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Failté Aráis go Dublin


Welcome back to Dublin! We are reviving our blog, with some fresh stories of new arrivals  and adventure! We hope you’ll join us in staying up-to-date on what’s on in Dublin, and what students are up to.

Week one brought in twelve CIEE Dublin students, who hit Dublin running - exploring the city, learning to navigate Irish culture and accents on their own, and finding some new favourite spots in the city.

To wrap up our orientation week, we visited the National Gallery of Ireland, founded in 1854. Re-opened in June after 7 years of renovation, students were able to experience a one-time premier exhibit, Vermeer and the Masters. (More can be read about the exhibit here.)  With the Dargan Wing open to the public again, students took time to explore artwork from all over the world, celebrating the likes of Carvaggio, Picasso, Monet, and Titian.

Art Gallery Trip 2017

The following weekend we hit the tracks (literally!) and grabbed the DART out to Howth, a seaside village north of Dublin. Students took on Howth head, hiking the coastal path from the village to lighthouse at the end of the peninsula. Students had the chance to wrap up their adventure with some tradition fish and chips or fresh seafood from the local harbor!

Howth Trip 2017

Keep joining us for future adventures, and stories directly from our students of their own travels, both in Ireland and abroad! We’ll be posting to our Instagram & Twitter as well, with fun facts, cool shots, and tips for studying abroad – come travel with us!



Week 1: ''It's not weird, it's interesting.''

I find myself thinking about this quite often. I keep thinking “oh, that’s weird” when I see things that are different than that of the US. Every time I think that something is “weird” I try to tell myself “no, it’s just interesting.”

Over the past week here in Dublin, I can honestly say I have explored and learned more than I ever have. The week started with a tour of campus, which was followed by a walking tour of the city the next day. After a day on our own in the city, we had the chance to go to Causey Farm, a traditional Irish farm. And of course, the week had to end with watching the final Gaelic football game of the season, which Dublin won! Talk about a diverse country.

City CenterCity Center

Causey FarmCausey Farm

Living on campus here is a little different than what I have become used to over the past two years at my home university. I had to go grocery shopping and plan my own meals…does this make me an adult? We found grocery shopping to be a bit of a challenge between not knowing the brands and not knowing what to buy in general. In Ireland, you have to pay per plastic bag as a way to help the environment, so the walk back from Tesco (the local grocery store) was a bit of a challenge. It’s about 20 minutes and I was carrying one large reusable bag.

A more familiar adventure we went on this week was to Ikea. It was great going somewhere I recognized, but at the same time, it was a little weird. At one point, I forgot that I was even in Dublin. Yes, I will probably find myself in Ikea again over the next three months, but I would rather go to places I am unfamiliar with because it’ll help me learn my surroundings.

Our first Friday night was Culture Night, which is when museums in the city stay open late and extra tours are offered. We had the chance to stop by an art gallery, the National Library of Ireland, and the National Museum of Ireland-Archaeology. Tourists and residents of Dublin are among the people who participate in Culture Night.

I can’t wait until I have the chance to get lost in the city to really learn my way around and venture out on my own. But for now, my markers are the Ha’penny Bridge, Trinity College, and Grafton Street.

Ha'penny BridgeHa'penny Bridge

Grafton StreetGrafton Street

Not only is living on campus a different situation than I am accustomed to, but so is the educational system. Ireland uses the cohort system, so we were not able to register for classes until orientation week. What does this mean? It is a struggle to get in contact with your home university to get courses approved, but it will all be worked out by the time classes start.

If my first week here in Dublin has anything to say about the rest of the semester, I cannot wait for all of the fabulous opportunities. I made my first meal, which may have been peanut butter and jelly, but you have to start somewhere! While exploring the city, we found a really cute café that I definitely plan on going to quite a few times. Most importantly, I feel like my group has formed a bond that will only grow as we get further into the semester.

Tracey Pyser, Susquehanna University


Universal(ish) Truths

My last post focused on the differences I was experiencing on my trip, for the second installment, I’ve gathered a couple of things that seem to ring true in all the places I’ve been. I use the term “universal-ish” because this is a sample from 5 countries in relatively close proximity to one another, so in no way are these actually universal truths.


1. Everyone Loves Taylor Swift

Whether you’re on a crowded bus in Portugal, a cab in Glasgow, or in a pub in Dublin, when a Taylor swift song comes on there is a general head bobbing that begins and people acknowledge how catchy it is. I read something recently about T-Swizzle being compared to this generation’s Michael Jackson. Not that she is as talented or will have as long of a staying power, but the fact that she can bridge age and cultural gaps. She isn’t as offensive as Miley, is more accessible than Beyoncé, and encompasses what most people hope all American girls are like: tall and blonde with an affinity for red lipstick.


​(Starbucks didn't make the list but I appreciate the Scottish twist on the place)


2. They Also Love Harry Potter

The book has been translated into 63 different languages so this one might have some truth to it, but this is a biased opinion because I’ve been travelling to countries with HP history everywhere. Though must say there is something special about walking around Edinburgh whistling “Hedwig’s Theme,” with your friend, taking in the city JK Rowling used as inspiration for her novels. Almost everyone on the trip could readily present which house they’ve been sorted in via online quizzes (Full disclosure, I’m a Slytherin). That detail alone explains why I was too lazy to wait in the Platform 9 ¾ s line at King’s Cross Station. Instead I chose to take a picture of a tourist taking a picture in front of it.


​(Edinburgh, Scotland)

3. Young People Just Want To Move On

            I’ve been in a class learning about the history of Ireland and after the first few classes, I found myself being sort of mad at England. I was filled with a pseudo-nationalistic anger; I watched the “Iron Lady” and channeled my frustration in trying to understand Margaret Thatcher. But when I asked my Irish friends about the history, they seemed indifferent. When I quizzed them about their thoughts on the oppression from England they replied, “Well didn’t they do the same to you?” This hadn’t even crossed my mind. The situations are wildly different, due to time and space they feel from the conflict, but just like in the States, young people generally want to move on.

This also goes for very young children, in a more literal sense. It does not matter what historical site, museum, or castle you are trying to tour, kids do not care. It does not matter what battle was won on this site, who was buried there, they just want their Ipad and they want to go home. I cannot say I do not identify with these desires. After traveling for 48 hours and somehow finding myself sleep deprived staring at a really old building, there is a large part of me that wants to throw a tantrum then have a nap.


​(Children ignoring history in Lisbon, Portugal)


- Anna Aiello



Why do we study abroad? Many people have different viewpoints and opinions on going abroad—but to me, the study abroad experience is a necessity to one’s education. Through experiencing another culture first-hand, we can expand our worldview in ways that the standard classroom simply cannot provide. The abroad experience is all interactive and hands-on. You learn to adapt to a different lifestyle in a completely foreign land, and over time, what was once a strange way of life becomes part of your own. Having studied abroad before, I went into this second semester abroad with more confidence, but also a desire to get even more out of my second opportunity to see the world. This is the only time in my life that I can experience this much culture at such a young age—a time where I don’t have any obligations to a job, family, etc. I am lucky enough to have a second abroad opportunity, so I need to use my prior knowledge from my first experience to get a complete and life-changing overall abroad experience. 

            I have realized that being an abroad student is a lot different, and should be a lot different, than simply being a tourist. As a student abroad in Dublin, there are lots of touristy things that one can get trapped into doing. Of course, there is nothing wrong with going to museums or the stereotypical touristy places. However, I have realized that if I really want to immerse myself into the Irish culture, I should try to avoid these places and live like a true Dubliner—or in this case, wait for my parents (the true tourists) to come and experience those kind of things with them. It is inevitable to get sucked into some tourist attractions, but I think in order to get the most out of an immersive abroad experience, I need integrate myself into the Irish culture.

            I think an important way to have a successful and smooth immersion experience is to combine your passions with the surrounding culture. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s important to try new things and explore different interests, but the initial integration can be easier if you do something that’s comfortable. For example, I love to play basketball, so I joined a local basketball club in Dublin. I also think it’s important to explore interests—for example, I love to observe people, places, and environments. I usually go into the city, find a café, and just sit and watch people interact. I have been going to a different café every time I go into the city, and I try to avoid the “big name” places like Starbucks and Costa. The best café I have been to in Dublin was a place called Accents—a hidden gem in the city centre.

I stumbled upon the Accents café on a side street off Grafton. I couldn’t believe how secluded it was from the rest of the hustle and bustle near one of the busiest streets in Dublin. I stepped into the café and felt like I had walked into a home. The place was meant for me. It was a quiet café, not much noise at all. I noticed that no one had gone to the café alone—everyone was in quiet conversation with one another. It was packed, but it didn’t give off that vibe. The place was so spacious and homey. The soft melody of The Avett Brothers played in the background as I ordered my coffee. When I walked through the door, I was immediately greeted by a friendly Accents barista. I felt welcomed, which I think is a significant part of the Irish culture in general. The baristas were cool in every sense of the word. They were dressed like hipsters and had several piercings, but their friendliness was comforting. Once I ordered, the barista said she would bring my coffee out to me.

It was really interesting to observe the atmosphere in Accents. The customers were mostly students—all very young and hip. I found their clothing to be very stylish and unique. It was completely different from the stereotypical “European” style. These customers were not homogenous in style, race, gender, etc. It was a very diverse setting. As I pulled out my laptop, I realized that I was the only person in the whole café who was on a computer. Everyone was engaged in conversation and enjoying each other’s company. The atmosphere felt so friendly and welcoming that I personally felt like I could have joined in on any conversation and it wouldn’t have been strange. When I received my coffee, the barista kindly mentioned that if I needed anything else to just let them know. The service was excellent and was nothing like what I have experienced in the States in most cafés. They actually cared.

Sipping on my coffee, I sank into a comfy sofa. The place is famous for having the most comfortable sofas and chairs, and I must say that it lived up to my standards. Every piece of furniture in the café is leather and puffy—very comfortable and pleasing. As I enjoyed my time at the café, I couldn’t help but notice that as customers entered the café, they either knew the baristas or someone else in the café. They seemed to all be regulars. It was unbelievable. Dublin is a major city, but it seems to narrow itself down at times. The “half-degree of separation”—or the idea that the Irish all know each other—seemed pretty accurate on this day at Accents.

            I found my overall experience in Accents to be pretty spot on to the life and vibes of Dublin. Reflecting on it now, I find this Irish story/saying to be very relatable to my time at Accents and in Dublin. The saying goes:

“In Ireland, you go to someone's house, and she asks you if you want a cup of tea. You say no, thank you, you're really just fine. She asks if you're sure. You say of course you're sure, really, you don't need a thing. Except they pronounce it ting. You don't need a ting. Well, she says then, I was going to get myself some anyway, so it would be no trouble. Ah, you say, well, if you were going to get yourself some, I wouldn't mind a spot of tea, at that, so long as it's no trouble and I can give you a hand in the kitchen. Then you go through the whole thing all over again until you both end up in the kitchen drinking tea and chatting. 

In America, someone asks you if you want a cup of tea, you say no, and then you don't get any damned tea. I liked the Irish way better.” 

-CE Murphy

As funny as this saying is, I find it to reflect the Irish culture perfectly. Everyone is welcoming and friendly, and the best part about it is that they are persistent in it. Overall, I found that my Accents café experience reflects my Dublin experience thus far. It’s a place full of character and excitement, kindness and simplicity, comfort and warmth. It’s a great city with a lot of spunk—and most importantly, it’s a place that encourages you to be yourself. It’s great when you can find a place that epitomizes an entire city, and I truly think the Accents café does so to perfection.


Leave it to a Frenchman to finally get me to begin to understand Ireland

In one of my first days in Dublin, I signed up to get my cool yellow wristband for the gym.  Planning ahead, I already had my workout clothes on, eager to check the place out.  I looked around the gym, walking by a raging spin class, checking out the pool and the pretty girls pretending to work out on the elliptical machines.  Finally, after some searching, I looked down on what I had heard about in whispers but could not believe before seeing it with my own eyes: a full size basketball court.

            An avid amateur basketball enthusiast back in the states, I had inquired to both my CIEE friends and DCU staff about the ability to play pick-up basketball at DCU and garnered mixed responses.  Was pick-up even a thing here?  Maybe at certain times?  Must we provide our own balls?  I shivered at the thought of four months without basketball, especially with college basketball now in full swing.
            As I walked around investigating and looking lost, I was approached by three guys my age who had a little difficulty communicating.  Through broken English and a lot of exaggerated gesturing, we established that they too, were international students (from Paris) who were also looking to play basketball.  We asked the DCU staff, who informed us that we would need to rent out the court for 30 euro an hour.  We politely and definitively declined, and I parted with my French friends in favor of the weight room.  We defeated the language barrier by wishing each other best of luck for the upcoming semester.
            The next night, my friends and I definitely did not go out to a bar in Temple Bar.  Because Temple Bar is totally for tourists, not locals like we were after four days in Dublin.  But let’s just say we were in the Temple Bar District.  For simplification purposes?  Anyway, as we hung out listening to some awesome live music, I got a tap on the shoulder.  As I was facing my friends, I thought who would ever tap me on the shoulder after the four short days I spent here?  I turned to find a face that took me a second to recognize.  It was one of my new French friends!  His name was Victor.  We laughed about our failed basketball explorations, added each other on Facebook, and of course took a picture together.
            Seeing Victor at the bar (and many times at lunch, around campus, etc.) helped me begin to realize what a small city Dublin is and what a small country Ireland is, especially in comparison to the U.S.A.  When I tell my new Irish friends I have family in Galway, they ask where, because chances are they might know a neighbor or mutual friend.  It is a concept hard to grasp coming from such a large country, but I feel like it makes for a more tight-knit community and culture here.  It is one of the many cultural differences I have come across as I settle in.  And in case you were interested in joining, Victor and I now play basketball together each Tuesday night at the DCU gym.


Hakuna Matata: What a Wonderful Phrase

 “Hakuna Matata”—it means no worries.  Although this is a Swahili phrase, it should be the Irish motto. During my first week abroad, I have never felt so relaxed and carefree in my life—but it didn’t begin that way. It all started with a foot race. Touching down in Chicago O’Hare, I had thirty minutes to make my connecting flight to Dublin, Ireland. Plenty of time, right? Not quite. It was my first time flying into Chicago, so little did I know that the airport was practically a city. I get off the plane and look for my gate. It read: Terminal T—however, there is no Terminal T in the Chicago O’Hare airport. After walking around aimlessly, I finally realized that the international flights took off in a completely different terminal that was a train ride away.          Once I made it to the international terminal, I had about 15 minutes to get to my gate. I took a deep breath as I feverishly texted my mother in panic. Great, I made it. I completely forgot, however, that I had to go through security again. I also decided to pick the slowest security line—a whole family misplaced their passports and were leisurely looking for them as I tapped my foot like a mad jackrabbit.

            The moment I get out of security, I hear over the PA system: “Last call for Aer Lingus flight to Dublin.” I am thankful for my long legs even more after that day, because I ran—no, sprinted to the gate—or what I thought was my gate. The gate had changed. So I whipped back around and sprinted in the other direction. It was like a movie, I kid you not. They were in the process of shutting the doors as I crossed the finish line, dripping in sweat and panting like a dog. I made it. I go to my seat on the plane and find that I am sitting with a guy in my program. It must’ve been a great first impression, me soaked in sweat and continuously panting until takeoff.


            I land in the Dublin airport and get through customs. Everything seemed hunky dory until I got to baggage claim. Yes, you guessed it. After nervously walking around the carousel until there were no bags left to be claimed, I finally accepted that my bag was lost. Furious, I went to the customer service desk. They were unable to locate the luggage, but they had me fill out a form. That was it. They were so calm and nonchalant about it that it pissed me off. I leave the terminal without my luggage and find my program director waiting for me. She kept reassuring me that my luggage would arrive and not to worry, but her composure, similar to the Aer Lingus customer service agent, made me antsy and angry. Why is everyone so calm? I just lost all of my clothes and items, but it seemed like it wasn’t an issue to anyone but myself.


            I received my luggage a day or two later, so it wasn’t a problem. I was still shocked that everyone, from my program director to the airline customer service, was so relaxed throughout the whole process. They kept assuring me that it would get there and not to worry. I started to realize that this is just the Irish lifestyle—Hakuna Matata—no worries. This relaxed, problem-free feeling was even more prevalent during the class scheduling period. In the United States, scheduling classes is an event. It can be the most stressful and difficult part of the semester. Your schedule has to match up perfectly. You have to fight to get into classes. You have to fill requirements. You have to do it yourself, with no help or guidance, just the approval of an advisor. I was expecting the same approach to classes in Dublin, but I was wrong. It was so relaxed and carefree that it stressed me out. Timetables, (or when classes would be held) would not be released until a couple days before the first day of school. Some timetables weren’t even available when I was scheduling classes, and some of my class times even changed during the middle of the first week. Classrooms and lecture halls could vary week to week. Initially, I found the system to be aggravating and confusing, but I just had to come to terms with it. This is just the Irish way—to let things work themselves out in carefree pace.


            After a few days in Dublin, I decided to embrace the Irish lifestyle and try to live more and stress less, because to me that’s how the Irish live. They don’t worry about what is coming next—they just live in the moment and cherish their time with each other. Within my first week in Dublin, I received an email from my bank stating that my credit card had been suspended. Someone in Chicago tried to spend $300 on shoes with my card. After losing my luggage and now having my credit card compromised, I should have felt that my luck was running low. Honestly, though, I was not worried. I just simply shrugged my shoulders, dealt with it, and moved on. There was no point in throwing a fit or stressing out over it. It was going to work out at whatever pace necessary, and I was fine with that. In just one short week, I already felt like I had some Irish tendencies emerging into my personality and demeanor. I felt prepared going into my first day of classes and wanted to remain as stress-free as possible. That, however, was harder than one would assume.

            I felt like a schoolchild going to my first day of kindergarten on the first day of classes at Dublin City University this semester. I am 22 years old, but I was still nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what the class interaction was like and how the setting would be—I had only hunches and rumors to base my assumptions on. Now, I have never been a believer of “culture shock,” at least not until my first day of classes in Dublin. I went abroad to the Wake Forest sponsored program, The Worrell House in London, when I was a junior, so I was not too scared about coming to Dublin. The difference, however, between that experience and this is that in London I was in classes with all Wake Forest students and a Wake Forest professor. In this Dublin experience, I am in classes with other Irish students and professors. The difference doesn’t sound that huge, but boy, it is.


            I walked into my first class, an advanced teaching strategies module. At Wake Forest, you usually know a few people in your class, but you still sit in silence, at least on the first day of classes, before the professor starts. The class size at Wake Forest is about 15-20 students. You stay seated throughout the class. You are expected fully participate and engage in class. Attendance is required. I was thinking that the DCU classes would hold the same, or similar, expectations and tendencies set in place at Wake Forest. You see, I now think culture shock happens when you go to a different culture but still hold similar expectations to that of your own culture, because that’s what happened to me.

When I walked into the classroom, it was a madhouse. Everyone knew each other. Students were wishing each other a happy new year, others were catching up about their breaks, and there was one student standing up on the desk. I felt stares from the Irish students as I entered the classroom and sat in an empty row. I was the only student who didn’t know anyone, and it was pretty clear. I kept checking my watch, hoping class would start soon and I could ease in. The professor didn’t even enter the classroom until 20 minutes past the start time. Once the class started, students continued chit-chatting throughout the entire time. Most students were on their phones and one was even listening to music in one ear. Students would come and go as they pleased. Many students came halfway through the class, others left 15 minutes before it ended. No students took notes—I was the only one with a notepad out. The whole structure of the class was bizarre to me as well. The class had about 50 students in it—almost triple the size of most classes I take at Wake Forest. There was no participation in class, and it wasn’t expected either. It was simply a lecture, something I’m not very used to. By the time class was over, I felt like I had lost all composure. I felt rattled and uncomfortable. It wasn’t that the class was run poorly or the material wasn’t interesting, it was just culture shock at its finest. I wasn’t used to a classroom setting like that, and it blew me away.


            In my next class, a module on the history and development of Irish education, I was lucky enough to have two people from my CIEE program in my class. This made me feel a bit more comfortable, especially after hearing about their similar reactions and experiences in the new classroom setting. I found in this class, however, that I would not necessarily get all the references that my professor would make in class. The Irish students would laugh at jokes that just didn’t make sense to me. It didn’t bother me, but it is interesting how even though we share the same English language, there are still differences in languages. For example, an Irish man on a night out asked me if I had “good craic”—pronounced “crack”—the other night. I was obviously confused and shocked all at the same time, but after understanding the reference (craic means “fun”), I realized that there are terms even in America that the Irish don’t understand. I’m intrigued and excited to see what I will pick up in the language over the next couple of months and what I can teach my Irish friends as well.

I found the other classes during my first week to be a bit more comforting after settling down from the culture shock. After venting to some of my friends, I realized that I just had to embrace the culture, the Hakuna Matata attitude, and just go with the flow. I will be in these classes all semester, so adjustment is necessary to be successful and completely integrate myself into the Irish culture. Saying that, a goal of mine this second week of classes is to sit next to and engage with an Irish student in class. I have already become friends with my roommates, all of whom are not in my program, but it would be nice to feel more comfortable around my classmates during my time here. Like my Irish roommate said, you just need to relax and just let go of all stress. It is crazy how in America we are so caught up in time and demand, needing things instantly, and stressing over minute issues. I just need to continue living the “problem-free philosophy, Hakuna Matata”—the Irish lifestyle—and everything will be, as the Irish call it, grand.


Overall, my two weeks in Dublin have been amazing, to say the least. It feels like I have been here for a year, but that’s not a bad thing. Time will fly by, and before I know it, I’ll be experiencing the reverse culture shock when I return to the States. Lost baggage, a stolen credit card number, and different class structures are all things I have dealt with since being in Dublin. I have learned that what once worried me then will not worry me now. I am abroad, so not only do I need to embrace the culture, I also need to just live life. We all get stressed out—it is inevitable. There are things, however, that aren’t worth stressing out over, and the Hakuna Matata mindset in the Irish culture has taught me that in my two short weeks in Dublin.


Be The Change You Wish To See In Tourists With Large Cameras

When we arrived in Dublin, our program directors, Aoife and Martin, told us the first two weeks we were allowed to be tourists. To take numerous pictures of the city, stare aimlessly at maps from the tourism shop, and travel in large packs that made us seem like a scared, American mob. After that phase we were expected to behave more like locals and attempt to become one with the people of Dublin. Aside from the linguistic challenges that presented, we were faced with the task of accepting a couple of truths.


1. Just because you’re carrying a large camera, doesn’t mean you have to be obnoxious.

Having a compulsive need to document your travels does not give you a right to become oblivious to the regular citizens trying to go about their lives. I feel biased about this one because I experience it in my hometown, Chicago, quite often. If you see something you want to take a picture of, walk quickly ahead of your group, move to the side where you are not blocking anyone’s path, then take your picture. As a personal preference, I sling my camera across my body and tuck it under my arm when I’m not using it. It doesn’t totally camouflage your foreign identity, but I believe it makes you seem more distinguished in your adopted country.




(With friends at Dublin Castle)


2. Relaxing is for the weak, at least at the beginning.

Downtime may seem desirable after the stress of moving to a different country, but it is not always the best thing at the beginning of your trip abroad. It gives your mind time to wander, possibly inducing homesick-ness while depriving you of the bonding experience others will be having while trying to ignore it. It easy to relax into your uncomfortable dorm bed and kickback while your new friends go enjoy the city. Beware of the thoughts that tell you to take time for yourself, fight them off and forge on. Without this thought process, I would not have gone to the Dublin Castle, the Wicklow mountains, Kilkenny, and to the Causey Farm all in one weekend. I’m sure there will come a time soon where relaxing won’t fill me with guilt and fear of missing out, but sadly I am not there yet.


(An authentic Irish farmer and his Iphone at Causey Farm)


3. Don’t go to Temple Bar.

Or do, but deny that you were there if anyone Irish asks what you did last night. Temple Bar is the only place I feel comfortable advertising the fact that I’m American, because everyone there already expects you to be naive. In that radius, feel free to wear your fraternity letters, American flag backpack (my roommate purchased an American flag backpack the third day we got here, we’re friends so I’m allowed to make fun of him), and perpetuate as many stereotypes as possible.


(Tim and I at the Wicklow Gap) ​


In my short time in Ireland, I’ve been in awe of its beauty and by the people that inhabit it. Almost everyone I’ve met has been more than willing to assist me with whatever I’m in need of. At the end of my exchange with the Irish Customs officer I asked, “Am I good?” The officer smiled, handed my passport back to me and replied, “As far as I’m aware.” The Irish manage to be helpful yet not overly earnest, which in my eyes makes them trustworthy. 

As far as natural beauty goes, Dublin is in close proximity to scenery I’ve only dreamt about or seen in movies. I mean that literally, the county Wicklow is featured in numerous films and Daniel Day Lewis lives there, which counts for something. Hollywood, a town inside of Wicklow, has a makeshift Hollywood sign that was erected by a local farmer. Our tour director said he reckoned it could have been made a bit bigger.


(Nice day for a walk in the park, Kilkenny)


Dublin Music Scene

One of the things I was so excited to explore in Dublin was the music scene. I really love music, learning about new artists, making mix CD’s, and most of all: going to concerts! I try to spend my money, when I have it, on tickets to shows with friends or hitting up spots in Portland with local artists playing. Before coming to Dublin I looked up all the shows I was hoping to go to, when they were, and how much each ticket would be. I had a very lengthy list and high hopes that I would make it to all the shows that my little heart desired. Unfortunately, time and money got the best of me. Fortunately, I made it to 4 very amazing concerts in 4 totally unique venues!

Ed Sheeran was the first concert I attended while here. It was also my first “solo mission” show where I went by myself. Ed Sheeran is HUGE here in Ireland. Every person who I have talked to really likes his music. The venue for the show was at the O2 Arena. I would say this venue is similar to the Rose Garden/MODA Center in Portland. It was a huge arena and totally packed with people. The opening band was Saint Raymond, a group I had never heard of but really enjoyed! Ed’s concert really blew me away. I had decent seats in the first balcony and could see the whole floor and stange. Ed played a solo show, just a guy and his guitar. He used a really unique technique for recording himself and then playing back the melody or beat with some kind of foot pedal board (musicians maybe help me out with what this is called?). His set was dynamic and energetic. For one guy and one guitar, he brought the house down! This was an amazing first show to attend in Dublin because I felt like I was sharing this experience with a community that really revered and loved this artist. Overall, great vibes for Ed Sheeran!

Jake Bugg was the second concert that I attended with my friend Shannon. His set was at the Olympia Theater. This venue reminded me of the Crystal Ballroom in downtown Portland, with old, restores architecture and theater style seating. We sat in the front row of the first balcony. We arrived a bit later and missed the opening band, who was called Southern. Jake Bugg’s show blew me away. His music style is so old school, Bob Dylan-esque. Shannon kept commenting that “this is like a real rock show!” and I agreed. At first I didn’t like Jake Bugg’s stage presence, he didn’t seem super engaged but song after song got better and he seemed to feel more comfortable. He brought the house down with his jams. It was great to share this experience with a buddy too, so we could swoon over Jake’s voice!

The next concert I went to was Boy & Bear. This is a band my mom introduced me too since their song had been playing n the Portland radio station KINK. Yes, my mom has pretty good musical taste (there I said it). Shout out to you, Mom! The show took place at Whelan’s which had a pub on once side and a concert venue in the back. This place was tiny, which was great for me since that meant a more intimate show. I would say this venue was like Backspace in Portland. I thought that this show would be pretty mellow and small, but to my surprise it was completely sold out! Standing room only! The opener was The Dancing Years who I immediately fell in love with. The guys in the band were very talented and the songs were very emotional. I bought their EP right then and there! When Boy & Bear came onstage there was some kind of lighting issue and they played their first 2 songs in the dark, with a great sense of humor of course! I absolutely loved this show. It was one of those shows where you know every word of every song and can sing along perfectly. I was so close to the performers and the room was filled with other fans that adored this group just like I did. It felt magical.

The last show I went to was Lykke Li at Vicar Street, a venue similar to the Roseland Theater. I had floor tickets for this and got to stand really close to the stage. The opener was Eliot Sumner, who I had never heard of. Their style was a little heavier then I usually like but the bass was going hard and I loved to dance along. I bought the EP when I got home that night and haven’t stopped listening to it since! Lykke Li’s performance was… incredible. That doesn’t even begin to describe how great it was. She was like Stevie Nicks, all twirls and dreamy arm movements. The entire venue was filled with smoke and billowing fabric panels from the ceiling. She voice is so ethereal and I absolutely love her songs. It was one of the best concerts I have ever been to.

Dublin’s music scene is very comparable to Portland’s, maybe even better. It is the principal city in Ireland, so if a band or artist is going to make the effort to come to Ireland they are mostly likely to hit Dublin. I really loved the variety of shows available to see, from small venues to huge arenas, unknown artists to chart toppers! Attending these shows has been one of my favorite and most memorable aspects of studying in Dublin.


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


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.



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.


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.










History of the Famine in Western Ireland by Lindsay


When people think of Ireland mos conjure images of rolling green hills, ancient stone castles, and sheep roaming the countryside. Living in Dublin has been a consistent contradiction to that stereotype, but I just returned from a field trip to the Western coast of Ireland where I got to see all of those heartwarming images. 

Day 1: Strokestown House, The Famine Museum, & Hennigan's Heritage Center.

This was an amazing day to learn about the famine, because we got to see about life in rural Ireland from both sides of the spectrum. The first places we visited was Strokestown house, which was an estate owned by 
Major Denis Mahon and his immensely wealthy family. The estate has been maintained perfectly and kept historically accurate. We were lead through the various rooms of the extravagant home, and learned what life was like for the wealthy aristocracy of the day. 
In complete contrast to the Strokestown house we visited the Heritage Center and the National Famine Museum. From these perspectives we learned what life was like for the majority of native Irish who lived in rural communities. The famine was caused by a disease called Blithe which infected the majority of the potato crop; this was so detrimental for the Irish because this crop sustained most rural communities who couldn't grow or keep any other crops. At our visit to the Heritage Center we met a man named Tom who invited us into his family cottage. In this little house he lived with his parents, grandmother, and  siblings until the 1970's. From Tom's own person stories, and those he had collected from other locals, we learned about how Irish children were raised, how families worked together in the village, and about various superstitions and legends. 
Day 2: Croagh Parick, Achill Island, & the Deserted Villages

Much more of our 2nd day in Western Ireland was conducted outside. First we went to Croagh Patrick where we saw he statue of St. Patrick. People throughout the country come to this mountain to partake in religious pilgrimages and local holidays. We hiked up a good part of the trail, and let me tell you it was a demanding trail.  We also saw the National Famine Monument which depicted a "Coffin Ship"; his was a nickname for the ships that were full of Irish emigrants because so many often died on the ships from disease and hunger.
After visiting dear St. Patrick we hit the cliffs of Achill Island. These pictures don't do this scenery justice, and I'm not sure I have ever seen anything as beautiful. Even more amazing were that sheep roamed this entire cliff side, and were more brave than I was when it came to getting close to the edge. After Achill we visited sites of deserted villages: settlements that were abandoned when the famine began, because life just couldn't be sustained in that area. 
Day 3: Dooega Valley & Galway

Our final day on the West Coast was pretty bief because we had a long day home, but we stopped at the most amazing scene in Dooega on our way to Galway. It may have been my favorite spot. We stopped and explored for a few hours in Galway. It looked like an awesome little city from what I saw, but to be honest we were all so exhausted we didn't get much further than a couple shops and a quick lunch spot. I'll just have to come back!