My First Few Days in Ireland

On the airplane heading to Ireland, I was talking to a few people before take-off and mentioned I was studying abroad in Ireland. I was so excited and I just wanted to talk to everyone and just tell them. I happened to be taking the plane with some people from New Paltz, so it was nice to have people to talk to before getting on the plane and departing. When I first arrived, I quickly unpacked and then activities for orientation week began. It was very overwhelming at first, and I’d be lying if I said it was easy. I was really homesick and anxious at first. I really missed New Paltz and loved ones over there, and of course my family. The feelings of homesickness I felt were similar to the feelings I felt when I came to New Paltz as a Freshman. The feelings I used to feel when missing home were now the feelings I felt toward New Paltz. I guess it makes sense, because if I weren’t in Ireland I would be in New Paltz, and I had gotten so used to it and had made myself a home there. But it was special for me to realize how much I had truly grown to love and appreciate New Paltz, and how much of a home it had become for me, despite the fact that when I first arrived, all I wanted was to come back home to Manhattan. While it was a really hard transition at first, things got better, and it definitely helped to rely on loved ones back home. There were a lot of texts, phone calls, and video calls to people back home. Changes like these always feel impossible to overcome, but with time, things get better, and I am really glad I decided to embark on this experience.

It’s Almost Time To Leave

I’m not gonna lie, the weeks right before I left for Ireland are somewhat hazy. I was a camp counselor for eight weeks during the summer, and two weeks before I left, I posted an Instagram photo from camp. That seems like it was so long ago now. Before leaving, I honestly wasn’t worried about it. I had become friends with a student from the University of Limerick when he studied abroad at New Paltz, and the idea that I would know someone when I got there was definitely a relief. I didn’t start packing until the night before I left, and I don’t think it truly felt real until then. Everybody kept telling me how awesome it was and what a cool experience it would be. When you tell people you’re gonna be studying abroad, people get really excited and it seems like it’s universally regarded as being this totally awesome thing. I talked about it a lot before I went, both to my friend from Ireland and my suite mate who had studied abroad there the semester before. It also always seemed to come up in conversation during the summer, with people from camp, with friends and with family. I was looking forward to it, but it also seemed like a far away event, basically until the night before leaving. There were some minor periods where the fact that I was leaving for four months would sink in, but it took a while for that to happen. It didn’t really sink in until a few days before.

The Denial Phase

One week from today at this time, I will be a half hour into my journey back to the United States. Hence, the denial phase. Where did the semester go? It feels like just yesterday that I was seeing the Duomo for the first time and attending my first week of classes. I simply do not know how to feel. It will, of course, be exciting to be reunited with my family and home friends, but I have no idea how I will say goodbye to this beautiful country and the many memories it has given me over this past few months. I have made some great friends during my time here–some from the U.S. and some in a completely different time zone from mine. I cannot wrap my head around the fact that this enriching experience is almost over. When I first arrived in Milan, three and a half months seemed like an eternity. Clearly, everyone back home was right when they told me to make the most of my time here since it would go by in the blink of an eye.

Fortunately, I am extremely satisfied with my overall study abroad experience. I did not make it to all the places on my list, but I saw some of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in my life and nothing will ever compare to this past semester. In addition to all of this, I myself have grown in many ways. I never thought I would be navigating a foreign city all by myself, but I have become much more mature and independent while living in Italy and was able to find my way (with a few wrong turns here and there). Now that I have friends all over the world, it seems my traveling has just begun! I am leaving Italy with invites to Chicago, Australia, and France to name a few and I will definitely be making these trips as soon as my bank account recovers from my European adventures.

During the last two weeks, I was able to squeeze in a few more trips before I travel back home. While my mom and sister were here, we visited Verona and, of course, Bergamo! I also got to show them around Milan and find a few more gems in this amazing city. Yesterday, I returned from Dublin with two of my friends, which was a great way to end my time abroad. Dublin was one of the cutest cities I have visited and this a great time to go since they take their Christmas decorations very seriously. Every bar and restaurant was decked out in strands of lights and garland and we were greeted with a “Happy Christmas” almost everywhere we went. We took a quick tour of two other cities while we were there, Malahide and Howth, just to get a feel of Ireland outside the city center. One of my favorite parts of the trip was finding my family’s coat of arms. Several shops had little knick knacks with family names and their coat of arms illustrated on them, and sure enough, “Galvin” was there waiting for me to find it. I felt an instant connection to the city and my family’s history. I also had the chance to meet up with one of my sorority sisters while in Dublin! She is currently studying there for a year and met up with my friends and me before we had to leave this precious city. It was so nice to see a friendly New Paltz face after being away for so long.

Now that I have returned to my apartment, the reality has sunken in. The only trip I have left is the final one back home. All I can do now is spend these last few days visiting my favorite places one last time and saying goodbye to the people who made my study abroad experience so enjoyable. Oh, and studying for finals. I should do that too since, after all, I am here to “study”!

Until next time…

xxoo

I guess I should start packing…

January 11th, 2016

The weeks leading up to my departure have consisted of last minute paperwork and a full inbox on Facebook. My Irish relatives are nothing less than ecstatic for me to be studying in Ireland and it’s comforting to know that I will have family within arms reach. They’ve offered places to stay, rides to and from the airport and food-I mean c’mon what college kid doesn’t love anything that’s free? It’s been quite some time since I’ve seen them, but I guess 5 months is enough time to catch up. The influx of messages should be making my departure more real, but it still seems as though I’m not leaving. That might also be due to the fact that I have yet to start packing…oops!

As my flight approaches I have had to say more and more goodbyes. I haven’t cried yet, but I think my mom has done enough for the both of us! The woman can cry at the drop of a hat and I’m sure that when we get to the airport the waterworks will be flowing. The airport employees see that on a daily basis though, so I suppose it won’t be TOTALLY embarrassing…hopefully.

It still feels surreal, but I’m sure the reality will set in soon!

 

The Luck of the Irish

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

Ireland gave me life.  No really it did.  I can’t even explain it.  But this enchanting place truly gave me a new outlook on the world.

This was the trip I was most excited for, hands down.  I actually almost studied abroad in Ireland.  Although Italy was my top choice, I almost didn’t end up here.  Everything happens for a reason and Milan is where I belong.  Studying abroad through a SUNY really is one of the greatest reasons to pick SUNY for your undergrad experience.  When you look into study abroad, you can study abroad through any SUNY.  However, as a last semester Senior, I did not have the same privileges.  I had to study through New Paltz.  I wanted to study abroad regardless though, so this was no major set back.  Years ago when I originally started looking through study abroad options, my dream program was nowhere to be found.  I wasn’t asking much except to come anywhere in Italy, the catch being I needed an English speaking program.  So when New Paltz didn’t offer such a program, I was forced to look elsewhere.  For some reason I have always been enamored with I countries.  It is a coincidence, but for some reason I love the I.  I have visited Israel already.  So from there I have always wanted to visit Italy, Ireland, and India in that order.  So when Italy was a bust, I looked toward Ireland.  This obviously wasn’t a setback, I mean come on it’s Ireland!  It just wasn’t my dream.

I refrained from looking again until it neared closer to the application date, and sure enough this time when I looked again, there was an Italian program that wasn’t there before.  I emailed The Center for International Programs, and sure enough New Paltz had a new program to Milan, in which you didn’t have to speak Italian.  They had only sent 2 students before, but I didn’t care, this was going to be my study abroad program.  They got me in contact with one of the students, and the rest is history.

So that is just kind of my little background story for how I ended up in Milan.  I will say though once I had settled on Milan, I was set to make it my mission to visit Ireland.  I didn’t care who with, where to, or what for, I just knew it and Milan are in Europe, so I was going to get there.  I had wanted to go for St. Patrick’s day but alas it was during the week, so I couldn’t miss class.  My friends and I looked into the weekend before but it was a pretty penny.  We did however book our trip there for April, so it’s safe to say I was beyond excited.  Besides Spring Break Ireland is the longest trip I have taken.  We typically go just for the weekend, but being my lack of classes Friday, we flew out Thursday April 23rd & returned Monday April 27th.  I wanted Ireland to be one of my biggest trips, so I could really spend some time there, and my wish came true.

We found a rainbow!

We found a rainbow, but no pot of gold

We did a lot of planning for this trip.  My friends really wanted to go to the Cliffs of Moher, and I was striving to reach the Blarney Stone, for my kiss!  Most of our study abroad friends that went to Ireland were only able to make one, typically the Cliffs.  The problem being that these sights are so spread apart.  We were staying in Dublin, and the Cliffs & The Blarney were in complete opposite directions.  I feel like these were the tourist sites I was told about in Ireland, and it seemed a shame to have to pick and choose.  Luckily for us though we were able to create an itinerary where we could do both.  Leaving Monday makes such a huge difference, because it means you have all of Sunday.  I did this first in Barcelona, and it felt like you were given a gift of an extra day.  Yes, there is nothing more exhausting then flying out Monday morning to make it back in time for class, but believe me it is worth it!

I made sure to buy some chocolate here, of course!

I made sure to buy some chocolate here, of course!

So Friday we embarked early in the morning for a day trip to The Blarney Stone.  The Blarney Castle is right near Cork, Ireland.  These day trips are long, you leave early in the morning and return late at night.  So not making major plans Saturday was a great call on our part.  Also both of our day trips (through different companies) made stops, which was a relief.  First off you get a little stir crazy on the bus, but also there were no bathrooms on the buses!  Our first stop on Friday was in Cork, which was so picturesque.  It was so beautiful.  The weather was a little wacky, it would rain and then it would stop.  But hey that’s better then straight up rain.  Ireland is very rainy.  Our bus driver informed us that it rains 300 days a year!

Best meal in Ireland!!!!!

Best meal in Ireland!!!!!

Next up thank goodness they took us to a longer stop where we could get food.  We were beyond hunger.  One of my biggest tips for those visiting Ireland, would have to be eating in pubs as much as you can.  Pub food is amazing.  It is cheap, hearty, and all around delicious.  I didn’t really think much about the culinary experience in Ireland, beforehand.  But man oh man our first meal was one of the best meals I’ve had in Europe hands down. All of my friends ordered sandwiches, but I was ordering thinking with my stomach, therefor I figured a sandwich wouldn’t cut it.  I ordered an Irish stew, which was certainly pricier then the sandwich, but I must say this was the greatest decision ever.  This stew was the best food I had in Ireland.  The meat was so tender, the broth was flavorful, and it came with Irish soda bread.  It was nice to use butter on my bread, instead of olive oil, just for a change of pace.  (My mouth is literally watering right now, thinking about this stew).

Soft Serve Ice Cream!

Soft Serve Ice Cream!

Next we had some soft serve ice cream, because of course this huge bowl of soup wasn’t enough haha.  I wanted to get the soft serve, because a friend from high school recommended dairy in Ireland because of all the cows, man oh man was she right.  There was some flavor in the soft serve which I could’t even really detect but it added this floral note to the soft serve, which kept us eating more and more.  The soft serve was creamy, sweet, and a nice alternative to the heavy (but obviously delicious) gelato we eat in Italy.  Safe to say I was not hungry for dinner, even hours later.  Dinner that night was a salad.

I won’t write much more about food (although I could).  Sunday I did have some memorable seafood chowder, and some even more memorable fudge!  But I will recommend anyone going to Ireland should certainly get some meat & dairy because the surplus of cows & lambs really do make a difference in the culinary experience there.  You also should get some Irish Breakfast, and of course potatoes!!  The one thing I didn’t have time to eat there, which I wish I did was the Corned Beef.  Oh well, I guess this gives me an excuse to go back!

Kissing The Blarney Stone

Kissing The Blarney Stone

I can’t lie, as much as I was excited to go to The Blarney Stone, I must say I was not disappointed, but certainly underwhelmed.  I was picturing this large rock in the middle of a field, which you could kiss it and take cutesy touristy pictures.  The real Blarney Stone, located in Blarney Castle could not be anything further from my vision.  You hang upside down at the top of the castle, lowering yourself down to kiss the stone.  I did kiss the stone, because come on you must!  But this was not really what I had imagined.  Hopefully I did indeed get the gift of the gab.  I’d say by looking at the length of this blog post, it worked!

Blarney Castle with MK, Heidi, Brooke, and Taylor!

Blarney Castle with MK, Heidi, Brooke, and Taylor!

The grounds at Blarney Castle are so beautiful.  We even saw a Bride & Groom taking wedding photos there!  We got some great pictures on the ground, and the weather held up, which was a major plus.  We returned to the bus, headed back to Dublin, where we did indeed see a rainbow!  Also sure enough, there were two other New Paltz students, studying abroad in Spain on the bus.  It is indeed a small world, after all.

Saturday was rainy to say the least.  We mostly hit up museums (including the Kilmainham Gaol), which is the ideal thing to do in the rain.

Galway!

Galway!

Sunday, we woke up even earlier than we had done on on Friday and headed off to on a day trip to The Cliffs of Moher.  Our first stop was in Galway, which I was very excited about because that is where one of my closest friends studied abroad when she was in Ireland.  Galway is a very small town, but it was so cute.  We took a brief walking tour, and then explored for a short time.  I wish we had more time there, I would have loved to roam even more!

Cliffs of Moher with MK, Taylor, Heidi, and Brooke

Cliffs of Moher with MK, Taylor, Heidi, and Brooke

The Cliffs of Moher were so breathtaking.  It is hard to describe it, write about it, talk about it, because I feel I can’t do it justice.  It was one of my greatest days not only of study abroad, but of my life.  The weather was freezing, but no rain for us!  The sky was so blue.  Sure it is very windy, so you must be careful around the edge of the cliffs.  But the sight of the cliffs was just so incredible, I have seen nothing like it.  It was so powerful to be there.  Also for Princess Bride fans, like myself, The Cliffs of Moher are The Cliffs of Insanity from the film!  That was a fun little piece of trivia for me to learn.  Anyone who goes to Ireland, NEEDS to go to the Cliffs.

11204980_10153304386633921_4008538265041883987_nWe made a few more stops before heading home.  This was the greatest day of the trip, but also the most exhausting.  We stopped at another cool spot, where they filmed a scene from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.  For anyone who remembers my Spring Break blog post, I am a huge Harry Potter fan, so I was exstatic about being there!  We returned to Dublin, slept a few hours and took a 6:15am flight home back to Milan.

This trip was life changing.  I can’t wait to someday return to Ireland.  Thanks for reading! Till next time beannacht!

Tamara

Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle!

Paint the Town Green

Ireland is absolutely beautiful. It’s very green! The weather hasn’t been too bad either (even though everyone says it rains a lot) The weather is often cloudy though but when it’s sunny, the green grass shines like no other. It is absolutely beautiful. I have not been to many places in Ireland, I’ve explored more of continental Europe than anything else. So far, I’ve visited Dublin, County Kerry, and County Tipperary. I’m also going to explore County Galway, The Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, and more of Dublin next month! I cannot wait!


Dublin

Father Matthew Bridge, Dublin

Father Matthew Bridge, Dublin

I spent Saint Patrick’s Day in Dublin and attended the festival. This was my first time in Dublin and since I went during Saint Patrick’s Day, I didn’t really get to see Dublin for all of its’ glory. Classes were not in session as it was a national holiday. The festival was pretty great. There was a lot of traditional Irish music, as well as marching bands from the United States.

Saint Patrick's Day Festival, Dublin

Saint Patrick’s Day Festival, Dublin

Joceline and I, Saint Patrick's Day Festival in Dublin

Joceline and I, Saint Patrick’s Day Festival in Dublin

Irish Garda (Police Officer), Saint Patrick's Day Festival

Irish Garda (Police Officer), Saint Patrick’s Day Festival 


County Tipperary

International Society, Rock of Cashel

International Society, Rock of Cashel

I joined the International Society (similar to the International Student Union at New Paltz) earlier this semester, and it is one of the best decisions I have made while here. They have contributed to making this study abroad experience really memorable. Recently, they have took us on a medieval tour in County Tipperary, 25 miles from Limerick.

The Round Tower, Rock of Cashel

Carey’s Castle, Joceline

Rock of Cashel

 

 

 

We visited the Rock of Cashel, also known as the Cashel of Kings. The stone fort used to be the residence of the Kings of Munster but then became a major Christian center in the early 12th century. The ruins also sat on top of this huge hill which took forever to climb (reminded me so much of going Vandenburg for class!) The view from the hill was gorgeous though. We also visited Carey’s Castle, built sometime in the 1800s by the local Carey family. The castle is surrounded by a forest and a river as well, making the site, beautiful.

Athassel Priory, Medieval Ruins

Athassel Priory, Medieval Ruins

Athassel Priory

Athassel Priory

Carey's Castle

Carey’s Castle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lastly, we visited that largest medieval priory in Ireland, Athassel Priory. The priory dates back to the 12th century, and was a monastery of many men and women under religious vows (nuns, monks).


County Kerry

The international education division at Limerick took us to the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry, last week. The peninsula sits on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, and across from the Blasket Islands. It was really pretty. I had lunch at one of the many fish and chips shops. Like in London, fish and chips is a very popular dish here. I, then, had dessert at Murphy’s ice cream shop where I tasted the popular, sea salt icecream. It tasted like vanilla with kick. It was quite interesting. I also was able to visit the Dingle Oceanworld Aquarium. It was quite small but at least I was able to see the penguins get fed!

Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry, Ireland

Dingle Oceanworld Aquarium, Dingle Peninsula

Dingle Peninsula

Dingle Peninsula

Dingle Peninsula

Dingle Peninsula

 

Ireland is super gorgeous. Out of the three places I’ve been to so far, I can’t say I have a favorite. I am lovin’ it here!

I’m still a pretty classy person!

The classes here at the University of Limerick are really really different from SUNY New Paltz. It’s mostly lecture based with class sizes of 100-200 students in a lecture hall. It’s definitely a culture adjustments as well because most of my classes back at New Paltz involve a LOT of discussion (especially since I’m a Sociology Major). However, the classes do seem easier than New Paltz because the lecturers (not professors) post ALL the notes and lecture slides up online. In addition, there’s also one assignment or exam for the class that make up the whole grade. The courses here are a lot less demanding. But because the courses here are lecture based, are easier, and are less demanding, they’re also more boring. I really miss having debates and discussions in class. Sometimes I find myself zoning out in lectures because I’m sitting in a big auditorium, listening to a monotone lecturer for two straight hours.

I am taking a variety of different courses though. Two sociology – Sociology of Love and its Dark Side, and Gender: Sociological Perspectives, a traditional Irish Music & Dance Course, and one psychology – Psychology of Social Issues. I’m learning Irish Step dancing in my Irish Music & Dance class, it’s quite hard. And there’s a LOT of hopping. We’re having a end of the semester performance for it, next week (I still don’t remember half of the steps!) In my Psychology class, we had to organize and participate in a 10K marathon. The goal was to increase exercise in our daily lives thereby, contributing to one’s mental health and happiness. In addition, we were also able to raise almost €5,000 for mental health awareness and suicide prevention. I have never taken a class such as this, and I’m glad I did!

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Plassey 10K Run

 

Ambivalence & Culture Shock…It’s Inevitable!

I am having a great time here so far. I’m seven weeks in and I am loving it. I’ll have to admit, I am getting slightly homesick here and there (mainly because I don’t know how to cook…and I don’t know what I’m doing in the kitchen 99.99% of the time) I have always been so fascinated by cultures and I’m really interested in learning about them. Although one of the primary languages here in Ireland is English, the dialect here is so different! I have caught myself saying: “chips”, “lad”, “brilliant!”, “no bother”, and “you’re grand”, and “cheers”.

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And the weather! It is practically summer over here! As a New York (City) native, I am so used to the cold…not to mention, it’s probably snowing as I am blogging right now! It’s usually cloudy and around 30-50 degrees Fahrenheit here. I was given the notion that it was suppose to rain a lot of here. If anything, it has been sunny more than it has rained. I think I only wore my rain boots once the whole time I have been here so far!! No complaints though, I am absolutely loving this weather. It really brings out Ireland’s natural beauty. The people are also really nice here as well. They’re very kind and show great hospitality. I remember one time, I was having dinner, and I tripped and fell on my way to the restroom. As soon as my body hit the floor, one of the employees came running towards my direction and made sure I was okay. And upon exiting, he asked if I was okay, and he seemed so worried!

 

As for food, I don’t think I’ll ever say this…but I think I am getting sick of potatoes! They literally have potatoes for every meal, and in many different variations. Mashed potatoes, french fries (chips), potato wedges, Shepard’s pie (which they make great here!), hashed browns, you name it! I haven’t had the chance to get a full Irish breakfast yet (it’s actually quite heavy!) but I did have small ones. Croissants and tea!

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Chocolate Croissant with Nutella spread, and tea!

Tea is probably the only thing I will never get sick of in Ireland. I absolutely love tea and it is my favorite hot beverage. They drink tea like water over here. It’s brilliant! (btw I am NOT a coffee person)

Welcome to the Emerald Isles!

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Because I had a night flight, I arrived in Ireland at 7am. I did not sleep at all, I was so anxious and excited. There was so many thoughts running through my head. Still to this day, I have no idea how I was able to even stay up for the whole flight especially since there was no wifi on the plane. When I got to Limerick, I toured around campus, unpacked, made myself at home…anything but sleep. I didn’t sleep for 48 hours and I didn’t have any caffeine at all. I was a zombie, I don’t know how I did it. I was just so excited.

Limerick is a beautiful place despite the constant cloudy weather. It’s so much different from New Paltz.

 

For example, there’s an ensuite kitchen in your apartment (no meal plans!) There’s no roommates, and you get your own bathroom. They provide pillows, blankets, a full size bed, a huge closet space. It’s massive! I currently live in a six bedroom apartment with two Irish students, two Americans, and my roommate from New Paltz, Joceline. When Joceline and I spoke to Sean and John (our two irish housemates) described our housing situations back at New Paltz, they were so shocked, “Wait!, How are you suppose to make toast?!, Fire hazard?, What?!”

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The Living Bridge, University of Limerick

After settling in, there was this three-day orientation for all the international students. I felt really, really welcomed. They gave us a beautiful tour of the campus, fed us their best food, and invited us to a concert (see youtube link above) Known for their traditional Irish music, this concert featured a group called, “Celtic Steps”, which consisted of someone playing the bodhrán (traditional Irish drum, similar to our version of the tambourine), the piano, accordion, fiddle (who is also on vocals), guitar/banjo, and four Irish step dancers (two male/two female). It was a stellar performance and I was so amazed by their talents! I wish I had the hand-eye coordination to do any of that!

 

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I am loving it here!

 

 

And so it begins…

Hey Readers! Due to technical difficulties, my blog was not published in time before my departure. So…some of my posts may be in past tense! However, thank you for following me and reading about my experiences! I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed blogging about them! Cheers, Sandra xx


I remember about two weeks before my departure, I went on this frenzy and panic that everything was going go all wrong. I started imagining crazy scenarios where I was going to be kidnapped or lost in the middle of a mountain region with no electricity or contact with anyone. I remember having to call United Airlines almost everyday with some bizarre question about baggage or my flight, and to make sure everything was okay. I suppose the paranoia was normal, since I’ve never really left the country, and have never really been on my own. It’s a scary feeling…hell, it’s still scary. But even with all the paranoia, I still managed to pack 48 hours before my flight (which is no surprise because I always pack at the last minute.) Even a few hours before my flight, I was STILL packing.

From the 48 hours before my flight, and the 48 hours after my flight, I remember being in such shock. I don’t think it’s possible for anyone to really prepare themselves for an experience such as this. They say, studying abroad is an experience of a lifetime, and it truly is.

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