Austen in Ireland: France for Spring Break

March 21, 2014

So here at UCD we get two whole weeks off for spring break (or mid-term as they call it)!  We got off the weeks of March 10 and 17.  So, the first week I traveled to see my parents in southern France, as they are renting an apartment for two months in the city of Aix-en-Provence.

On Friday, I flew from Dublin to Carcassonne (a town in central France) to meet my parents and we drove three hours to visit the city of Marseille.  Here, we walked around the port and saw some beautiful areas of the city, but our main reason being there was to see my first European soccer match, Marseille vs. Nice.  Marseille’s stadium was stunning with a capacity of around 60,000.  It was probably the largest stadium I have been in.  The match was an intense one but Marseille ended up losing 1-0 to a Nice free kick in the second half.  After a long day of traveling, I got back to my parents’ apartment around midnight.

Stade Velodrome

First European soccer match! Stade Velodrome, Marseille’s stadium

On Saturday, we explored the city where my parents are staying, Aix-en-Provence.  I had been there a couple of times, but it was neat to be there as a “local” instead of a tourist and going back to an apartment instead of a hotel.  We explored the many squares and an enormous market that was going on throughout the day.  We also walked down the Cours Mirabeau, the large street in the middle of the city lined by trees.  Another noteworthy site was the gardens in the Pavillon Vendome.  For dinner, we had great Vietnamese food.

Cours Mirabeau

Cours Mirabeau, Aix-en-Provence’s tree-lined promenade

We went to the Musee Granet, the main museum in the city, on Sunday.  It had paintings by famous painters such as Cezanne and Picasso.  It had a variety of historical objects too, from art to sculptures.  The museum is in a beautiful historic building.  We ended up visiting a different building across the city that is also associated with this museum that had even more pieces of art and a great deal of Picasso paintings.

On Monday, we went to Nice, a large city right on the Mediterranean Sea.  It is an absolutely beautiful city with breathtaking views.  We walked around in the historic part of Nice (Vieux Nice) and had a great lunch in a square overlooking a church.  After lunch, we walked up to a park above the city that had amazing views of the port of Nice, sea, and historic Nice.  It was great to be able to see the whole city.  After this, we walked along the sea and the famous Promenade des Anglais before going to the Cours Saleya (a humongous market with many things from food to paintings).  We left Nice and got back to Aix-en-Provence around dinnertime.  At that time, we went to get some falafel, as falafel is one of my favorite foods!  It was a great falafel sandwich.

Nice port

The beautiful port of the city of Nice

Tuesday, we stayed in Aix-en-Provence and explored some other attractions.  In the morning, we visited the Atelier Cezanne, the gallery where painter Paul Cezzane painted many of his paintings.  It was amazing seeing how similar this gallery looked to how it was when Cezanne was alive.  The old building must require a fair amount of maintenance.  After this, we had a great picnic lunch in the garden near his gallery, where Cezanne painted some of his famous paintings of Mount St. Victoire.  It was surreal being able to enjoy a traditional French picnic of a baguette and goat cheese while being able to take the serene landscape and the same mountains that Cezanne painted.  After this, we had a relaxing afternoon and had a Turkish dinner; I had lamb.

We traveled to other cities and towns in Provence (a region of southern France) on Wednesday.  First, we saw the hospital where Vincent Van Gogh spent some of his later years when he was experiencing emotional and mental duress.  After this, we went to the town of Saint Remy de Provence.  It is a classical French town with beautiful buildings, squares, and fountains all around the older part of the town.  There was a large market going on, where I had a fantastic sausage sandwich.  I also learned of a great drink known as a “Tango,” which is beer with grenadine syrup, quite a refreshing and delicious beverage.  After Saint Remy, we traveled to the larger city of Arles.  Arles is a very Roman city with a famous Arena and Antique Theater.  There were so many police officers around and we soon found out why; there was some sort of protest by farmers on a major street in Arles.  There were no less than 300 sheep in the streets!  After seeing this, it become a challenge getting around the streets of Arles, as the cops had many streets blocked off because of the protest going on.  Thankfully we got out of the city without encountering too much traffic and got back to Aix en Provence around dinnertime.  I had an amazing pizza (French pizzas are so tasty) with chorizo.

Thursday was my last full day in France.  We traveled to Cassis, a town on the Mediterranean that gets jammed with tourists in the summer, but was quite peaceful the day we went.  It was a beautiful town with a port and breathtaking scenery all around.  We went on a boat tour of the calanques (inlets near Cassis with amazing rocky structures; they are steep-sided valleys).  These were great to see and the boat tour went all the way into the outlets for us to see the beauty of these rocky structures.  After this, we walked around the port and headed back to my parent’s apartment.  For my last meal, I had a crepe dinner, which was a crepe with beef, crème fraiche, and onions, which was really delicious, as well as a dessert crepe which had apple and sugar.  We walked around the city of Aix en Provence for our last night to admire the beauty one last time.


A calanque, an inlet with towering rocky cliffs

Friday, I left to go back to Dublin and got back around 3:00 pm to meet up with my friends who were visiting from Edinburgh.  The next blog post will cover the fun St. Patrick’s Day Weekend!

Overall, it was a great week seeing my parents after not being able to see them for two months.  The awesome weather of highs in the mid 60s (I wore short sleeves every day) combined with the destinations that we visited and tasty food that I was able to eat contributed to one of the best weeks of my study abroad semester yet.

Austen in Ireland: Amsterdam

March 6, 2014

This past weekend I went to Amsterdam!  It was one of the best weekends so far.  I left Thursday afternoon taking Aer Lingus and arriving into Schiphol, the main airport in Amsterdam.  I met my Richmond friends studying in Edinburgh at the airport and we took a train to the central station downtown.  Our hotel, the Crowne Plaza was a really short walk from the train station.  Once we arrived, we mentioned to the person checking us in that we planned on going to the Anne Frank House (where she lived a part of her life).  Luckily, he recommended that we go late during the day and since it was around 5, we headed out there (this was a good decision because there was no line!).  It was a pretty small attraction but it was a really interesting historical site to see.  We then had dinner, where I tried bitterballen (a Dutch snack that is fried dough with meat inside) and then walked around afterwards, looking at the many scenic canals as well as the infamous Red Light District.

On Friday, we saw so many pieces of art.  First, we went to the Rijksmuseum, a humongous art museum (and the most popular in the Netherlands) dedicated to many different types of art.  The collection of the museum includes more than 2,000 paintings from the Dutch Golden Age from famous painters such as Rembrandt (The Night Watch is a famous painting at the museum) and Johannes Vermeer.  Afterwards, we went to the Van Gogh Museum, right across a beautiful green from the Rijksmuseum.  The Van Gogh Museum contained a variety of his paintings, such as The Yellow House, Bedroom in Arles, and Almond Blossoms.  Both of these museums are great and highly recommended for anyone even remotely interested in art.  The rest of the day was spent exploring more of Amsterdam and admiring its most unique sights, the canals.  That night, we went out to a square and enjoyed the atmosphere of night-time Amsterdam.


An Amsterdam sign with Rijksmuseum behind it


Leidseplin: a popular square during the daytime and nighttime

The next day, we decided to rent bikes.  This was such a great idea because Amsterdam is probably the most bike-friendly city in the world and everyone uses them.  There are basically bike paths alongside every street.  We decided to discover the whole Amsterdam area.  At first, we went up near the zoo area on the northeast side of the city, and went through some parks as well.  We then went south towards the museum district area.  We had a great lunch (my goat cheese sandwich was awesome) and then went through the old town area, where canals dominate the landscape.  After this, we went up to the northwest area called Jordaan, which was very scenic.  Also, we biked up to the riverfront north of the city near the train station on the Amstel River, another very scenic body of water.  After going through some more parks and squares, we finally returned our bikes after a tough five hours of biking.  We decided to then get souvenirs and rest in the hotel room after our long day (it was really nice having a much more comfortable bed than at UCD).  We decided to go out for dinner with really no idea of what we wanted so naturally we got Mexican food while in Amsterdam.  The fajitas were surprisingly tasty.  For this last night, we just decided to walk around the city again and experience the great atmosphere of Amsterdam one last time.

bikes Amsterdam

These canals are an iconic sight in Amsterdam

Sunday, we woke up early to get catch our planes back to our host countries.  I had a pretty uneventful plane ride and arrived in Dublin around 1:30 in the afternoon.  I already miss Amsterdam because it was such a beautiful city but I look forward to future trips to other great European cities!

Austen in Ireland: From Comedy to Softball

February 24, 2014

So my first major assignment in a class is due tomorrow and it’s a group assignment.  It was about applying Freud’s psychoanalysis concepts to a specific case.  It was pretty straightforward; hopefully all assignments will be this simple and short (it was only 1000 words for a group of 5 people).  I have a bunch of assignments due in March though, including a midterm in one of my classes, as well as essays in two other classes, so March will be a much more hectic month.  I like the majority of my classes, even though lecturing can get monotonous over the course of an hour, especially since I’m used to more class participation from Richmond.  I’ve learned that Irish is a lot tougher of a language than I thought it was!  I’m not even a foreign language person to begin with.

The weekend after my Edinburgh trip I laid low for the majority of the weekend, catching up on applying for summer research opportunities and running errands for the apartment and my room.  Then on Monday, my friend mentioned a free comedy show in town at the Woolshed Bar (an Australian/American bar that is humongous and has many TVs).  I ended up going with him and it was a great show, with a couple different comedians.  The greatest thing was that it was free, pizzas were half priced, and pitchers of beer were cheap.  The greatest moment of the night was that an American woman got kicked out for heckling.  She was not happy with the host’s hilarious impressions of Americans so she called him out for it.  She then proceeded for the rest of the show speaking under her breath and occasionally calling something out until she got kicked out about halfway through the show.  Unfortunately, she didn’t give Americans a very good name but my friend and I were reassured by later comedians that they like Americans because they thought we acted much nicer.

Comedy Show (1)

The Comedy Show

One of the great things about UCD is that they had a “refresher’s day”, where tons of organizations and sport clubs tried to get people to sign up for their respective groups.  I signed up for many clubs but only really followed through with one; the softball club.  I really wondered about playing softball co-ed because it’s not really popular in the USA for males.  I have a few years of experience of baseball under my belt, so I decided to give it a try.  I’m so glad I did because it’s a great group with a mixture of Irish, Americans, and Canadians.  They don’t really take softball very serious at all so it’s more of the social aspect that’s important.

For example, we went BYOB bowling on Friday night.  I was stunned that a bowling alley would let you bring in your own alcohol because that would never happen in the USA.  All the games you could bowl for 10 euros as well.  It was a really fun night and our group went to the bar across the street after bowling and it was a lot of fun hanging out with them because they’re a fun group.


Glenomena, where I live on the campus of UCD

The next day I spent mostly in my room watching Premier League soccer (my wish is to be able to travel to England at some point this semester to see a game), Six Nations rugby (Ireland lost to England) and Richmond basketball, who won!  Today, I knew I had to go to a fish and chips place because I somehow haven’t had them here in Dublin yet.  A friend and I went to Beshoff’s for fish and chips, and the fish was really crispy just how I like it.

I have a field trip tomorrow with one of my classes to counties southwest of Dublin, including County Kildare and County Carlow.  Looking forward to it!


Rainbow seen from my room

Austen in Ireland: Weekends in Galway and Edinburgh

February 17, 2014

So the past two weekends I went on two different trips: one to Galway, Ireland with the International Student Society at UCD and the other to Edinburgh, Scotland to see friends from UR studying abroad at the University of Edinburgh.

My trip to Galway started early on a Friday morning with a bus ride heading to the west coast of Ireland, where Galway is.  Our first stop on Friday was Clonmacnoise, a famous monastery on the way to Galway.  It was in a beautiful setting on the water.  We then arrived in Galway late afternoon and took a walking tour of the city.  The city is great and looked like a more cultural and less tourist-y version of Dublin.  It also has a great amount of history as explained by our awesome tour guide.  For dinner, some of us from the group had dinner at a very Irish place, where most of us had fish and chips.  It was delicious!  We then went on a pub crawl, where we went to four pubs and one nightclub.  There were some great pubs.  On Saturday, the amount of flooding caused a detour from our planned sites so we went to a small Irish town, which was nice but didn’t have much to see.  We then got back to Galway, where we went out to dinner on Saturday at an American diner and got American food- my first American food in Ireland!  On Sunday, we went to the Cliffs of Moher, probably my favorite place that I have been to so far this semester.  The cliffs were absolutely breathtaking and definitely a must-see when in Ireland.  Our next stop was the city of Limerick, which was quite nice with a river in the middle- similar to Dublin- and had a lot to see.  I definitely could have spent a lot more time than our hour allotted.  We then went to Moneygall, a small town where President Obama’s ancestors are from.  The town is all decked out with Obama memorabilia (there’s even an Obama café) and we went to the pub where Obama had a pint when he visited (which had even more Obama items on the walls).  I was exhausted when we got back on Sunday night but I still went to downtown Dublin to see the Super Bowl that night with a couple friends.

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

The trip to Edinburgh was even more memorable.  I left early Friday morning to catch my 12:30 Ryanair flight from Dublin to Edinburgh.  It was probably the shortest flight I’ve ever been since we were in the air for only 45 minutes.  Luckily my Ryanair experience was pretty unforgettable.  Once I arrived in Edinburgh, I met up with my friends studying abroad there (I know 4 UR students there).  We immediately climbed up a hill to catch views of Edinburgh.  I realized Edinburgh is very different from Dublin because Edinburgh is much more hilly compared to the flat Dublin and Edinburgh was much more a historic city.  I got a mini tour of the campus of the University of Edinburgh and was especially amazed by their eight floor library.  For dinner, I had some haggis (a Scottish specialty) as well as Irn Bru (a famous Scottish soft drink).  Both items were so great; I wish Ireland had these.  We went to a pub near the University popular with students, which had a live band with pretty good music.  On Saturday, we went to Edinburgh Castle (where there were some sieges during the Wars of Scottish Independence), which was beautiful and had some great history museums, where I learned quite a lot about the history of Scotland.


Edinburgh Street

A street in historic Edinburgh

We then went to the Holyrood Palace, which is where the Kings and Queens of Scots have lived since the 16th century.  For dinner that night, I had fish and chips with the Scottish rugby game on the TV in the restaurant, so a very Scottish night to say the least.  Sunday, I climbed up Arthur’s Seat (a hill with excellent views of the city) with my Richmond friend and his Scottish roommate.  They are experienced climbers so they wanted to go up the more difficult route where, given my lack of fitness, I almost fell down the cliff about four times.  I made it up somehow though and the winds were some of the strongest I’ve ever experienced, but the views were so worth it.  Going down was easier but it was so muddy and I didn’t have boots, so with my clumsiness, I fell not once, but twice right in the mud so my clothes got really muddy.  Our last stop of Sunday was at the National Museum of Scotland, which was a magnificent building; that had collections on pretty much everything, including animals, clothing, cars, and almost anything related to Scotland.  We only had about an hour because it closed pretty early but I could have definitely spent a whole day there.  Monday morning, waking up at 5:00, I caught my 8:00 am flight with an hour delay (I had a window seat without a window) and got back to Dublin in one piece.

Richmond Edinburgh

Richmond takes over Edinburgh

I look forward to what my future travels have in store for me!

Austen in Ireland: My Classes so Far

February 10, 2014

I’ve been really busy recently and haven’t even been able to post about my classes!  I am taking six modules (which are what they call classes here in Ireland).  I am taking three psychology modules: Lifespan Development, Counseling Psychology, and Visual and Social Cognition.  These are all relatively large classes of between 50-100 students (two are in lecture theatres) so it’s a lot different than Richmond.   Visual and Social Cognition seems like the most interesting to me of these classes as it’s topics are the closest to my interests in psychology.  For these classes, there are not too many assignments over the course of the semester so the few assignments count for a large portion of the grade, a significant difference from the US.

For my other three modules, I am taking a variety of topics.  For one, I am taking Health Economics, which will count as an elective class for my economics minor.  It seems like an interesting class because it incorporates economics, political science, and psychology topics.  I am also taking Irish for beginners.  This is my smallest class of about 20 students with all international students, which is a nice change from my other classes.  Irish is a difficult language so far and I’m not the best at foreign languages to begin with.  I find the class really interesting though so it should be a fun experience.  The last module I have is called Discovering Ireland: Landscape and it consists of just two field trips.  There are no lectures, we just go on the two trips and make journal entries about our observations from the landscape, buildings, etc. since it is an archaeology class.  I’m really looking forward to class because it seems like it will be a great excuse to see new areas of Ireland!

Overall, I’m looking forward to my classes and seeing what else I will be learning.  It is interesting to see the different teaching styles in Ireland, as there is virtually all lecturing and no class participation because of the much larger class size.  There are, however, smaller tutorial sections that meet a few times a semester for a couple of my classes that go over the topics in a smaller group.

photo (1)

The UCD campus!

Austen in Ireland: Orientation Week

January 27, 2014

So I’ve been here a week now and gone through orientation but it feels like I’ve been here so much longer with all that I’ve done!  Classes start tomorrow.

On Monday, I arrived in Dublin and took a bus to the UCD campus (luckily there were other study abroad students with me on the flight so I wasn’t completely lost).  I then checked in and unpacked all my stuff (two suitcases worth) for basically the rest of the day.  I also took a walking tour of campus to help me get adjusted to the campus, it’s a lot different from the brick buildings of Richmond because most of UCD’s buildings are concrete.  I then feel asleep at about 8 from the jetlag and slept for 12 hours!

On Tuesday, I went to IKEA (my first experience in an IKEA- it was possibly the biggest store I’ve ever been in) and purchased a bunch of things for my bathroom, bed, and kitchen.  I then went out into Dublin for the first time with some other students to eat dinner and go to a pub.  We went to a burger place and then went to a pub, where I knew I had to order a pint of Guinness, which was actually better than Guinness in the USA.  It was nice being able to see Grafton Street, the main pedestrian-only street with many shops in downtown Dublin.

Grafton Street

Top of Grafton street, a pedestrian-only street with mostly shops

On Wednesday, the actual orientation events began and they had an international student welcome.  It was in their biggest lecture hall of over 500 students so it was pretty intimidating compared to our small Richmond classrooms!  There then was an international student fair where they had some organizations with tables displaying their services to international students.  There was, for example, the career development centre as well as the library.  Also, there were the two main organizations that coordinate events and trips for internationals, the International Students’ Society (ISS) and Erasmus Student Network (ESN), which I joined for two euros each.  Both of these have trips and other events throughout the semester; I am hoping to go to Galway with ISS in a couple of weeks!

On Thursday, there were more orientation events.  There was one talk in the morning that was catered to study abroad students and laid out some tips about living on campus, safety, and how to register with immigration.  Then, in the afternoon there was an academic advisory for arts students (I’m technically an arts student).  This was centered more around academics and adding/dropping classes.  There was an Irish professor and he cracked joke after joke!  He went on about how they don’t allow guns on campus like in America or iPhones in class.  His jokes were sometimes borderline offensive but hilarious!  I then went to the on-campus pub after dinner, which was pretty nice and modern for an on-campus place.

Friday was finally a relatively down day for me.  I went to throw the Frisbee around with a friend for a little in the afternoon.  At night, the Erasmus Student Network held a pub crawl, so I decided to take that.  There were over 200 students on it, so we had a large group but we were divided into three groups.  We went to four pubs over the course of the night and it was really fun.  Some pubs were better than others but I would definitely return to a couple of them.

Temple Bar

Temple Bar is a world famous!

On Saturday, they held a “Discover Dublin” day trip so I decided to go on that.  In the morning, we went to the Guinness storehouse, a must-see when in Dublin.  It went over the process of brewing Guinness, which was really interesting.  There was a room at the top of the building at the 7th floor which had a 360 degree view of the city which was awesome to look at!  I had  delicious Guinness stew for lunch which and then we went to the “Guinness academy” where we learned how to pour Guinness, learning it is a two pour process.  We got certificates after we learned how to “pour the perfect pint of Guinness.”  For the second part of our day, we went to Croke Park, the fourth largest stadium in the world with over an 80,000 person capacity.  The all-Irish games are held here where all the counties of Ireland fight for the trophy in the sports of Gaelic football and hurling.  It was really neat learning about these two sports because I’ve never seen them before.

Croke Park

Croke Park: home of gaelic football and hurling; all Ireland games

For Sunday, I went on a Dublin walking tour of the city.  We saw St. Stephen’s Green, Trinity College, and many other sights in the city.  It was nice to finally be able to get my bearings somewhat.  I then finally got an Irish phone so I can now communicate with other students at UCD.

I’m looking forward to classes in one way but in another way I wish I could just discover Dublin, Ireland, and Europe for the next four months!

Austen in Ireland: Packing for the Voyage

January 20, 2014

So, I have started packing and I leave in a couple of days for Ireland!  I’ve realized just how challenging it is to pack four months worth of stuff into two suitcases.  It has been tough to figure out how much of what types of clothing and toiletries I need to bring but I think I’m in good shape (even the outlet plugs are different in Ireland).  The weather in Dublin will be cold for the majority of the semester and definitely a lot colder than Richmond weather so I brought a lot of jackets and heavier clothes.


Getting ready for the trip. Just have one more suitcase to pack!

As I look ahead to the trip I am looking forward with excitement to learn about a new culture and to see new places.  I am getting there a week before classes start so I can get used to the layout of the campus of UCD and Dublin.  But I am also very anxious because I am living in a new place by myself while also cooking some of my own meals.  On the plus side, I get my own bedroom and bathroom, something I did not have at UR!  I have never been this many months away from my parents, so it should be interesting.  I’m sure that it will be one of the best experiences of my lifetime, as I had one of the greatest times in France studying abroad this past summer.  I am used to traveling so I’m not too worried about the airplane ride and getting to UCD and I don’t really get homesick too easily so I should be fine.

During my time in Ireland, I am planning on traveling throughout the countryside, Cork and possibly Northern Ireland as well.  I will definitely also visit Edinburgh, Scotland because I know a few students from UR studying abroad there.   A plan for a Euro trip after the end of the semester is also in the works because I really want to take advantage of being in Europe and seeing some of the greatest cities in the world!

Austen in Ireland: Introductions

January 17, 2014

Hello all

My name is Austen and I am departing for Europe within a week!  I am from Richmond, Virginia, although I was born in New York.  At the University of Richmond, I am double majoring in psychology and cognitive science as well as minoring in economics.  I chose to study abroad at University College Dublin (UCD), the biggest university in Ireland, just outside of the city of Dublin.  I have heard some of the greatest things about the unique culture of Ireland and just how friendly the Irish are (they also supposedly have great humor)!  Also, I have never been to Ireland and I really wanted to explore a new place as I have been to continental Europe multiple times because my parents love traveling as much as I do.

One thing that appealed to me about UCD specifically is that it is the largest university in Ireland with over 24,000 students, which is interesting to experience after going to such a small school in Richmond.  It has a very large percentage of international students with 20% of the school population being international.  It is also ranked in the top 100 universities in the world.

UCD Dublin school crest (1)

UCD Dublin school crest

One of my main goals is to really assimilate myself in the Irish culture through my study abroad adventure.  For my living situation, I will be the only American with five Irish students in my apartment so that is a start!  I really wanted to go to an exchange university where I would be with students of the host nation.  For this reason, I chose to travel to an English-speaking nation to allow me to bond with others much easier.  I studied abroad in France during the summer but it was tough to make friends with the French (probably because of my horrible accent) so I made friends with mostly Americans.

Another goal is to see how different the learning environment is outside of Richmond.  Since it is a much larger university, there will most likely be larger classes but possibly more resources as well.  It will be interesting to see how different academics will be at UCD compared to Richmond.  There are generally fewer assignments which count for a larger part of the grade and finals week will certainly be a very chaotic time since some finals can account for more than 50% of your grade!

I really want to see the countryside of Ireland, which is supposedly beautiful, such as the Cliffs of Moher.  I also want to see a lot of Europe, like Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, and Rome to name a few cities!

I have learned the importance of being able to appreciate cultures and places from my parents and I really hope that this semester will teach me even more about a different culture, much like my experience in France over the summer did (a reason for studying abroad again).  I also hope to take an Irish language course and an Irish culture (Irish studies) course, which will help me learn even more about Ireland.

I am nervous and anxious in a way to be leaving all my friends and to make a whole new group of friends but I really like that I am the only one from UR so I can make a complete new friend group and immerse myself in the new culture.  It will be fun to live in an apartment with people I don’t know and will definitely require cooperation and teamwork!  I’m also so excited to start a new adventure in my life.

UCD Lake (1)

UCD even has a lake in the middle of campus like Richmond!

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