If you ask anyone, I’m pretty sure they would tell you the worst part about studying abroad is the study part. Actually, if you ask anyone about college they would probably say the worst part is the studying part. Thankfully, the courses we have here are not outlandishly demanding, but school still hung over my head a little as we took a three day, two night trip to Edinburgh. We arrived at about 8 in the morning and decided to get breakfast after we dropped our stuff at the hostel. Before this trip, I did something very unlike myself and didn’t google a single thing or plan out exactly where I wanted to go. As luck would have it, Edinburgh has Harry Potter just woven into the streets sort of. We ended up eating breakfast at The Elephant House, the place where JK Rowling wrote some of the books. There’s a designated table that she supposedly sat at. It has draws that are bursting at the brim full of letters from fans to her that have sat at the table. Literally, it is bursting. We had to shove them back in as they were falling from the back of the drawer. Our next stop was to Edinburgh Castle (the view was too tempting). It was wild to see that this castle just exists in the middle of people’s modern lives, but all we did was admire from outside as it cost about 16.50 pounds (almost $24) to get in. We walked to Arthur’s Seat after which was probably my favorite part. The summer before my junior year I took a trip to Italy with my school, and a group of us set out to try to find the highest view of the city. It is the best way to visualize the heart of any place. Atop Arthur’s Seat, we had a view of mountains, water, snow, the castle, and more. Despite the ridiculous number of people piled up on the top, it was really beautiful. Our trip down Arthur’s Seat got pretty muddy as we slipped and a fell, so we made a trip back to the hostel. The Budget Backpacker’s hostel that we stayed at gives a walking tour at 10:40am during the week, so we went out for that the next morning. It says historical walking tour, but the highlight was definitely all the Harry Potter references we got out of it. We first stopped at this graveyard that had so many graves with names similar to the ones in the book, most famous being Tom Riddle (aka Lord Voldemort). Our guide told us a bunch of
stories about Edinburgh during the witch hunts, grave robbing, and more. At the end of the tour, our group split. I went to the National Museum and the rest went on a whiskey tour. The National Museum here is about eight stories and massive. I saw about 1/40 of everything that was in there, and I got lost trying to get out at closing time. We left the next morning bright and early, and I was so happy to. The Scottish were very nice, but our interactions with everyone were not warm as in Dublin. The streets were not as cared for, and it actually felt like there were less people.
The rest of the week in Dublin was fairly uneventful, but, back home, Super Tuesday was going on. The day we arrived in Dublin, we were told that the Irish tend to know a lot about American politics. It is so very, very true. Our economies are tied together, and our relations with each other have real affects on people’s opinions. For instance, I did not know before coming here that the US military makes stops in Shannon Airport to refuel after coming from war zones. There’s debate here on whether or not it should be allowed because the US military has brought captured people through there, and that conflicts with Irish neutrality. When concerning the American presidential election, it gets even worse. It really matters to them. A pizza place just down the road from our school that’s “American themed” is decorated with a picture of President Obama on it. There’s a rest stop named after him in a town where he’s known to have Irish heritage (http://irishfireside.com/2014/06/09/curious-tale-irish-rest-stop-named-us-president/). Flash forward to today’s American politics, and its really a mess. I’m not home to feel what my home city is thinking, but I see it all over my Facebook newsfeed, my newspaper subscriptions, etc. When we get to talking politics here, it is so difficult to defend what’s going on there. Most people call Trump a fascist without any question. It’s hard to say that isn’t true when there’s nothing coming out from him saying he’s not ideologically anything like Hitler, yet he’s still winning in the polls.
We had the luck of seeing an Irish election for the part of their government that’s sort of like the House of Representatives. Voting is totally different. Totally. There’s a quota for the number of women that have to be nominated from each party putting in candidates. People vote in a ranking system, so they pick a certain number of candidates that they would like, then put them in order of who they would most want to win. Posters for people who were running were very basic with headshots. I didn’t see any scandals or threats thrown all over the newspaper. It was so much calmer. Comparing it to home, I can’t help, but think that it must be so much easier to make a decision without all the fanfare. How are we supposed to decide who we want for president if we’ve ads and incredibly biased news stories being plastered everywhere like the candidate is a product? I definitely do not agree with everything that happens here, but living and working in Ireland brings to light these kind of differences more glaringly than it would reading in a textbook, especially when you have your friends asking you why your country can’t get it back together. I am so thankful for this opportunity to experience real comparisons, whether good or bad. Without being here, I know my prospective on home politics and the world now would be drastically different.
Aside from me finally noticing all the real political differences, I ended my week spending time with my coworkers. We spent Friday night together, then on Sunday, I went on a 10 mile hike/walk/crawl from Howth to Sutton (a short bus ride from the city center). It is a peninsula that we managed to walk around the whole way. The view was worth it. We had lunch at the bottom of a cliff and started our week off right.