“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!