St Patrick’s Day!

This post is a bit delayed as UCD is currently on spring break and I’ve been taking the time to travel to both Italy and France! That’s a post for a different time though. Today’s blog is going to be about the joy it was to spend St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland. I chose to study abroad in Dublin because of the amazing city, the 1/8 Irish in me, and because UCD has a great English program (i.e. what I’m majoring in). But a bonus for studying abroad in the spring was that I would be in the homeland for St. Paddy’s Day! Before we even left for the semester, my friends and I had planned to meet in Dublin on March 17 to celebrate. Coming from Holy Cross, so many of us have Irish heritage and what better way to pay homage, since we couldn’t be on The Hill, than by being in the Emerald Isle itself?

Soon enough, March 17 was coming up quickly and we were set to have visitors for the big day! I can’t believe how lucky I was to have my best friends join me. I would have to say it’s the luck of the Irish indeed. We had people visiting from Oxford, Florence, Paris and Barcelona! It’s sadly a little bit true that the U.S. has Americanized St. Patrick’s Day so the city was overrun with Americans and other study abroad students. It was the most crowded I have ever seen Dublin. Regardless, it was such a unique experience to see people from all over the world coming to The Island to celebrate.

The roads closed up pretty early for the parade so we had to make sure we got into the city in the a.m. We got all decked out in green with shamrocks painted onto our faces and burrowed our way through the crowds, packing onto the sidewalk to watch the parade. What an incredible thing to say I’ve done. When the parade ended, swarms of people made their way to the pubs where we spent the rest of the day. Listening to live Irish music, chatting with friends, meeting new people and overall just celebrating. The Irish know how to have a good time for sure. Sláinte sláinte sláinte!

Paris!

Even though Ireland never ceases to amaze me, it has been a dream come true to travel around other parts of Europe while studying abroad. In my last blog post, I had just visited England and Northern Ireland. But most recently, I took a weekend trip to the City of Love! Paris was incredible. I was anxious about traveling in a country where I didn’t speak the language, but I got the hang of basic words and phrases quite quickly. It certainly helped that my travel buddy took French for 12 years though.

We went in with very little planning, all we knew was the hostel we were staying at and that we wanted to see as much of the city as possible. Paris is huge! Way bigger than I thought. But even so, we packed a week’s worth of sights into just two days. When we arrived at the airport Thursday night, we had plans to meet up with a friend of ours who is studying abroad in France. I have to say, those Metro lines are quite tricky, but after just a few hiccups, we found our way to a restaurant in the third arrondissement. French food is incredible. I swear I did not have one even mildly sub-par meal while there. The first night started with a bang: tagliatelle with roasted vegetables.

Our first full day began bright and early. We got up and out for our first stop: Notre Dame. Although it’s still being reconstructed after the tragic fire in 2019, we were still able to gawk from the outside. We even had breakfast at a little cafe nearby. I got the most amazing crepes that I have ever been graced with.

The next item on the bucket list was taking an hour-long walk along the Seine to the Eiffel Tower. Buying tickets ahead of time made them relatively cheap and so we were able to take the elevators straight to the very top. I was in awe of the view around us. Paris sprawls for miles, this is when I realized just how big the city actually is. I felt as though I could see Ireland from where I was standing; the buildings rolled out for miles. It’s so lovely that the Tower remains the tallest structure in the city. Where New York City has a skyline of scrapers, Paris’ is the Tower and a line of buildings composed of spectacular architecture.

After the Tower, we grabbed some lunch and went to Musée d’Orsay to see the impressionists. I felt like a little girl all over again looking at Degas’ paintings of the ballerinas. From there it was time for a reset back at the hostel before going out to a late dinner. Paris is so alive into the latest hours of the night, it’s comforting knowing how much there always is to do.

Day three consisted of lots more walking as we explored. A bit of Paris shopping, popping by the Louvre, the Musée de l’Orangerie to see Monet’s lilies, and then the Eiffel Tower at night! The food on this day may have been even better than the last two because for breakfast I had a croissant and a ham omelet that genuinely melted in my mouth. I didn’t know eggs could do that! Lunch was a traditional French dish: beef bourguignon and dinner was a heavenly salad auvergnate.

Genuinely, there aren’t enough words to describe how magical the city of Paris is and I’m so lucky to have been able to casually pop over there for the weekend. Traveling through Europe is a priceless experience. Cheers!

Creating a Home and Exploring Europe

Part three of studying abroad in a new country and I have to say this place is starting to feel like home. I cannot believe that I’ve already been here for six weeks. That’s really just an unfathomable concept to me. Things that seemed so scary at first, have become so natural. Taking the bus into the city to sit in a coffee shop and do homework is a breeze. Maneuvering my way around many expansive buildings on UCD’s campus has become second nature. Sitting in lecture halls with over 100 people… well we’re getting there. I have this whole new sense of independence, this satisfaction that I’m capable of living somewhere new and exciting and making it feel like home. I won’t lie, I miss Holy Cross quite a bit; that comfort of having a routine and seeing familiar faces everywhere you turn. I miss my family too, and the feeling of knowing that they’re only ever an hour and a half away from me at most. Now, there’s an entire ocean between us, and that’s a weird concept. But here I am, I’m doing this! I’m making a life for myself and it’s wildly rewarding.

While the routine of the weekdays allows me to feel at home in Dublin, the weekends continue to prove to be the perfect opportunities for travel and immersion. In the last two weekends I have traveled to two other countries: England and Northern Ireland. The first of these weekends, I slept on my roommate’s floor at Oxford for three nights and then had my first hostel experience in London for two nights. The ease with which we were able to step on a plane and fly to another country was incredible. There was so much to see in both of these cities and our days were full with exploring Oxford and touring London. Northern Ireland was also a pleasant surprise; we took a Black Taxi Tour of Belfast and learned all about the Troubles. From there we headed to the mesmerizing Giant’s Causeway! Overall, the first weekends of traveling to other countries in Europe have been great successes.

Creating a home away from home has had its ups and downs, but finding normalcy across the Pond is coming readily now and being able to “country-hop” is a privilege that I don’t let go unnoticed. Cheers!

 

Ireland Update! The Start of Classes and More

It’s been two weeks since my last post and so much has happened! For one, classes have started. Officially two weeks in. Classes at UCD are quite different from those at Holy Cross. They’re more lecture based and quite large in comparison. Schedules also seem to circulate around two major exams rather than periodic assignments. Regardless, it is a new, exciting experience, and I am thrilled to be a student here! The weekdays consist of going to class, keeping up with reading, cooking meals, going to the gym and spending my evenings with friends. While these are all things I would do at Holy Cross, doing them in a different country is an otherworldly experience. Every day my friends and I have the opportunity to venture into Dublin for any of the many activities the city has to offer. After a day of classes we often make our way into the center. We will either head to a restaurant (Dublin’s food options are never ending) or a pub to listen to Irish music. Night-time is almost magical in a place where the people take every opportunity to celebrate life. That’s one thing we can all learn from the Irish: why wait for the weekend?

That being said, the weekends do offer an infinite array of adventures for those seeking them. Since we last spoke, I have hiked in Howth (a small coastal town just outside of Dublin), surveyed the Sunday market, kissed the Blarney Stone, stayed at a B&B in the lovely town of Cobh, and ventured through the city of Cork. All of which was a dream. This weekend’s adventure includes flying to London to see what our neighbors have to offer. Plus visiting my roommate who is studying abroad at Oxford! I couldn’t be more excited. Cheers!

My First Two Weeks at UCD

My first two weeks at University College Dublin are officially complete! I flew out of Logan last week and arrived with plenty of time to explore as classes don’t start until this coming Monday. It’s certainly been an adjustment living halfway across the world, but as each day goes by, the more I’m sure that this is where I’m meant to be. We are so lucky at Holy Cross to be able to study abroad and immerse ourselves in the culture of other countries. For me, Dublin holds a special place in my heart as I have family from Ireland and the literature here is unmatched; a perfect fit for an English major.

While I can’t speak much on the college itself as classes have yet to begin, I can say that this city is spectacular. My roommate and I spent the first few days just wandering the streets and getting lost on purpose. Every turn we took led us somewhere new and exciting and we always happened upon the most unique little places. Getting here early allowed us to take our time navigating the buses (although it’s shockingly easy to do, and that’s coming from someone that grew up in a place with zero public transportation), recovering from jet lag (which took way too long), and all around getting used to the place we’re going to call home for the next five months.

 

Some highlights that have stood out from the last couple of weeks have been:

  • Taking a tour bus to the Cliffs of Moher and Galway. Scheduling a tour was so easy to do and relatively cheap for all that we were able to see and the planning that was done for us. The Cliffs were spectacular and even though the wind almost threw us into the Atlantic a few times, the view was magical.
  • Trying different pubs and restaurants all through Dublin. As my Dad always says, Ireland has really upped their game from potatoes in the last few decades. A favorite foodie adventure of mine was going to afternoon tea. The scones and finger sandwiches were a chefs kiss.
  • Making some excursions to Dublin features including: the National Botanic Gardens, the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin Castle and Trinity College.
  • Stopping in quaint bookstores and boutiques on the streets and finding local vendors to admire.
  • The music in Ireland is also incredible. Every place I go into has an amazing soundtrack on. From local pubs to musicians on the streets, the sounds of Dublin are beautiful.

There is so much left to do during my time abroad and I can’t wait to keep you all updated. Cheers till next time!