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
Sitting in class, time seems to drag on as the minute hand slowly inches its way to a new hour. With a new hour, another class begins and the cycle repeats.
But outside of class, it scares me how quickly time moves. A day goes by in the whirlwind of school and going out with friends. And if you blink too long, it’s suddenly the end of the week. You do a little trip and some homework on the weekend and start again.
Nonetheless, I am making the most of all my time here, even the slow moments in class.
I am reading so many interesting books and articles! I just finished Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. An interesting read – my interest was only sparked when I started reading articles and looking at the depth of the novel in class. Last week, I began reading Great Expectations of the infamous Charles Dickens. I haven’t read Dickens before and am excited for this literary experience.
This past week involved a few nights out, with a few lazy days as well. On Tuesday night, I went with some friends to the Jazz Jam Session again. There were more of us this time, and it was a great night! I really enjoy the spontaneity and the idea of ‘jamming’ to create cool music.
On Wednesday, Brittany’s friend arrived to stay with us for a few days. Her name is Virginia and she is awesome. She is studying in Edinburgh, Scotland. I have really enjoyed chatting with her and getting to know her. It’s cool to get a perspective on study abroad from someone else who is participating, too, but in another country.
Thursday morning we wandered around city center before splitting off to go to class, do homework, or explore. That night, we wanted to take Virginia to a local bar in Waterford with live music. So, we headed to Kazbar’s after a short get together at a friend’s place. There was a big group of us, and it was a ton of fun to hang out with everyone! We all had a great time listening to the music and chatting.
After doing some homework on Friday morning, I ventured on the long walk to go climbing – as I really do miss being able to drive to the gym and climb whenever I want. That night was even more of an adventure, as Brittany and I tried to create a Spanish tortilla for Virginia. It was a little overcooked, but still great! We were quite proud of ourselves. Inviting a few of the girls over, we hunkered down for a movie night with popcorn and ice cream with Baileys. It was delicious.
The weekend was all about the day trips.
Now, most of our trips have been pretty mishap free, so I blame it on the Friday the 13th weekend. Saturday was our trip to Wexford. We planned to bus into town to catch a bus to a castle a little ways out. After some minor issues (including getting dropped off in the wrong place, and a friend hurting his ankle), we finally arrived at the castle and gardens of Johnstown Castle.
And man, was it worth it.
The gardens and grounds were beautiful. The grass was a luscious green in every direction, and the trees were a beautiful and tangled mess of branches. Honestly, the pictures don’t do it justice. I feel like in the spring, when everything is in bloom, it would be amazing.
We ate a mediocre dinner in Wexford before journeying back to Waterford, our temporary home.
This morning (Sunday), Brittany and I decided it would be fun to take Virginia to eat an Irish breakfast. We had a great brunch at Dooley’s Pub on the quay, where I finally tried Waterford Blaa (it is really just a bun/bap, but it was delicious)!!!! We then caught a bus to show Virginia the beaches and cliffs of Tramore.
I loved Tramore. And since it’s so close, I will probably visit it again before I leave beautiful Ireland. This time, it was less windy, sunny and cold; but it was a great day nonetheless! It was fun to walk along the beach and sit at the top of the cliffs and just talk with the girls. It was great craic!
Flash forward to a tired Julie, sitting in a cold room, writing this blog post.
And there is only more to come, as this coming week will be packed with amazing adventures (that I cannot wait for)! Spoiler alert: I’m in Dublin, Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day, so we all know that will be an experience all in itself.
I can’t believe I only have 2 months left here. I’m trying to grab hold of every opportunity and memory that I can. I don’t want to miss or forget anything from my time here. But I’m so excited for the adventures awaiting me down the road.
May the road rise up to meet ya
“die with memories, not dreams” [pinterest quote]
“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…
My name is Julie Huff, and welcome to my blog.
I am a student, rock climber, avid reader, movie fanatic, and hopeful world traveler.
At least, that’s my usual tagline for social media and things. But can any one person be simplified by a few select phrases?
I love learning, about many different things. I enjoy the classics, whether it’s Shakespeare and Jane Austen, or more modern through the infamous Breakfast Club. I am a rock climber and hiker, often seeking adventure somewhere in the outdoors. And this next big change in my life is my attempt to become a worldlier person. I have always wanted to travel the world. And my opportunity came.
For my next semester of university, I will be living and studying in Waterford, Ireland. This is a once in a lifetime experience to immerse myself in another culture, learn and travel all at once.
And I couldn’t be more terrified or excited.
But that’s the best part of my adventure. Change isn’t something that comes easily to our human nature. We all seem to want to resist it. But fear is what makes something exciting, conquerable. That’s what climbing has taught me.
As Vanessa Redgrave quotes in a movie I love: “’What’ and ‘If’ are two words as non-threatening as words can be. But put them together side-by-side and they have the power to haunt you for the rest of your life: What if? What if?” (Letters to Juliet, 2010).
Well, I didn’t want to be haunted by those words. And this was my chance to overcome my fears, and make a big change. Hopefully you are here because you are interested in my journey, or you just enjoy travel and the wonders of the world. I hope to provide all of that. It’ll be an intriguing ride for all of us as I find my way in a new place, both online and in the world.