As I’m sitting here writing this blog, I’m eating the last of my groceries, sitting in a room that’s in the chaotic state between settled and packed, with my notes from my entire year stacked on either side of my laptop. Tomorrow I have my last two finals (Digital Electronics and Early Irish Spirituality), and eleven hours afterwards, I leave for the bus that takes me to the Dublin airport. Read More »
Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler
I’ve mentioned before, I did very little research before deciding to study at University College Cork. I didn’t have a ton of options for schools that met my engineering course requirements; I knew I wanted to study in Europe. And I was adamant that, whichever country I ended up in, the citizens of that country spoke English.
People encouraged me to drop this restriction; it cut out France, Spain, Germany, Italy– so many countries in Europe do not first and foremost speak English, and what if I was missing out on a crucial experience by going somewhere that did? Read More »
Everyone told me that it’s impossible to spend four months abroad in Europe and not visit Italy. The country never appealed to me before, but while my mom was planning her ten-day trip over to visit me, the idea struck her to do a tour of Italy. I didn’t have any plans already in place to visit, so we agreed, and during my spring break we started for Rome.
The first thing that struck me about Rome was the density of people. The streets were packed with people speaking a slew of languages, wearing clothes from all different cultures. The second thing to strike me was how old some parts of it was. Our hotel was right across from the Vatican, and we started our first day in Italy with viewing the Sistine Chapel. To witness this masterpiece by Michelangelo from the early 1500s, a masterpiece I thought I’d only ever seen in movies, was absolutely breathtaking. But to then come upon the Colosseum, a infamous building that is nearly two thousand years old, was mind-blowing. How could this be here, when I’ve only ever seen it in history textbooks? We weaved down alleys to find our first Italian meal, and found it under the glow of lanterns and the sunset. I knew from that meal on that pizza and pasta would never be the same ever again.
Something I didn’t consider before choosing where to study abroad was my proximity to an airport. I’m not sure why it never occurred to me, because it would seem that ability to be able to journey from your home base country to another would be extremely important, especially since I ultimately decided to study on an island. Thankfully, there’s an airport a taxi ride away from where I live, with 20 euro flights to places like London and Glasgow, just across the pond.
One of my friends is studying at Queen Mary University in London, so I took one of these very inexpensive flights for a weekend to visit him. I almost chose to study at QMU when applying for schools abroad, and I feared that visiting there may make me regret my choice of UCC instead. Being a laid-back travelers, we wandered from place to place via the Tube, enjoying the sights and sounds of people from everyone rushing from one place to the next. Being foodies, we took advantage of the diverse cultures and ate authentic sushi and Indian food (both of which are very hard to find in Ireland). Being huge nerds, we geeked out at Platform 9 3/4 (I’m a Ravenclaw by the way), and, being shopaholics, gaped in Harrod’s (a very expensive, very beautiful mall, in short). London had the glamour of New York with the diversity of Los Angeles and the sprawl of San Francisco. It delivered the dazzle promised by the media, with a healthy dose of lovely accents and delicious food.
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!
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!
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.
Have you ever wanted to play a game that seems to be the bastard child of soccer, lacrosse, and field hockey? Well then, the traditional Irish sport of hurling is for you!
Hurling (Irish: Iománaíocht/Iomáint) is an outdoor team game of ancient Gaelic and Irish origin, administered by the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA). The game has prehistoric origins, has been played for over 3,000 years, and is thought to be the world’s fastest field team game in game play.
The object of the game is for players to use a wooden stick called a hurley (in Irish a camán, pronounced /ˈkæmən/ or /kəˈmɔːn/) to hit a small ball called a sliotar /ˈʃlɪtər/ between the opponents’ goalposts either over the crossbar for one point, or under the crossbar into a net guarded by a goalkeeper for one goal, which is equivalent to three points The players can either carry the ball, balance it on the stick and run, kick it, or smack it across the field with their stick. (thanks, Wikipedia!)
The game was hosted at Mardyke Arena, UCC’s recreational facility, outdoors on their huge field. The weather was actually quite nice, mostly overcast or sunny with only slight raining. I parked myself behind one of the goals and spent the game snapping shots and trying to figure out what the rules were.
During halftime, a game for the younger players was held, which was both adorable and remarkably violent (which I guess is true for all sports, not just Ireland).
I commend the players on their uniform, although the weather was nice today, I can’t imagine wearing those shorts in the rain.
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)