Tuesday, May 20, 2014

An Abroad Reflection and a Look into Senior Year

My last post told the tale of my up and down experiences with my abroad time at the two month mark. In a way, I kind of left it off as a cliffhanger as I never really gave any updates about my health status since then (whoops). As many as my close friends, family, and the rest of the SMC community may know, after not receiving any clear-cut answers from doctors in Ireland, I chose to go home and figure out my health. After years of planning to go abroad, I didn't picture my experience to end quite like that. But, just because it may not have ended on the perfect note doesn't mean that I didn't live the abroad experience and enjoy my time in Ireland.

If anything, going abroad was the best thing I've ever done. Of course, I was originally nervous, scared, and excited all at the same time as I was flying to the other side of the world embarking on this soul-searching journey by myself. I was extremely jetlagged the first couple of days and it wasn't until I adjusted to the time zone that it hit me-- okay, I'm in Ireland and let's do this whole abroad thing. So, the first couple of weeks were all about meeting new people, adjusting to different class schedules, trying to figure out public transportation systems, learning cool Irish phrases, exploring the campus and the surrounding area, trying new foods and drinks, and venturing off campus to do anything related to exploring the beautiful Ireland scenery. In the two months I was there, I was able to see some of the hot spots of Northern Ireland like the Giant's Causeway, The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, the Titantic Museum, the Crown Bar, and Bushmill's Distillery. Although my cool, crazy spring break trip around Europe didn't work out, I was still fortunate enough to go to Copenhagen with two of my very good SMC friends, Alex and Merrill.

Looking back at the experience, I'm not thinking of the "what ifs." I'm thinking more about the actual things I accomplished and the amazing people I met along my journey. Coming home sooner than expected was definitely challenging, but like going abroad, it was another great thing I did for myself. I've been figuring out a lot of things I need to work on in this interesting journey called life and it's cool to have the summer before my senior year be the time that I work on these things.

Senior year has a lot in store so far. A couple of weeks ago, I found out that I will be Co-Secretary of Programming, alongside one of my good friends, William. The Secretaries of Programming are mainly responsible for planning the larger events around campus such as P-day, the Spring concert, and the Fall comedian. We also work together with clubs of the Student Association and the rest of the Student Association E-board (which is full of a lot of great people that I'm pumped about working with!) On the academic side of things, I was fortunately able to gain credits from my abroad courses and with taking an online summer course through SMC, I will officially be all caught up with credits, so that is cooool!

I also will be wrapping up my Media Studies and Journalism major with senior seminar. As MJD majors, we have the option of writing a book, creating a film, or designing a website for our senior project. No matter what I decide to do, I just know senior year will require a lot of time in the good ole Bergeron. On the other side of things, it will require some time in some other buildings that I'm not so familiar with since I'll be taking an acting class and a dance class just to have some fun!

Anyways, I'll be posting more updates throughout the summer as other cool and exciting things come up. I hope everybody safe travels for those who are coming back from abroad and I hope everybody is enjoying their summer!

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:


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!