Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Ups and Downs of Studying Abroad

I've been in Northern Ireland for over a month, and I was loving every bit of it up until two weeks ago. Some of my past health complications came up again and it's been a really difficult time figuring out how to get better when I'm in an unfamiliar country with doctors who I've never worked with before. During a time like this, I'm reminded again and again how lucky I am to have such supportive friends and family. I've been so caught up in the moment of things that sometimes I forget to Skype my parents or respond back to a Facebook message from a friend, but when going through a time like this, I've been constantly responding to just about every single message and even reaching out to those who I know can help and support me.

I think when people talk about studying abroad, people always say "It's the best five months of your life!" But, what sometimes people are missing is that study abroad may have its ups, but it also has its downs. You're in a whole new country without any familiar faces, and it's really the first glimpse of what the real world is like. Friends and family back home are always around, but you have to adjust to the time difference (for me, 5 hours) and the fact that they aren't just a text or phone call away anymore, unless you sign up for an international phone plan.

At a time like this, it's frustrating because of the above reasons and also because you start doubting things, mainly yourself. You kind of think to yourself, Is it all going to be worth it in the end? Am I able to push through some obstacles? I've always dreamed about studying abroad in Ireland because well, just look at the country. It's beautiful! The locals here are very friendly and my friends I've made here at university are awesome. Being in Northern Ireland also gives me the opportunity to easily travel to European countries. I've already visited Copenhagen with Merrill and Alex, two of my friends from Saint Mike's, and I am planning on traveling with Alex over spring break to Madrid, Rome, Milan, Amsterdam, and London. 

There are so many things to look forward to with this experience, and there's already so many great things that I've already experienced. This, to me, is hopefully a minor speed bump along my journey abroad.

On a lighter note, here are some updates of my abroad experience:


Copenhagen!

On the search for the pot of gold

A wee bit of our family dinner

Spending Valentine's Day with all of these cool people

Because Frozen is awesome, so why not pretend to be in the movie?

Copenhagen with Merrill, Alex, and Bizzy!          

Sunday, February 9, 2014

A Weekend in Belfast: Titantic Trail, Taxi Rides, and Tasty Food



After doing a quick day trip to Belfast last weekend, me and my friends decided to go back for a weekend to explore the rest of the city. The weekend consisted of a lot of firsts: going on a weekend trip in Northern Ireland, using the Northern Ireland train system, using maps to navigate the city, going to a Scottish ballet, and staying in a hostel.

Our trip first began with finding our hostel. There were tour guides lined up all on the streets of Belfast willing to help us out. Most of the tour guides we came across warned us that our hostel was the worst in Belfast, which wasn't the most reassuring thing, but we all were hoping that it wasn't as bad as they described it. When we arrived there, we realized that the tour guides were being a "wee" bit dramatic about the conditions of the hostel. It was pretty good for a place we only paid 8 pounds per night.



We ended up adventuring around some of the hot spots of Belfast. The most exciting part about the trip was seeing the Titantic trail. I'm not the world's biggest Titantic fan, but I am a sucker for any kind of scenery! It wasn't the sunniest day outside (not like there's ever a really sunny day in Ireland), but it was awesome walking along the trail and seeing where the Titanic was built.










Along with learning about the Titantic, we also went on a black taxi tour and learned about how the city is divided between Catholic and Protestant. As we were on the tour, I learned more about why religion has been an issue and why it still is an issue today. Going on the tour opened my eyes to a different and interesting side of Belfast that I wasn't intending to see, so I'm glad I got to learn more about it from our unbiased and wonderful taxi driver, Paddy!


chilling in the taxi


group of us in front of the peace wall

signing the peace wall (fun fact: Bill Clinton, Rhianna, and Justin Bieber have signed this same wall, too!)



in front of the one of the many political murals we saw

The Titanic trail and black taxi tour were two of the most recommended activities to do in Belfast, so after doing that, it only made sense to go check out the most recommended restaurants around the area. The one restaurant we heard the most about was Cosmo, a buffet styled restaurant in the Great Victoria Square Mall. I'm pretty sure that we were pegged as the group of Americans because we all stuffed our faces and we each went up four different times for more. We also made our way back to St. George's Market, which reminds me of the Farmer's Market in Burlington. There's a ton of different vendors selling food, jewelry, artwork, and crafts. 

one of the many plates of food I consumed at Cosmo

There's a lot of freedom to traveling and going to Belfast made me even more excited about my other weekend trips I have planned.  In two weeks from now, I'll be visiting Copenhagen, Denmark with Alex and Merrill! It's going to be so great seeing them and meeting up with our other SMC friends who are studying abroad in Copenhagen now. Along with the Copenhagen trip, Alex and I have already made plans to go to Paris, Milan, Madrid, London, and Amsterdam. During my April break, my parents and my brother are visiting and it looks like right now we'll be exploring France, Scotland, and Ireland together. While I haven't found myself feeling too homesick yet, I'm still looking forward to having them here and traveling around with them.

I've only been in Northern Ireland for three weeks and I already don't want to leave. I'm ready to explore everything I can before I go back home in May!



Sunday, January 26, 2014

Week One of Ireland

Last Sunday, I hopped on an airplane by myself for the first time ever. No family, no friends, no familiar faces. I was navigating myself through the baggage claim and security system, as well as entertaining myself during a 5 hour layover in New Jersey and a 7 hour flight to Belfast, Ireland.

Prior to my flight, I was nervous and scared. It was my first time traveling alone and I'm pretty sure I checked to make sure I had my boarding pass and passport every 5 seconds. Those were just the nerves kicking in at that point. I was scared about doing something different and leaving behind my family and friends, all of the people who I feel the closest to. Those feelings started to disappear when I got on the plane because there was no going back at that point. I was on my way to study at the University of Ulster in Coleraine, Ireland, and that made me get excited about what the next couple of months would entail.

When I arrived at the Belfast International airport on Monday morning, I was tired. I had been traveling for quite some time and the time difference between here and back home certainly didn't make it any better (5 hours behind back home). I experienced immediate jetlag and wanted to go back to sleep, but it's recommended to avoid napping so you can fight off the jetlag and get adjusted to the time difference. I really wanted to stay awake during my train ride from Belfast to university to see the beautiful Ireland scenery, but I ended up cheating the jetlag system and taking a power nap.

power napping at its finest

After an hour or so, I arrived to campus. I carried my huge suitcase and duffle bag up the stairs to my flat, or apartment. I was surprised to see I was living in a single with my own bathroom and shower. This was the place I would be calling my home until the end of May. I took my time unpacking and sorting things out in my room (things that I'm still doing now), and I started getting ready for the dinner for all international students.

At the dinner, the university served us traditional Irish stew as a way to say C'ead Mile Failte (a thousand welcomes to you). It was great to get a taste of Irish food right away and get the opportunity to connect with other international students, but all I really wanted to do was go to sleep since I was so jetlagged.

Luckily, I adjusted to the time difference a lot better the second day of orientation and I was feeling a lot more energized. We had a heavy amount of lectures coming up for the rest of the week about basic information like health, safety, clubs, and careers. I was the most excited to hear about the clubs and the campus life. There are a lot of different sports and volunteer opportunities available. In February, there's this week called RAG week and the whole campus participates in it. This video below can probably do a lot better job of explaining what it is than I can do:


 
 
So of course orientation week was all about learning vital information about the campus, but it was also important to make connections with other international students and start exploring the area. Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, there's a free bus that brings all students downtown. The downtown area has a ton of shopping to do! There's this place called Poundland, which is the equivalent of a dollar store and you can find some great things there. Since students are not on a meal plan, all students do their cooking in the flat kitchens. Right near Poundland is the local grocery store, Tesco, which is similar to a Walmart, and all of the food is fairly cheap there. The downtown area is only 20 minutes away from campus, so when the buses aren't running, it's not a bad walk back to campus (we walked back from there yesterday-- extra workout for us since we were all carrying our groceries, too!) 
downtown Coleraine
It probably wasn't the best idea to start blogging at 2am over here at this time, but I wanted to get out my first post before classes start tomorrow (or for me on Tuesday since I don't have Monday and Friday classes) and things get busier. The tiredness is starting to kick in, so here's the rest of week one told in pictures:
Giant's Causeway
                                            
group of us at Giant's Causeway
karaoking it up
Derry, Northern Ireland

University of Ulster Magee campus in Derry

Primark- the European Marshall's or TJ Maxx- everything you need at low prices!


inside of the Free Derry museum 

It's only week one and there's definitely a lot more to come-- so keep reading to hear more about everything!
 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Top Memories from Junior Year


Another semester has been completed. Only 3 more semesters left of college, 2 at Saint Mike's and 1 in Coleraine, Ireland. Saying some see you laters last week to my best friends put a lot of things into perspective. I won't be seeing most of them until August since I'm studying abroad next semester.  Definitely a lot of emotions going through my mind as I have less than a month at home before I go to Ireland for 5 months.

With lots of free time at home, I decided to keep up with my tradition of doing some of my top memories from the year (or in this case, the semester).

  • Hanging out with my SMC family. Without writing a crazy long novel (because I could go on and on about how great everyone is), this is how the section can best be summed up-- great times and wonderful people. 
boat cruise with Brendan, Dennis, and Lauren, who I have been friends with since the first week of freshman year

picture with some of my favorites (L to R): Dennis, Hanna, Brendan, Christine, and Mike




some awesome bloggers (from left to right): Alex, Brendan, Lauren, and myself.
my roommate Kristen!


Lhanzi, my roommate from last year!





group of Lauren's killin it
  • MJD bonding. It felt like a good chunk of my semester was spent in Bergeron working on editing documentaries and writing articles. I do have an extreme love-hate relationship with Bergeron. I usually dread going there, but as soon as I walk in, I always see a lot of familiar faces which makes everything better. Along with missing a lot of my classmates, I'm going to miss the MJD department as a whole. I had two great professors this past semester (Jon Hyde and Allison Cleary) who taught me to think critically and work hard.

 Juliana (L), me, and other Lauren (R) bright and early for our Magazine Writing class



  • Orientation Week. I enjoyed spending a lot of time with the group of orientation leaders and connecting with my orientation partner and our group (group 18, wooohoooo!) It was nice to come back a week earlier and be involved in the whole orientation week. Excited to be doing it again next year!
my great orientation partner, Richie!

junior orientation leaders!
all of the orientation leaders!



  • Her Campus. Alex and I started a Her Campus chapter for SMC our sophomore year. All of our group meetings have been really fun and I'm going to miss them a lot. Since Alex and I are both going abroad and have a busy senior year ahead of us, we decided to step down from being the managers of the chapter. Still, I'm hoping to play a smaller role in it senior year!

me and Alex!

Her Campus group

I'm gonna miss Saint Mike's a ton, but I'll be blogging with updates about my time in Ireland next semester. Be sure to be on the look out for those posts!

Thanks for reading and happy holidays! 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

What Community Means to Me

Before committing to Saint Mike's, I toured it twice to make sure it was the school for me. On both of my tours, two different tour guides tossed around the word "community" a lot. They said that community was their favorite part about Saint Mike's and it was a big reason why they chose Saint Mike's.


It's one thing to hear about a strong community, but to be a part of it is indescribable. I don't think I really understood the true definition of community until I came to Saint Mike's. I see everyone everywhere making connections with other students, professors, and other employees of the school. People are on a first name basis with the dining hall workers and the shuttle drivers, and they even try to remember your name, too. People hold the doors for each other, even when the other person is a mile away. The small things mean the most.  

Last year, I went on LEAP, a religious retreat hosted by Campus Ministry. On the retreat, the word "community" was once again brought up, and I thought about Saint Mike's as a whole and how it is has this awesome community, but my whole definition of community changed when someone brought up how you make your own communities everywhere you go. Think about it. You have your Religious Studies class community, your on-campus club community, your sports team community.. the list goes on.

It's great to know you have these smaller communities within the big supportive community of the campus. I'm going abroad next semester and this has brought on a lot of emotions of being nervous, excited, and scared. One thing for certain is that I know that with a strong community like Saint Mike's, I know that all of the communities I'm a part of right now are going to be there for me when I come back.
MJD community

Her Campus

Ryan Hall community

Orientation group/ First year seminar group

Tour guiding

LEAP community

Ethan Allen

Student Association

Pontigny Hall

Orientation Leader community