Sunday, January 31, 2010

Galway is Savage...

So this past week has been super busy with classes and exploring but I have been on a few very blog worthy adventures! I'll start with last weekend...

Last Saturday the API group went on an excursion to Bunratty Castle in County Clare and we also went on a nature walk through a park in Galway on our way home and the autograph tree signed by famous Irish poets. Our awesome resident director, Finn, is so funny and told us so many little stories on the way. I'm a huge dork for that kind of stuff so I was absolutely loving it and taking tons of pictures!
Bunratty Castle was really interesting... I felt like I was in a movie. (which seems to be a reoccuring theme on this trip.) We went on a tour through the castle with staircases literally about 5 inches wide. They were also super steep but it was fun to see all of the authentic tapestries and learn about the huge feasts and parties they had there! :) There was also a little village beside the castle with small cottages, gift shops, and bakeries. We had lunch at a small pub and then went on a walk through an old cemetary and through the forest.

We stopped at the autograph tree signed by William Butler Yeats and Lady Gregory and also went into a fairy circle. (yes, a real fairy circle.) The Irish are really superstitious so we walked past a perfectly shaped circle of bended trees that supposedly holds huge superstitious value! ;) The fog was really thick so my pictures didn't come out as well as I had hoped but you can still kind of see the weird circle shape the trees made.

You can walk into the fairy circle, make a wish and then when your done wishing you have to leave the circle right after. You also can't enter the circle during nightfall, and if your in the circle and it turns dark you have to sleep there! It was so interesting and a little eerie how all the trees bent into a perfect circle, definitely makes you think about the legend :)

We arrived back into Galway and the next day, Monday, we had a really fun cultural event. Our program took us to PureSkill a place where we were able to try out all sorts of sports and compete in teams with eachother. We were able to try Irish sports as well like hurling, cricket, and Gaelic football. I was so bad at hurling the guy managing the place had to help me. It was really embarassing, my partner Meg and I were the last ones to finish...sorry Meg. :/ My arm was literally sore the next day. I was having a hard time learning that you had to throw a ball and whack it with a wooden stick to score. I have no idea how everyone here is so good at it! Here's a picture of me wearing protective gear without it I most likely would have injured myself..and others. My friend Kelly was in the midst of putting hers on...But after trying hurling and cricket once, I've decided that I'll just stick to water sports, thank you.

This weekend, I also had another quite different cultural experience. A big group of us went to the dog races in Galway city last night. Now usually I would be totally against anything to do with dog racing, just kind of not my thing. I was nervous to go, but a few of us asked the staff at the track and they said the dog's are trained and treated very well. It actually turned out to be really fun in the end and I had a great time cheering and seeing what a race is really like. While studying in Ireland I'm going to have to do things I'm not used to, i.e going to dog races. But I know I came here because I wanted to see what the culture is really like and I really wanted to do something different. The races are a huge part of the Galway culture so I'm glad I went in the end and we all ended up having a ton of fun. :)

Tomorrow we have another culture event with our program making St. Bridgid's crosses.They look like this...
St. Bridgid was my confirmation Saint and another patron saint of Ireland and her feast day is tomorrow. Tradition says the cross will bring you luck and I know my grandmother has a St. Bridgid's cross hanging in her house and I've always wondered how to make them!

I'm so excited that I've been so busy doing fun excursions and adventures here. I'm going to London on Thursday and I'm literally counting down the days! Most of my friends who are abroad have settled in to their own countries by now too and I'm loving hearing all their stories and adventures as well! I know the next few weeks are going to be super busy with London, visiting my friends in Cork, Paris and Dublin ...all in February! And if your wondering about my title...savage is another word for "awesome", haha. I'm totally getting used to calling fries "chips", potato chips "crisps", "cheers" instead of Thank You and saying the word "Grand" 3,000 times a day! I actually love the additions to the vocab and everything else that comes with the country!

I'll be sure to keep you updated of my escapades ahead. Talk to you soon!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Having the craic...(aka fun)

Hi everyone!

So I've been here in Galway for a little over two weeks now. I'm slowly learning all about what real Irish culture is like. Things are a little more wishy-washy, time isn't necessarily important, and things can sometimes seem really disorganized. Coming from a very disorganized and sometimes untimely girl, I'm totally okay with this and I seem to fit right in. :)
The past week my good friend here from Emmanuel College in Boston came down with a bad infection. Last Saturday, she actually had to be admitted to the University hospital and just came home yesterday. She's doing much better now and a bunch of us came to the hospital to visit her. Our resident directors, Finn, Maeve and Kevin, were so helpful and were there for her whenever she needed it. It wasn't easy for her getting so sick while abroad and I was feeling so bad for her. :( Luckily our program directors sorted everything out and I'm so happy that she's feeling and looking so much better!

In other news, I do now know my way around the hospital very well, just in case and I've gotten my routine of classes down as well. Last week, I went on adventures in Galway to see Galway Bay and take some pictures! (Spotted: a sunken boat) It was so pretty out and the houses looked seriously just like a movie! We got caught in a token Irish rainstorm at the end but it was still so pretty!
This Saturday, we're going to visit Co. Clare which is one of the most beautiful and picturesque places in Ireland. I'm so excited to see some of the countryside and see whats beyond our little city. Last weekend a bunch of kids in our program went to the Cliffs of Moher and they said it was beautiful. A few friends and I stayed behind to help out with our friend but I will be traveling there very soon!

(another picture of the Bay!)

I've also been planning out some places to travel and different cultural things to do. I'm going to London with a few friends the first weekend in February and I'm SO EXCITED!!! I also can't wait for Paris in late February with our program!! Also, SO EXCITED!

I'm adjusting to living here and getting used to all of the cultural differences slowly but surely. I've found my fave junk food place is Supermac's (can't go there too often) and that the chocolate here is way better than in the states! I love Cadbury buttons and flakes and I'm hoping to sneak a lifetime supply home with me in May. I do miss St. Mike's and my friends back at school but it's nice to be in a different environment and I love meeting so many new people. I miss Tostito's chips and queso real bad. I'm hoping to have some sent to me real soon....hint hint.

Yesterday was Societies Day at NUIG and I've never seen anything more fun, seriously. There was a huge room with music and tables of all the different societies. They had groups for legit EVERYTHING. I joined International Society which had a get together at a pub downtown last night where I met so many more people!! I also joined Photography Society, and of course Food and Drink Society. Because, honestly, we all know how much I love free meals and wine tasting!! :) I'm also so excited for Photography society because they sponsor trips and traveling for really cheap!!

I hope that everyone in Vermont is staying warm, I'm starting to get used to the very regular rainstorms I've been encountering on my walks home!! I'll keep everyone updated and I love hearing from everyone on my blog!! Talk to you soon!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Settling in!

So I'm starting to settle into life in Ireland but I feel like these last few weeks I've been taking everything in and amazed by everything around me! I feel like I'm at the stage where everything fascinates me and I'm starting to realize the differences between here and my life at home but getting used to them at the same time.

I started classes at NUIG (National University of Ireland, Galway) on Monday and it's almost the complete opposite from college at SMC but I'm still having a great time getting to know the college and I'm looking forward to the different atmosphere here! I'm taking 6 classes here but the fun thing is you are allowed to try out classes and then register the next week. I'm taking Castle Development in Europe (we go on a field trip to castles in Ireland! ), Irish Contemporary Poetry, a Theatre and Drama Studies class, Gender in Celtic Society and Literature, Philosophy of Language and Logic and Irish Women in Society. I'm excited to take some classes that are focused on Ireland and Irish history. I want to learn as much as I can about Irish culture while I'm here!

Last Saturday, I went on a historical tour of Galway! It was absolutely freezing that day but I got some beautiful pictures of Galway in the snow. :) Here's a picture of the oldest building on campus in the middle of our quad. These past few weeks have been crazy weather here with snow, ice, cold rain, you name it!I don't think the Irish are quite used to it and I think it's been colder here than Vermont!

My roommates and I have gone grocery shopping, settled into our rooms, and are starting to find our way around! We've found our favorite pubs and restaurants and the shortcuts to walking to campus. My favorite spot is Taaffe's on Shop St. because they play traditional Irish music almost every night! ( SO MUCH FUN!) Most of the locals and the Irish college students are friendly to us here. I'm so excited to meet more Irish students and really become immersed in the Galway college life! I have a lot of friends I met this summer that worked on the Vineyard that are from Ireland. I'm excited to go visit them in Cork, Dublin, and Limerick some weekends very soon! I think I'm also planning to travel to London and our program sponsors excursions to Connemara, Co. Clare, and PARIS in February!!!

It still is so weird to me that I'm in a different country! I'm glad to be settling in though and getting a routine down. I only got lost a few times the first day and I'm finding out where the buildings and classrooms are. I'm finding that being thrown into the whole new-surroundings thing is definitely making me more independent. I was nervous the first day when I found out I'd have to walk 15 minutes to campus (cut me some slack it's a 1 minute walk at SMC!), to the grocery store and to the city. But this morning, I got dressed, put on my iPod and walked to campus with no problem. :) On my walk to school, there's a small farm with beautiful horses that everyone stops to pet. Here's a picture of my friend Megan saying hi to one of them! We also see sheep on a daily basis and just today when the snow melted I started to realize how green Ireland actually is! It's definitely not what I'm used to but that's what I'm finding out I'm here for; to step out of my comfort zone and see what all these new places and people will bring me! This weekend I think my friends and I will be taking a few day tours and getting out to explore the country! I hope everyone back at home is having a smooth transition into Spring Semester! I'll keep you updated of all my adventures and talk to you soon!!

Friday, January 8, 2010


So I made it...barely! just kidding... kind of! I'm so happy to finally be in Ireland!!!

Sorry for the delay in posts but I just got my Internet working yesterday and it has certainly been the busiest week of my entire life. I left on Monday night at 7:30 pm and arrived on Tuesday morning (Irish time) at 6 am.We spent the whole next day getting settled into our apartments, meeting our roommates and trying to get used to things! I feel like I've learnt so much already and I've only been here for three days! Monday we were all pretty jet lagged and exhausted from staying up all night and then being so overwhelmed the next day.

I'm really lucky to have great roommates and fun people on my program. It's a small program of like 30 kids and we all are getting to know each other really well! It's so weird because I've known them for such a short time but I feel like I've known them for so much longer! On the first night a few of the girls and I went to a quaint little restaurant in the downtown city area which is like a 20 minute walk from my apartment. We were all exhausted and totally had no idea where we were but the restaurant looked straight out of a movie and I had delicious Shepard's pie...score!

The next day we went on a tour of Galway city, shopped around downtown and went on a tour of my new school, National University of Ireland: Galway. The university has about 17,000 students so its way different from my small little SMC. The campus is actually really compact and I'm so happy that the academic buildings are all in one place! (Even though I'm probably going to be lost 4569346 times but hey, I've gotta learn somehow!) Everyone walks here so we walk about 20 minutes to the city center which is right next to our school. Downtown Quay St. and Eyre square has cobblestone streets and is filled with little pubs, restaurants, and shops! I can't wait to explore everything!! We had our welcome dinner for my program, Academic Programs International, at an Italian restaurant (ironic, I know!) and then we all went to our first Irish pub with a traditional Irish band playing and everything. All of the Irish college students are still home on break so the place was definitely over ruled by Americans but I can't wait until all the Irish students arrive!

We had our academic orientation today and yesterday and classes start on Monday but the whole class registration thing is so confusing. We pick our classes then go to certain lectures to see if we like them and then we register. I'm looking into taking 3 Irish-English Literature courses, an Irish history class, a philosophy, and a Irish sociology course. I'm feeling so overwhelmed with learning everything but I'm sure I'll get the hang of it soon! Here are a few pictures of downtown and the view from the Corrib rive that runs through Galway. I'll definitely be posting more very soon with my new huge paparazzi camera I got for Christmas!

I'm so excited to be here and right now everything seems a little confusing and I do feel a little lost sometimes but I'm lucky to have good people in my program so we can all be lost together! I'm excited to post all of my adventures that I will be having very soon! :)