Monday, May 17, 2010


As we prepare for our flights today, I got to thinking: A flight is a great metaphor for a trip like this.

Prior to, we were nervous and excited, unsure of how the trip was going to turn out. We were ready though, come what may. The take-off, or beginning, of the trip was an experience of new sensations. Our emotions weren't stable and ultimately we were just trying to figure it all out here. Eventually though we leveled out, and while some turbulence may have been had along the way, we figured out the problems which came along. We began our descent a few days ago, when it finally set in that going home was approaching.

Winding down the trip has been the most bittersweet thing I've experienced. I've had a wonderful and life-changing time here, but it will also be wonderful to go home and start the new adventure. I don't think we'll have fully landed in America for a few days though, as adjusting will certainly be needed. As we become home-bound today, I'm looking forward to landing on American soil. What will it be like to have true Americana surrounding me, rather than British TV and Irish accents? I'm certain it will be wonderful, and I can hardly wait for it all [especially to go to a Reds Game - a true American pastime]!

This trip certainly wasn't a breeze. We've had our ups and downs, both together and separately throughout, but I wouldn't trade a second of any of it. Even the difficult times were wonderful in the end. Each moment of each day has shaped this trip into what it has become for us.

Ultimately, Phillip and I have both grown and changed as people, personally and within our relationship with one another. This adventure has helped me to grow up in ways I didn't realize I needed to mature in and has truly made me a better and more well-rounded individual. When I get home, I'll be ready for life's next adventure, whatever it may be.
Peace out Limerick. You've been wonderful to us. I'll miss you, but I'm reay for the next step in my life...

Focus of the Day

How are you supposed to feel when it is your last day in a place?

Are you sad to leave? Happy to return home? Nervous for the flight? Exhausted from the packing? What becomes the focus of your emotions?

I wish I knew the answer to that. It might make today easier. I found myself this morning not wanting to get out of bed until the absolute last possible minute. I didn't want this day to start... ever.

But alas, it has and it is continuing in full swing whether I like it or not. That is okay though. I'm ready to enjoy this last day. We have a few errands to run, will get our deposits on our apartments refunded, and have a delicious dinner and two bottles of wine calling our name tonight.

Bring on the day, world. I'm ready for the last day of this wonderful adventure. It may not be an easy day here, but I intend to make it a good one.
Phillip and I with our wine bottle collection from the past four months.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


This last week has been so much harder than we expected. Coming onto our lasts of the trip have really gotten to us and we're just hoping time slows down, just even a little, so these last few days don't just pass us by.

Each thing we do, it seems that we're finding ourselves saying this is the last time we'll (insert action or event). Sometimes, even though it is a good and exciting last, such as our last exam, it strikes me in a way that is hard to overcome. I think that seeing my roommates for the last time was the hardest thing that surprised us the most.

It was interesting to see how quickly we fell into a norm here, having a schedule of sorts. Dinner at seven. Friends at eight. Milk Market on Saturdays. Mass five days a week. Indian for dinner once a week. Trips into town on Wednesdays. Skyping on Sundays. Wine on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. The list could go on an on about the things we normally did.

I can't believe the time has come to move on from this in a few days. I'm sure we'll easily fall back into the norm, but for now, it is hard for me to say that I want to go back to the norms of home. I'm sure I'll change my mind once I get there and get to see my family and friends, return to Thomas More, and drive my car. For now though, Phillip and I are continuing our lasts of everything for the next few days, and in the end, we'll have memories that last forever.
Phillip and I at Mary I for the last time.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

You Know You've Studied Abroad In Ireland When....

Phillip and I recently found a facebook group titled by the same name and decided to revise it and compile our own list of the Top 30 Ways You Know You've Studied Abroad In Ireland. Hope you enjoy our musings on the topic:

1. You know what "craic" is and that it's not a drug.
2. Everything is either 'brilliant', 'grand', or ‘class’.
3. You know hurling does not mean throwing up.
4. It doesn’t phase you that everyone carries around their own bottle of alcohol.
5. You've said "Cheers!" in place of Thank You.
6. You know the difference between a naggin, a shoulder, and a litre.
7. You learned how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness at The Guinness Storehouse and are now certified to do so.
8. You are an 'official whiskey taster' certified at the Jameson Distillery, but you aren't legal to drink back in the states yet.
9. You find yourself forgetting that you can actually grocery shop past 6:00 at home.
10. You go to Dunne’s with two empty bags with the sun shining and walk back a half mile home with two 10 pound bags in the pouring rain.
11. You suddenly realize you're drinking more hot tea than you've ever had in your life.
12. A three mile walk takes you 10 minutes (walking Irish style).
13. You can't walk barefoot anymore because the kitchen floor is sticky, or has other hazardous objects on it!
14. You know what "garda" is and cross your fingers that they don't show up at your party!
15. You cannot do anything business-related between 12 noon and 1 p.m. because everything is closed for lunch
16. You start to believe that a traffic light is really nothing more than illuminated advertising.
17. You put a pot on the stove to cook then walk away for 20 minutes and when you return to check on it, you realize you forgot to turn the wall switch on or turned on the wrong burner.
18. Half-nine is nine-thirty.
19. You find yourself saying ‘feck’ instead of the other one.
20. You get completely baffled by your friends from home who say that cider would be something girly.
21. You hear the entire country is paralyzed by two inches of snow and could totally see that happening.
22. You've seen Munster winning a rugby game in a crowded pub and you know you won't feel that atmosphere at home.
23. Someone you don’t know is referred to as "yer man" by your Irish friends. [This causes much confusion at first, you think "whose man?"]
24. A toucan balancing a glass of beer on its beak makes perfect sense.
25. You’ve travelled 300 miles with Bus Eireann during 6 hours in one day.
26. You know how to respond if someone asks you, "How are you getting on?"
27. You know the sheep are all color coded.
28. You've rock-climbed in the Burren and actually know what that is.
29. You get Ireland sick at home much more than you got home sick in Ireland.
30. You survived Stab City! (aka Limerick City)
We're 50 Quid richer this week! With five days left, we're planning on using the money for a final night out on the town before we return home.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Study Abroad or Vacation Abroad?

I think that the idea of Study Abroad also comes along with many misconceptions for those who have never had the experience. Although I can only speak of my own trip, its hard to qualify this experience as either school or vacation. It really is just life.

I think that students that go abroad for school get some slack for not being in school enough. 'Didn't you go there to study?' is a common question. Life here is so much more than that though. Sure, the everyday person in Ireland doesn't travel to a different country four times in a month, but they do travel their own country frequently. It may not be for the tourism, but the Irish have friends and family all over the country. It is easy to forget that Ireland is the size of the state of Kentucky when such a small area, relative to the United States, is indeed its own country.

Sure, we have traveled a lot. To be honest, we probably travel more than most of the International Students, but if this is the only time that I know I am going to be in Ireland and Europe, I was certainly going to take advantage of it. To be fair though, if I were at home, I would travel too. I may not go to a different country, but trips to Lexington, Louisville, the outskirts of Cincinnati, and Indiana are easily weekend and day trips from home. The distances are comparable to those that we travel here when we stay in Ireland. I wouldn't always be in school at home or doing schoolwork, so why would I here?

Study Abroad has to be approached as a type of lifestyle when a person does it. To skimp to save money and not live a similar life to you would at home, just in a different country, makes it hard to get by. Trust me. We tried it. It didn't work out well and we decided it wasn't worth it.

In general, we went to school Monday through Friday, travelled on Saturdays or went to the Market, and went to mass on Sundays, a pretty normal lifestyle to what I would do at home. Occasionally we would skip classes, but not as much as it may seem like we did. The difference in school comes with the grading and amount of daily work a person gets. Most classes at Mary I have one paper and one exam which equal your final grade, meaning at least 50% of your grade comes from one final test. Homework is often not bothered with and never collected. I had weekly assignments for my math classes, but they were not graded, collected, or even looked at. It was our own responsibility to do the work and ask the proper questions.

In some ways, it is a more adult way to approach schooling. Being responsible for your own work and success in a class, but in other ways, it seems to be a cop out. Ultimately though, I will always think periodic grading of homework, participation, midterms, and chapter tests is a superior method, giving students the ability to know where their grade is headed and also give room for mistakes.

Overall though I think that the experiences a person has through study abroad are harder to understand if you've never experienced it. That isn't to try to exclude people, but I think I have a greater level of respect and understanding for people who study abroad as well as my own type of connection with them. Many of my friends have been blessed, like myself, to have the opportunity to study outside their home colleges. I am thrilled to be a part of that club now.

In the end, it will be much harder to leave Ireland than it was to leave home. As Phillip said, we knew that we were going to go home eventually, we never know if we'll make it back here. I don't know that I'll be ready to leave Ireland when the time comes, and I probably won't be until I actually am home, but it all is part of the experience. I sincerely hope that one day I can return to Ireland, especially Limerick, and relive some of the wonderful experiences I've had here.

For now though, we are coming into the final stretch. With ten days left, two exams, one day trip, and lots of cleaning and packing to do, I'm sure the time will fly. We definitely will be taking advantage of these last days though through it all.
Phillip and I at the beaches of Inis Mor, one of the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland. The water was cold, the sun was warm, and the weather was beautiful.

Exam Time in Ireland

The way school works here still blows my mind and probably forever will.

Taking my first exam really reminded me of it though. For starters, they have two weeks called exam weeks, but some classes HAVE to take their exam before exam weeks. Furthermore, the exam schedule wasn't released until the last day of classes. How can a person plan for anything ahead of time like that? I guess that is why a study week is necessary for Irish students.

Beyond that, the actual exam set-up is unlike anything I've ever experienced or heard of. They set up 200+ desks in their gym and conduct exams in there 3 times a day for two weeks. There are three of more classes taking an exam at those times, and no signs directing where you need to go[which happens to be T3 in the gym], where you should sign in[which you just have to ask], and what is allowed in the examination room[no bags or anything other than writing utensils and maybe a calculator].

Well, being the ignorant American in an Irish school, I hadn't the slightest idea how to do anything. I was really relying on the fact that I would recognize someone from my class and just follow suit. Unfortunately, when there are 60 strangers in a class with you and you've only talked to maybe 10 of them alongside the fact that there are 3 other exams going on at the same time, you're hardpressed to find a familiar face. It honestly wasn't until I was finished with my exam and walked out of the gym that I ran into someone in my class that I had actually spoken to before and recognized. To figure it all out I had to ask a handful of Irish people, all of whom I'm sure thought I was absolutely ignorant for not knowing how it all worked.

Furthermore, I went to the exam, not only with my two pencils(which you aren't allowed to use on any exam except Geography, not even Math!), two pens, and my calculator, but with my notes, my bag, and my cell phone. I was a walking illegal disaster. Not only was I only supposed to take writing utensils and a calculator in the exam (along with my student ID), but my calculator was technically illegal. They only allow scientific calculators and I have a programmable graphing calculator that I've had since freshman year of high school. Grade school was the last time I owned the type of calculator I was allowed to use. [Luckily, the Irish don't recognize the difference because graphing calculators aren't available here like they are at home, so I was able to use my calculator!] I didn't get in trouble for anything illegal I had, but half the reason I'm sure is because I stuck out like a sore thumb at the exam. [The other half is that I concealed it all pretty well and made it obvious I wasn't going to cheat! I just didn't have anywhere else to put my bag.]

Finally after I got settled into my seat, which is assigned, and got over my worries of getting my calculator, bag, and notes taken away from me, I studied a bit before the exam. You would've thought I was a circus act the way I got looked at. I guess crunch time studying before an exam in Ireland isn't something they do, unlike every American college student. After realizing I was sticking out even more, I gave up the studying, put everything in my bag, closed it all up and waited.

Prior to exams beginning, they go over the typical rules and then gave end times for all four exams that were being conducted at the same time in the same room. It turned out that every 30-5 minutes of my exam I was going to interrupted by others getting out, since mine lasted the longest. Great. Irish people are not good at being quite or discrete at appropriate times, so when an exam was over, a mass of moans, shuffles, and keys clanging filled the echoy gym. Awesome. Regardless, I got through my Abstract Algebra exam [with a low A or high B I might add] and was ready to move on to the rest of my week - a final trip to Dublin and a two day trip to Galway/Aran Islands.

I guess when I go back to take my other two exams on Wednesday and Thursday I will be better prepared for the madness that is Irish Examinations. Furthermore, I cannot wait to go back to the type of school I'm used to next semester!
Phillip and I at the Spanish Arch in Galway. We went to Galway and Dublin for the rest of the week, following my first exam.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Where has time gone?

So I’ve been out of commission on the internet as of late. With the final week of classes, preparing for my family to come, and then spending a week with them, I’ve been busy, tired, and unmotivated to really do anything on the internet.

Then enter Finals Week. That will really motivate you to get on the internet and avoid hitting the books.

These past two weeks have been wonderful though. Although we spent the last week of classes worrying the ash cloud was going to severely hinder my family’s trip to Ireland, all ended up working out well. As for classes, they came and went. School is just so different here.

The time with my family was wonderful. We spent the first weekend in Dublin hitting up the major sites: Guinness Storehouse, Jameson Factory, and more. Then we spent a day in beautiful Limerick and took my parents out to Dolan’s that evening. The rest of the week was filled with the real Irish sites: Blarney Castle, the Cliffs of Moher, and the Ring of Kerry.

When they left of Friday, May Bank Holiday Weekend begun here in Limerick. It was full of entertainment, markets, and best of all: the BBQ Competition. Never in my life have I been to an event with so much free food. Each BBQ Team was supplied with meat which they were to make and give out for free to the people who came to taste test. There were a few different categories, and Phillip and I tried as much as we could fill ourselves with; different kinds of pork cuts, sausages, chicken, steak and burgers were all served up all day Saturday. For us poor Study Abroad students, the free meal was warmly welcomed!

And now it is time to buckle down for my Abstract Algebra final tomorrow. After that I don’t have another final for over a week, so Phillip and I are doing our final trips in Ireland. This Wednesday, we’re going to Dublin to go to all of the National Museums (which are free) and Grafton Street for some window shopping and hopefully live entertainment. Thursday, we’re making our way up to Galway, the fastest growing city in Ireland, and Friday, we’re hoping to FINALLY get to go to the Aran Islands! (Pray for good weather!) We’ll spend the weekend in Limerick going to the Milk Market and our other normal activities, and then on Monday, we’re going to Cork, my favorite city of the trip thus far and making our way to the Jameson Experience and Factory nearby. After that, we’ll only have one week left in Ireland, all of which we’ll spend in our Irish hometown of Limerick.

It’s hard to believe we have just over two weeks left, and I think that neither of us are sure how to feel about that right now. I'm not sure where time has gone.
All of us in Killarney! [See the Rainbow?]