Maddie in Ireland: Webs

March 22, 2016

One of the greatest parts of having a spider as a mascot— besides being the only mascot smaller than a cracker that is able to scare a full grown man out of the house— is that there are (stupid) puns aplenty. Seriously, there is so much material to go off of. Web, fly, legs, silk, etc. Some are funny (e.g. I can talk about how there was a spider on my keyboard earlier, but, don’t worry, its under ctrl now), and others are more *ahem* sentimental. In this case, I will go with the word play that is most broadly-used, basic, and boring (yay alliteration!) and talk about how we, all the student Spiders, are connected to each other. We all spin webs. We’re joined, we’re connected, we’re a community.

Being a part of such a community means having long-lasting, wide-reaching friendships… the kind of friendships that cross borders… Can you see where I’m going with this? Yes, that is correctomundo, not once, but twice, have I met up with other Richmond students abroad. The first was a visit to Oxford England to visit <Name Redacted the First> and <Name Redacted the Second>. The second was when Tony <name not redacted ’cause he also totally writes for UR Travelogues>, who is studying in Switzerland, came to visit me in Galway. Some of the best memories I have were made during those visits. Maybe it was because I was around a bit of home for the first time (since I’m the only UR student here), maybe it was because the visits were an excuse to spend money and eat too much food, or maybe its because it was a chance to share my new world with someone else. I don’t know. But for whatever reason, those wonderful memories were formed and I want to share them; here, presented numerically for your reading pleasure, are my five top favorite moments from those visits.

Be warned, the majority of them have to do with food.


It is a truth universally acknowledged that a city at night and a city during the day are two entirely different places. After spending the day giving me a tour of Oxford, <Name Redacted the First> and <Name Redacted the Second> decided it was time to show me Night-Oxford. It was a great time, but it isn’t relevant to this entry, so I will skip over the night-tour to the ‘goodnight’s. I was staying with <Name Redacted the First> so when it got late enough, we, as a group, were forced to split up. As we were waving goodbye, <Name Redacted the Second> called out and told us to turn around and grab some 2 a.m. food with him. We agreed and he took us to a very small, greasy food truck selling pretty much every food you could want at 2 a.m. One friend ended up buying a doner kebab, another grabbed a hamburger, and I bought some french fries covered in cheese, garlic mayo, and some sort of mild curry. They were the best french fries I’d ever had, hands down, no contest, indisputably and I will never forget gorging myself on them, sitting on a cold English sidewalk and sharing silent smiles with friends… But no seriously, I gorged myself on those fries. It was gross.

 Tbh, I forgot to take a picture of the fries, so here is a picture of other delicious food I consumed. In case you were wondering, a Nutella bagel tastes like how Disneyland feels.

Tbh, I forgot to take a picture of the fries, so here is a picture of other delicious food I consumed. In case you were wondering, a Nutella bagel tastes like how Disneyland feels.



Alright, so I talked about 2 a.m. eating with <Name Redacted the First> and <Name Redacted the Second>, now its time to talk about 2 a.m. eating with Tony. This time I was the one showing off the city at night, and the one suggesting a delicious hole-in-the-wall. We bought kebabs, fries, sodas, fried rice, aaaaand salads. See Mom and Dad? I eat healthy.


See? Healthy.

See? Healthy.


Once before I visited the Cliffs of Moher and during that visit I fell in love with them; buuuut that trip was when I was new to Ireland, back when every single thing I saw was breathtaking and I was a nervous little thing who was terrified of doing anything by myself. This visit, I was in ~control~. I was comfortable and with that comfort came a new view of the world, including those magnifi-freaking-cent cliffs.

You know how people talk about falling back in love with their partner after twenty years of marriage? Well that was me and those cliffs. Obviously you can’t marry a natural landmark and I’ve only been old enough to get legally married for a short time, but I’m going to use that comparison anyways. Back off. Stop your judging and just let me write. Ugh.





This is kind of a biggie (and its also really easy to understand as to why its a favorite), buuuut <Name Redacted the First> and I visited, duhn da da duuhhnnnn, Stonehenge. We spent the whole day traveling there, braving the extremely inconvenient mist and slippery footpaths, and then spent the rest of the day just staring at it. I’m not going to spend much more time talking about this though, because it is impossible to describe Stonehenge, except to say that it truly deserves to be called one of the wonders of the world.


No Caption

No Caption


At one point during my visit to Oxford, we were just too tired to do any more touristing, so we just sat down, drank red bulls, ate chocolate oranges, and watched SNL skits. It was relaxing and slow-paced and enjoyable and a very wholesome type of fun… a very nice contrast to the quick paced glitz and glamour of exploration. It was the kind of afternoon that probably had some sort of moral that could be learned from it. Something about friendship, maybe.


Well, th-th-th-thats all folks!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!


Maddie in Ireland: Interesting People

March 14, 2016

Whenever you discuss your future plans to travel, everyone inevitably sighs a wistful sighy-sigh and says, “Oh, just think of the people you’ll meet.” Usually when such a thing is said you shake your head and say, “Ya, ya, humanity is great… but did you hear about that castle I’m going to get to see? And the one waterfall? It has a bunch of falling water. It’s awesome.”

Now, I do not mean to downplay Mother Nature or Father Ancient Architecture in the slightest, because I am definitely a nature person—


Proof. This is a picture of me literally hugging a tree taken two days ago.

Proof. This is a picture of me literally hugging a tree taken two days ago.


—but I think as young people we tend to be really interested in the more glamorous aspects of traveling and overlook the smaller things… the smaller things like the lady who runs the music store down the street or the old man sitting next to you on the bus. Waterfalls and castles aren’t the only things that have stories to tell. Stories, histories are bing created every single day, and everyone around you is a witness to those stories. That being said, here is a list of the most interesting people I have met in Ireland (and the surrounding countries):


1) The Lady Who Runs The Music Shop Down The Street

My apartment and I went on a trip to a very small, very quaint town called Dingle (lol) a few weekends ago. After spending some time touring the local harbor and beaches we decided to just wander up and down the streets and do a little window-shopping. We weren’t having much luck, but stopped when we saw a building painted bright blue with white lettering loudly proclaiming that there were musical instruments and CD’s for sale inside. As the daughter of a man has an unparalleled enthusiasm for Celtic music, I went in to purchase a few souvenirs while the others waited outside. When I emerged from the store a few euros lighter and a few CDs heavier, I noticed them huddled around a map taped to the storefront window. Beside the map there was also a picture of three men and two women in swimming gear and a clip explaining how they had swum around the entire coast of Ireland. As we read the article one of the women from the picture practically leapt out from the nearest door and eagerly told us her story. It turns out that she had been born in Dingle and from an early age she and the same group of friends had taken an interest in long-distance swimming. As well as swimming the entire coast of Ireland she had also won several European competitions and swum across the Bering Strait, even doing a circuit as a motivational speaker for a bit.

Despite all of this she would always return to her small hometown— small enough that most addresses didn’t even have street names, just numbers— and live a quiet, unremarkable life. She was the most unassuming, normal looking woman in the world, and yet she nearly quivered with excitement when discussing her swims. She only ever swam for the love of the sport— she never wanted anything more than to just say, ‘Hey, I swam,” and that is pretty damn interesting.


Look how happy she is!

Look how happy she is!


2) The Old Man Who Sat Next To Me On The Bus

Riding busses is great because a) they’re cheap, b) busses run frequently, and c) I don’t have a car here so I don’t really have any other options, buuuuut they do have the disadvantage of being public transportation. This means that every once in awhile, you will be forced to sit next  to a random, unpleasant stranger who will smell like lunch meat and be completely unaware that they are taking up half of your seat as well as the entirety of their own (I’m an incredibly patient person, but as soon as you drop me in public transportation that patience-ometer drops straight to zero). So naturally when I managed to make 4 out of the 5 hours on our trip to Dingle without anyone sitting next to me, I was a little grumpy when an old man plopped right down next to me. He looked to be in his late 80’s, was wearing one of those shepherds hats, leaned over, smiled at me, and grabbed my hand, before turning his attention out the window. He asked my name, I told him, and then he began to tell me his story. He was what you would call “a good ol’ boy”. He grew up in that area, married his childhood sweetheart, and had several children. He also happened to be the nicest person I have ever met. An Irish Mr. Rogers, if you will.

Occasionally he asked me questions, but mostly he just talked and I sat and listened, still holding his hand. Given his age he tended to repeat himself, but he always returned to two phrases— “It’s nice to be nice” and “You’re such pleasant company.” They were amazing things to hear.

We parted as the bus pulled to a stop in the middle of an country road, no buildings in sight, but he knew it was his stop and the driver waved to him as he left. He always had an air of being partially next to me on the bus, but mostly somewhere else, some other time and place. Here is what I find amazing about him: He never said goodbye to me— he saw his stop and left— and I’m fairly certain he never thought of me again, but even so, in his incredible purity and kindness, he managed to make a lasting impression he won’t even remember making.

I don't have a picture with him, so here’s some pretty scenery.

I don’t have a picture with him, so here’s some pretty scenery.


3) The Lady Who Ran The Excavation Site

One of the classes I’m taking this semester is called “Gaelic Peoples: Identity and Cultural Practices.” It is an archaeology class, so it mainly revolves mainly around the different dwellings built in the medieval period. As part of a project we were taken to The Burren to examine ruins of different cahers or cashiels. For the most part the ruins were exactly that- ruins. One site however, Caherconnell (pronounced cah-her-kahn-ol and meaning Connell’s Castle), was incredible. It was beautifully preserved, easily allowing you to picture the castle that dominated the valley. It was also a standout site in that it appeared that the Connell family had resisted adopting Anglo-Normal culture, unlike the rest of medieval Ireland. They clearly were in contact with and interacted with the English, but, in a purposeful show of loyalty to the culture of their ancestors, they lived very traditionally Irish lives. Instead of using ceramic pottery they continued to use pots made of organic materials, wove their cloth the ~Irish~ way, and decorated pins/walls/toys/etc with traditional motifs, thank you very much.

The archaeologist who ran the site had been there since the beginning of the excavation. She had devoted her life to that castle, knowing its several thousand year story (it was purposely built around the gravesite of some prehistoric women and children), every single niche, every bit of castle, every pebble’s place. She lived on the premise and spent her spare time training border collies to perform in shows in an attempt to earn extra funding for the dig (and also because herding dogs are awesome). This woman’s knowledge was incredible, but even more incredible was her visible passion for archaeology and the very visible love she held for this ancient castle.

Caherconnell, the original Irish passive-aggressive “Stay off my lawn” sign.

Caherconnell, the original Irish passive-aggressive “Stay off my lawn” sign.


4) The Guy’s Grandson

I eat a lot of candy. That’s just fact.

Luckily for me, Ireland has a lot of candy shops. Mostly, however, those candy stores are filled with pretty commercial type stuff (still delicious, just widely available). One store broke that streak, being entirely and wholly and incandescently original. A very small little shop in Killarney, it had the very specific target audience of “people raised in the 80’s” and had recently grown successful enough to merit its own internationally shipping website. While sampling various sweets, the owner told us two stories. The first was how his grandfather, who had owned and run a convenience store, would often pass along candy to the owner when he was a child. Eventually the child grew up and opened a candy store in his grandfather’s honor, naming it after him and hanging his picture on the wall. The second was the story of “his chocolate lady”, who he got all his chocolate from. Her father was a very successful chocolatier in Germany, however her family was Jewish and after the onset of WW2 was forced to flee and leave their business behind. They successfully escaped to Ireland where her father taught her how to make chocolate, but was unable to resume his work due to financial strains. By her 40’s her father had died, but she was finally able to pick up where he left off. She is now in her 80’s, still making chocolate and selling it to small candy stores around the country.


Once again I don’t have a picture of the interesting person we just discussed, so here is a picture of downtown Killarney.

Once again I don’t have a picture of the interesting person we just discussed, so here is a picture of downtown Killarney.


5) The Boy Who Goes to Oxford

When I visited a fellow Spider who attended Oxford, I met the last of our very interesting people. He was by far the youngest person on this list, a student at Oxford, very tall and gangly with large glasses and a quite unidentifiable accent. His mother was a minister and his father was in the army for some unspecified country (I’m thinking America), so he had lived all over the world. Most recently he had come from Chicago where he was part of Second City’s junior troupe. I don’t know as much about him, but I can tell you that when he spoke, you listened to him with wide eyes, clinging onto every syllable and blindly believing everything he said. I mean, the guy just reeked of extreme intelligence and was positively dripping interesting stories. He was one of those mysterious people that just had some sort of… presence.

…I’m not saying he was a more advanced species of human sent back from the future to be a beacon of brilliant awesomeness, but I am saying that we don’t have any proof that he wasn’t a more advanced species of human sent back from the future to be a beacon of brilliant awesomeness.



Toodles kids,

Maddie, Class of ’17

Maddie in Ireland: One Month In (Part II)

March 1, 2016

I have returned, the Prodigal Writer, here to tell you about the next three of my January activities!

What’s on the menu today? How about a delicately roasted “My visit to the Aran Islands” with a fresh spring appetizer of “Classes I am taking” ? And no, I can’t recommend any wines to go with that.



My current university— National University of Ireland, Galway— has a very unusual way of registering for classes. At any college in the States, registering for class is a vicious, jungle-cat fight… Everyone is up four hours earlier than normal, poised to register for the limited number of spots in each class that was carefully chosen five months previously. At NUIG though, registration isn’t even open until two weeks after classes start. That means teachers start teaching without a roster and you just kind of show up to whichever class you’d like. Those two weeks of freedom are a bit of a double-edge sword- yes, you get to shop around and try out which classes you enjoy, but you also run the risk of missing important info from classes that you don’t go to immediately.

Once those two weeks, and the four weeks of open registration, were finished, I had settled on the following five classes:


Memory and Cognition

I mentioned previously that I am a Psychology & Criminal Justice double-major, so fittingly I am taking several psych classes. Memory and Cognition, taught by Prof. Gary Donohoe, Dr. Omar Mothersill, and Dr. Christopher Dwyer, examines the biological processes behind the various aspects of human memory and thought. Last week we studied <gulp> metacognition, meaning I spent two hours thinking about thinking about thinking… What I’m trying to say is that my class is essentially a Christopher Nolan movie that stars Leonardo DiCaprio.


Theories of Personality

Much less uh, mind-bending than Mem&Cog, Theories of Personality examines what constitutes a personality and where personalities may arise from according to a variety of different perspectives. Its an incredibly interesting class that forces you to reevaluate a lot of things you’ve always thought you’ve always known (as all good classes should). Bonus points for this class, I just got to write a paper about my favorite psychological figure, Carl Jung.


Embryology and Development

I am not a sciencey person. It’s not in my nature. I love research and enjoy neurobiology, but as a general rule, science is not ~my thing~. The only reason I signed up for this class is 100% because Richmond, in its quest to produce well-rounded, confident, and capable students, has a science gen-ed requirement. All of that being said, so far I love this class. We study the development of a human, week-by-week, from zygote to embryo to fetus. It is awesome and completely fascinating and I spend a lot of the class smiling, amazed at how physically incredible humans are.


Gaelic Peoples- Identity and Cultural Practices

Now we’re going to move on from the purely academic, relevant-to-my-majors classes and move on to the hey-I’m-in-Ireland-whaaaaaaat classes. Gaelic Peoples looks at the history of the variety of different people that have populated Ireland through the lens of archaeology. We examine historical buildings, writings, pottery, land formations, etc and this coming Saturday, will take a field trip to visit The Burren. The Burren, or Boireann, meaning ”great rock”, is a karst landscape in County Clare and contains the remnants of a prehistoric building that we will get to examine. Yay!


Celtic Mythology, Religion, and Folklore

Celtic Mythology, like Gaelic Peoples, explores the story of Ireland, however it takes a much less historically factual approach. Instead, we learn about the stories of the ancient Gales, we hear the tales mothers would tell their children, we learn about ancient wedding rituals, and how the practice of not moving your arms while step dancing originated. This class is just fun.


The Aran Islands

I like wild things. I like mountains and oceans and deserts and forests. I like things that are powerful and stormy and ancient and overgrown and green and way way way away from developed areas.

Wait, did I, did I just describe the Aran Islands? A powerful, stormy, ancient, overgrown, green island that has not just mountains and forests but also a desert and is very far from any major urban area? Woah! I guess I did. I guess the Aran Islands are pretty darn close to what I would consider the perfect place. Huh.

A few weekends ago, three of us got up at the crack of dawn, took a very long boat ride over very active waters, and disembarked on the island of Inishmore— also known as Árainn, Árainn Mhór, or Inis Mór— the largest of the three Aran Islands. The Aran Islands are known primarily for their sheep, the wool said sheep produce, and the incredible clothes they craft with said wool. A sweater made of Aran wool is just *mwah* perfecto. The Aran Islands are secondarily known for being staunchly loyal to their Irish culture. In Ireland about 40% of people have some degree of proficiency in the Irish language… On the Aran Islands 100% of the population is fluent in Irish and, in fact, really only use English to communicate with tourists.

A local elderly man named Tomás served as our tour guide and drove us— and two girls from Quebec that we befriended— around the island. He whipped along single-lane roads on massive rocky hills in an oversized white van, pointing out local landmarks, joking about his eyesight, and loudly recounting stories from his childhood (Like most inhabitants, Tomás has lived on the island his entire life). Eventually, Tomás declared there were too many sheep on the road (there were) and that we would have to continue by foot. We pulled over, he pointed with a pale hand to some cliffs, instructed us to follow those cliffs to Dun Aengus, and that if we were able to see sea spray we were not to go below the cliffs to the shore. He finished by saying that he would pick us up on the other side of that hill in four hours. It was not until he climbed into the van and slowly backing his way up through a herd of sheep, that we realized he had not specified on which hill exactly he was referring to.

Oh well. No time to waste.

The ground where Tomás had dropped us off was covered in large flat rocks, worn smooth by thousands of years of wind and rain, with hardy grasses pushing their way through the cracks. We walked across this rocky plain to the cliffs. They were massive and overlooked the Atlantic, giving you an incredible view of the ocean and in the distance, if you looked closely enough, a view of the mainland…………….buuuuut, if you stood with your back to the ocean and instead turned around, you would see something even better in the island itself. You could swear that no man had ever touched that land. It was just so untamed and ancient and wild it could make you cry. And it did. The sheer wildness of the windy, rocky island made me cry in fear and awe and joy and longing and a lot of other feelings I can’t put a name to. Poignant happiness, maybe?




On the cliffs we saw the sea spray, so naturally we ignored the man who had spent the last seventy years on these islands, and decided to descend the cliffs to the beach. It was a very difficult, very long, very slippery trek that often required you to move on all fours and I 100% sliced my hand open on a sharp rock, but it was worth it. We weren’t just seeing the sea spray down here, we were getting covered in it.


I know its hard to believe, but this rectangle, called The Wormhole, was carved out of the stone naturally.

I know its hard to believe, but this rectangle, called The Wormhole, was carved out of the stone naturally.


At this point we were about two hours in, so we decided to go back to the trail and make our way to Dun Aengus, a well preserved Bronze Age fort. We climbed back up the cliffs, couldn’t find the trail but figured we knew the general direction we were supposed to go, and set off. The weather really started to pick up, so climbing up the hill to Dun Aengus had us bent over, seeing how far forwards we could lean, supported by the wind, without falling over. After another 45 minutes or so of hiking/crawling we reached the base of the hill on which Dun Aengus was situated and began our ascent, hopping over fences, walking around cattle, yelling as loudly as we could (because we could), and generally feeling that what we were doing was exactly what studying abroad was about.

When we crested the hill we spent about 20 minutes examining the fort, built right on the edge of the highest cliff. From our vantage point we could actually see a small little village that had been blocked from view, the mysterious village that Tomás had promised to pick us up from. Collective sigh of relief. Tomás picked us up (right on time) and then drove us to “The Seven Churches”, a site where a church was built, broken down, and replaced with a  new church which then broke down and was replaced with a new church, and so on. While exploring the ruins we also got to explore the graveyards. I mentioned earlier that the inhabitants of the Aran Islands tend to live there their entire life, right? Well it was clearly reflected in the headstones. You could trace generations of families through the headstones.





Oh also did I mention a large black dog with no owner showed up in the graveyard?! I'm calling it, that dog was a Grimm.

Oh also did I mention a large black dog with no owner showed up in the graveyard?! I’m calling it, that dog was a Grimm.


We headed back with Tomás to the main street, bought some seafood chowder and hot chocolate, purchased some wool goods, and then made our way to the docks. We were all exhausted and to be honest, I can’t remember one bit of the boat ride back. I was asleep within seconds of sitting down.

That trip was a few weeks ago, but I think back to it a lot. Those islands really struck a chord within me… I’ve a pretty good suspicion I’ll be back there soon.



Maddie in Ireland: One Month In (Part 1)

February 18, 2016

Hey kids!

I’d like to start off by apologizing to you. I just know you’ve been refreshing this page anxiously for two weeks straight, waiting for my next installment about my adventures in Ireland and I am sorry for leaving you hanging. I am a horrible person and I apologize for an increases in blood pressure that may have occurred as a result of your prolonged wait.

“Where have you been Maddie? Why haven’t you kept in touch with me?” I’m sure you’re frantically asking. “Well,” I calmly reply to you, “I’ve been alllll over. Horribly busy actually. But I’m here now, children, and I have ~so~ much to tell you!”

Where should I start? Should I tell you about the people I know? Perhaps my visit to the Cliffs of Moher as promised? How about my Valentines Day spent with my girls? Or should I tell you about my visit to the Aran Islands? Maybe I’ll talk about going to Oxford to visit fellow Spiders studying abroad? Or the few days I spent exploring London by myself? What about the time I visited Stonehenge? Maybe my classes?

But then I think, porque no los dos? Or rather, porque no los siete?… Is, is that how you say it? Because, honestly, I have no clue. I took Italian, sooo I’m way out of my depth here. Well, however you say it, how do you feel about me telling you about all of it? (Spoiler alert: regardless of how you feel, I’m gonna tell you all about it).

Since I’d rather not skimp on the details, but I also don’t want to force you to read an entire novel, tonight I will write about the first tres activity-thingies listed and will continue the next few tomorrow. Good? Good.

The People

You know how in the beginning of any new program— high school, college, summer camp, a Super Bowl party at your weird friend Jeremy’s house— everyone tends to clump together? Like, everyone finds someone, sticks with them, gradually sticking onto new people, until there’s a group of about fifteen (secretly scared) people who are trying to navigate their new world without leaving each others side? Studying abroad works like that, too. You find a group right off the bat during Orientation and you do things constantly together before even finding out if you have things in common or even if you really like each other. Lucky for me, it has now been six weeks and I am very sure that the group I happened to cling onto, the first few people I met, were the right group to cling onto. They are all wonderful people with whom I actually have things in common and 100% like. We go on trips together (knowing that we like each other), we go to Trivia Night at the pub, we go cheese-tasting, we go on searches for a place that sells milkshakes at 2 a.m., we try and dissect Irish culture, we fight over who actually ate the last piece of pie, we help each other study, we battle the rain together, we have fun together, we experience Ireland, we explore new things, and we do it all together. The world is beautiful and awesome and strange and terrifying, but the people you’re with— whether you met them at Orientation, or because you saw them performing magic tricks one night, or because you’re both part of the Mountaineering Society— are the ones who can help you most see that.


Ain't we cute?

Ain’t we cute?


In conclusion, my friends— who, as you may have guessed, I have met through Orientation, seeing them perform magic tricks, and being part of the Mountaineering Society, among various other social interactions— are the best. Irish, Americans, Thai… we’re all awesome and are all helping each other through this beautiful, awesome, strange, terrifying world.

How precious.


The Cliffs of Moher

Lol, I told y’all I’d talk about this awhile back, so lets get down to bidness. After the first week of school, we— meaning my core group of friends who had found each other during Orientation— decided we had had enough of dumb Galway and its rich history, quaint streets, and charming people. We needed to leave this town.

So, we booked a tour, hopped on a quick bus, drove for two hours on the incredibly windy “Make-ye-sick” road (as our bus driver delicately put it), and just randomly pulled up to an ancient castle. No biggie. Just a centuries old building built in the middle of a lake. After spending half an hour or so at Caisleain Dhun Guaire, or Dunguaire Castle, we then headed off to Ailwee cave*. There was a tour of the cave, but I chose to stay behind and wander around the mountain. Technically there was a path I was supposed to follow if I wanted to explore— and I am in no way condoning going off designated paths—, but I totally went off the designated path (What can I say? I was raised in the mountains. If I see a cool tree in the distance, I’m gonna go look at that tree). I was rewarded by:

1) Finding some random statues of humanoid figures among the trees far away from the path. If I’m being honest, they were pretty frightening at first, but when you got closer turned out to be very beautiful and almost comforting.




2) Climbing to the top of the mountain and feeling the pure ecstasy you can only feel when standing at the top of a mountain. I will openly admit to raising my arms above my head, jumping, and yelling, a la Rocky finally climbing the Philadelphia Stairs.

3) Finally, finally, finally understanding why there the Landscape is such a large part of the Irish identity. The Land is haunting and halfway here, halfway there, half real, half a dream, faded, vivid, and so absolutely alive. The forest and the hills and the sun… it all just fills you. You don’t just see the land, you feel it. It sticks with you, even when you return to the city with all of its concrete and plastic and swarms of people.




After the cave we hopped on the bus again and were taken to the legendary ~Cliffs of Moher~. The Cliffs were incredible. No poet, no painter, no photographer— and certainly not me— could ever convey the beauty and mystery of the cliffs. If Sir Patrick Stewart could be a geographic feature, that geographic feature would be only be half as awesome and wise as those cliffs.

After a few hours at The Cliffs of Moher, the bus returned to pick us up, we stopped by a seashore to take a few obligatory Instagram sunset pictures, and returned home.

I was exhausted, freezing, grouchy, covered in mud, had cut my hand pretty badly on a sharp rock, and it was all worth it.

*Fun fact, Ailwee actually served as the inspiration for Gollum’s cave in JR Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.


Valentines Day Wif Ma Femayls

Hey you guys, guess what! I just celebrated my twentieth time being single on Valentines Day! Isn’t that just the greatest? There is no way I’m cynical and bitter! I must love seeing all the couples happy in their loving relationships! Yay!

…Did you read those sentences with a sarcastic voice? You shouldn’t have. I actually do love Valentine’s Day. I’m neither cynical nor bitter, cute couples make me happy, and I don’t mind being single, because I have some rad friends that I get to celebrate with. This year we celebrated the power of female friendship with Galentine’s Day and then later the power of friendship of both genders with Palentine’s Day.

The original plan was to go to a local restaurant and treat ourselves to a wine and cheese tasting, but then it started to rain, yada, yada, yada… long story short, we were really not up to walking the 20 minutes to the restaurant. Lucky for us— meaning myself and two female friends— there is actually a restaurant in our apartment complex. We headed straight to Scotty’s Steakhouse, sat down next to a family with three adorable children who played peek-a-boo with us and frequently blew kisses, and proceeded to eat our massive hamburgers until we were uncomfortably full. One friend passed around presents she had gotten us (I started to cry, because of course I did… it was really sweet) and thus, with that wonderful gesture, concluded Galentine’s Day. This conclusion was immediately followed by the beginning of Palentine’s Day as a male friend joined us for dessert.

After dessert we, still uncomfortably full, headed back to all of our apartments. I immediately went to bed where I, no joke, dreamt of chocolate. How Valentine’s-Day-ish is that?


Well, thats it for tonight, dear readers. Check in for the other cinco activities soon.

Isn’t it a wonderful world?


Maddie in Ireland: The Devil is in the Details

January 26, 2016

When I submitted my application to study abroad in Galway, one question asked of me was, “How are you going to acclimate to the new culture?” At the time, I was like, “Pfffft, piece of cake. Ireland is a first-world, English-speaking country with access to the internet, plus I have a working knowledge of rugby and know the lyrics to the song “Danny Boy”, soooo….. yeah, Im good lol.”  And the thing is, I was right. Ireland is a first-world, English-speaking country with access to the internet. For the most part, there are very few differences between America and Ireland and I have had very few difficulties acclimating to my new home culture. However, they say the devil is in the details and, whoever ”they” are, they are right.

It’s the little things like not knowing which brands of bread are good or forgetting that dates are written in the day-month-year format that getcha. They’re the little things that trip you up and remind you that, oh yeah, you aren’t home; and since the internet is all about lists, I have decided to compile a list of those little things, those little differences, that I have noticed during my first two weeks in Ireland.

1. Adidas & Hollister

So you know in middle school how Hollister graphic tees were the thing? Like, grab a shirt from Hollister and presto, you’re instantly the coolest kid in class? And then a few years later Hollister was just kind of out? Well, Hollister is not out in Ireland (at least in the male population). Everywhere you look there is a boy wearing a Hollister hoodie, carefully zipped only halfway up to subtly reveal the Hollister tee underneath… unless, of course, said boy is wearing an Adidas track suit. You know the kind I’m talking about. In summary, the entire male population in Ireland either looks like your eighth-grade class or like they just came straight from soccer/football practice. Its not a bad look, it just kind of throws you off for awhile, makes you look around and think “Something is different about these boys,” until you realize that they’re wearing exactly the same thing that Yanni Thanopolous my…I mean your… crush wore in seventh grade.

2. Uppercuts

On the subject of differences between American and Irish boys, I’d say 70% of Irish guys have some version of an uppercut. Again, its not a bad look— in fact, I’d even argue its a darn good look— it’s just different.

3. Brands

The first time I entered a grocery store it took me 45 minutes to buy bread, cheese, gnocchi, and a candy bar. Why was I such an deficient shopper? Because I didn’t have a single clue about what I was buying. I didn’t recognize a single brand in the entire store (except for international brands that I only recognized because the logo was the same. For example, Lays chips are known as Heilmans chips. Go figure). Was this a good brand? Was this a yummy brand? Is this the hippie, vegan brand? Am I giving off an air of hippie, vegan-ness by buying this brand? I’m not a vegan though… I really like pork. And beef. And cheese. Aww man, I’m so out of my element here.

4. Electric Sockets

Real quick I’m going to tell you an absolutely thrilling tale about my first hour in Ireland: When I landed in Shannon two weeks ago, my phone was dead. 0%. I knew my wonderful, loving parents would be worrying out about my safety and the longer I didn’t call them the more they would stress out. I don’t like stressing my parents out. It’s just not a thing I enjoy, so I frantically ran around the airport looking for an outlet. I found one, plugged my phone in, and waited. After about fifteen minutes, I checked my phone and it had not charged a single bit. At this point I was freaking out— was the adapter not working? Had my charger burnt out from the voltage? Why was I so bad at technology? I saw a flip next to the outlet and even though I was 75% sure if I touched it I would kill the entire airport, I decided that my first world problem of a dead phone warranted me taking that chance.

Yep, turns out that electricity doesn’t automatically go to every outlet. You need to flip a switch to direct the electricity to the outlet and then do ~whatever~ you do with the electricity…. Hmmm, looking back, I now realize I didn’t need to preface that bit of info with my story, but, hey, I’m sure you’re super bored and have nothing better to do than read about my minor, insignificant, amateur observations. Right?

5. Pulp

Pulp in orange juice. We all have opinions about it. I, for instance, am a firm supporter of the “Pulp is absolutely delicious and should be included in all juice” camp… but when I first went looking for juice I could find no evidence of “pulp” vs “light pulp” vs “no pulp”. Where was the conflict? How was I supposed to get in a fight about what texture juice should be? After a hasty conversation with a grocery worker, I was informed that the Irish referred to pulp as “juicy bits”, which I find to be absolutely hilarious. “Cream cheese” is called “creamy soft cheese”. A “half pan” is a small loaf of bread. “Tap” doesn’t refer to fresh beer, which is just called beer, but instead a water faucet. “Joggers” are all sweat pants, not just those used by athletes. “Bonbons” are toffee-type candies, instead of chocolates. I could go on. Either way, each trip to any store is an adventure and experiment, because frankly I am very rarely aware of what exactly it is I’m buying.

6. Walking

In America you walk on the right side of the sidewalk. It’s etiquette. In Ireland you walk not on the left, mirroring how the roads work, but just wherever you decide to walk. This means you need to be much more aware of your surrounding and who is approaching you from each direction when you walk. No zoning out allowed. It’s etiquette.

Its also means you need to size up anyone who walks towards you and decide which of you is going to move. Every stroll is a power struggle

7. Cheese


8. Ice Cream


9. Dairy Products in General

IRISH DAIRY PRODUCTS > AMERICAN DAIRY PRODUCTS. I feel like its un-American to admit anything from a non-American country is better than something from America, but I also feel like its un-American to appreciate phenomenal butter.

10. Makeup

We’ve been over Irish boys’ appearances, but we haven’t talked about the girls yet. For the most part they dress pretty similarly to how we would have dressed in America (but in Ireland, out of our natural habitat, we tend to wear significantly more jackets than they do). Makeup though. Irish girls are masters of makeup and it doesn’t matter how little sleep they got, how few people they are going to see that day, whether they’re just going to the grocery store or mechanic’s shop, they will step out of their apartment with flawless, full-on makeup. Props to the Irish ladies, that requires some energy and effort.

11. Classrooms

When we navigate schools, classrooms are generally referred to by the building and then the room number. In contrast, at NUI Galway almost every single classroom has its own unique name. No “North Court 213”s or “Booker 156”s, only “D’Arcy Thompson Theater”s or “Cairnes Theater”s. Frankly, its awesome and each room feels so special and fancy-schmancy.

12. Baking Shops

There are a ton of baking shops around Galway. I don’t mean bakeries, I mean shops that sell cake decorating tools and cute aprons. Apparently there is a huge audience for cute cupcakes in this area and I have absolutely no problem with that being the case.

13. Phones

Just a small observation, but Irish college— or should I say university— students, use their phones significantly less than American students do <shrug>.

14. Parents

When American students go away to college, they’re gone for months at a time, only returning for holidays. Irish students— and I’m being completely serious here— return home every single weekend. Every Friday you can see all the twenty-somethings carrying their roller suitcases to the train station, returning to their mammy and her home-cooked meals. Tbh, I would do the same thing if I could.

15. Prices

You’d think something like “prices” wouldn’t fall under the umbrella of “details”, but I couldn’t leave it out. Things are so cheap here. Guess how much I just paid for a loaf of bread. Go ahead, guess. I dare you. I paid 0.70€. Thats 75¢. For an entire loaf of bread. An entire loaf of delicious bread. I don’t understand it, but I also don’t want to question it.

The only, only exception is the fruit. Coming from California it kills me to pay a lot of money for fruit, but hey, Ireland cant be too perfect, right?


Well, for the moment, th-th-that’s all, folks!


Ice-Cream Eater, Girl Who Can Very Rarely Force Herself To Put on Makeup, Pulp-Fan, Proud Member of the Westhampton Class of ’17


P.S. I feel bad that there aren’t many pictures I can use to accompany this list, so for now enjoy some sneak-peek pics from my recent visit to The Cliffs of Moher which y’all will hear about soon.


Muggin’ it with Oscar Wilde

Muggin’ it with Oscar Wilde


Muggin’ it castle style

Muggin’ it castle style


Muggin’ it on The Cliffs of Moher

Muggin’ it on The Cliffs of Moher



The Cliffs of Moher, a.k.a. The Cliffs of Insanity (according to The Princess Bride) or The Really, Really Scary Cliffs Dumbledore and Harry Land On (according to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

The Cliffs of Moher, a.k.a. The Cliffs of Insanity (according to The Princess Bride) or The Really, Really Scary Cliffs Dumbledore and Harry Land On (according to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince


Here we see O’Briens Tower, the highest point of the Cliffs of Moher, and a ruin strongly associated with ~traditional~ Irish music for some reason that nobody could seem to provide.

Here we see O’Briens Tower, the highest point of the Cliffs of Moher, and a ruin strongly associated with ~traditional~ Irish music for some reason that nobody could seem to provide.


Caption: And here we see my friend Murphy leaning off the top of the 400ft cliffs for some reason that he couldn't seem to provide.

And here we see my friend Murphy leaning off the top of the 400ft cliffs for some reason that he couldn’t seem to provide.


Me on the Burren shores (which are not to be confused with the Jersey Shores

Me on the Burren shores (which are not to be confused with the Jersey Shores)


Another pic of those gorgeous Burren shores.

Another pic of those gorgeous Burren shores.


angit, I just said Ireland can’t be too perfect. Stop being too perfect, Ireland.

Dangit, I just said Ireland can’t be too perfect. Stop being too perfect, Ireland.


SERIOUSLY IRELAND. Stop with your perfection right now

SERIOUSLY IRELAND. Stop with your perfection right now

Maddie in Ireland: Roots

January 13, 2016

There are many terms people use to describe me— “quasi-intelligent” “twenty years old” “emotional” “really, really emotional” “seriously how can someone cry that much” etc— however the one that most aptly describes me is, “Californian”. To my core I am a California girl, a girl who loves bright and loose clothes, someone wants nothing more to just ~chill, man~ and do her own thing, a girl who only wants to see you do the same, someone whose Instagram bio reads “I belong to the Pacific”, someone who is used to 70° winters. What I am not— even after two and a half years at Richmond— is a girl who is used to cold, rain, and non-draught ridden areas.

Taking these natural, life-long tendencies into mind, clearly the place where I decided to apply to study abroad is a country known for fog, shepherds wearing thick sweaters and wool caps, and rolling hills made green by extreme amounts of rain. I’m talking about, of course, Ireland. Éire. Erin. The Emerald Isle. The Most Ancient Land… take your pick.


She’s a beaut.

She’s a beaut.


I don’t know what drew me to Ireland. Maybe it was the book of Celtic fairytales my father used to read to me. Maybe it was because it was such a polar opposite from what I knew (Gettit? Polar? Because cold? No? Sigh.). Maybe it was just the romance of it all. Either way, here I am, listening to folk-rock music, sitting in an Irish kitchen, wearing Irish slippers, watching my first Irish sunrise, while eating a traditional Irish dish, tortellini with pomodoro sauce.


Joke’s on you, its totally not Irish.

Joke’s on you, its totally not Irish.


My roommates show up tomorrow morning, so I need to enjoy this solitude while I can, because once I finish this bowl of pasta and head to my room to sleep, I am completely in unfamiliar territory. I’m here entirely and 100% by myself and I have no idea what I’m in for.

I know that for the next four months I’ll always have pasta and pomodoro sauce, I know I’ll have the same sun to watch rise, and I know I’ll have the same music, but I also know that I have a lot of things in my future that are very different from anything/everything that I’m used to.

No matter how far I’ve traveled in the past, no matter how many countries I visited, I always knew that soon I would be headed home to my California. That is no longer the case. Yes, I’m a home-grown California girl in an unfamiliar environment, but I’m here for four months and I think it’s time to spread my roots. California is my identity, but maybe, maybe, maybe, it’s time to uproot myself. Uproot and relocate. Adapt and grow. Ditch my flip-flops for boots. Stop taking the 405 to the 210 and taking a left on Sunset and instead walk a mile to school. Try belonging to the Atlantic instead of the Pacific.

I’ll be seeing you in all the old (un)familiar places,

Maddie Lawrence

Brownie-Maker, Californian, Youngest of Six Children, Proud Member of the Westhampton Class of 2017

Austen in Ireland: Reflections of my Semester Abroad

June 9, 2014

After being back in the USA for two weeks, I figured I would finish up with some reflections from my semester abroad.

Looking back at my first blog entry, I’d hoped to really assimilate myself into the Irish culture.  I feel that I was able to do this to a certain extent, as I became a member of the UCD softball club and made good friends with many of them.

The UCD Softball Club

The UCD Softball Club

There was a mix of Irish, American, and Canadian, so I was able to meet Irish students as well as other Americans.  It was a really great choice to join this club and I enjoyed the social aspects of it too–the tournaments and the nights out in Dublin.  I also was able to enjoy the Irish culture outside of Dublin by visiting the cities of Galway and Cork.  These cities had a very different and more local feel to them than Dublin and were a nice change of pace.

However, I didn’t hang out with my Irish apartment mates as much as I had planned to at the beginning of the year.  I did spend a decent amount of time with them the first couple of weeks, getting to know them and such, but it seemed that they were very different from me and we did not have much in common.

Although we all got along very well, other than saying “hi” to them in the common room or the kitchen, I did not spend much time with them.  I played video games (FIFA) with the guys sometimes, but that was about it.  This is one of my bigger regrets of the semester.  However, I really was able to bond with most of the Irish people I met and they really were some of the nicest and funniest people I have met.  Their ability to enjoy life is really remarkable.

Another goal I had was to compare the different learning environments between the Irish universities and American universities.  Overall, I would say my classes at the University of Richmond were more challenging than the classes I took at University College Dublin.  The small class sizes at Richmond really require you to pay attention and not get behind in learning the material in class.

The larger classes at University College Dublin were held in lecture theaters and solely consisted of lecturing and very little class participation.   As for grading, there were very few assignments throughout the semester, and as a result, they counted for a fairly large portion of the class grade.  Through the whole first month, I did not really have much work at all.  Most of the classes had a sort of midterm essay assignment worth about 30% of the grade, and then a final exam worth about 70% of the grade.

However, there were some variations between the classes–one class had a couple of group assignments during the semester, another class had one large journal (7,500 words) for its sole assignment, and my Irish class had smaller continuous assignments as well as an oral exam.

The only stressful time during the semester was finals because there were so many exams occurring at the same time and they counted for a much larger portion of the grade than finals at Richmond.  It mainly consisted of essays so writing for a full two hours could definitely be demanding and intimidating.  Although I felt that I have learned many important things at UCD, my closer relationships with the professors at Richmond have allowed me to acquire more knowledge than when I was at UCD in Dublin.

Gaining my independence was also an important aspect of my study abroad experience.  Being an only child with somewhat sheltering parents, I felt that this would be a great experience for myself.  Although I did study abroad the previous summer as well, that was only for a month and this was for four months.

This study abroad experience definitely did help me become more independent, from planning trips across Europe by myself to cooking meals.  I definitely did miss my parents at times being halfway across the world from them but it was a great learning experience.

Also at the top of my list was being able to travel throughout Europe.  On my first blog post I made a list including the Cliffs of Moher, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, and Rome.  Although I did not make it to Prague and Rome, I did go to the Cliffs of Moher, Amsterdam, and Berlin!  Also other places I was able to visit included southern France, Munich, Liverpool, Newcastle, Belfast, Edinburgh and various places around Ireland.

Although I did not make it to some of the places I had hoped to visit (mainly Eastern Europe) I did travel a great amount and it was nice being able to visit some less-touristy cities such as Liverpool and Newcastle. It was nice meeting locals there too since they apparently loved Americans there.

Being able to travel and see new places has ultimately become more of an interest as a result of this trip and I hope to be able to do a Euro trip of some sorts next summer after I graduate.

Although I was very nervous and anxious about the semester I felt that I navigated along very well.  I was homesick at the start, but once I got acclimated and made friends the time flew by so quickly.  I still cannot believe how fast those four months have been.  I was really able to experience the Irish culture and all that it had to offer and I am sure to be there again in the near future.

Overall, saying I had the most memorable semester abroad is an understatement.  I not only had a fantastic time but I also was able to learn a lot more about myself from becoming more independent to also being more outgoing since I was in a new country and trying to meet new people.  It was a fantastic experience and I would most definitely do it again if I could.  The places I saw, the people I met, and the experiences I had contributed to the great memories I have of this semester.  Although I look forward to my senior year at the University of Richmond, I will always have an Irish part of me from these past four months.

Until next time, sláinte (cheers) Ireland.

The Temple Bar

The Temple Bar

The UCD Campus

The UCD Campus

The River Liffey

The River Liffey

Austen in Ireland: End of the Year – Cork, Liverpool, Belfast, and Finals

June 3, 2014

Right after getting back from Germany, I took the oral exam in my Irish class.  The Irish language was very difficult, but it was a neat experience learning another language.

The next day, I took a train ride to southwest Ireland to Dublin’s smaller sister–the city of Cork (Ireland’s second largest city).  Cork had a very different feel to it than Dublin with a laid-back attitude and with no tourists.  It was set on a nice river and had some beautiful architecture.  I would have argued that there were more pubs in Cork per capita than Dublin, which I thought initially was impossible.

We explored the city of Cork and ended up going to Blarney Castle.  A must while there was  ‘kiss the Blarney Stone.’ Kissing the stone is said to endow the kisser with the gift of the gab (or eloquence and skill at flattery).  The poison garden was another neat attraction at the Blarney Castle, which featured many lethal plants.

The following day, we took a day tour of the Ring of Kerry, a gorgeous attraction in the countryside of Ireland.  There were so many great landscape sceneries and also quaint Irish villages.  Although the weather wasn’t the greatest (fog really hindered our vision), the trip more than made up for it.

Ring of Kerry scenery.

Ring of Kerry scenery.

After getting back from this trip, I had my finals to conquer.  I had three finals in psychology, economics, and Irish.  My first final was a couple days after getting back from the Cork trip.  The whole experience of having to go off campus to an exam hall that fits 3,000 exam takers was intimidating.  I took a shuttle bus that UCD was running to the exam site and it took about ten minutes.

Once I entered the building, there were seat numbers for each exam taker at that time slot.  Once I walked into the exam room, it was overwhelming to say the least.  About 3,000 desks with uncomfortable chairs all lined up in many rows.  A lot different from Richmond, where exams are taken in classrooms.  The exam was fine but there were proctors walking up and down the rows about every ten seconds, which could get distracting.

Since I had over a week in between my first exam and other exams, I had planned a last trip to Liverpool and Belfast with my friends.

The city of Liverpool really surprised me.  It had one of the largest shopping areas I had ever seen and the dock area was very nice.  My friend and I had a jam-packed day.  We went to the Beatles exhibition, since no trip to Liverpool is complete without learning more about the Beatles.  Then, we went to three of Liverpool’s free museums.  We first went to the Merseyside Maritime Museum, where we learned much information about the maritime industry in Liverpool.  We then went to the International Slavery Museum, which explained the history of slavery in Liverpool.

Albert Dock, Liverpool.

Albert Dock, Liverpool.

The third museum we went to was the Museum of Liverpool.  This was a very interesting museum as it really explained the importance of the city, from the city’s large Chinatown to the rivalry between Everton and Liverpool Football Club.  Our next stop of the day was Anfield, the home of Liverpool Football Club, one of the most legendary soccer clubs in the world.  Our tour was fantastic and so was our very passionate tour guide.

Anfield, home of Liverpool Football Club.

Anfield, home of Liverpool Football Club.

We went into the press room where the manager talks to media after the matches, the home dressing room where Liverpool suits up, and the visitor dressing room.  We also were able touch the ‘This is Anfield’ sign which was an iconic part of the stadium.  After this, we went into the stadium and saw the field.  It was amazing being able to see this stadium and also sit right where the manager sits during the games.  It was pouring when we were outside in the stadium, but it didn’t dampen our spirits.  The tour was quite interesting and I was able to really learn a lot more about the history of Liverpool Football Club.  We also went to the museum and saw some of the trophies Liverpool had won.

We got into Belfast early the next morning and learned that there was a bike race going on in the city that weekend (the Giro d’Italia).  We got to our hostel and started our sightseeing in the Queen’s Quarter, which is where Queen’s University, Belfast is located.  This was a very beautiful campus with many historic buildings and nice greens.

Our next stop was the Ulster Museum, a National Museum of Northern Ireland.  It was such a large museum and very expansive.  It covered pretty much everything that had to do with the province of Ulster, where Belfast is located.  We then saw the Botanic Gardens, which had some interesting plants and flowers.  This day was so exhausting and we ended up resting afterward.

The Titanic Belfast exhibition was our main sight of the next day.  The Titanic was built in Belfast and the exhibition was amazing.  The exhibition had many interesting parts, including a ride (to see what it was like to work on building the Titanic) and also a virtual tour of the interior.  It was overall an excellent attraction.  Walking through the port of Belfast, it is apparent that Belfast had and still has a very large industrial part to it.

On our final day of the trip, we went on a tour to Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and Giant’s Causeway.  Our first stop was the rope bridge and it was a somewhat frightening experience walking over a very shaky rope bridge, but the views of the sea from the island once you got across were really great. The main attraction was Giant’s Causeway though.  Giant’s Causeway is an area of about 40,000 basalt columns (mostly hexagonal), which are the result of an ancient volcanic eruption.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Walking all the way out to the tip on the coast was magnificent but also tough as the rocks were quite slippery.

I found a nice rock at Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland.

I found a nice rock at Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland.

This was really amazing and we walked back up top on the cliffs and were able to really appreciate the Giant’s Causeway Coast from up above.  When we got back to Belfast, we saw the Belfast City Hall, a marvelous building, before eating dinner and then heading back to our hostel since we were both leaving early the next morning.

Once I got back to Dublin, I studied pretty much the whole time before my last two finals.  It was a long day but I got through it and I soon realized that my time in Dublin would be coming to an end as I had to start packing.

I spent my last day sightseeing in Dublin.  I went to get my last fish and chips, to the Trinity Book of Kells exhibition and the Long Room, to the Science Gallery at Trinity College, to the Chester Beatty Library (religious history) and Dublin Castle.  I also just walked around the city, admiring the Irish atmosphere one last time.  I walked around O’Connell Street (I got souvenirs for many people), Grafton Street, and I ended up at pretty much where I started in Dublin, St. Stephens’ Green, a beautiful park right in the center of Dublin, and took some time to think of the great adventures and memories I will have from this semester.

I soon went back to the university and started packing.  Packing started off easy, but got more challenging when I slowly started running out of space. The next day (my last day in Dublin) was very much a relaxing day and I spent it packing and saying bye to friends I had made.  Although I had to get up early the next morning to leave, I figured I should spend one last night with the UCD Softball Club, as I made some of my closest friends in that group.  I ended up not getting to sleep until 4 a.m. that night and waking up at 6 a.m. but it was all worth it.

Saying my last farewells to the people, the campus, and the city of Dublin was challenging, but I know I will be back at some point in the future.  It was my most memorable semester so far and I would say the decision to study abroad (I decided last minute) was one of the best decisions of my college career.  It really opened up my eyes to another culture.  I am currently sitting at my home in the USA relishing the memories and wishing I were in Ireland.  I can’t believe I sometimes wished I were back in the USA when I was in Ireland.  I must have been crazy.


Austen in Ireland: Animals, Softball, and the Parents

May 6, 2014

After St. Patrick’s Day, I had a week to relax and attempt to start working on my copious amounts of assignments due in April.  Once school started again, it seemed apparent that the second half would be more intense with the large number of assignments, finals worth up to 70% of my grade in some classes, and on top of that, trips to see more of Europe.

The weekend following the break, a friend and I went to the Dublin Zoo.  I hadn’t been to a zoo in about eight or so years and Dublin had a great zoo supposedly so I figured I had to go.  I was amazed by the size of it, as you could easily spend a whole day there.  They had so many different types of animals, but I was disappointed that they didn’t have sloths as well.

After this, we went to a Gaelic football match in Croke Park where County Dublin took on County Mayo.  It was one of my favorite experiences of the semester so far because the sport was really fast-paced and entertaining.  It ended up being a draw with Dublin staging a come-back and also having a chance to win it at the end.  I wish I could see a hurling match (the other sport big here) but I don’t think I’ll get a chance to.

Croke Park

Croke Park

The first weekend in April the UCD Softball Club had their “Intervarsities.”  Intervarsities is a tournament where other softball clubs around Dublin and Ireland come for the weekend and we play.  It was overall some great fun.  I played seven games over the course of the two day tournament, so I was exhausted to say the least.  It was great being able to meet people from other clubs as well as getting to know people from the UCD Softball Club better.  My UCD team ended up losing the third place game, but the UCD 1 team ended up winning the tournament.

The next weekend my parents came to visit me in Dublin.  I really enjoyed taking them around and being able to show off my knowledge of the city was definitely rewarding.  I realized how much I had missed them.  I showed them some attractions in the city of Dublin, such as Temple Bar with all of the pubs.  My dad really enjoyed having traditional Irish food and Guinness while in Dublin.  We also went to the Jameson Distillery that Friday which was a fun experience.



I showed them the UCD campus and they were amazed at the facilities and the size of the campus.  I wanted to see a UCD soccer game before I left so my parents and I went to see them play Dundalk right on the UCD campus.  Unfortunately, UCD lost but the fans were definitely entertaining.  I showed them around the city and we saw the Dublin Castle. My mom and I also had a chance to go inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a very impressive cathedral.

St. Patrick's Cathedral

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

The next day, we continued our tour of Dublin and I showed them around Trinity College in the city center of Dublin, the National Gallery of Ireland, and the Natural History Museum.  Needless to say, I had a very long weekend.  The last day before they left, they helped me prepare for the long trip back in less than a month and then we took a walk along the River Liffey and then up O’Connell Street.  I wish I had time to show them some of the Irish countryside but it was an overall fun weekend getting to see them.  It didn’t hurt that the weather was beautiful!

Austen in Ireland: Newcastle

May 4, 2014

So a couple weekends ago I went to Newcastle with a few friends.  I know what most people think when I say this,“Why Newcastle?”  After researching the city and wanting to see an English Premier League football match before the end of the semester, I decided on Newcastle.

Waking up a little after 3 a.m. on Friday morning was how the weekend began–my  flight was at 6 a.m.  I was shocked when I got to the bus stop and saw about 15 people at the stop at 4 a.m.  It was Easter weekend so I assumed that everyone was going home.  It was so crowded on the bus that it wasn’t able to pick up people at the later stops.  The airport was also crowded and I got to the gate right when my flight was boarding.  I landed a little after 7 a.m. and took a metro in the city center and got in no later than 8 a.m.  It was absolutely sublime walking around the city without anyone else around.  I wandered down to the Quayside (Riverside) as Newcastle is on the River Tyne.

Newcastle Quayside

Newcastle Quayside

This area reminded me a little bit of Richmond and the area around the James River.  There were many unique bridges over the river which were quite amazing.  I saw a massive part of the city as I wandered around the historical parts, the Quayside, saw both universities (Northumbria University and Newcastle University), saw St. James’ Park (home of Newcastle United Football Club) and also a couple of parks.

Newcastle University

Newcastle University

My friends from the University of Edinburgh arrived in the afternoon and we went sightseeing around the city, including the Quayside and Newcastle University.  We then checked into our hotel, literally right across from St. James’ Park.  Newcastle had two very large universities, so there was never a shortage of entertainment options during the night time.  Needless to say, we had a good time both nights we were there.  The first night, the place we went to even had a bouncy castle.

Saturday mainly revolved around the football (soccer) match at 3 p.m.  We walked around the city in the morning, got some lunch, and then proceeded to go the football match.  I was amazed by the stadium’s size right when we walked in.  It was a 50,000 seat stadium but right in the center of Newcastle.

Newcastle United

Newcastle United

Newcastle United was playing Swansea (from Wales).  We had a great view of the game from one end of the pitch.  It was such a great experience and the crowd went crazy when Shola Amoebi for Newcastle scored first.  However, Wilfried Bony for Swansea City scored a header and then a penalty kick, thus declaring a win for Swansea.  After the match, we wandered around the stadium and it was just an amazing experience overall.  We then went to the park right behind the stadium and it was quite unique being able to see the stadium while in the park behind it.

The next day we decided to go out to the coast of England on the east side since Newcastle was very close.  We walked around the village of Tynemouth and had an excellent lunch consisting of turkey, beef, and ham.  We explored the castle there and even two of my friends went into the absolutely freezing water fully submerged.  I just felt it with my feet and it was so cold.  We then made the trek back to Newcastle where there was a bus back to Edinburgh in the afternoon.  My flight wasn’t until later that night, so I decided to take a train ride out to Sunderland, a city close to Newcastle.  It was really quiet around, probably because it was Easter.  I walked around a park there and saw a little bit of the city.

This was one of my most memorable weekends because it was off the beaten path.  It was fun making friends with the Geordies (nickname for a person from this region) and they definitely did have a unique accent.  All in all, a fun weekend and I would definitely return back to the city.

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