Wanderings & Ramblings

Monthly Archives: January 2015

Why Ireland?

Tramore beach.
Tramore beach.

“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.

Tramore Beach. Climbed some rocks 😉

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

                   From

JH

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…

An Irish Beach in Winter

The Jazz Jam Session, really interesting experience.
The Jazz Jam Session, really interesting experience.

I love the fact that life here in Ireland is so different from home. Brittany and I have had multiple conversations about how odd it will be to try to get back into a regular routine again.

Last week, we went to a pub on Monday. And Tuesday. And I couldn’t help but think that I would never do something like that at home. Tuesday, we didn’t drink at all. Merely went for the company and the amazing music. Our friend found a Jazz Jam Session that occurs at a local pub every Tuesday night. I was really curious, as I had never been to anything like that before! The music was really good, and we all had fun just hanging out.

At Geoff’s bar. Awesome night.

Friday night was the real “party” night. A party had been planned at a bar for the international students of WIT. Basically all the international students were going. We decided to go to check it out, even though neither of us is really into the bar or club scene. There was going to be a pre-party, so we decided we would check that out too. When the night came, we found out our friend was having a pre-pre-party. So we ended up going there first. I think, for me, that was the best part of the night. It was a smaller crowd and we knew basically everyone, so it was fun to just hang out.

Friends are what makes a club fun!

We walked through the cold, dark streets to get to the actual pre-party at someone’s house. Walking through the door of the house, you were instantly hit with the smell of smoke. It was disgusting. Our friend remarked that we were literally breathing in cancer. We couldn’t even get into the room where the party was happening because it was already crammed with people. A bunch of us decided that we would just head to the club earlier than the others.

The club was exactly what I expected. Big bouncers at the door, and loud EDM (electronic dance music) playing. I’m not a huge fan of that kind of music usually. So I wasn’t overly excited. But my friend grabbed mine and Brittany’s hands and pulled us onto the light-up square dance floor (yes, it looked like it was from the seventies, and yes there was a disco ball on the ceiling. 2 actually). Dancing was so much fun. It was great to see how my new friends danced, and I think it was good for all of us to let loose a little.

Sunday was probably the best day though. Around mid-morning, Brittany and I met up with our friends, Carlos and Bert, to go to Tramore. Tramore is a city along the coast, and the beaches are supposed to be really pretty.

Man, did it exceed my standards. Even though it was misty and grey when we arrived, the sand and water were beautiful with the surrounding cliffs. It was breathtakingly beautiful, albeit quite windy and cold. But we started walking, and the cold didn’t bother us anymore.

 
We walked the beach and went on some of the rocks.

 
 
Our group that went to Tramore. We had so much fun!
 
On the cliffs of Tramore, Ireland.

We walked along the beach, below the cliffs, and goofed off on the rocks along the bottom. Brittany and I found the remnants of a staircase, venturing to climb up it for a better view, while the guys climbed boulders and things farther down the beach. We walked through part of town, only to find the path to the top of the cliffs. The view was even better from above. And the sun peeked out through the clouds too. The grass was so green and lush, exactly how you would picture the Irish coast.

We had lunch at a restaurant that was recommended to Brittany. I went for the typical beer-battered fish ‘n’ chips, and it was really good. After lunch, we walked along the beach again – but the opposite way this time. The tide had gone far out, and we could walk a long ways out to the water. With the sun, it was amazing. We decided that we will go back one day when the weather will be warmer, and stay to watch the sunset. I really hope we do.

We wandered through town, searching for the cathedral. We followed the steeples that reached high into the clouds. First, we found a small church. It was surrounded by a graveyard, but the stained glass was really pretty. When we found the Tramore Roman Catholic Church, the clouds had rolled in again and obstructed a view of the very top of the steeple. It gave the cathedral an eerie feel. Inside was amazing though, with more high ceilings, gothic architecture, and stained glass windows throughout.

 
 
View from the edge of the cliff. Amazing.
 
Roman Catholic Church in Tramore.
 
The sun came out for a bit. And it was amazing.

Heading back to Waterford, we ended the day by meeting up with some friends to see The Imitation Game. It’s a movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Kiera Knightley about the solving of the Enigma machine, used by the Nazis in World War II. It was a little slow, but for someone who loves history and had never learned about this, I found it really interesting.

I came home to messages from my parents about various bank issues, but nothing was going to ruin the day I had.

Thankfully, most of my technology issues are dealt with now, and I am looking forward to getting a few other things done so I can relax. Hopefully, there will be more travelling soon, as we have a few trip ideas on the horizon.

May the road rise up to meet ya.

From

JH

Adventures Abroad

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.

View from the hill in Waterford - JulieHuff.com
View from the hill in Waterford, my birthday walk.

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.)

 

 
On the bus to Kilkenny - JulieHuff.com
On the bus to Kilkenny, with Sarah, Hubert, Carlos, and Bert (and Bruna and Evelyn behind)
 
Kilkenny Castle - JulieHuff.com
Kilkenny Castle, with all of it’s history.
Kilkenny Castle Grounds - JulieHuff.com
Kilkenny Castle Grounds

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.

Girls in front of Grace's Castle. Lovely ladies!
Girls in front of Grace’s Castle. Lovely ladies!
The Black Abbey. So much history in this town, it was amazing.
The Black Abbey. So much history in this town, it was amazing.
In the Black Abbey, this stained glass window presents the Mysteries of the Rosary in a breathtaking way.
In the Black Abbey, this stained glass window presents the Mysteries of the Rosary in a breathtaking way.
St. Mary's Cathedral in Kilkenny.
St. Mary’s Cathedral in Kilkenny.
I kind of love these people I have met. Promised a friend I wouldn't put this on Facebook, but I love this picture. Left to right: Sarah, Brittany, Bruna, Hubert, Carlos. Erasmus <3
I kind of love these people I have met. Promised a friend I wouldn’t put this on Facebook, but I love this picture. Left to right: Sarah, Brittany, Bruna, Hubert, Carlos. Erasmus <3
At the Cafe with these gorgeous ladies. We were all pretty tired after a day of exploration.
At the Cafe with these gorgeous ladies. We were all pretty tired after a day of exploration.

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.

From

JH

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! 

Travel and Arrival Ramblings

My desk and bed. Wardrobe is on the left, bathroom on. the right.
My desk and bed. Wardrobe is on the left, bathroom on. the right.

My body is rebelling against me.

At least that’s how it felt Tuesday night when we arrived in Waterford. The 48 hours of travel and the 8 hour time difference wreaks havoc on you.

But then you get 12 hours of sleep in a freezing cold apartment and the world looks slightly better.

Our journey began pretty easily. I was excited and the apprehension hadn’t set in yet as to what I was actually doing. With a simple flight to Seattle on Monday, Brittany and I were on our way.

A two hour layover in Seattle doesn’t leave much to do after going through US Customs. And that’s when my problems began…

The airline wanted us to check in for our flight. When I went to check in, I was told I would have to check my one backpack because it was too large. It was going to be $95. I was angry and upset. But then the machine didn’t work so the lady waived the fee. Good thing she did…

Our flight to London was 9 hours and 30 minutes, not including the time change. It was red eye, but flying out at 6 didn’t leave much time for sleep when you normally fall asleep at about 10 or 11pm. So, I watched a movie (The Book of Life), ate some half decent airplane food, watched some episodes of Friends, and tried to fall asleep.

But couldn’t.

Travelling is already hard when you can’t fall asleep on moving objects, but when you’re sick, I would argue it’s even harder. So I was on quite a bit of medicine to get me through these various flights. And something to help me sleep was one of them. But it didn’t work. So I actually got no sleep… just rest.

Well, then we had one more flight to catch to Ireland…if we could get to it on time. We were supposed to have a 2 hour layover, but with the UK customs and security, we made it to our gate with only 10 minutes to spare! It was a really stressful venture. We vowed that we are going to go back to London so we can see more than the miniscule sections of the airport that we saw.

My desk and shelves hold everything, from my “friends” to school supplies.

Fast forward through a boring 1 hour flight to us FINALLY arriving in Dublin. Exhausted and lost, we found our way through the airport. Only to find out that the bag I had checked in Seattle had gotten left behind. The last place it had been was London. I was so tired and stressed that I almost broke down in tears. But the two guys at the airport were really nice, assuring me I would get my bag as soon as possible. [It came 2 days later…]

We found a bus to take us to Waterford. It was a 3 hour bus ride. It probably would have been amazing had we not been so tired and had it not been dark. I couldn’t see very much out the windows in between my further attempts to catch some sleep. But I did see some of the things I had been hoping for: rolling green hills, quaint little towns, Guinness signs on every pub, and so much more.

A little messy… My bed with the bathroom door to the right.

Making it to Waterford, we hopped in a cab and got to Riverwalk. By now, it was about 8 o’clock Ireland time, and about noon back at home.

Our night then consisted of many layers, as we couldn’t figure out the “foreign” heating system. The room was so cold. I wore 4 sweaters and wool socks to bed with my airplane blanket on top. But I finally got the hours of sleep that I had so needed. 12 hours of sleep was the bliss I needed after so many things happening and going on: 3 flights, time change, my lost backpack, and the apartment room being slightly disappointing.

But the morning made it all look better. On Wednesday, Brittany and I went grocery shopping for the food we needed to stock up on. We learned where things are in Waterford, too. That night our roommate arrived. His name is Vivien, and he is from Paris. He is very nice!

Walking through city center with our new international friends.
This is the historic tower in Waterford City center. There is a museum in it, which we will visit sometime soon (hopefully).

Thursday we went for orientation at the school. It is a pretty large school. My building on campus sticks out against the green lawns and white buildings with it’s bright red face. I also have another building across the road with the sketchy crossing.

Thursday night we had a group of our new friends over. It was so cool to get to know everyone! I have met people from Hungary, Spain, Poland, USA, Brazil, Netherlands, Germany, France, Mexico, CANADA (Newfoundland), and possibly more… it’s hard to remember when there are so many people. Friday morning we went on a bike ride with the international students. It was a tour, and the guy leading really knew his history. He took us to a lot of interesting places that I want to go back to.

We went out again last night (Saturday), to a local Irish pub with this group, after spending the day wandering two museums. We went through Bishop’s Palace, and the Medieval Museum. And I realized after that I had taken no pictures… Thankfully I have 5 more months to be able to.

Brittany and I at Phil Grimes. First pub outing in Ireland!

I think I am going to miss this place very much when it comes time to leave. And all the people that I am getting to meet.

Tomorrow – first day of school! It feels like the first day of university all over again. A new place with new people, having no idea what is going on nor where to go. It’s overwhelming. But for some reason, the Irish mentality has taken over me and I feel no stress. Things are looking good.

On our bike tour on Friday, we stopped along the Quay. Could see an old structure in the distance.

May the road rise up to meet ya.

From

JH

P.S. – I have finally sorted out my internet problems, so I will now be able to upload posts on approximately a weekly basis. With my technology all fixed,  I will be able to update all internet mediums!

 

Packing Process

Clothes are thrown over the bed in a mess. Shoes, bags, and jackets scatter the floor. Electronics, make-up, scarves, and more.

Packing for a months-long trip can be daunting - JulieHuff.com
The packing process is full of stages. Disaster might be one.

The guest room of our house looks like the remnants of a battle…between everything I own.

For someone with slight OCD, packing is always stressful. But packing for 6 months of living and travelling, during three different seasons, well that turns into something entirely different.

I procrastinated packing for so long. Like a teenager puts off a project until the night before. But I knew that I couldn’t do all of this last minute.

With little room, I have to think so carefully about what I’m taking, what I’ll wear, what I’ll use. But the process of packing just makes me that much more excited about the adventure itself.

In a few days, I’ll be in Ireland.

Of course I’m nervous. But I’m super excited. This is the chance of a lifetime. I’m looking forward to living in Waterford and studying at their amazing university. Study abroad is a great opportunity.

First, I’ll have to get through the flights, something I am definitely not looking forward to. Especially being sick.

I’m going to miss my family, my friends, and the climbing gym I work and climb at. They have all made and changed my life in so many ways. This trip will allow me to grow as a person for the better, to learn exactly who I am and who I want to be. And I can’t wait to see what is ahead of me.

Thanks to technology, I’ll be in touch through every way possible.

May the road rise up to meet ya.

From

JH