Saturday, April 22, 2017

Uh Oh.. Finals Are Coming

   You read it right; I finished my last week of classes and in just a couple weeks I will be taking the last two final exams of my study abroad time! While I was here, I was taking five classes, three of which I am now finished with and down to studying for my last two. Finals coming up also means two things; 1) I come home in less than a month, and 2) I go on my last couple vacations very soon!

   So... Am I ready to come home? I've been asked this question many times and I don't really have a perfect answer for it. Of course I'm excited to come home and see my friends and family as well as get back into the swing of what I am used to, however, in the past few months I have fallen in love with Ireland and I don't want to leave. My time here seemed to have flown by and I feel like I should still be in week 5 of classes.

   As many of you already know, my parents came to visit me during my Easter break. I absolutely loved showing them around my campus and around this beautiful country and having them see what I always talk about. We spent the week road tripping around Ireland so they could see all the different parts Ireland has to offer and just like myself, they loved the countryside the most!

   Studying abroad has definitely taught me some lessons aside from what I learned in lectures. I learned straight away that just because your mom and dad are 3,769 miles away, doesn't mean you aren't going to get sick! I also relearned a lesson I had learned back in my first year of college and that is, go make friends! I was fortunate enough to meet two of my closest friends at the London Heathrow airport on my way over here, and many more during my first month as well. I also learned how hard it is to travel and go on vacations. We can all take a moment to remember how funny it was when Carley and I thought we were going to be stuck in Barcelona, Spain that one time, but I have definitely learned from that experience! Another lesson I learned was how to manage my money well enough without a job. During jr. high and high school, I wasn't the best at saving my money, but I knew coming over here I was going to have to still pay bills when I got home and tried saving my money as best I could. This included not buying every souvenir tee-shirt I saw.

   I have 28 days left to get in 5 more countries and I couldn't be more excited! So stay tuned for more adventures from my time abroad!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Week My Parents Come!!

   Well, we started week 11 here at the University of Limerick which just happens to be the week my parents come to visit! My parents have been planning this trip since before I came over so the countdown has been on for a while now. The arrival of my parents is just one more difference I am experiencing from back home. I don't live in the same town as my parents so when they come to visit it's a big deal, sure, but we usually end up going to a college game, out to eat and then just hang out. It's always a casual event and the only big planning I ever do is planning when to clean my house! Since my parents have never been to Ireland before, we have all decided on taking a road trip around Ireland so they can see as much as possible in the time they are here. This has been a stressful event planning, from figuring out accommodations, to decided what town to hit on which day, and even down to buying tickets to different attractions such as the Blarney Castle, Cliffs of Moher, and others. I sat down one day and made an hour to hour itinerary which has all the details of this next week in it. My parents have been a great help with scheduling accommodations, but they asked me to figure out which places to go since I am over here and know the best places around. This has given me an idea of what it is like planning a vacation and even though we have not gone on this road trip yet, it has helped me a lot for other weekend trips!

Blarney Castle

   It amazed me how easy it was to travel here. Back in the states, it's almost four times as expensive going to another state as it is going from Ireland to some country in Europe. I have really taken advantage of being over here and seeing the different countries, but planning a vacation on my own, or with one or two friends, has been slightly stressful and very interesting of an experience. Spain was the only trip where the transportation was very messed up and we had a major delay, but other than that I feel like I've done pretty well! However, I now understand why my parents are so stressed when they plan family vacations!

   One day, while scrolling through Pinterest, I found a quote by Anthony Bourdain; "Travel isn't always pretty. It isn't always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that's okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind." I read this quote about three times before pinning it to my board because I needed to hear it. I came here excited and nervous at the same time, but I had never traveled on my own before. I've been going on family vacations every year since I was 8 years of age, but I never went on my own. Anywhere. I've learned since then that it is hard. Travel is a challenge, but it's a good challenge. Planning trips and traveling on your own is hard, and scary, but it has been the best thing I have ever put myself up to.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Barcelona, Spain

   This past weekend I went to Barcelona, Spain! My friend, Carley, and I had many setbacks when it came to transportation, but when it came to the sites-marvelous. We arrived Friday night and it was pouring down rain and I don't mean Ireland rain, this was full on thunder and lightning, Iowa storm rain. We weren't worried about it until we got off the bus at what we thought was the right stop... It wasn't. And we got lost. It was about 1am and we finally decided to get a cab to take us the rest of the way which was when we found out we were about two minutes away from our Airbnb.

It was too beautiful of a photo op to not take it just because of the rain!

   Saturday was full of adventure! We rented bikes so we could get around faster and our first stop was obviously the beach! We didn't stay long, but we are now able to say we have been in the Mediterranean Sea! We saw a lot of interesting things biking around town and we were even able to see the Sagrada Familia which has been under construction for the past decade! We ate at a cute little diner which was known for the best sangrias and tapas in town. Our bikes were due back at 7 that evening so we took a break then. After a while we decided to go for supper and walk around the town to see what it looked like at night.

Sagrada Familia

   Sunday was a day of stress! We had an early flight but it was at an airport in Reus so we had to get transportation there. After much struggling to find the best way, we finally arrived about 40 minutes before our flight departed! Lucky for us, the Reus airport is very small and their security went very smoothly and we made our flight with about 10 minutes to spare! It was definitely an adventure I will always remember and I got three new stamps in my passport from it, so it was all worth it.

We had to get proof we made our flight!

   We started week 10 in university today which means only 10 more days until my parents visit and only a few more weeks until final exams! You can tell everyone is ready for summer vacation, except all the international students! Summer vacation means we have to leave Ireland and none of us are ready for that yet. The time seemed to have flown by, but that only means we will all have to come back!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

London and St. Patrick's Day

   These past couple weeks have been very busy here in Ireland for me. From the 9th-13th I was in London with a friend and we had an absolute blast! We spent our Friday night figuring out the public transportation so we had some sort of idea of what we were going to do for the weekend. Saturday was a very long day for us. We spent the morning getting into the city centre and going to see Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, looking at the London Eye and venturing into China Town. After a late lunch we took the underground to King's Cross Station which is home of Platform 9 3/4 from Harry Potter. We stood in line for over an hour to get pictures, but it was so worth it! After we were finished there, we just walked around the city and saw London at night, which was so much different than during the day. Sunday was a relaxing day and we ended up eating at a restaurant called Maxwell's that serves cheeseburger bombs which is a bacon cheeseburger with a coffee mug full of melted cheese to pour on top. It was everything it sounds like and so much more! 

Buckingham Palace

Tower Bridge

   The following week was crazy as it was the week of St. Patrick's Day and it was my most crazy week for school work as well. I was able to turn all my assignments in by Wednesday, however, and was able to spend Thursday night bowling with some friends. Friday, I went with the International Society to Dublin to see the most popular parade in the world! I was told by various people that St. Patrick's Day was overdone by Americans and that it was more of a day to celebrate a saint rather than to dress in green and drink all day. That was proven wrong starting at 00.01 of that day. When I arrived to the block the parade was on in Dublin, the street was covered in green. There were groups of people with solid green suits on or suits with shamrocks to get in the spirit. There were people drinking every which way you turned, including in front of garda. This came as a shock to me, coming from small town Iowa, but at least I can give an accurate description of Ireland on St. Patrick's Day! 

   I'm officially two months away from my fly home day and I only have 4 weeks of classes left! I received my final exam timetable today and lucky for me, I only have two exams to take this semester which means I have three weeks for traveling at the end of my time! Today also marks 16 days until my parents come to visit and I could not be more excited for them to arrive and for me to show them around this beautiful country! 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

End of Week 6 Update

   I think Cesare Pavese said it best when he said "Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things: air, sleep, dreams, sea, the sky. All things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it."

   Whenever I would tell people I was coming to Ireland by myself they would respond in awe saying "wow, I couldn't do that" or "why would you do that?" I always just laughed them off and went about my day not really putting much thought into it. I knew it was going to be a challenge, but as my mom always said, I am woman, hear me roar!

   The best thing University of Limerick is how involved they get the students. There are events every night at the Stables (one of the pubs/restaurants on campus) as well as weekend day trips provided by the Student Union. There are also tons of clubs and societies on campus which helps you meet people as well. But it's not just campus, the student body is so friendly here. I was always told to make friends with people from America so you have that normality, but also make friends with people from Ireland or other countries. I always laugh when an Irish student asks me something about class and when I respond they look shocked because I have an American accent. It's almost as if they want to hear about our culture as much as I want to hear and learn theirs as well.

   The way the semester is set up much differently than I am used to at Upper Iowa, so as we get to midterms, it's getting a little more stressful. UL has a week long event called Charity Week each year around this time. There are tons of events during this time and it's all day long so you can go have fun in between your classes if you want. The events range from contests to runs to hypnotists to concerts and it is a huge break for students (handy it comes right at midterms this year!).

   As always, I am planning more and more trips to places around Ireland as well as to other countries in Europe! The attached photos are from my day trip to Ennis, Ireland this past Saturday. For those of you who have started counting down: 86 days until I fly home!

Stone Wall

Franciscan Abbey (in Ruins)

Bridge over River Fergus

Sunday, February 5, 2017

It's Been 3 Weeks Already?!

   Wow has this time flown by! I'm already 3 weeks in and I can't believe it. As I recapture these past few weeks it amazes me what experiences I have already had and how accustomed I have gotten to this culture and their schooling system. Back home, I have 2-3 classes per 8 week term which meet Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays for an hour and 15 minutes. We have set times and no class starts during the middle of another so there is rarely a scheduling conflict. Our advisers also guide our schedules and tell us which classes are best to take for each term. Here, there's a new lecture each hour even though some lectures go for two or three hours. We also have to schedule lab or tutorial times between those lectures. We also create our own schedule and turn in a paper to the international office during week 2 so we can be officially registered. I now hold a greater appreciation to any adviser who makes schedules for students. It is confusing! Almost as confusing as our main building is set up.

   I have been to the city of Limerick enough times to get my grounds figured out, however, I still get lost every now and then. This week I have an appointment at the immigration office to get my visa. This will allow me return to the country if I leave for a weekend trip or anything like that.

   I have been to Killarney, Ireland and have many more trips planned for this semester. Of course, school is the reason I am here, but there's no harm in doing a little traveling while I'm over here! I have attached a few photos from my trip to the Killarney National Park below. I hope you enjoy them!

Friday, January 20, 2017

First Week in Ireland

   I made it! My first day was pretty normal, got off the plane, unpacked and then napped. It was so nice having a group from the college come and pick us up from the airport. As orientation started, the days got more and more busy. Each day, there are different things we are supposed to go to just so we get accustomed to the college and it's ways. The international population is quite big here and I only hear positive comments about this school and how well they work with international students.

   My second day here, jet lag caught up with me and I ended up missing a couple days of orientation. I was emailing the international office the whole time and they were more than helpful! Tonight is our first international party at one of the clubs on campus-I hear it's a lot of craic (fun). Tomorrow I will be hopping on the bus the campus has arranged and go into the city. There I will go to the local milk market and shopping centres to get bed clothes, towels, groceries and anything else I may need. One important thing to remember if you come here, Irish stores do not give out bags with their groceries like they do in America, so be sure to bring your own!

   Today, I signed up for the International Society and requested membership in the archery club and the skydiving club. This college has a million different clubs and societies you are able to join and they do loads of fun activities! The city is quite small, but there are tons of little shops you are able to go into, all which are very reasonably priced. There are buses that go to the city quite regularly and it's very easy to catch one on campus. There are also various stores within walking distance of the campus that will come in handy as well.

   This weekend, I am signing up for my classes, however, they will not be made final for another two weeks. This allows international students to make sure the classes they chose work well in their schedule and are the classes they were expecting. The classes do not meet every day, which is weird for students at Upper Iowa University, but it's all part of the experience! I cannot wait to get going with my semester and have a grand time!