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7 posts categorized "Travel"

04/17/2018

The Final Stretch

by Katie King 

 

It’s the last week of classes, which means a few things for me. My time in Ireland is almost done, the deadlines for my final assignments are starting to creep up and summer is almost here.

            While I normally love the end of the academic year because for me it means leaving school and living in the Sierra Nevada Mountains for three and a half months, this year it is particularly bittersweet. I have dreamed of studying in Ireland for as long as I can remember and to think I only have one more month in this country is truly heartbreaking. Even though I know that I’ll will be returning at some point, it’s difficult to imagine not waking up in Dublin every morning. The past three months have been a dream but the reality of my school responsibilities are slowly materializing.

            Still, one of the biggest challenges while studying here (besides learning to understand the heavy accent) has been adjusting to the Irish school system. Irish students spend a lot less time in the classroom than their American counterparts and learning course material is much more self-motivated. Grades in most classes depend on one or two major assignments or exams at the end of the semester, whereas in the states, students can have quizzes every week, three essays due a term and an exam for just one course on top of all the required reading. Coming from an American school system to an Irish one almost seemed like taking a semester off. Until now.

            When choosing classes for this semester, I noted whether or not the courses were 100% continuous assessment bases, 100% examination based or a mixture of the two. Personally, I am not a good test taker. Studying for examinations has always been painful for me, but I love to write. I always excel in classes that require more writing and analysis than the regurgitation of information. I decided at the beginning of the semester that I would try and pick classes with 100% continuous assessment requirements in order to be academically successful.

            Studying abroad has been an amazing experience that I will never forget. I’ve gotten to travel to several different countries, see most of the country of Ireland and I have made amazing memories along the way. That being said, I have not put in quite as much effort into my studies as I normally do at home. My weekends have been spent exploring foreign countries, giving me very little opportunity to catch up on my courses. I recommend for any student who is considering studying abroad to try and make sure their course schedule plays to their strengths so when the examination period comes around they don’t go into a panic. Even though I will be spending the next week or so working on a number of essays for my courses, it does not scare me as much as it would if I was having to prepare for five examinations.

03/20/2018

“Let’s stay further outside the city; it’ll be cheaper!”

By Madison McLaughlin 

Ah, the infamous words of a study abroad student trying to save money. Upon our arrival to Dublin, my friends and I began planning trips, both domestically and internationally, in a frenzy. We wanted to get as many weekends booked as we could to make the most of our study abroad experience. We hit the ground running and toured Ireland for our first few weekends, staying in spacious airbnbs in both Cork and Galway.

 

When initially looking at accommodation options, it is only natural that a college student’s eyes gravitate towards those with the lowest prices. However, with lower costs comes a greater distance. This may sound great at first because after all, you are saving money, right? Well, not exactly.

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We quickly learned that though nicer accommodations existed further outside city centers at a reasonable price, we would pay the price in transportation fees. Even though we could use our leap cards in other Irish cities besides Dublin, we found that bus stops outside other city centers were not as prominent, not to mention they do not always run at the most convenient times. We ended up calling several taxis because, of course, we wanted to be in the city center during the day and then once again at night. Though we had four people to split fares, our methods of transportation ended up being much pricier than we expected.

 

In retrospect, paying the extra ten or twenty euro to stay closer to city centers is DEFINITELY worth it. For what we ended up spending in both taxi and bus fares to and from our accommodations, we could have stayed in a location much closer, and saved a lot of stress running back and forth. Though we will continue to look for ways to save money, location is one thing we have come to splurge a little more on when traveling. A walk to restaurants and pubs is a much better option than pre-booking taxis and trying to schedule bus routes – save yourself the trouble (and money)!

 

Despite our slight travel frustrations, we had wonderful weekends in both Cork and Galway. Cork had many more shopping options, but nothing beats the cobblestone streets of Galway strung with lights in every direction, not to mention its proximity to the Cliffs of Moher. My friends and I were incredibly lucky on our visit to the cliffs, as it was one of the sunniest days I have yet to see in Ireland. The bar has been set pretty high!


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03/09/2018

Tips for Making your GNIB/INIS Appointment

By Elise Bauernfiend

 

If you’re studying in Ireland for more than 90 days, you’ll need to register with Irish Immigration Authorities, known as INIS. While this can seem intimidating, it’s not difficult if you know what to do. Here are the tips that helped my appointment go smoothly.

 

 

  • Make and appointment well in advance

 

I made my appointment about two and a half months before the appointment actually happened, and I still got one of the only spots left of the INIS website. Appointments are limited and can only be made on the INIS website, so make sure you get your appointment early.

 

 

  • Read the INIS website thoroughly so you know exactly what to bring

 

INIS has very specific requirements about what you need to bring to your appointment. Read the list carefully at least a couple weeks in advance of your appointment so you have time to get all the required documents.

 

 

  • Bring all the required materials with you to your appointment, ESPECIALLY YOUR PASSPORT

 

This may seem obvious, but you need all the materials with you at your appointment, especially your passport. There’s a chance they won’t look at some of the smaller pieces of material, but without your passport you cannot proceed with the appointment.

 

 

  • Don’t show up early or late

 

It seems like being early to your appointment would be a good thing, but there are so many people who all have very specific appointment times, that all being early does is clog the system and create a longer wait time for everyone. Also, it should go without saying, but don’t be late. It has the same effects as being early, but they also might not let you in. There is a Starbucks right next door. I would suggest being early, waiting there, and going into the office at the time of your appointment.

 

 

  • Be Patient

 

At my appointment, I got through both steps (first they take your passport and documents, then you wait to be fingerprinted, and then you wait to get your passport back and are done) within an hour and a half. I thought I’d get lucky and be done within two hours instead of the six hours that it took for some of my friends, but instead I waited almost another three hours just to get my passport back. It’s incredibly difficult to wait for that long, but it takes so much pressure off when the appointment is over.

 

 

  • Bring something to do while you wait

 

The INIS office has horrible service and no wifi, so I’d suggest bringing a book or downloading shows on your phone. It can be an excruciating few hours if you’re stuck with nothing to do.

11/23/2017

Irish Caving Or Just "Subterranean Swimming"

Irish Caving

Or Just “Subterranean Swimming”

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My big adventure this week was a caving trip with the DCU caving club in County Claire (Western coast of Ireland). I have very few pictures from this weekend trip due to how incredibly flooded the caves were. All I can say was that nothing I could have heard before this trip could have prepared me for how intense the experience was. The club leaders said that we were going on a "Freshers Trip" and that we would not be using ropes in the caves, we would only be walking in a largely horizontal manner. I sort of took this to mean that our trip would be sort of boring and introductory. I couldn't have been more wrong. From the very beginning of my first cave, we had to walk through a waterfall to enter, and after that, things got steadily more and more wet. From walking downstream, to crawling neck-deep upstream, and climbing up waterfalls, I had no idea that by the end of the trip, no surface of my body would be dry.

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Above is a picture of what a typical evening of training looks like for the caving club that I am part of.  We practice twice a week for 3 hours, so by the time we all leave we are rather exhausted and sometimes go out together to grab something to eat.  The gear that we are all using in that photo is the same gear that we use in the caves so it is good practice to get used to it with safety mats underneath of us before heading out into real, dangerous caves.

 

Caving 3

We arrived at the cottage where we would be staying for the next two nights very late Friday evening, long after the sun had gone down, so I really didn’t have any idea where I was until the next morning.  When I woke up, I walked over to the window and this is the sight that I was greeted with.

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This, unfortunately, is the only photo I got of the cave with my camera, due to my lack of having a waterproof case.  Though, it is possible to get a little notion of just how wet the whole endeavor was, from this picture.  All the rain on the trees, the waterfall (barely visible toward the back of the hole), and the mud outside of the entrance all flowed down into the narrow opening.  After entering through the waterfall, we trekked a few kilometers down the cave as water rushed all around our feet.  The two veterans of our group of five said that they had never seen it so incredibly wet down there, but it made many subterranean waterfalls along the way look absolutely gorgeous.  After we got as far down as we could safely go with all the water trying to pull us deeper, we had to turn around and crawl back out.  This involved climbing up waterfalls, squeezing through ravines so narrow that it was impossible to turn one’s head to look back, and crawling under fallen boulders that forced anyone left dry to fully submerge their body in the river.

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These are just a couple of shots of us post-cave.  I found out the hard way the caving is certainly not a sport for the faint of heart, but I am really glad of that.  I found that I fell in love with the challenge of it.

11/15/2017

Hiking Glendalough

Erik Finley

CIEE Dublin

Monasteries, Mountains, and Mines: Hiking Glendalough

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A Spectacular Glacial Valley Amidst the Wicklow Mountains

My latest weekend adventure was a trip to Glendalough Lake, about an hour’s drive south of Dublin, with the DCU Rock Climbing Club.  Unfortunately for us, the weather was a little too wet for any climbing on Saturday, but it didn’t stop us from going on a beautiful hike the following Sunday.

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The view outside of our cottage

 

Monasteries

One of the first things we passed on our hike was a round tower from the historical monastic site of the Glendalough valley. 

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This tower is thought to have been a bell tower for the medieval monastery in the valley founded by Saint Kevin in the 6th century.

Mountains

As we ventured further into the valley, next to the lake, the trail became more and more serene. Our group first found ourselves in a lush pine forest with the sun peeking through onto the trail ahead of us.

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After a while of strolling through the trees, the forest opened up and we got a taste of the incredible view still ahead of us. On the far side of the valley was a waterfall that looks small in the pictures, as it is still very far away.

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Mines

Walking further down the path toward the waterfall, we came to the Glendalough Mining village, founded in the 1790s.  This encampment was set up to mine lead, zinc, and silver from the mountains and thrived in the truly desolate landscape up until it was closed in 1957. All that remains now are some crumbling structures and an iron or steel grinding mill.

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Looking around the now deserted village made me consider what it must have been like to live there in the 1800's.  It was windy, cold, and desolate, but a certain peacefulness and tranquility could also be felt.  I am really enjoying my weekend adventures here in Ireland and even with the rainy weather, this was no exception.  I would recommend hiking Glendalough to anyone considering visiting the Dublin area.

11/08/2017

Transforming Homesickness into a New Home

Transforming Homesickness into a New Home

 

Wednesday afternoon: I finish my lecture session and walk back to my apartment, fellow expats beside me. We chat about our upcoming plans visiting new countries and areas within Ireland. The conversation has a zing as we share our excitement of exploration. The door closes behind me and silence of my room began to feel louder than the conversation. My phone is silent; no texts from my friends or family back home in California. I check Instagram, which reveals that my friends were out hitting the town back home and my mother is was busy treating my family to dinner. They’re over there and I’m over here, alone.

Suddenly I realize, I’m not alone and I have so many methods to turn this experience into a positive one so I make some hot chocolate, text my best friend, put on the fuzzy socks, and pick up the book I’ve been wanting read for the last year, but never had time for…

 

Prior to embarking on our journey to Ireland, my cohort and I were presented with a graph detailing the “typical” experience during a semester or year abroad (shown below). We were told that we would go through a wave of emotions, beginning with a sort of euphoria upon initial arrival. Everything is exciting and interesting! New beers, new food, new friends, new smells and sights...Ireland is a new land to explore that is just excited to meet us. We were warned that as this “honeymoon” phase wore off, we would enter the homesickness phase. A time when all the new sights and smells felt not as comforting as those back home. We would miss the mundane and the routine, including ranch dressing for our fries and the fact that our produce lasted more than a few days in the fridge. After some time coping, we were then told that we would slowly rise out of the hole and fall in love with out new home.

 

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The simplicity of a graph does not explain everything, of course. Each individual living away from home has their own unique experiences. The intersectional elements of each individual’s identity determines the outcomes. For example, those who are accustomed to more distance and infrequent communication with family could thrive living away from home, whereas others, such as myself, who are more accustomed to frequent contact could need time to adjust.

The experience of studying abroad is not only one of outward exploration, but personal development as well. During our time away, we are increasing our self-sufficiency and confidence, learning about our needs and necessities in order to maintain happiness, and broadening perspectives as we engage with multiple cultures. Combating homesickness is just one of the challenges presented to many away from home and it serves as a crucial part of self-growth.

 

Here are a few general tips to ease the experience of homesickness abroad

 

 

1.   Maintain Routine

 

Identify rituals in your daily life and remember to pack them next to the socks. If you needed that morning workout to kick-start your day at home, bring it with you! Consider seeking a gym membership (CIEE Dublin Students have a membership to the gym at DCU) or downloading a helpful phone app for direction. Did you talk about your day over dinner with your roommates? Try proposing this tradition to your new roommates, jotting down your thoughts in a journal, or sending a recap to a friend back home. Maintaining routine is crucial to maintain normalcy while abroad and is easy to implement. For more complex habits, consider adjusting them. If you always played the trumpet before bed, maybe help your roommates out and play before lunch or with a jazz group.

 

 

2.   Maintain Contact with a Support Network

 

Although home is far away and time differences make communication difficult, arranging for some form of regular contact back home can be incredibly beneficial. Consider asking a few of the people that make you happiest if they are up to talking every once and awhile. Contact does not have to be a large undertaking either! Send a picture of something that reminds you of them or a quick text during the day. Arrange for a phone call when it works out and hear about their days just as much as they hear about yours. If ever you feel disconnected from home, don’t be afraid to reach out to your support network and maybe bring back a little souvenir for them.

 

 

3.   Indulge in the Creature Comforts

 

Studying abroad can be expensive and every penny saved for another excursion, however, a few of the comforting things should be considered an investment. Identify which areas of your life require lower maintenance and which require higher. For instance, I’m not one to need several different outfits, therefore, I avoid purchasing too many new clothes. I am, however, a little higher maintenance in the body-care and coffee departments so I have allowed myself to buy a new face mask, some essential oils, lotion, a French press, and some high-end coffee. Save money in the areas less attended to and invest (within reason) in the areas that are important to your happiness.

 

 

4.   Establish a Sanctuary

 

Back home, you likely have posters on the walls, a music player, television, candles burning, and whatever else makes home feel like home. These elements can also be used to make a new home away from home. Consider packing a few small items that make you happy to put up around your new room and seeking out some low-cost or disposable decor to arrange. These could include hand-made drawings (which is a great form of meditation by the way), interesting postcards or pictures from different sites, fresh flowers, a cool cup from Dealz, or a few souvenirs your find along the way. Make your room your sanctuary where everything on the corkboard makes you smile (so maybe no homework pinned up there.) The second aspect to this is to take care of your sanctuary. It has been long told that a messy space can create a messy mind or vice-versa. Try your best to keep things tidy and take out the trash so that your space is a place of rest rather than stress.

 

 

5.   Find your Niche

 

In this case, niche not only refers to a place of belonging, but people as well. It takes time to make friends and develop social circles, for some longer than others, but remain open to possibilities and challenge your comfort zone a little. Introducing yourself to strangers and signing up for a few societies could be the doorway to new friendships and potentially, a crew to adventure with. Getting to know your fellow cohort is also a wonderful first step to making new friends and developing a supportive circle, however, do not limit yourself to fellow Americans or International Students. Get to know some locals! This being said, recognize what serves you and how to utilize social practices to your benefit. Introverted individuals are those that gain energy by having some alone time in order to later socialize to their fullest. Extroverted individuals gain their energy from the presence of others and therefore desire minimal alone time and need social interaction to thrive. Recognize where you draw your energies from and honor those needs so that you can function your best. (P.S. If you are on the introverted side, like me, remember that it is OK to stay in when everyone goes out to the pub, however beware only making friends with yourself and make sure to get out when you can!)

 

 

6.   It’s OK to Feel Homesick

 

If you notice feelings of homesickness, do not beat yourself. It is normal and healthy to miss home. Consider expressing these feelings in a healthy way by increasing self-care, contact with the support network, or talking to a fellow study abroad student. You are not the only one to long for home and will likely find that every student studying abroad feels it in different ways and degrees. Give yourself permission to treat yourself extra special when these feelings come up and do your best to not bury them underneath more travel plans. Do not push feelings aside, because they will return in fuller force. If harmful thoughts or behaviors begin to occur, speak with a professional or your onsite program advisors. Healthy and happy memories are the most important souvenir!

11/17/2014

Conquest, Ships and Conflicts in Belfast

A lot of people don't realize that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom (along with Britain, Wales, and Scotland) and completely separate from the Republic of Ireland.

I went on a field trip with my CIEE program to Belfast this week,and it was absolutely incredible. I really enjoyed the city of Belfast, and I wish I would've had more time to spend exploring the place. But we did manage to cram in a ton of historical sites and discussions in a day and a half!

1. The Troubles
Before I got to Ireland, I truly didn't realize that Northern Ireland had experienced its own violent civil war during the 70's - 90's. This conflict was driven by the cultural differences between the Protestant Unionists who wanted to remain a part of the United Kingdom and the Catholic Nationalists who wanted to be a part of the Republic of Ireland. The conflict was a mix of political, religious, and cultural tensions, and there was both a personal and physical divide throughout the city.

On our tour through the city we were able to see the murals that are physical reminders of the conflict. We examined their symbolism, and learned how the conflict in N. Ireland often associated with global conflicts like the Separatist movement in Catalan, Spain and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We also saw the physical walls that still separate the country into protestant and catholic areas, and even streets. Martin told us that someone could identify what side of the conflict you were on just by asking which street you lived on or where you went to school. 32274611236978
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2. TITANIC!

I didn't even know that the Titanic was designed and built in Belfast, and that actually Belfast was at the forefront of industry and shipbuilding at the time and had the largest docks in the world. We were given a walking tour of the area including through the original shipyards, the office of Mr. Andrews, the drawing rooms where the sip was designed, and even the pump house that controlled the dock. It was really dreary and rainy, but it was still a blast to hear about the famous ship, and our tour guide was really peppy.


It was also right next to the Titanic Studios, which is where Game of Thrones is filmed. I don’t watch the show, but everyone else was pretty excited about it. Don’t get too excited though, we didn’t see anyone famous haha.

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3. City Hall

So I didn’t get to see anything political, but Belfast as a gorgeous city hall. I know, its something only a Government major could get excited about.

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4. Carrickfergus Castle

If you ever go to Ireland, you better have a fondness for castles and Norman Viking History, because it perforates cities and history everywhere. We got a really great tour of this castle built by the Normans, and it evolved over history as different generations of rulers built on it and changed it. It was really fascinating getting to learn about life way back then, and understanding how the whole structure was built with defense and war in mind. I also got to hold a sword, so that’s always a good time.

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