi River to the hands of the Dublin on the horizon.

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Adventures of BP: Dublin Edition

Time November 18th, 2009 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Me in front of the Dublin Castle
Wow. I can’t believe I only have one month left before I have to head back to the states. Lately, I have been thinking if I have done everything I set out or wanted to do while I was here. I have short list to dos before my flight on December 13. My list includes a few things I still want to capture pictures of and souvenirs I need to purchase for my family and friends.

Recently, I went to Dublin for a few days just to experience a new change in scenery from Cardiff and London. The people were really nice in Dublin. While I was there I thought that if I traveled by foot everywhere it would be more scenic journey than if caught a cab. Needless to say I was able to take lots of great pictures of the Dublin Castle, City Hall, the quay, and numerous other attractions. Friendly Leprechaun One thing I really liked about Dublin is that all of the attractions are rather close to each other. Even though I had known I was going to be visiting Dublin beforehand I still did not tell my mom till afterward, since I did not want them to worry about me.

Now I’m not encouraging anyone to go anywhere without your family. I decided to leave all my details with my cousin just in case something happened she would know where I was. I decided to mail my mom and granny a postcard from Dublin. I can’t wait to hear their reactions, when they get card in the mail.

On another note classes are getting better each week. It has been rather frustrating at times to adapt to UK academic standards of essay writing and test-taking. One the main differences are here the students are given more freedom in their essay structures to develop it however they want. In the American system many teachers think the more freedom you give students the more errors can occur. But I guess the key is just to keep a positive attitude and not to give up, because no one said studying abroad was going to be easy.

Though I am very anxious to get back home and see my family and friends, I realize that I will definitely miss Cardiff-the people, the atmosphere. I am already trying to figure out how and when I am going to come back. It looks like I could be back in the summer depending how a few things turn out. Well I have to run now.

In the park

Cheers,
Brandi

p.s. this week’s pictures are from Dublin

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