Recently, lots of people have been posting pictures and Facebook statuses to express how they felt about this year. So, why not recap how my year has been?
It has definitely been a roller coaster of emotions – I am thankful, remorseful, saddened and happy when looking back on 2015.
The beginning of this year brought me some of the best and most memorable experiences of my life. I flew to Ireland, ready for adventure and meeting new people. It’s funny – I went with Brittany, someone I had only met twice before taking a 17 hour journey with. And after that, we became best friends. I couldn’t be happier to have her in my life as my friend, former Ireland roommate, and fellow traveller and adventurer. I think the transition was much easier for both of us, experiencing those first freezing cold nights far from home and having someone – even just a little bit familiar – while meeting so many new people.
And thus began probably the best 6 months of my life. Going to school in Ireland was an adventure in itself. 100% finals, classes cancelled all the time, and having classes only the 2 first days of the week. It was an experience I’m glad to have had. The parties and get-togethers are all so memorable, each one sticking out in my mind for specific reasons – like the time I got locked outside on the roof, or the first international students party, or even the very first party we had at our place (the one that security came to).
I had the best time because of the people I met. I am so thankful to have met incredible, smart, amazing friends from around the world. And honestly, there are too many of you to name – but you guys know who you are, and the hilarious and amazing memories that we have.
Of course, it was because of a lot of these amazing friends that I had incredible adventures. Brittany and I were lucky to travel each weekend with great people – going to Kilkenny, Tramore, Dunmore East, Blarney, Cork, Dublin, Belfast, Kerry, Wexford, and so many more. As I wrote in posts earlier this year, I was lucky to travel around Ireland on one of my weeks off from school. We went to so many amazing places, including Cahir, Cashel, Limerick, Galway, Cliffs of Moher, and Inis Mor. Guys, even though we had only known each other for a couple weeks, that trip was amazing!
On my second week off, I travelled with Brittany, Bert and Carlos through 5 European cities, before going to Nice by myself. We had a couple bumps in our travels – almost missing trains, getting a little lost, and I got sick with food poisoning – but it was an incredible adventure! I think it was one of the best trips, as we all got along so well and never had disagreements.
Ireland was one of the greatest experiences of my life – I got to fulfill my dreams of travelling to Europe, living abroad, meeting new people and experiencing new cultures. But it definitely had its bumps along the way. The first few days were incredibly hard, as I had no internet and no way to contact my family. However, Brittany was amazing and the people there were super helpful. The hardest moment was when I learned that my Gramma had passed away back home. Before I left, she had been in and out of the hospital with a heart attack and health problems. I knew it was a possibility, and I was scared that it would happen – but she always pushed me to go after my dreams. I was lucky to Skype with her a few times before she passed away. It was definitely hard going through this by myself, missing the funeral and being so far away from all of my family. I tried to stay positive, and a few of my friends were incredibly supportive – I think it would have been much harder without you guys being there for me, making sure I was alright, so thank you.
After my semester ended, my brother, Zach, and my long time best friend, Kirstin, came to meet me. We would start our 6 week adventure in Ireland before travelling to 12 countries, 17 cities, and countless famous landmarks and places. This trip had a few more bumps than previous ones, and I had to learn to travel a little differently. It’s interesting how travel changes when you are travelling with people you haven’t known very long, compared to people you have known your entire life. We had so many hilarious moments and adventures, inside jokes from the trip, and we met so many cool people. I was lucky enough to meet up with many of my friends I had met in Ireland, and I got to introduce them to Zach and Kirstin. I am incredibly grateful to have had the adventure, and to have shared it with so many amazing friends, new and old.
When I got home, I was a part of my cousin’s lovely wedding. I was very lucky to be a part of a huge step into her new life with an amazing person. I am so happy for them. And then, my summer was mostly spent outdoors and with friends. I had multiple days of outdoor climbing and hiking, catching up with amazing friends, and trying to keep up with my friends in Europe and their lives.
Unfortunately, another tragedy occurred. My great aunt, the only remaining sibling from my Gramma’s family, passed away. She had been sick for some time, but it was still hard. My mom had been incredibly close to her when she had lived in Arizona, and their relationship had continued. I had been pen pals with my great aunt since I was little and had visited her in Arizona. I loved writing to her, and she was incredibly supportive and proud of everything I was doing. Her and my uncle were amazingly supportive of my travels and aspirations, and I was so thankful.
For the last few months, my life has been crazy with school and my two jobs – working at the rock climbing gym, and writing a blog about study abroad for the international office at UFV. Starting school again was a little stressful, as it was much more work than I had in Ireland. As I wrote in a previous post, I could have taken four courses and finished my degree. Being too stressed, I decided that I would take another semester. BUT – I did take one leap this semester, and wrote a few articles for my university newspaper, The Cascade. It was interesting to branch out to something new, and I really enjoyed it. I hope to write more for it this coming semester!
But I still tried to have a full social life, like I had in Ireland. It definitely wasn’t the same, but I had some great adventures. Especially in the past few weeks, having gone to Stanley Park, Vancouver Christmas Market, Victoria, skating, and bowling. I have gotten to catch up with many amazing friends, and to see my family for Christmas. I have even re-connected with some friends from high school, who I hadn’t seen in years, as we all had a common connection of having studied abroad. It was cathartic and amazing to hear their stories, share experiences, and reminisce on the hilarious adventures we all had since graduating high school!
Now, with New Year’s, I am thinking of what I would like to accomplish over the next year. I am excited to spend New Year’s with my family and great friends. I will then enter my final semester of university – both exciting and terrifying. I went straight from high school to university, and have been studying for 5 years. I am excited to have some time off from school. But I am terrified because I have no idea what I want to do – do I want to travel more? Live abroad again? Find a job around Vancouver? What kind of job do I even want?
I have never been one to have a goal or anything for the New Year. I never found them helpful. So I am going to pick broad ones: in 2016, I want to be happy and to find what I want to do. Hopefully this will include some more travels, meeting new people and experiencing new things, and staying in contact with the amazing friends I have now. But for now, I’m going to have a little fun to finish off a great year.
Lastly, though, I want to thank anyone and everyone who has read this blog over the last year. I appreciate your support through my travels and with my attempt to navigate the blogosphere. I apologize that it wasn’t very interesting sometimes – my life does that once in a while – and that I wasn’t very organized with my uploads. I would love to say that 2016 will be different, but there are no guarantees in life. And no matter how hard I try, my everyday life is not always an exciting adventure. But bear with me – I will still be posting on Instagram, Twitter and occasionally Facebook, and I hope to find more opportunities to write articles and blogs online. Thanks for the support and patience, and hopefully for sticking with me in the future!
May the road rise up to meet ya.
P.S. – I was also excited to try something new this past semester. I wrote two articles for my university newspaper, The Cascade. I will put links to the articles here and here, just in case you would like to peruse them. 🙂
“You have to fight through some bad days to earn the best days of your life.” – Pinterest
I knew that it would be hard coming home after 7 months away. I always knew. But I wasn’t sure how it would be exactly, just as I hadn’t been sure what it would be like to go abroad.
After being a little too stressed through the first few weeks of school, I made a big decision. Instead of stressing myself out this semester by taking a full course load, I chose, instead, to drop a class. What does this mean? Well, I will now have to take one more semester… I won’t be graduating in December, but in June instead.
And this is okay.
For my own sanity, this was a good move. With my two jobs and the courses I’m already taking, I have been quite busy. But I love my classes and jobs. Coaching again is the best – my athletes are so motivated and I am incredibly excited for this upcoming season! The climbing gym is doing well, with exciting things coming up. And I just published my first official post as editor of the UFV Study Abroad Blog, a post about my adventure. (If you’d like to see the post, click here! I will also be writing stories for other students as well. Check my Facebook or Twitter or something for updates!)
With an extra semester, I will be able to take some more interesting classes hopefully, and sort out exactly what I would like to do after I graduate.
The other day, I was watching an episode of Gilmore Girls, in which Rory expertly described what it is like for a student graduating from university: ‘it’s like standing on a cliff, looking into an abyss of fog. You can’t see anything ahead of you and you have no idea where to go. This is the first time in your life that nothing is planned for you and you don’t know what is coming next.’
I know that I am not the only person that feels this way, which makes me feel a thousand times better. Not knowing is terrifying yet exhilarating. You just have to hope that something will come for you, that is just what you’ve been looking for.
Right now I have few goals: to graduate, to find a job that I don’t hate, and to go back to Europe in two years. Keep it simple.
As for all of this political debate happening and the refugee crisis, I am not going to voice my opinion.
Finally, for those of you who know me well, I’ve lost a few people now who were important to me. Four years ago, at the end of September, I lost my cousin. It was incredibly unexpected and she was too young. It was hard on all of our family, but especially my aunt. It still hurts, but we know that she is watching over us, and I know that she was with me on all my adventures in Europe, taking it all in with me. Losing her was really difficult, and I didn’t like to talk about it much. This year, both my Gramma and her sister, my great aunt, passed away. I was close with both of them and it was really hard again. Being home without my Gramma has been really hard – she would have wanted to see everything I brought home, heard all my stories. I am glad that I got to skype with her before she passed, while I was away.
But now I have three people watching over me, with my Papa who was already gone. And I know that they are all proud of me.
And now this post got a lot more serious than I had planned. Hopefully, though, you know me a little better now. Whether that’s good or bad, I don’t know. But I’m moving forward.
“Time won’t make you forget, it’ll make you grow and understand things…” – Pinterest
May the road rise up to meet ya
My last post had us on a bus through the night from London to Paris. Well, that was an adventure in itself.
We had thought that the bus would just take us straight there through the night. Unbeknownst to us, we actually had to get up twice on the bus ride. Apparently, you cannot just “sleep” straight through. You have to have a passport check, and then get off the bus for the two hour ferry ride. Needless to say, there were some tired faces and exhausted bodies wandering off the bus the next morning to say ‘bonjour’ to Paris.
We had booked an apartment outside of Paris through AirBNB, and so after walking for quite some time, we found the quaint apartment. The woman was so nice, and the place was adorable. After a long siesta, we went into the city and wandered the Louvre for the night. Because it was Friday night, youth could enter for free! And it being Europe, twenty-somethings are still considered youth…
It was interesting to wander the Louvre again. This time, I tried to see some new things. Zach immediately led us to see the Venus de Milo, something I had somehow overlooked last time. And we of course ventured to find the Mona Lisa. I feel like you could go through the Louvre for hours and still not see everything. I’ve been there twice now, and I still haven’t seen a large amount of the enormous collection. I mean, that’s probably because I often get side-tracked looking at the architecture, beautiful ceilings, or amazing views out the windows. All of it is just as good as the artwork, in my opinion.
After the Louvre, we walked around Paris for a little bit. We crossed what used to be the Love Lock Bridge. Now, it is no more. There are merely boards with artwork depicting locks and keys in various and creative ways. It is crazy to think that merely two months before, I walked the same bridge – yet it looked completely different. It scared me a little, as it showed how much can change in such a short period of time.
We wandered along the Seine and ended up in front of Notre Dame. It was pretty late, so the cathedral was closed. But it looked beautiful. We were all pretty tired, so we took the metro back to our little apartment to get some sleep for the next day.
The next morning, it was really hard to get up. But when we did, Kirstin had made eggs for all of us mixed with some peppers. It was delicious. We set out on the metro to see some more sights of Paris. We got some food and ate sitting in front of the Eiffel Tower, feeling pretty cool and like typical tourists with our baguette. Then we stood in line to go up the tower.
We climbed a lot of steps. And I mean a lot. I can’t tell you how many exactly, but it was a lot. Basically, we walked up the steps to the first floor, where we looked around at the amazing views of all of Paris. Then we climbed more stairs to the second level. The view was spectacular! You could even see Sacre Coeur in the distance. It was a little smoggy, but the city looked amazing from up that high. I took a lot of pictures.
It turned into a really touristy day when we went to the Arc de Triomphe next. We walked underneath it to see the memorial, and then wandered along the Champs Elysees. Last time I walked it, it was late at night and I was crazy tired. It was nice to actually look around and see it this time. We hopped back on the metro and headed to see Sacre Coeur. We didn’t really think it through – to get up to Sacre Coeur, there are a lot of stairs. So we climbed more stairs. Needless to say, our legs were pretty tired by the end and a little sore the next day. Word to the wise: don’t do both the Eiffel Tower and Sacre Coeur in one day…
We were again the typical tourists when we wandered the painter’s market and then grabbed some amazing crepes. Last time Zach came to Paris a few years ago, they actually stayed at Sacre Coeur – so, basically, he knew some great crepe places! I definitely ate a banana and Nutella crepe. We bought some groceries and headed back for a relaxing night of cooking and hanging out in our cozy apartment.
On June 7, we got up, caught the metro, and then went to the train station to head to Versailles. I had not gotten to see it last time, so I was quite excited to visit it now. We had to wait in an extremely long line-up to be able to buy tickets to go. We opted for the cheaper version: only going through the gardens and not the palace.
The gardens were beautiful! The palace is ornate with gold trimmings, and the garden reflected the elegance in a more natural realm. There were a lot of trees and some flowers. Most of it was set up as a maze. We had been told that we should see the fountain show that would come on at 3pm. We were a little disappointed when this “show” turned out to be just the fountains being turned on. It was great to see them on, but it should not be called a show.
We had dinner at a cute restaurant in Paris, Le Petit Cler. The food and wine was delicious! We went to a patisserie after for some sweets before wandering Paris at dusk. We waited until it got a little darker so that Kirstin could see the Eiffel Tower lit up at night. Unfortunately, we were all really tired after a long day, and the wind was blowing colder, so we didn’t stay out late to see it sparkle.
Our last day in Paris was a ‘do-what-you-want’ kind of day. Basically, Zach and I ventured to find a café from a movie I had recently watched, a movie that Carlos had recommended to me. There are three movies: Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight. It’s about a man and woman who meet on a train and spend one night wandering a city. I actually loved the movies. In the second one, they are in Paris. I couldn’t find the café, but I was able to find somewhere I had wanted to see anyways: Shakespeare and Company bookstore. It was amazing! I was so excited to finally see a place I had always wanted to visit.
We went to meet Kirstin at a tea shop, one that my friend’s parents own. My friend, Emilie, couldn’t make it to meet us, but her parents were so kind! They were very welcoming and told us about many things we should see in Paris for our last day. I bought some tea from their shop that I cannot wait to try. We wandered some shops, went to the top of a department store for an amazing view of Paris, and headed back to our apartment for some dinner. Paris was definitely different for me this time, giving me a completely different view.
We ended up having a stressful evening when we realized we had no way to get to the airport. Basically, we had to call a cab to take us to the bus station since the metro wasn’t running early enough. So flash forward to a 5am wake-up call, a taxi ride, bus ride, and a flight later until we were finally in Barcelona! We had to take a train and the metro to be able to get to our hostel – basically we took almost all kinds of transportation in one day. I was very excited to be surrounded by Spanish and to start using my minimal knowledge of the language.
We hung out at the hostel, checked in, found some free food in the kitchen, and then I took a siesta. It had been a long day, and I ended up starting properly in Spain. We then decided that we would walk around for a little while, get a feel of the city. We saw our first glimpse of Gaudi with Palau Guell, walked part of La Rambla, and then strolled along the harbor before grabbing some food.
June 10 was the first of a few great days in Spain. We got up and went straight to La Sagrada Familia. I was super excited, as it was the one place I really wanted to visit in Barcelona. The church was like nothing I had ever seen before – the towers and architecture are so unique, with intricate details and special designs. We wandered the outside and sat inside, marveling at the beauty. And waiting until our time to go up the tower.
Yes, we climbed up one of the towers of La Sagrada Familia. We rode in an elevator to the top of the Nativity Tower, and stopped to take in the amazing views as we climbed the stairs down. You could see all of Barcelona, from the hills to the sea. And I was in love with it already.
We decided to head to Parc Guell next, making it a Gaudi day. It was also one of the only other things that was far outside the city. After a lot of escalators and stairs, we finally made it to the top. Again, we had amazing views of the entire city. We didn’t want to pay to enter the other parts of the park, so we wandered around the free areas and died in the afternoon sun. We had lunch before climbing all the stairs to the bottom of the hill.
On our way back through Barcelona to the hostel, we decided to stop at a Gaudi House, La Pedrera, as we would pass right by it anyways. We walked the rest of the way back to the hostel, even seeing another Gaudi work along the way, and we got to walk all of La Rambla. We relaxed at the hostel for a bit, with Kirstin and I drinking sangria and all of us making new friends. We went for tapas, a Spanish food. Basically, it is small-ish foods that you eat while drinking late at night. It works slightly different in the various regions of Spain, but it was delicious!
The next day was the one I had most been looking forward to. I headed down to breakfast, and even though I had been expecting him, Carlos was able to surprise me. It was so great to see him again, and I was super thankful that he had made the long train ride to hang out with us in Barcelona! We got some groceries, Carlos dropped off all of his stuff, and then we headed out.
A friend we had met at the hostel, Shane, was coming with us on our adventure as well. He was from Ireland (Cork), and we had all had great craic (fun) talking about Ireland and my experiences there the previous night in the hostel. So, we headed out for our day: we were going to take a train out of Barcelona to Montserrat.
After taking a gondola up the mountain, we wandered the basilica and then ventured up the mountain. None of us were super prepared for hiking, but we decided to do it anyways. Again, it turned out to be the hottest part of the day, and there were so many stairs! Needless to say, we ended up turning back before we made it the entire way. But before we did, we got to see some amazing views, and I even saw some climbers.
We went back into Barcelona and parted ways with Shane. The four of us headed into the city, finding ourselves at Barceloneta beach – only for a storm to blow in! I put my feet in the Mediterranean Sea, the guys got their shorts soaked from a giant wave, and then it started to pour buckets of rain on us. We ran from the beach to find a metro, but it didn’t really help, as we were completely soaked through. We also saw a man get hit by a car when he slipped on the road. It was quite scary and we were all pretty cautious for a while after that. We grabbed some tapas and beers, and headed to bed after a great day.
Our last day was probably my favourite day. Essentially, we spent the entire day just wandering the city with Carlos playing tour guide. We went to St. Joseph’s Market off of La Rambla. It was so cool! There was delicious-looking food everywhere you turned, and we all ended up buying something to do with fruit. We headed farther into the city and ended up at the Picasso Museum. Now, as I’ve already said, I am not the biggest fan of art. But the museum was really interesting! Carlos knew a lot about many of the pieces of art, and we even got to see an exhibition that showed the relationship between Dali and Picasso. I actually enjoyed it – even if I couldn’t tell what any of the paintings were of at some points, or why someone would paint a picture with twenty pigeons in it.
We stopped at the beautiful Catedral Del Mar. Carlos told us that the cathedral had been built by sailors, as they could not afford to enter the other church in the city. It took them eighty years to build the church, carrying the stones from Montjuic hill across the city. I loved the story and the church was stunning. (I didn’t double check the story, I trust Carlos – he’s an engineer, after all.) We went out for lunch at a tapas place – I tried seafood paella (with a shrimp that I had to take apart and cooked rabbit), some kind of fish, and then a cooked apple for dessert. We also drank wine with carbonated water – it was all delicious, the wine almost made better!
We wandered the city some more, seeing the Spanish version of the Arc de Triomph, walking through a few parks, and seeing a beautiful fountain. It was so cool to have Carlos tell us about everything that we saw, or order food for us in Spanish. We went back to the beach, hoping that the weather would be nicer. Kirstin was the only one who went in the water, and Carlos and I laughed from the shore as she got knocked over by a wave and was given back her flip-flop by some kind woman. It’s okay, she wasn’t hurt.
We went back to the hostel and hung out for a bit, trying wine mixed with Coke. Apparently this is something that they do in Spain and some other parts of Europe. It was actually quite good! We met up with Shane and Adam, from San Diego, and we all went to see the Magic Fountain. It was pretty cool! It is basically a fountain that is lit up and does different motions set to music. We ate churros and all hung out together. The top of the hill gave a great view of the city at night, and we had another great panoramic position when we went to the top of a shopping center.
All of us went for drinks and tapas after, staying out late and just having fun. It was such a great day. It was so great of Carlos to come and meet us to show us an amazing city. Barcelona is probably one of my favourite cities thus far, definitely making the top three. Carlos – you were an amazing tour guide, even though we got lost a few times, and you are an even better friend. Thanks so much for making the journey out to show us around an amazing city that I know you love. I’m gonna miss you a ton, but we will all see each other again soon.
“Life is about moments: don’t wait for them, create them.” [Pinterest]
Well, honestly not a lot has happened since I last wrote here. I will highlight a few things but try to keep this one short.
Over the past week and a bit, my friend Kirstin and I have been doing a lot of planning for our trip which will be happening very soon. If I haven’t mentioned it, or you don’t know, Kirstin and my brother will be coming to Ireland at the end of May. I will then show them some of my favourite places before we set out to travel Europe for a whole month!
It’s quite daunting, but I couldn’t be more excited. We are going to see so many amazing places and have wonderful experiences together. I know that it will be great. Taking it in steps of planning definitely makes it much easier as well. So far, we have all our places planned, and plane tickets bought to travel between quite a few countries. Then we will take trains and buses for the rest.
On Sunday May 3rd, quite a bit happened. It was my friend, Carlos’ birthday. So, the day before, I had helped a few of my friends to bake a cake for him. For his birthday, he cooked a lot of Spanish food and invited a large group of us over to his apartment. We ate and hung out for a while, and it was a lot of fun! The food he made was delicious, and the cake was a huge success.
I ended up being late to the party however, as my friend, Alexis, was coming to Waterford! After a little mix up, I found Alexis at the bus station. We walked back to my apartment catching up on everything that had gone on in the months we hadn’t seen each other. It was really nice to see a familiar face from home.
Alexis and I went to Carlos’ for a bit, before she headed back to my apartment to sleep, as jet lag sucks. I went back to the party after making sure she was settled, and hung out with everyone. Then, a few of us helped Carlos clean the apartment afterwards. It was a lot of fun!
The next morning, May 4th (or Star Wars Day), Alexis and I got up and walked to city center for an Irish breakfast along the Quay. It was delicious. We wandered down the Quay and ended up going into Reginald’s Tower. I had already been through it, but decided to go through again with Alexis. It has so much history throughout it! We walked part way to WIT before giving up – it was a long walk and she didn’t really need to see my campus.
So, we went to the bus stop to catch a bus to Tramore. Some of my friends were going to be there, so after we walked along the beach and took lots of pictures, we met up with Nathan. We ate lunch while some friends finished surfing. Yes, surfing! It was fun to watch them. (You can see pics and read about it on Brittany’s blog if you’d like.)
We came back to the apartment, and while Alexis slept and Brit studied, I did the dishes and made dinner. Later, Alexis and I met up with Anna, Eva, Nathan and Sarah to go to Katty Barry’s pub for a pint and some live Irish music. It was a lot of fun! It was my last chance to hang out with Eva before she left for Germany, so I really liked going out with them.
On Tuesday, Alexis and I ended up starting later than planned and missed the first bus to Dublin. Instead, we got a hot drink and bite to eat in city centre, before relaxing in the giant book store. Then we caught the bus and were on our way to Dublin!
We found our hostel, which had been recommended by my friend, and checked in. It was a cool hostel, and just across the river from Temple Bar and the main attractions. We decided to look for food, and ended up at a Mexican restaurant for a burrito called Pablo Picante – on Cinco de Mayo! It wasn’t even planned, but it was a really good burrito and we ate in Temple Bar.
We walked to Dublin Castle and saw St. Patrick’s Cathedral and its park, before heading to the Guinness Storehouse. It was really cool! We got to learn how they make Guinness, and I got to drink a pint of Guinness while overlooking the entire city of Dublin. It was a great experience! I will probably learn to pour a pint when I go back at the end of the month.
After wandering back through the city, we tried to decide where we would go next. We finally decided to just go straight for dinner at a pub which Carlos had recommended. So, we got dinner and spent the evening at O’Neill’s. The food was delicious – I had an Irish beef and Guinness stew and it was so good! Then we grabbed some beers and relaxed watching the football (soccer) game before the live Irish band and dancers came on to perform. They were really good and it was interesting to see! (I have no photos of this because my phone had died…)
After a packed couple of days, we were both pretty tired. However, Alexis had to get up the next morning to catch a bus to her ferry for the UK. I got up to say goodbye before we parted ways. I ended up hanging out in Dublin for part of the day, shopping and wandering, before catching a bus back home. Needless to say, I was pretty tired and slept pretty well after I Skyped my family.
On Friday, I had my first exam here in Ireland. It was a very odd experience for me. Usually, anything within the academic world stresses me out a lot. But, here, with everything being so relaxed, I was not super worried at all. I studied the few days before, and felt pretty prepared. It was interesting that being an international student, I had no idea what I was doing – but the Irish didn’t seem to know much more than me either. They seemed just as lost. Luckily, the few Irish lads I know, knew exactly what to do.
Walking back from my exam, it rained ridiculously hard. By the time I reached home, I was absolutely sopping wet. My jeans were completely soaked through, and my socks were squishing in my boots. I quickly changed before walking with Bruna to meet Brittany and Evelyn at a small restaurant close by. We went to a little diner (Rockin’ Joe’s) for lunch where we ordered a ton of food! I was so full, but it was delicious and totally worth it – a burger, fries and onion rings, and a chocolate milkshake! It was fun to hang out with the girls before Evelyn was leaving to go back home.
That night, a group of us got together to hang out, play some games, and say goodbye to Evelyn. It was great fun, but really sad as it became all too real that our time here is ending. There were tears and lots of hugs. After some people left, I ended up chatting with a couple friends until really late into the night. We talked about everything: gossip, politics, our lives, reasons we studied abroad, cultural differences. It was so great! A few of us stayed up almost all night just talking about everything. It was so great to have a conversation and really connect with people who I have known for only a few months. We have so much in common, and found out that we really understood each other.
On Saturday, after getting up quite late, Brittany and I met up with Anna, Nathan, and Sarah to go to city centre. We went to Blackfriars, a coffee shop, after wandering around Penny’s, the clothing store (kinda like Forever 21). It was great to relax, drink some tea and coffee, and just chat!
Later, we all decided to pitch in and split Chinese food for dinner. Again, we had a great time just hanging out together. I feel like we all get along really well, and I sincerely hope that we can stay close and in touch over the next while – until we meet again for a reunion. 😉
Honestly, although not a lot happened this week, I feel like I learned a lot about myself and just life in general. Goodbyes are hard – but for me, not saying goodbye to these wonderful people is even harder. And if you lads are reading this, get ready for a post that will make us all tear up coming in the future.
“I am thankful for nights that turned into mornings, friends that turned into family, and dreams that turned into reality.” – Pinterest quote.
May the road rise up to meet ya
I think one thing that I will miss about living in Ireland, is the fact that I am so busy and see people everywhere. It seems like we always have something happening, either here in Waterford or we are all travelling. And honestly, I love that I can be walking across campus or around town, and I see so many people I know. Not just international students either. Yes, I know some Irish. That just doesn’t happen for me at home.
This week I had a few days that I am excited to tell you about. Basically, this week there was no school as a “study break” before exams begin next week. Of course we all studied, just probably not as much as we should…
We started this event with our large group of friends where some students from the same country will host a dinner night. Before the Easter break, there were Mexican and Brazilian nights. Unfortunately I couldn’t go to either. After the break, we had an American night – complete with amazing mac ’n cheese, chicken fingers, pb&j, and homemade delicious cheesecake, with beer and games of course – and then a French dinner – with amazing food that our friend had cooked for the first time, and made into a meal of courses.
Last Friday, Brittany and I had all our friends over for Canadian ‘breakfast for dinner.’ We really wanted to serve maple syrup, and this was the best way we could think of. We made French toast instead of pancakes, so we could keep it gluten free for our friend. Then we made fruit salad, scrambled eggs, and sausages. It was a pretty big hit, I think! Brit and I were cooking basically the whole time, but everyone said that they loved the French toast – and we did get to eat some. Our friend, Nick, from Newfoundland, brought chips (fries) and made some gravy to serve a version of poutine. It was pretty good – but made me miss poutine with cheese curds! Then we made s’mores for everyone, a North American treat that they loved. It was a pretty fun night!
On Monday, our friends held a Bavarian dinner. It was delicious. We ate Breze mit Butter (pretzel with butter), and for dinner we ate Semmelknodl mit Pfeffersoβe und Schweinsbraten (please never ask me to pronounce this). I’m honestly not too sure what it was exactly – some meat, I think pork, and a ball of dough-type substance with a gravy sauce on top. For me, though, dessert was the best, and it’s a German word that I can actually say: kaisershmarn. It was delicious! Berries, powdered sugar and cinnamon with something like a pancake, but less sweet. I loved it, and I’m not going to lie, I had two servings… [The full German name is: Kaiserschmarn mit gemischten Beeren, Zimt und Puderzucker.]
With lots happening this week, and many attempts at studying, Brittany and I decided that a day off in city center might be a fun idea. So, on Wednesday, we headed downtown to go to Reginald’s Tower. It was so interesting (and only 2 euros)! Honestly, if you ever come to Waterford, it is a must see. It does a great job of outlining the rich history of Waterford, the oldest town in Ireland. There were a lot of cool Viking artifacts and the tower itself was pretty interesting – albeit built for people who were possibly a bit shorter, as Brit and I had to duck under many of the doorways and along the spiral stairs.
After the museum, we decided to go to Christ Church Cathedral. For those who don’t know, I had a pretty hard time when I learned that my Gramma had passed away at home (a week and a half ago now). It was something I was going to have to go through by myself, very far from home and family. I spent a few days just walking and exploring Waterford by myself, collecting my thoughts. The one day, I ended up in this Protestant cathedral. You would never guess that it is from the 18th century. It looks so modern inside, but is very beautiful.
Of course, being downtown, we decided to stop somewhere for a warm drink and a snack. We ended up at Blackfriars, one of the first coffee shops we entered when we got here. The owners and staff are so friendly and welcoming, and the drinks and sweets are always amazing. I love their hot chocolate!
My last bit of interesting news is what I did yesterday: my friends and I got dressed up ‘fancy’ to attend WIT’s International Student Black Tie Event, or Mayoral Reception. It had a few names. Basically, we all got to get dressed up in fancy clothes and shoes, do our hair and makeup (well, the girls), and go to City Hall. We listened to some speeches, drank some wine, ate some great food, and took a ton of pictures. It was fun! There were so many international students, and I realized that even though our group of friends is quite large, it is small compared to the number of students studying here from other countries.
After the reception, many of us went to a friend’s apartment to hang out before heading to the after party. (Yes, there was a planned after party, by the school, at a night club.) My friends and I had gone to our apartments and changed out of our heels, so we were able to dance and have a lot of fun at the club. It was great to relax, hang out with everyone, and forget the stress of exams for a little bit.
Even with the ups and downs of losing someone I was very close to, I had a busy and interesting last few weeks. With school ending, we are now gearing up for exams – my first of which is next Friday. Honestly, I feel like I should be a bit more stressed out, seen as it’s worth 100%. But, I’m not. I figure that it’ll all work itself out. I am studying and that’s all I can do. (For those who know me really well, you will understand how huge it is for me to say something like that. Apparently Ireland has changed me.)
This weekend my friend, Alexis, is coming from home. With everything that’s happened, and all of my friends having their friends and family visiting, I am beyond excited to see a familiar face from home. I can’t wait to show her around and take her to the awesome spots I have discovered here.
And on that note, I want to add something that some of my friends have done over here: a brief list of things that I miss at home.
– Obviously I miss my friends and family the most. And Finn, my puppy.
– My bed. I miss my double bed that I can roll over in, and my feather-down comforters.
– Tim Hortons. I want an Iced Capp and Timbits, please!
– Hot water. Man, I took it for granted before. Cold showers here suck. (I do have hot water most of the time, but only if it doesn’t run out or if I heat it up first.)
– Dishwashers. I am sick of handwashing all the dishes. And boiling a kettle to have hot water to do it.
– Fast internet. Seriously.
– Driving. I love driving, and it’s been weird not driving here. Although, I wouldn’t want to on the opposite side of the road…
– Stores being open really late. Everything closes so early here! The grocery store that is open the latest closes at 21:00 (9pm).
What about things that I will miss from Waterford?
– Again, obviously I am going to miss the amazing people that I have met here. It sucks that we are going to be separated by expansive oceans, expensive plane rides, and a 5-9 hour time difference. Guys, I know I’m far away, but please stay in touch!
– Walking. I honestly have begun to love walking. I walk everywhere here. And I enjoy it.
– Cafes. There are so many great cafes here.
– The pubs. Yes, I know we have pubs at home, but the atmosphere here is completely different. And I love it.
– Okay so this is more for Europe in general, but I love the fact that it is somewhat cheap and easy to get between different countries and places. It is mostly impossible at home unless you have a car or a ton of money…
– The accents. Enough said.
– The friendly people. Everyone here is so welcoming and friendly! I just don’t get the same vibes at home.
I’ve probably forgotten some in my attempt to finish this post, but this is basically everything I’m missing. Mom, I didn’t put Starbucks because technically it is here in Europe. I found one in almost every city while travelling. It was just that they didn’t have my one summer drink…
To my family and friends back home: thank you for all of the kind messages. It is definitely hard being away from my family at this time, but I am doing okay. I have a few friends here who have been amazing through it. I was very lucky that I got so many years with my Gramma, and that I have a lot of great memories. Although I didn’t get to see her right before I left, I got to Skype her twice while I’ve been here. I know that she loved me and was proud of me. I loved her very much and will miss her a lot. But I know that she would want me to keep moving, continue my studies and travels, and just live life. She was a beautiful and amazing person – she will be in my heart everywhere I go, just like others I have lost.
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” – Elizabeth Kubler Ros
May the road rise up to meet ya
“TRAVELLING – It leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta
‘C’ is for The Chocolate Café with friends on a windy and cold, Irish afternoon. ‘C’ is also for Cork, on a sunny Saturday after a long and entertaining bus ride. ‘B’ is for Blarney Castle, the ancient and well-known being which possesses the history of past times. ‘B’ is for the Blarney Stone, which I kissed to gain eloquence – despite being completely grossed out by the idea. And ‘A,’ is for awesome, amazing, astonishing, awe-inspiring. Because that was my weekend.
I am continually surprised by how much I can experience within 2-3 days here in Ireland. It definitely doesn’t feel like I’ve been here for one month – more like a week and a half. I look back at everything I’ve gotten to do, and all the things I have planned, and I cannot believe how lucky I am.
On Friday, after Brittany finished classes, we met up with our friends Bruna, Lenise, and Evelyn to walk to city center. We planned to go to a café and then wander around. We ended up going to The Chocolate Café, a place that Brittany and I had seen and heard about, and really wanted to try. The hot chocolate was amazing – probably the best I’ve ever had! And you got a chocolate with it. For a chocolate lover like myself, it was a living dream. We had fun hanging out and chatting, relaxing with our hot drinks. We wandered around city center, stopping to shop and pick up various things we needed.
Later, we had a girl’s movie night with Evelyn and Bruna, watching The Heat, eating junk food, and drinking tea. It was so much fun to have a lazy night in, and just chill with the girls. I’m so glad I’ve met these lovely ladies!
Now, usually it’s difficult to get up in the mornings for me. But Saturday seemed a little easier, when I had to get out of bed at 6:30 in the morning. Crazy for a Saturday, right? Well, I knew that after a walk and bus ride, I would be in Cork. And that meant Blarney Castle. Brittany and I had been looking forward to this trip for weeks! To us, this was a must-hit on our list of places to see.
And the early morning was so worth it.
We took a two hour bus ride with our friends to Cork, where we hopped on another bus to get to Blarney. The bus ride was a lot of jokes and laughs with Brittany, Evelyn, Carlos, Hubert, and Ernany.
Blarney was gorgeous! We started by climbing through some of the caves under the castle – beginning with the one that used to be the dungeon. While the others turned back, I was convinced to go to the end of the tunnel with Carlos and Hubert. Despite some VERY narrow passages, we made it to a small room at the end, with minimal standing room. And commence cave selfies.
We then headed up into the castle. From every tiny, medieval window, the view was spectacular. You could see the quintessential Irish-green hills for miles around, and little houses and towns a little ways away. It was cold and windy, due to the medieval lack of window panes and heating, but the inside was just as great as the view. We explored various rooms before ending up standing in line on the winding staircase – a line-up that would lead us to the very top of the castle and the Blarney Stone.
The top of the castle definitely afforded the best view of the surrounding areas. You could see the gardens and castle grounds below, along with Blarney House, and the hills and meadows. I stepped up onto a higher part to look over the castle edge. A girl standing in the line sort of freaked out, but it was fine. I knew what I was doing. And the holes had a single bar across them, so I couldn’t technically fall through those either. But it was the best spot to get a look and pictures.
We finally had our turn to kiss the Blarney Stone. Originally, I wasn’t going to do it. It may have been the thought that I was going to be kissing a cold, dirty stone outside, or the fact that thousands of people had kissed this weird rock before me without it being cleaned whatsoever; but I wasn’t too interested at first. However – I knew that I was in Ireland, and that I might never be here again.
So I kissed the Blarney Stone.
Now I’m just waiting for my Blarney to kick in… For those of you who don’t know, kissing this stone is supposed to present you with the gift of ‘blarney,’ or eloquence. Basically, it’ll make you a fluent and persuasive speaker, and will make you a lover or politician – or so the sign told me…
The day turned out to be gorgeous, despite a bit of cold wind, so we walked along the battlements, and through the gardens until we found ourselves at Blarney House. It looked very grand and elegant. Despite not being able to actually enter the house, we had a lot of fun taking pictures around it.
We took a bus back to the center of Cork, and wandered around the city for a little while. We had been told to visit a few places, so we tried to find them – and got a little lost. But we eventually made it to our destinations. The English Market was a cool place to see. A little underwhelming for someone who has been to the Granville Island market or the new one in Victoria, but interesting nonetheless. It was cool to see that even though our cultures are different in so many ways, a lot of things we eat are actually pretty similar. We then wandered and found a free art museum. I’m not big on art, and couldn’t tell you what any of it meant, but it was pretty cool to explore the old building and see paintings and artistry of the past.
Before leaving Cork, we found a cute little pub along the way (although I can’t remember the name of it), and decided to stop in for dinner and a pint. I ordered a pint of Murphy’s with Carlos and Hubert. It was a local beer and I really enjoyed it – probably as much as I liked my first Guinness. Brittany even liked it when she tried it!
It was an awesome weekend – definitely one I will remember for a very long time. I will post some of the amazing pictures here, on Facebook, and on my new Instagram account.
As mentioned before, I still cannot believe it has been a month that I have been here. I am amazed at the number of things I have gotten to do, and the number of awesome people I have met. It is definitely the experience I expected it to be.
This weekend will be a little more relaxed, but I will still have lots to tell you, I’m sure. Lots more adventures are in the works for future weekends and breaks that we get. For our February break, we are trying to plan a trip through the west part of Ireland – stopping at many of the spots that are famous to many. And for the two weeks we have for the end of March/beginning of April, we plan to explore this continent which we are setting foot on for the first time. There is still a lot of planning to do, but the ideas are there, and the excitement is definitely growing.
I’m excited to explore some more, and to go on adventures. I’m so glad that I came here with someone who is turning out to be a great friend and overall amazing person. We are lucky that we get along so well, and don’t mind spending a lot of time together – although I’m sure she’ll be sick of me soon. With our other friends, we are all continuously learning new things from each other, and experiencing new things together in this crazy place.
“And then I realized, adventures are the best way to learn.” [Pinterest quote]
P.S. – Sorry if this post was a little picture and word heavy. 🙂
“Little by little, one travels far.” – J.R.R. Tolkien
I have been asked many times why I chose Ireland for my study abroad.
Honestly, I don’t have an easy answer.
I wish I could reply: “Ireland was my first choice!” or “The culture is so amazing!” or “I came for the booze and partying!” as so many of my friends here can answer. Of course I am glad I came here, and of course I knew the culture and history was going to be amazing. That is definitely one of the aspects that drew me here.
But first let me tell you something.
I actually applied for a study abroad over a year ago, to a school in England. I have always wanted to go to the UK, with it probably being at the top of my list of places to travel. I was so excited to live there, to have a chance to be immersed in the cultures of Shakespeare, Jane Austen, the Bronte’s, and so many others that I had studied for some years. To be in the place of the monarchs, the wars, and the center of the 19th century world.
I guess it wasn’t meant to be though. The school decided that they weren’t going to do an exchange with ours, as their students weren’t really coming to Canada, and it wasn’t worth it. I was super upset.
But I really wanted to do a study abroad. For the experience, and the change of scenery and life. In the years leading up to this idea, I had gone through a lot. I was changed as a person by events that happened in my life, and by a new perspective of the world. In a lot of ways, it made me stronger; but also weaker. I wanted to know that I could do things on my own.
So I tried applying again.
This time, I applied to go to school in Wales. I got accepted and was going through the process of picking classes, when I realized that it really didn’t feel right. I was far too stressed and honestly, wasn’t very excited.
That really worried me. So I left the program.
After a lot of thinking, I decided to try one more time: I applied for Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT). I had debated somewhere warmer, like Australia, but Ireland appealed to me more. It has a lot of similarities to home.
The whole process of applying, being accepted, and getting ready to go, I felt nothing like I had the other times. I felt calm, excited. It was so refreshing.
WIT looked like the perfect school. Although they don’t offer many classes for my program, and don’t really have a history department, it seemed right. The classes are small, like at home, and the campus is really great. My professors are amazing and the classes are interesting. And the atmosphere at the school is so relaxed, something you don’t experience at home. At home, the focus is on attending class, learning as much as you can. Here, there is no attendance. Classes are cancelled in a moment’s notice.
I’m so glad that I ended up here in Waterford. It was definitely the right fit for me. I have gotten to do so many amazing things, and I have met some wonderful people. And I’ve only been here for less than a month.
For those asking, I am loving my classes so far. I am taking 19th Century Fiction, where I get to read classics by Twain, Austen, Bronte, Dickenson, and Shelley. In another class, I am getting to write – about so many different things, about whatever I want to write. I was excited, as I hadn’t taken a creative writing class before. And my last class, Literature of the Family, is my hardest class – but it is super interesting. We are reading multiple books and sources, and examining the representation of family and familial dynamics in literature. I can’t find courses like these at home.
I can’t wait for more adventures, even if that means taking exams which are worth 100% of my final grade. It is all new and exciting.
I have even adopted a new mentality and lifestyle. I am nowhere near as stressed as I usually am at home, finding the atmosphere here relaxing and calm. It’s the change that I truly needed.
So, there is my long-winded explanation of my choice to come to Ireland. I am so lucky to be experiencing this.
“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.” – Omar Khayyam
P.S. – this is sort of a bonus post for the week. A friend mentioned it might be cool to have a post about why I chose Ireland. I will normally only upload 1 post every week or so. But stay tuned, as I have a trip planned for this weekend. And sorry if this post was too long or deep…
I originally had a blog post all ready to publish. It was about being at a new school, and being stuck feeling like the new person. I keep forgetting that I am that person, that I’m the international student.
About how I’ve been called American multiple times, while Brittany has been called both American and Hispanic. We all thought that was pretty interesting, yet hilarious. But then some things happened that I would much rather tell you about.
I have become aware of how much I love this place and these people. And it’s only been two weeks.
On Thursday, it was my birthday – my first birthday away from home. I didn’t want to do anything big, maybe some drinks with my new friends. But Brittany and I had definitely planned to go for a nice walk up the hill that morning. The view of Waterford was gorgeous. The sky was clear, and it was a great start to the day.
My internet wasn’t working that day, so I had to run around to the computer store to try to solve more technology issues. I met up with Brittany after, and we went grocery shopping.
We came back to a dark apartment, only to have all of my friends in the apartment with the lights off, jumping up to yell “SURPRISE” as I came into the room. It was awesome! They had been planning it in secret, and everything went really well (apparently, because I had no idea at all…). We had pizza, drinks, and cake, and we all just hung out. It was a great birthday, probably one of the best I’ve had. And I’m so glad to have met these people.
The Friday was pretty boring, including me sleeping in and just wandering around city center with some friends. We stopped in at a coffee shop that was really cute, and had great drinks.
That night was when the crises happened. First, I encountered more technological issues when I was charging my phone. It had been plugged in for almost 5 minutes when my adapter suddenly started sparking and smoking. I panicked. I quickly unplugged my phone and the adapter. The others were out, and I had no idea what to do. So I messaged the guys to come and help me. But it was helpless, so we just threw it out. Quick flash forward to a weekend of Brittany and I sharing her phone charger and adapter for our electronics.
The second crisis of the night happened when Brittany burned her hand, but she doesn’t really want the story told… again.
Saturday was a great day. We went on our first trip out of Waterford city, to Kilkenny. It was quite different. The bus ride was even pretty, as you could see the rolling green hills and fields for miles out the windows on either side.
Kilkenny was brilliant. Our first stop was Kilkenny castle. We wandered some of the gardens, taking group and fun pictures, before taking a guided tour around the castle. The history was so interesting, and it was fun to hang out with our group. (We had a very large group of 21, but we were quite disorganized… haha.)
From there, we had lunch at a little restaurant, Petronella’s. Hidden away in a little alleyway, this restaurant was perfect. The owner told us of the interesting history of the building, and the food was amazing! It was a great find.
We wandered the streets of Kilkenny, through alleys and little passageways to find the Black Abbey and St. Mary’s Cathedral. They were gorgeous. St. Mary’s was being renovated, so we couldn’t enjoy the full splendor. But even the outside was a great sight. Black Abbey had an interesting history and gorgeous stained glass windows. A woman told us how it had been taken by Cromwell during his siege, similar to Kilkenny castle, but that Cromwell had actually slept for a night within the walls of the Black Abbey.
After wandering and sightseeing, some of the group wanted to go on a tour of Smithwick’s Brewery, while others did not. I was one of the latter. The group who went on the tour said that it was interesting and they learned a lot. I went with a few of the girls (Brittany, Evelyn, Sarah, Bruna, and Kitty) to a local coffee shop, where we ordered drinks and just had fun chatting.
We took the hour bus ride back home to Waterford. We were all pretty tired after an historical and entertaining day of being tourists. Some of us went out, some stayed in. But we all agreed that it was an amazing day, and we swapped pictures.
I cannot believe that it has only been two weeks, and I have already done so many amazing things. Not only that, but I have gotten to do these things with some great people.
I am quite thankful to have met all of them here. They made a huge effort to give me a great birthday away from home, and we all can laugh and enjoy ourselves together on outings like these.
I’m super excited for more exploring and adventures with these people.
May the road rise up to meet ya.
P.S. – I am still having technical difficulties. It’s a dilemma actually. Not enjoying that aspect of my trip. But on the bright side, I had my first pint of Guinness (on tap) the other day, and really liked it!