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.