My Farewell to Ireland

I’ll begin with what has become a staple in my posts: I apologize for my long absence. Sadly, as I write this, I am not doing so from Ireland, but my last weeks there were wonderfully busy. I truly felt that I didn’t have much free time to write and when I did, I quickly filled it with seeing my friends, knowing I would soon leave.

The longer I stayed in Ireland, the more I enjoyed it, April and May were no exception. I had a few weeks of studying, filled with long days in the library (of course, the most beautiful days of the whole year happened to be those ones) and deadlines to meet. When I finished my last exam, I was shocked to realize that I had only a week left in Galway. Looking back now, I was hoping to have more to say about leaving by now, more realizations about how to put into words a summation of my whole experience, but still nothing seems quite right. My best efforts at honesty have come out a bit sappy for my taste and all attempts at making them sound more eloquent and less starry-eyed have failed, but I’ve done my best.

To be quite honest, I was skeptical about studying abroad. I was more than excited to go, but naturally nervous, too. I think what I feared the most was spending a semester being surrounded by Americans and trapping myself in a bubble of comfort, which I know can happen all too easily. I was determined not to follow that path, but I wondered how I would be able to have an authentic “Irish” experience. Despite my worries, I never could have imagined anything like what I gained from Ireland in just a few short months.

I found it strange how well I handled my last few days, full of goodbyes and packing. Of course I was sad, but I knew that there was nothing left on my list to do, my time had surpassed my wildest dreams. I had no regrets and not ready to leave but I was happy and at peace with my time there. I started out in a cold apartment, with one suitcase and 3 strangers but I left with a sense of place, countless memories, wonderful friends, some Irish and some American, with a few other nationalities scattered in there as well. I think Clare said it best when she said, “I hope someday I live somewhere permanently and I’m as happy there as I am here.”

I’m aiming to write a few more times, there’s a few more stories I’d like to tell and places I’d love to show you all. I learned so much through this experience, new settings, new cultures, and quite a bit more about myself. I will forever be thankful for this experience; thank you to Cornell for making it possible, for all of the amazing places that I was able to stand in awe of, and especially for all of the amazing people that made it the experience that it was. Thank you to the people at home, without whom I wouldn’t have been able to go in the first place and wouldn’t be so “at peace” with going home now. And thank you to all of the people in Ireland, who truly made me feel welcome more than I ever imagined I could be, and to those who turned into lifelong friends that I hope to see again someday soon.

If you ever get the chance, I strongly urge you to visit Ireland, not only does it offer some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever experienced (Galway, Aran Islands, and Connemara are a must if you can stop by!), but the people have an unparalleled kindness that immediately puts you at ease and makes you feel as if you have a home away from home. I realize this may all sound too good too be true, and I do realize I was in a bit of a bubble: living with friends, having the opportunities and time to travel and have fun when, had I been at home, I would have chosen to study instead, but it’s truly how I felt. I kept expecting the honeymoon period to end but it never really did. As I write, I am once again in surprisingly good spirits, but I know that when I left Ireland, it was not the last time that I will see everyone who came to mean so much to me. I am also so excited for what is to come in my life, how many more people and places there are to get to visit.

I am returning to the U.S. a more positive person, now more excited and a little less scared (although still a little bit, of course) for what is beyond my time in college, especially knowing that now I have even more supporters in my corner. I think it was important to get out of the Cornell bubble for a bit to reflect not only on how much I have grown in my time there, but also how different universities learn and function. I was able to see how easily I can get sucked into worrying about what’s inevitable: lack of time, grades, classes, money, but Ireland helped me realize that there are better things to worry about; friends, family, goals, and that there are more ways to learn than just through books. When I look back at my time at Cornell, I won’t be remembering my prelims or grades, all those times studying at the library or hiking through the snow to get to class (ok, maybe I’ll think of those times sometimes), but I’ll remember my friends, the times I laughed or cried with them by my side, the experiences and opportunities I had that I had never thought were possible, how much I learned in my short 4 years, and one of the biggest parts that I’ll remember: I’ll remember Ireland.


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Hiking Maamtrasna

“Are you going hiking today?”


“Get up, we have to go soon.”

“I was just about to,” I lie as I fall back asleep.

5 minutes later I roll out of bed, dump my books out of my backpack and shove my hiking gear in their place, ready to go. After a month or so of this, I’ve gotten the routine down.

“It’s raining out.”


“It’s raining, but like real rain.”

“Of course.” We’re both grumbling at the weather.

Clare’s sister is visiting and, while we’ve had a relatively dry season while we’ve been here in Galway (so we’re told), it’s been raining for a week straight. We were hoping to take her on a beautiful Sunday hike, but the sky doesn’t offer much hope.

A 15-minute walk in the rain and we’re at school to catch the bus, we get our seats and hunker down for the hour-long ride through the usual hiking area in Connemara, only this week we head just a bit further into County Mayo, to a hill called Maamtrasna. There’s a small group today, thanks to the foreboding forecast, leaving us with about 20 hikers. We decide to forgo our usual groups of different length hikes and just do one route all together. The route it shortened slightly and no one complains.

As we begin our trek, everyone still in good spirits because we’ve all accepted there’s no avoiding getting soaked to the bone.

“It’s a wet rain,” my friend Colin tells me.

“Meaning there’s such a thing as dry rain?” I ask.

“Yup, you know the kind, when it rains but not enough to get you truly wet.”

“Kinda like a sprinkle?”

“Not exactly, a sprinkle is a sprinkle.”

Despite the brief explanation, somehow it makes sense to me, I guess my two months in Ireland have taught me a bit about rain. We then launch into a discussion about all the different types of rain. I didn’t realize there were so many different ways to describe it, each being different than the next; there’s wet rain, dry rain, sprinkling, drizzling, light, heavy, lashing, pouring, p*ssing, really any expletive followed by the word ‘rain’, there’s even sunny rain. As the mountaineers usually say on hikes: “it’s freeing once your boots are soaked, then you can stop worrying about getting wet.” By those standards, I was ‘free’ about 5 minutes into the hike, my budget hiking boots lasted about 3 weeks and now I think my socks are more waterproof.

After about two hours, we are close to the point we have chosen as our summit and, all of a sudden, the sun comes out. We quickly decide to eat lunch, not knowing how long it’s going to last and hoping to avoid crouching over our sandwiches in the rain. And then, as we are eating, the few clouds still in the sky move and we see something more rare: direct sunlight. Amid the chorus of oohs and ahhs someone mentions, “It’s not often you see the sun like that.” Everyone groans. “Come on, now you’ve jinxed it.” “Well there goes that.” The joke never get old, as fast as the rain or sun comes, it usually goes just as quickly, and everyone, especially us Americans who are still learning the ways of the weather here, continuously blame one another for jinxing the weather.

We decide to take our group picture, knowing it just might start raining soon. And it’s a good thing we do, because then we each start feeling the drops, softly at first, but then harder, and then harder, and then even harder. It’s hailing. In the span of 15 minutes, the rain stopped, the sun came out in all its glory, and then it started to hail. At least we enjoyed the weather while we had it!

We continue our hike from the summit and begin to descend along the ridge, the windiest part. About 5 minutes after the hail started, the wind picks up and everyone starts getting pelted with hail. Luckily it’s small but it still stings. We continue hiking and the wind picks up, my rainproof cover on my backpack blows off and I have to chase it along the ground until it gets stuck on a rock. As I start running back to the group, hail is flying in my face and I realize everyone is crouching down. I’m no expert at wind speeds but I’d be surprised if the gusts were any less than 30 or 40 miles per hour. Hail, coupled with that wind, surpasses stinging and is just plain painful. I see Clare crouching behind a rock and I run over, the rest of the group is a few meters further away. I crouch next to her, our backs to the wind. We hold on to each other in an attempt to balance in the wind and my coat flies up in the back, now I just feel hail on my bare back. I shout to Clare and she scrambles to help me pull it down and, in doing so, we both slip and slide on the rocks, resulting in a few screams and then us collapsing in a heap of laughter.

“What is this?” She laughs, as we both wait for the gusts to stop. They don’t really stop so we run over to the rest of the group, shielding our face and eyes before crouching with them. As soon as it appears the wind might be dying down, we begin our descent. As we reach another part of the ridge and are more exposed, everyone has to crouch and hide again. Someone’s hat flies away and any attempts to retrieve it are useless, it’s gone for good.

A few more hours and we make it down the hill, after everyone takes a few good falls on the boggy ground, accompanied by strong encouragement from the wind. By the time we reach the bottom, the hail and wind have mostly stopped, and the group is wet, cold, covered in mud, and everyone’s face is raw and red. We had made fun of our hike leader, Kevin, for carrying and wearing ski goggles but he clearly had the last laugh.

We board the bus, a sad looking bunch, but spirits remain high as we head to the usual pub before the hour-long bus ride home. Sometimes people get pints but this hike everyone orders tea and a toasted sandwich and crowds around the fireplace as we reflect on our temperamental hike.

All in all, we truly enjoyed ourselves, at least I did, and though it wasn’t a stereotypically ideal hike, it’s why I choose to go nearly every weekend. It’s challenging, both mentally and physically, and, while they aren’t large mountains by any means, every Sunday nights I sleep better than I did any other night that week. I’ve gotten to see Ireland in a way that I never would have any other way, I’ve gotten to see the countryside and the rolling, emerald green hills this country is so well known for. I’ve gotten to know the country in a different way because of hiking like this, not only the landscape and natural beauty, but also its people. Somehow watching someone wheeze their way up a slope or slide down the other side on their butt makes it easier to get to know them. I know, mainly because of hiking, that the friendships I have created, and the country I am only beginning to know, are going to be with me forever. I never could have imagined a better experience studying abroad. So, I guess, the rain’s not so bad after all (but the hail is a different story).



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Quick Update (again)

Once again, I apologize for the lack of posts lately. I have been having so much fun while at school here, and part of that is due to the fact that in Ireland, not much homework is assigned throughout the school year, most marks are based on only a midterm and/or final. While I have really enjoyed this, it means that our study period (now) requires much more studying than any of us newbies had anticipated, so other things have fallen by the wayside for a little while.

I am leaving soon for two days in the Maamturk mountains, only about an hour away. There the Mountaineering club puts on an annual walk that is run completely by the students, where people hike the 12 peaks of the Maamturk range in one day. I am not hiking it, but I am volunteering with the club to be at one of the checkpoints for the day. I am cooking meals to go, packing extra clothes and greatly looking forward to a few days of a break!

The next post will be up as soon as possible, have a great weekend everyone!

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Post coming soon!

Hi Everyone! I just wanted to let you know that I have recently updated the photo gallery page, I’ve been lagging behind as of late. Things are going well and I am working on a new post at the moment! This past weekend I was in Cork for soccer intervarsities, where all the teams in Ireland compete against each other. Unfortunately, we lost in the finals but had a great weekend! Tuesday evening was the sports ball, a formal ball for everyone on sports teams and clubs, not only were all of my teammates from soccer there but also my friends from mountaineering and my roommates. It made for a great evening with all of the people in Ireland that I have become closest with!

It’s my last day of classes today here at NUIG and then a big break until finals. It is bittersweet to be ending something on my study abroad journey, as it signals the beginning of the end in some ways, but of all the aspects of my study abroad life, I think the end of lectures will be one of the easiest things to let go of. Although, I will be back in the library within the week for a great deal of studying and essay writing, so, as they say, it’s not a goodbye, it’s a see you later. And, of course, I’ll be returning for two weeks of exams to look forward to at the end of the month. Actually, the more I think about it, the more sweet and less bitter it is.

I’m just kidding, I definitely will miss this place, even if it isn’t quite as fun as others in Galway. The campus has been the backdrop to many opportunities and friendships formed, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t going to miss coming here everyday (but I think that feeling will be stronger after finals are finished and I have actually left).

I’ll be sure to keep you updated on what’s to come, stay tuned!

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The Halfway Point

I can’t believe I am writing this but I am already past my halfway point of my semester abroad here in Ireland. While I still have so much more to do and see, I can’t help but be a little sad about how fast the time has flown. My experience here has already been so much more than I could have ever imagined, such a unique and exciting opportunity that I know I will never forget. I have been especially busy lately, hence the sparse and sporadic updates, but I want to update you on what I have been doing and what is to come. As I have mentioned before, I try to post about more than just my day to day activities but sometimes I think some readers would like me to fill in a few of the blanks about what I have been up to.

School has been going well, I had midterm essays and projects due the past few weeks, even a final exam for my microbiology laboratory class, which means one class down, only five to go! My microbiology class only met six times so the final was early, my other classes continue until next week and then we have almost a full month off before final exams. I have heard that the time period is usually shorter but because of the way Easter falls this year we don’t start exams until April 24th! This means extra time for traveling, er, I mean studying. I finish my last exam May 10th and then I am free to go back to the United States. I am still not quite sure of my return date, I have a feeling I’ll try to spend as much time as I can here but I am not sure how much that will be yet.

Looking back, so much has happened over the past month and a half or so that I have not updated you on! The first weekend in February (Feb. 27-Mar. 1) my roommates and I decided to head for an overnight in Sligo because we had a free weekend. Jenna and I hiked a small mountain called Knocknarea and then looked around the nearby beach and city of Sligo. The following weekend (Mar. 4-5) I went hammocking with the Rover Society (like a camping club, rovers are like the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in the U.S.). This meant that I slept in a hammock for the night and, while I had fun and made new friends, I think next time I’ll wait until summer to sleep outside without any shelter.

Most of my weekends in February consisted of going hiking on Sundays in Connemara with the NUIG Mountaineering Club, the only one I missed was when I went hammocking. In the middle of February two of my roommates and I went to a Connacht Rugby match in town. There are four provinces in Ireland, Galway is located in Connacht and is also the home of the provincial rugby team. It was the first rugby game for us all so we were pretty clueless as to what was going on but we tried to blend in as best we could and eventually figured out when it was appropriate to cheer. Towards the end of February I spent two days in Dublin, which you can read more about one of my previous posts.

March has been, by far, my busiest month and I am only 2/3 through it! My roommate, Clare, and I planned a trip that coincided with the end of our midterms, we had to scramble to turn in a few things early but we did it, from March 9th until the 12th we took a trip to Portugal! We landed in Faro on Thursday morning and spent the day on the local beach. Friday we took a train to Lisbon and spent the day touring, mostly seeing the area of the city called Belem and visiting the local sites there, including a monastery and famous pastry shop. Saturday, our third day, we visited St. George’s castle and stumbled upon a local flea market. We spent most other times during the day walking around and stopping to eat more than we needed to. That night we went to a restaurant to watch a Fado show, which is the traditional local music. It was a tiny room where everyone sat nearly on top of one another while eating their dinner, with a waitress who would shout “SHUT UPPY,” immediately shocking everyone into silence and then she would cue the band and begin singing beautifully. At one point she yelled at me for keeping my purse on my shoulder because I should feel comfortable in her restaurant and everyone there was family. She had an attitude, without a doubt, but was somehow simultaneously welcoming and hilarious, which we were somehow able to all understand despite the fact that she only spoke Portuguese. Unfortunately, Sunday, we had to return home to a cold and rainy Galway. It was such a beautiful trip, Clare and I had a wonderful time!

Because one of my classes finished, now I only have one lecture on Tuesday and Wednesday. This, coupled with a concert put on by one of my favorite artists, $20 Ryanair tickets, and one of my good friends studying abroad in England, I took a quick trip to London the Tuesday after we returned from Portugal and returned Wednesday evening. It was quick but I still had two full days in the city. On Tuesday, my friend, Mikaela, another Cornellian, showed me a few places in London, we took a walk to Primrose Hill, I went to the V&A museum and then to the concert. The concert was by an artist called Cam, who sings country music, a genre that is not very popular here but does have a surprising number of dedicated fans. Her music is slowly becoming more popular and in the States she would probably be an opening act for other performers and sing in front of thousands of people. In London, however, the venue she performed in held only about 150 people, I felt as though I was on stage with her, it was incredible! On Wednesday, Mikaela and I took a boat ride to the Greenwich market and walked around through several of the parks in London until I had to catch my plane and once again, it was bittersweet to be returning to Galway.

I almost had a full day at home but by the next afternoon, this past Thursday, I was gone again! This time to Dingle with the Mountaineering Club on their biannual club trip. Now, I know what you may be thinking: it was St. Patrick’s Day, why weren’t you in Dublin? It seemed quite weird to me at first, going hiking for a weekend in a tiny, rural town, instead of at a parade somewhere, but after talking to numerous Irish people, I changed my mind. First of all, I have made so many friends in the club and many of them had been trying to convince my roommates and myself to go on the trip for several weeks now. Second, of all the Irish people I spoke to about St. Patrick’s Day, most of them said it was overrated and not much fun, and above all else, to never go to Dublin. Apparently, a lot of people just go into the streets and drink excessively all day and it is quite gross. I have also been told numerous times that the parades aren’t nearly as good as they are in the U.S., which seems backwards but everyone stands by the claim. It seems strange to essentially skip the day that is most associated with Ireland but after debating, I decided to go hiking with my friends for the weekend.

After a lot of traffic on Thursday and 7 hours on the bus, we arrived in Dingle, eager to begin our hiking the next day. Unfortunately, the weather was absolutely atrocious for the majority of the weekend. On our first hike of the weekend, St. Patrick’s Day, we got about 1/3 of the way up the hill and had to turn around because it was so windy and rainy, making the conditions unsafe. Plus, we realized we wouldn’t be able to see anything from the top of the mountain or even know whether or not we were there. We turned around but took a long trek across a river, around a lake, and over a smaller mountain to reach the town of Dingle. It was still a full day of hiking, just not in the way we originally intended. On Saturday, the weather was just as bad so we went to an indoor climbing wall, once again, not something we had originally intended but we had a great time anyways. Sunday was our last day so Jenna and I got up early and ran down to the beach to see if we could see one of the popular spots in the town of Dun Chaoin (anglicized to Dunquin) where we were staying. It was beautiful and I was so exited to finally be able to see something of the beautiful area. We left after that and made a quick stop at Inch Beach for some fresh air and kite flying, a nice break from the bus, returning to Galway that evening.

Today I had a full day of classes, my second to last week of them, and soccer practice, where we prepared for our intervarsity championships this weekend in Cork! I am very tired from all of the adventuring and traveling from the past few weeks but I am very happy. I am happy with all of the experiences that I have had here in Ireland, happy with all of the opportunities that I have been able to seize, happy with all of the friends that I have made, and happy that I’m only halfway through this amazing experience!

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The Myth of the Hostel

Hello Everyone!

Once again, it’s been a bit crazy over here. I recently returned from a weekend in Portugal! My roommate, Clare, and I decided that with a lull in our classwork and cheap plane tickets we might as well get out of the rain for a bit! We had a wonderful weekend, we started in Faro on Thursday and then Friday took the train to Lisbon and returned to Galway on Sunday. It was a weekend full of sun, beautiful cities and lots of laughs. When I was talking to my parents on Sunday evening, I told them all about our trip and they were a bit surprised to hear about how positive our experiences were with staying in hostels. It brought up the ideas that I had initially had of hostels and they thought it might be some good insight to share, so I figured I would tell you a little bit more about them and how we college kids are able to squeeze as much travel in as possible while studying abroad without (completely) draining our finances.

One of my soccer teammates here in Ireland remarked last week that whenever she meets students studying abroad in Ireland, it seems like all they do is travel. I thought about it and she seemed right, I am around most weekends but if I don’t have any work my roommates and I are quick to take a day trip to a nearby city or sometimes even a weekend away. Being in Europe means that everything is close by; I can fly to almost every other European country faster and cheaper than I could from New York to California, but this was my first weekend since being here that I left Ireland. Within Ireland there is a network of buses and trains that take you from city to city quite easily. On top of that, I’ve made the initial trip over here and it costs me $30 to fly from Ireland to Portugal, that’s a lot better than the $500 it would cost to fly from home, I never know when or if I’ll be back on this side of the Atlantic so I might as well try to squeeze in as much as I can now!

One way that I have learned to finagle traveling while abroad on a limited budget is through the airline Ryanair. It’s an airline that offers the cheapest flights throughout Europe, sometimes other small airlines will be cheaper but Ryanair is known for having the most flights. Flying from Dublin to London costs roughly the same as the bus I’d have to take from Galway to Dublin, both about 20 euro. Ryanair does charge you for just about everything else, such as baggage or choosing your seat, but if you’re not picky and are going for a quick trip, it’s wonderful.

Another way we are able to travel economically is by staying in hostels. While many people have the idea that hostels are dirty and scary, where you’re jammed in a room with a bunch of strangers, all of my experiences have been extremely positive. For instance, Clare and I stayed one night in a hostel in Faro that cost us 12 euro. While you do share a room with other people, the beds are always spread out and you are given a substantial amount of privacy, you are also usually given a locker to lock your bags in and clean towels, sheets, and blankets to use, if not you can rent them for a few euro. There were two other people in our room, who told us that there would be dinner downstairs at 8. We decided we would try it, it was $7 and we got a full meal and dessert. One of the workers at the hostel made us all wonderful thai food, a little spicy for me but I made it through. There were about a dozen other people at dinner and we all talked and ate and laughed for about an hour until we were full and the food was all gone. Then, one of the other employees had made chocolate pie for everyone and so we repeated the same ritual as before with our dessert. Everyone we met was extremely kind and helpful, we shared experiences of traveling and what we had done in Portugal, but also just learned about each other and made friends.

It was a wonderful evening with everyone and we continued to see them and stop and chat every time we say someone in the hall. Many hostels have similar events for guests to get out and meet other travelers, it can make you feel welcome in another country if you don’t know anyone or know what to do. What has surprised me most about hostels is that there are people of all ages staying there, even families. It is possible to get a private room and still cheaper than staying in a hotel.

Another great thing about hostels is that even if it’s too early to check in you can drop off your luggage or bag and they will hold onto it for you until you come back, a helpful feature if you have early flights like we did and don’t want to carry your backpack all day. Another amazingly helpful aspect of hostels is that they are used to travelers coming frequently and are extremely helpful in advising you where to go, what to do, even how to use public transportation. Every time that I have stayed in a hostel thus far, I have asked for advice or suggestions and it has always been very helpful. It is nice to have someone who knows the area, as well as the businesses and tourist industry to guide you. Just this past weekend we had someone walk through the train system with us and help us buy tickets that were cheaper than the bus we were originally going to take, someone helped us plan our sightseeing and we visited places we hadn’t originally known about, and someone even completely changed our plan by making us realize that the place we wanted to go meant spending a good part of the day on a bus instead of enjoying the weather so we ended up rearranging. All in all, hostels have been places that I have always felt welcomed and comfortable, I encourage anyone who is looking to travel and save money to try them out, but of course still be careful and pay attention to your surroundings.

One last bit on planning trips: For hostels my roommates and I have always used to check hostels, it too has reviews and ratings from past guests and helps you narrow down your options by location and price, very helpful and you know what you’re getting. I always check for things to do in a new place, there are lists of the most popular attractions in different categories so you can narrow it down by your interests and always lots of reviews from tourists to read, it helps in planning out what to do and see. There are definitely more out there but this is what I have learned to use so far.

I hope this helps debunk a few myths about hostels and traveling while studying abroad. It may not be the most glamorous way to travel but it almost always ensures lots of laughs and meeting great new people, making your travels that much better!

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The Rocky Road to Dublin

It’s been ages! I apologize for not keeping up to date with my writing, last week I had several midterm assignments due while this week I have been under the weather and completing my second round of midterm essays and projects. While I don’t believe in the excuses that engineering students make about not being able to write, it has been a while since I’ve written an essay where grammar actually counts and my assignments have taken me longer than I expected. It has been a busy few weeks that I wasn’t totally prepared for.

I did, however, have time to take a quick trip to Dublin this past weekend. I had been planning to go with Clare, my roommate, for some time because her sister was visiting and we were all going to go together. We later decided that she and her sister should go just the two of them because they didn’t have much time together. After some debating, I decided I would still go on my own, after all, it was that or do schoolwork. I arrived early Friday morning and returned to Galway late Saturday night so that I could make the weekly Sunday hike. I had a great weekend, exploring the museums, galleries, and food of Dublin, even catching a play with Clare and her sister, but it was also a weekend that showed me that, as much as I have learned about traveling, I still have a long way to go.

I have been very fortunate to have had to opportunity to travel a little and have taken planes, trains, and buses on my own enough times to feel comfortable using them and going new places and, as I expressed in my last post, always try to find the fun and positivity in it, even when it doesn’t work out as planned. I truly enjoyed Dublin but I definitely overestimated my capabilities; I should have known, being the wise old age of 21 that I am, nearly every time I think I’ve figured out something about the ‘adult world’ eg. taxes, rent, how to cook rice, it ends with me calling home in a panic, or in the case of the rice it involved setting off the fire alarm then eating burnt rice for dinner while my roommates laughed endlessly at me, but that’s beside the point. Basically, I am continuously realizing that I know much less than I think about things I have taken for granted. I don’t mean that in a negative way, I am constantly learning and slowly growing up, I even successfully made rice yesterday! This past weekend was no different so, in the spirit of my last ‘how to’ post, this one is more of a ‘how not to,’ with everything based off of first hand experience. So here’s what not to do when traveling:

Don’t tell yourself you will finish packing in the morning, especially when your bus leaves at 6:15 and there are no roommates in the house to yell at you the eighth time you hit snooze on the alarm. This can lead to an all out panic, having to run the whole way to the bus station and the reason I write my next tip.

Don’t forget to pack your underwear. Yes, I know this is the golden rule, one my mother always, always reminded me about and yet there I was, sitting on the bus to Dublin, pretty proud of the fact that I made it to the bus at 6:14 when we left promptly at 6:15, only to realize I had only packed a shirt for the next day. It wasn’t a big issue, Dublin is full of malls and department stores so it was a quick stop when I got there but still, completely avoidable.

This one’s not so much what not to do but I have realized that there are two types of packing. The first is packing all of the necessary things, leaving some room for souvenirs and movement, being able to take items in and out as you wish. The second, and more common way (at least for me), involves jamming absolutely everything you can into your bag and not being able to unzip it without clothing exploding out and all over the floor. This was a case where I thought I had beaten the system, I decided that I could fit everything for the weekend in my purse, it’s pretty roomy and, for the most part, it worked out. The upside is that I didn’t need to carry a big backpack around all weekend and stick out like a tourist, although I probably still did. The downside in using your purse as your bag is that your purse is still your purse, so every time I went to get money to buy an admission ticket, a coffee, or anything I had forgotten to pack, I had to unload my bag all over the counter to find my wallet. Not the worst traveling faux pas but I didn’t feel like a mature young adult every time I had to set my ham sandwich and socks on the counter in front of a confused cashier. Once again, completely avoidable.

Don’t be afraid to ask. This is probably this biggest one, time and time again I have said, “I really should have just asked,” and yet, much like the underwear lesson, I am writing about it for a reason. The latest example of this occurred on the bus ride, I had gone to bed late, woken up at 5:50, the bus left at 6:15 and I was tired. I tried to sleep on the way there but the stress from the panic of waking up so late kept me wide awake until we were right outside of Dublin, so I was definitely tired but this probably would have happened had I been fully alert. We get into the city, there are few stops outside the city center and then I hear “last stop, city center.” Ok,” I think, “this seems like the center of the city but I’ll just wait until the last stop and get off when everyone else gets off,” and happily fall half asleep, waking up every time I hear someone getting up, to make sure I don’t miss my stop. Then I hear, “Everybody off.” I pop excitedly off of the bus and find myself at the Dublin airport, which is located outside of the city. As it turns out “last stop, city center” meant that had been the last stop in the city center, meaning I got to ride another bus back into the city.

It truly was a great weekend, despite a few small bumps in the road. It wasn’t what I would call a ‘rocky road’ but I have heard the song enough times on the bus to hiking and it kept popping up throughout the weekend and at times, when I was feeling particularly melodramatic, the title seemed quite fitting. There were some highlights of the weekend that I was most excited to share with you all. I visited the old Trinity College library, which was absolutely beautiful, as well as the Dublin Castle. I went to see the play The Weir with Clare, it was a little strange at first but turned out to be a great production. We had a wonderful dinner and the rest of the weekend was spent wandering through different museums, streets, cafés and pubs. I’ll keep you updated as I encounter more adventures, as well as a few more inevitable bumps in the road!


You can listen to the song “The Rocky Road to Dublin” here:

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New Photos!

Hi Everyone,

I have added a few more weeks worth of photos to the ‘Photo Gallery’ page. I apologize for no real post the week, I am in the midst of a few mid-term essays so I’ll get something out when I can! All is well here in Galway, just doing a lot of school work lately but stay tuned because there are few exciting things coming up!

With care from Galway,


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How to: Find Adventure

In the short time that I have been in Ireland, I have had more fun than I could have expected for an entire semester and with less time spent in class here, I have quickly filled my free time with activities and exploring. One thing I was intent on when arriving in Ireland was finding ‘adventure’ but I quickly realized that I had no idea what that really meant to me or how I could find it. One thing I did know, however, was that I didn’t want to be a tourist my entire semester, meaning I did not want to fly to Ireland, drink a Guinness, kiss the Blarney stone and then go home. While I do want to do a few of the tourist things, I knew that I wanted an experience all my own and to really try to get to know Ireland as a country and a culture. So I made it a goal of mine to ‘find adventure’, whatever that was.

Well good news: I found it! And you know what? It was pretty easy to find. I think the first time I realized I was ‘having an adventure’ was when the electricity went out in our apartment. My roommates and I had no idea how to get it back on, and when we found out that it was more expensive that we had expected, we ran around, hysterical, turning off lights and heaters, a moment I know I have mentioned several times before. But afterwards all we did was laugh and laugh at what our living situation had suddenly turned into, and someone mentioned that just living this way was going to be an adventure. And there it was: adventure. I realized that I didn’t have to fly to a new country every weekend or go skydiving to be adventurous, I just had to notice the spontaneity in everyday occurrences and embrace them as positives.

Now, this didn’t quite fulfil my original goal, living in as a human icicle was not exactly what I had in mind, but I felt excited by what was the come, the unanticipated moments and the experiences that you can’t plan. If I could have this much fun by just dealing with losing electricity, I knew the semester was going to turn out alright. There were two other instances that made me feel like I had had an adventure, and confirmed to me that my decision to embrace the oddities in everyday life was spontaneous enough for me to feel adventurous. The first time came on a weekend trip to Kylemore Abbey. The girls and I decided to take the bus from Galway to the Abbey but ended up getting off one stop too early. We found ourselves in the charming, yet small and seemingly unexciting town of Clifden (population 2,113, according to Wikipedia). We found a taxi to the Abbey but had to wait several hours before it could take us, Robert the taxi driver told us he had some things to take care of first. A shop owner suggested we visit the Clifden Castle so we figured we would walk on over and check it out. This is also the first time we were introduced to ‘Irish time’, where a ’20 minute’ walk took us 45. When we got there, we were surprised to only find ruins, but it was amazing; the architecture, the views, the sheep, everything was so very picturesque. We walked around and explored the grounds, and didn’t leave until we had to get back to town to catch our taxi and were content with the amount of mud that had covered everyone. On our walk back we met a gentlemen who could tell by our mud-covered selves that we had been at the castle and he told us how his family had been tenants in the castle decades ago and now 8 or 9 of former tenant families like his own were owners of the castle. Not only did we learn about the history of the town and it’s sights, but we met someone with a personal attachment and stories we could never find in any guidebook.

The second instance I felt adventurous was the following weekend. The roommates and I again took a day trip, this time to the largest of the Aran Islands, Inishmore. One of the sights that we decided to hit was the Fortress (Dun Aonghasa), which involved a lengthy bike ride and short climb to the top. At the base of the hill we met a dog, a local shop owners dog that we were worried someone might be looking for, until she jumped the wall onto the start of the trail and led us the entire way. She didn’t leave our side for about an hour as we saw some of the most stunning views I will ever have the privilege of seeing, and when we were at the base and had to leave she just walked away. Later that day, we went to the nearby ‘Wormhole’, another local attraction, and there was Cookie, the dog (we had let Jen name her), following another group of tourists. While the day was absolutely amazing, for some reason having a new friend like her added so much to it.

To me, adventure has come to represent something unexpected, something spontaneous, which I think is how most people would define it anyways. However, it’s not as grandiose as I thought it would be, meeting a dog or getting off at the wrong bus stop are hardly unique instances. They are, however, small events that added something unexpected to my travels, and produced innumerable laughs for myself and everyone else that I shared them with. I thought to be adventurous I would have to jump out of planes or go to some wacky place no one’s ever heard of. Turns out, for me at least, adventure isn’t so hard to find, it just takes being open to the prospect of something a little different and remembering to embrace those differences when they come.

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Monthly Review #1

As of yesterday, I have been in Galway, Ireland for a full month and I can hardly believe it! The time has flown by and I am excited to share with you the things I have learned and experienced so far.


To be honest, initially I felt that Ireland was much more similar to the US than I had expected it to feel (I think speaking the same language was a large contributor to that, it’s easier to converse with locals, something that I had expected to be difficult, for some reason). However, as I go I realize that the differences are more nuanced, the longer I am here the more the differences become apparent but the more comfortable I am.

  1. People are nice: It sounds trivial but so many Irish people that I have met and conversed with have been so exceedingly kind and willing to help me, I have always felt welcomed here. This past summer I was in New York City, which is one of the last places you’d think of when the word ‘hospitable’ comes up. I was expecting a city atmosphere akin to that here, but even in a city like Galway, even though it’s a little smaller, shop owners and people on the street are happy to notice you look lost or confused and go out of their way to help you.
  2. While Irish people are very nice, when you start getting to know them a little better, they love to give you a hard time. A lot. I have always taken this as a sign that someone is comfortable with you and doesn’t mind making jokes at both your expense and theirs, I think it’s a good thing. I have noticed, however, that a few of my fellow Americans have been a little caught off guard with this sense of humor, which can sometimes be accompanied by a more crass sense of humor than we may be used to, but so far all of the jabs I’ve heard have been made with good intentions.
  3. Phrases: As is to be expected, there are different phrases the Irish use that have taken me some time to get used to. The most notable is the use of the word ‘craic,’ which is pronounced exactly like the word ‘crack’. It really just means having fun but you can imagine my surprise the first time I heard, ”he really enjoys some good craic.”
  4. The weather: Being from Western New York (“Upstate” for the non-New Yorkers), we are proud of our ability to brave the elements. The folks from Rochester and Buffalo areas (myself included) always feel a sense of pride when people mention how cold it is there or how much snow we get. When I saw Ireland had a winter temperature near 40 degrees Fahrenheit, I figured it would be no problem. I would never want to disgrace my WNYers out there but I must admit it: Ireland is cold. The humidity makes the cold go right through you, and by the end of the day you’re shivering or wrapped in several layers and not wanting to move. The humidity also makes it hard to keep anything dry, instead of hanging my clothes and folding them a day later, here we hang them for several days with a fan on the whole time.
  5. Scenery: I have been lucky enough to join the Mountaineering club at my school where there are weekly hikes around Connemara National Park and the views have been absolutely amazing. I strongly urge anyone looking for somewhere to travel who enjoys being outside, even if only a little, to add Ireland to your list, you will not be disappointed. I have posted pictures in a separate page on this site under ‘Photo Gallery’ where you can see my pictures, many of which are from hiking or exploring the beautiful scenery. Ireland is such a beautiful country.

There are definitely more differences but in efforts to keep this post a somewhat appropriate length, I will move on to other aspects of my life abroad so far.

the Apartment

While my apartment is located in a great spot and I have awesome roommates, there are some ‘comical’ aspects to it, as you may have noticed in my earlier posts. It has been an adventure trying to figure out the quirks of the place but we have made the most out of it. The latest issue is heating, the roomies and I have done our best to limit electricity costs so we use our heating and electricity on an as-needed basis, we tend to eat by candlelight and unplug everything as soon as we are done using it. This past week has been a little colder than the first few and we all agreed it would be alright if we used the heaters in our rooms at night. We were pretty excited for a ‘warm’ night and to feel nice and toasty for the first time in a while, and then Clare and I realized our heater had stopped working. It comes with the territory but man, were we bummed.

Another development in the ongoing adventures of Apartment 105, we have also discovered that we live directly above a parking garage, which, usually isn’t very noticeable, unless it is quiet (which, living with 3 other girls, it rarely is) and the endless grinding of gears and opening and closing of gates becomes quite apparent. It also seems somehow louder when you have decided to take a nap.

the Roommates

I am not sure how this happened, but I have three other roommates and every single one of us gets along great. We enjoy traveling together and doing many of the same things so we have joined several of the same clubs, and we really enjoy going on our weekly Mountaineering club hikes together. We also all have to same goal in meeting new people, none of us wanted to come here to just be with other Americans, we can do that at home but unfortunately, we have seen it a lot with the other students studying abroad. It has been slightly easier than I expected to make friends because everyone is so welcoming and kind here but difficult for us to do it on our own because we do enjoy many of the same things, which means meeting the same people. We do, however, do a great job of talking to people other than each other when we do things together, on our hikes we rarely talk amongst ourselves and there’s always an effort to do things apart. So far we have struck a nice balance when we are out with Irish friends, and when we are home together we have a ball, usually cooking dinner, or watching a TV show here and there, or just talking about our days. I definitely lucked out!

School at NUIG (National University of Ireland, Galway)

School has definitely been a little different. While I am taking the same number of courses as I usually would, the course load for each class is smaller, most classes only base grades on a midterm and final, many of which are essays. There isn’t as much emphasis on grades, which has been making me remember how much I really enjoy learning new things because sometimes I do get caught up in learning just to pass an exam. That’s not to say I am skating along without doing any work, because I definitely still am, but there’s a different atmosphere with it and I have found it very conducive to learning for me. I am also taking a few classes that I normally wouldn’t have taken back at Cornell, like Europe in the 20th Century and Native North American History, both of which I am always excited to go to. I am still taking some engineering and science courses, which I am enjoying as well. One cool thing about NUIG, the entire college is bilingual, in both English and Irish (Gaelic, but here it’s referred to as Irish) so all staff much know both languages and everything we are sent is in both as well.


Extracurriculars are very involved here at NUIG and have been a big part of my experience thus far. I know that I have mentioned the Mountaineering club more than once, it’s a club that I have met many wonderful people through and have a lot of fun with. Every Sunday we go hiking in Connemara and several times per week we can go rock climbing, which I have also started doing. I also joined the soccer team, this one’s on my own, without my roommates. We practice twice per week and Tuesday is my first game with the team, we are going to Dublin to play against UCD. There are another few clubs that I have joined that I go have joined but are not as involved with. I joined the kayaking club and really enjoy meeting the people in the club but have yet to kayak and every once in a while a couple of my roommates and I will stop by a dance class put on by the Dance Society. With less class time and a lighter work load I am definitely filling up my time!

In conclusion, it has been a truly amazing month. I have made new friends, started to get to know a beautiful and exciting city, and seen amazing aspects of Ireland. I have reached a point in my life that I had always expected to experience but hadn’t until now: that of a stereotypical college kid. I live in an apartment where I have to wear three jackets to bed and the cupboard holds at least two dozen packages of ramen noodles at all times (that’s not an exaggeration), we eat by candlelight and hot showers last for about three minutes. I always pictured this is how college would be and I am finally getting the full experience. The one aspect I wasn’t expecting when I pictured myself living this way was how happy I would be doing it. Now, I would love to have a hot shower every day and working heater, but I have such great roommates that we have a ball anyways, and every day I look forward to the things that I will be doing, and that makes me realize how unimportant those other things are. I look forward to what the next months have to bring and sharing those times with you all!

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