The past few weeks we have re-discovered the study in study abroad. I have spent the majority of my time writing a paper, watching lectures, or complaining about both. I am so fortunate to have signed up for three classes, all of which end a month before I have to back home. However, that means I have another crazy hard exam and paper to write by mid-April. Luckily, short breaks are easy to find in Dublin. The Irish Culture & History course that I’m taking brought us to the Jeanie Johnston two weeks ago. It was really interesting to see the replica famine ship because of how many Irish emigrants came to America on a ship like this. The Jeanie Johnston is special to the history of the famine since no one died on any of her voyages across the Atlantic. This is because the man who owned the ship made sure that he had a qualified doctor and a compassion captain on the Jeanie Johnston. It was super fascinating, but my first great distraction from too much coursework came from my friends
(of course). On Tuesday, we went ice skating, and I discovered this massive shopping center about 30 minutes away from the college. I hadn’t ice skated in about 10 years. I was very, very proud to not have fallen even once. Unfortunately, its just something they do so close for Easter. My other distraction came on a Friday after class. Chris picked me up and drove us out to the Wicklow Mountains where proceeded to park and hike up the side of what I’m pretty certain was a mountain, but don’t hold me to that. We hiked up to this megalithic tomb called Seefin. One of the greatest thing about Ireland is the lack of bugs/snakes/bears/various other scary stuff, so we can trek easily through grass without fear (although Chris advised me that everyone now then pigeons fly out of bushes). Once we got up there, it was incredible. I had never seen anything like it. These tombs in Ireland are older than the pyramids, and we got to walk inside of it, touch things, and just be there for free. No one’s really excavated it, and the tomb is kind of falling apart because its so old. Going up the mountain, you can see rocks that are really similar to all the ones up at the top that makes you wonder if its always been this size, or if it used to be more massive. From Seefin, you get a beautiful view of the surrounding area. It was absolutely incredible. Over that weekend, we had Easter. Easter has a different meaning here in Ireland, especially Dublin, because of the 1916 Easter Rising. This year is the centennial for the 1916 Easter Rising. The very short version of it is that on Easter a group of people violently rose up against British rule in Ireland, but mostly in the city of Dublin. Buildings were blown up and hundreds of people died. Eventually, the Irish ran out of supplies, so they had to surrender. The ones that were arrested were put to execution, a lot of them at Kilmainham Gaol. There are lots of stories about it, if you’d like to read more, go here: http://www.easter1916.net/ The city celebrated with parades and other events. We went to the Easter parade, and that was very neat to me because there was actually mostly Irish people there as opposed to the St. Patrick’s Day parade. There were jumbo screens, a reading of the Proclamation, and a full military parade complete with the band. Wreaths were also laid at various important locations. I love hearing Irish people talk about this time in their history because it is so near. There are thousands of people who’s families fought in the war for independence and the civil war who actually knew those people. I look at the buildings and listen to the people and wonder how similar would this have been to how American culture interacted with history after their revolution. My whole life I have been told how young America is, but Ireland as a state is even younger and no one thought to mention it.
After those couple of days, I really had to buckle down write three essays and watch way too many lectures. After all of those were done, Chris had a surprise for me. He kept it secret until we got right around the corner that he had mysteriously acquired tickets to an international, friendly soccer match between Ireland and Slovakia at Aviva Stadium. The stadium was so neat. The game was at the perfect time to see the sun going down from there, the roof thing around it looked so cool, and there were a surprising amount of people there for a friendly match. One of my favorite things was this song that they would all sing. I don’t know the words, but I’ve never heard a cheer that sounded so much like a real song. For once, I actually knew what was going on because I’ve played a little and watched local soccer games for years. It was a neat experience, and I would really suggest anyone going to Dublin to go see a game in that stadium. For our internship class this week, we had a talk on empowering women. There was a panel of women from various backgrounds. All of them were from Western cultures as well. While a lot of what they said about feminism I knew to be true already, the advice they gave about being a college student and looking towards the future resonated the most. They reminded us that failure is okay. Every experience is just another learning experience, and life will be okay no matter what. After a really stressful week that has only gotten more stressful, it was useful to hear that from a “real adult” again.
Stress is really mostly what I have been feeling lately. I’ve had some form of tonsillitis for about a month now, despite antibiotics and spending hundreds of dollars at the doctor here. The health insurance we were forced to buy doesn’t refund you until you get back, so my budget is also a little more cramped for the next two months. I’ve been without my phone for almost two weeks now. Despite everyone complaining about smartphones, they have truly changed the way we interact with each other, and it isn’t super easy to interact the same without it. My computer screen is cracked and can’t be fixed until I get home. I’m trying to find another place to live next Fall because our current landlord is unexpectedly not renting it out again. We’re still having some family stress as well. The UF financial aid office miscalculated something in my paperwork. It is all very, very stressful, especially being 4,000 miles away and not having a job that pays. I did not count on getting sick, things breaking, or having to have a large emergency fund for being here.I feel so lucky right now to have Chris and the wonderful, genuine people that I have befriended here to help calm me down. While there is pretty much nothing that I could done to prepare for the things that have caused me so much grief, I have made a list of the things that some of us students wish we would have been told before we got to Ireland and the stuff that they told us that found useful:
1 .Bring an emergency sick fund of about 200 dollars. Just in case.
2. Clarify with your internship exactly what you will need to wear and where you will be working. Seriously, get photo examples because I wasted space in my suitcase bringing business casual clothes.
3. Count on paying $5 per load of laundry (and you probably do like 2 loads per week, so that’s like $10 per week).
4. Bring 20 euro to pay for your phone from CAPA. If not, unlock your phone. You can get an unlimited data and text plan for 20 euro per month. Or you can just top up your phone from CAPA for 5 euro. I have T-Mobile and got lucky that they have a contract with vodafone here. I have 3G data, unlimited text, and only pay .20 per minute on phone calls with just paying my normal plan.
5. Bring your own towel. And wash cloths. Also plan on buying because the only thing we got were one big plate, one little plate, one cup, one mug, one knife, one fork, one big spoon, and one little spoon each. Also bring tupperware so you can make more food in a meal. Obviously, this is not conducive to having people over. If you can, I’d be really impressed at you fitting it in your suitcase.
6. Talk to your bank more than a month before you leave. I have Bank of America, and they have a traveler’s card that doesn’t have foreign transaction fees that I couldn’t qualify for because I went the week before I left (it was what I was advised was okay) after I had already had to leave my job. I have wasted so much money on fees, its ridiculous.
7. You do not need all those extra cords and headsets that that are on the packing list. You can get by with headphones, three power converters (bring an extra one because I accidentally blew one of mine), and your laptop.
8. Bring those cloth grocery bags and plan on spending 25 euro a week on grocery shopping. Food goes bad very quickly here because its so fresh, so you have to go weekly. Also, plastic grocery bags cost extra, so you’ll want your own. There are lots of options for grocery shopping here, but my favorite are the bigger versions of Dunnes and Tesco. Also don’t always count on employees knowing where stuff is because one time I asked for sour cream, and he brought me to sour cream & chive chip dip. In addition, budget a lot more than you think for eating out (food is good here)
9. Bring travel-sized containers for your shampoo, conditioner, etc. so you can take it with you when you travel. We find that just taking a backpack for weekend trips is easiest and cheapest, and you can bring your own shampoo in your carry-on if you have that stuff.
10. Budget way more than you think on going out. Pints cost about $6 or $7 in dollars (its about 5 euro, but you’ll want to round up), and its really normal to just go for a pint somewhere. You can also order half-pints for half as much, but isn’t that only have the fun?
11. Bring a dark colored jacket because no one here wears bright colors. Also bring rain boots (Irish people call them wellies and that’s much better)
12. Spend time in Ireland. You summer kids are only here for two months. That isn’t even enough time to see all of Ireland. Its much cheaper to travel around here and it is so, so worth it. Go to sports games here on the weekend. Remember, you have your whole life to travel Europe. The chances of you living in Ireland aren’t as high as another vacation here. Enjoy it. Get to know the place that you’re living, don’t just use it as an easy pass to travel around Europe.
13. Don’t bring huge bottles of your own shampoo. Ireland is a Western country and has a lot of the same brands, including soaps and feminine products.
14. Do bring your own medicine. Ibuprofen and all those things are way cheaper at home and sold in bigger bottles, so grab some if you need. Also bring your own favorite cold medicine. We’re currently having our own mini-cold plague here, and its comforting to have stuff you’re used to.
15. Temple Bar area is really expensive, so if you plan on going out there often, budget even more money for going out. Also, cover here can be up to 10 euro, especially if there is live music. Some cocktail bars and clubs change to 21 and up only on certain days as well.
16.Budget for some new clothes because you will get sick of wearing the same outfits every day.
17. Ireland is hard to get around without a car. We’ve been using Paddywagon tours to see places, and it has worked out really well.
18. Buy a travel book. It will be very useful when picking places to go.
19. You can bring heels. Just bring the ones with thicker heels.
20. Do talk to your roommates, make a chore list, and have a small fund set up where everyone puts in money. This is so when you run out of dish soap, you can pull from that fund instead of asking everyone to give you money because you had to go out and buy stuff.
21. Bring really, really good hiking boots. Ireland is hilly and a lot of the good places to see require lots of walking.
22. Bring a roll of toilet paper for the first day you get to the place you live because it might not be there when you get to your place.
23. Get ahead on your UF course at home. It is way easier to study at home than it is here.
24. Finally, accept that you’re just not going to be able to have everything you want from home. Its part of the change of study abroad, and it helps you get to know the culture more by having to ask around for different things.
That’s all I have for now. If I think of anything else, I will be sure to include it in the next post 🙂