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

IFSA Butler Weekend — Northern Ireland!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rooftop Islands and Raging Oceans

Time March 12th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

My house here has a terrace on its roof, and sometimes when I find the time (which is never because between classes and errands and cafe time with my new friends I don’t even have time to call my family (sorry, Mom)), I like to sit up on the roof and look out at the world around me. Up high, on my rooftop, I feel like I am a sole inhabitant of a lonely island amidst a vast cauldron of noises, smells, and light.  Buenos Aires is an ocean of sensory overload that swirls around me, and I sit on a wooden stool and take it all in (here are some pics that I took while scuba diving with my digital camera)

.  Yet while I may be the only one on my island, I am not alone in being an islander.  All around me is an archipelago of other terraces on other rooftops, and from my vantage point I can see them going about their lives just as I go about observing theirs.  There is a father with his small son, teaching him how to kick a soccer ball through a 2-foot high goal.  There are a group of young men who come out to bring Quilmes and make bawdy conversation.  Their is an older woman, face wizened by age but her body showing no signs of it, who hangs her laundry on the line.  She waved at me once, and as I waved back I realized something weird: I was just as much a periphery character in her life as she was in mine.  She probably had her own little moniker for me in her world, and our lives certainly had no reason to ever overlap.  This woman has hopes, dreams, memories, and stories that consist of many people and many places, yet for a few brief moments, our respective narratives interacted.  It was a pretty cool feeling to be able to have this sanctuary from the tumultuous ocean of Buenos Aires on my little rooftop island, and to be a part of the lives of those on the islands around me, albeit in a minor way.  I enjoy my moments of sonder.

But enough about figurative oceans; this past week I went to a real one!  It was in a town called Mar del Plata, which is about 6 hours south of Buenos Aires (check out  “My Journey” to see where we specifically went) by omnibus, which is a type of giant bus that many people here use to travel instead of flying.  These buses are typically double-deckers, and the seats fold down into beds and they give you yummy complementary snacks and basically are vastly superior to most US travel buses in almost every way.  But anyway, Mar del Plata was right on the ocean (our hostel was about 4 blocks from the beach!), and it was, in a word, gorgeous.  I have always loved oceans, and having never really lived by one other than in 7th grade, I am consistently drawn to their vastness, power, and beauty.  My group (consisting of my new and awesome friends named Trevor, Morris, Christine, Stephanie, Henry, Catherine, and Ricardo) met up with some other students from my program and practically sprinted to the beach nearest us.   W spent all of the first day at that beach, and I took a lot of pictures

 and went swimming a bit too.  The waves were awesome, the beach art was fantastic, and the sun was to wonderful for words.  It was a good day.  That night, we headed back to the hostel with plans to imbibe in certain legal beverages (which can be picked up at corner stores for unbelievably cheap prices) and then head out for a night of shenanigans and tomfoolery.  It was Carnaval weekend, after all, and the city was bumpin’.  However, after a few valiant efforts to inspire the group to go out, we realized that we were all too tuckered and sunkissed to leave the hostel, so instead we headed up to the roof (yay rooftops!) of the hostel to play guitar, sing songs, and generally have a chill evening of camaraderie.  The hostel put on some cumbia music (link here) and some of us (naturally I was one of them) danced away.  It was a good night, that one.

The next day, we rose around 10:00, enjoyed (?) some complimentary hostel breakfast food, and headed off for another day at the beach.  This time, instead of sticking to the beach near us (which was lovely but crowded), we piled into a colectivo and shipped off down the coast for about an hour until we reached a beach that was (supposedly) the best one in Mar del Plata.  Well, upon first glance it wasn’t too bad, but as soon as we tried to find a spot on the sand to lay down our stuff, the lifeguards shunted us away.  ¿Um, perdon?  Yeah, turns out this beach was private, and we had to walk all the way down to a windswept point until the lifeguard deemed the beach a “public area”.  Not even our best efforts (in both Castellano and English) could sway the beach officials.  Yet despite this beach clearly not seeming the like best one in Mar del Plata (we learned later that the beach we were looking for had been about 5 more minutes down the bus route from us), we had a blast.  The waves were even better than they had been the day before, and my body changed color from marshmallow-esque pasty to slightly-cooked-marshmallow.  We left the beach a little earlier that day due to wind, and since our bus back to Buenos Aires was scheduled to leave the next morning at 7:30, we decided to would emulate the Argentinians, and just stay out until then.  It was a raucous night.  After a delicious pizza and beer dinner at the hostel, we went out to a boliche called Tai-pan, which overlooked the bay and was generally super cool.  Many hours of dancing, a few cab rides later, and NO SLEEP later, we were suddenly on the omnibus back to Buenos Aires.  Most of us slept like boulders, although my nap was cut short by a cute but godawfully loud baby near me who kept crying and screaming like his sole purpose was to undermine the much-needed rest of a terribly sleep-deprived American traveler (mission accomplished, baby).

It was lovely to get back home.  I had missed my host family already during my time in Mar del Plata, and they were very accommodating to my immediate desire to sleep before I told them anything about the trip.  After my nap, we chatted for a while and they told me that Anderson (a Brazilian PhD student who had been staying with us for a while), had left the day before.  Anderson is a wonderful guy, and though we had only known each other for a few days, he had been such a pleasure to converse with.  This last picture is of all of us, and Anderson is in the front on the left next to my host dad.

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Thanks for reading, and I know this post was a doozy.  Stay wonderful, everyone.

Besos,

Dylan

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