Leaving Ireland

I can’t believe that is is my last entry! And that right now I’m sitting in Heathrow airport awaiting my flight home. It’s so hard for me to describe my exchange experience because my words don’t do it justice. I’ve honestly had the most incredible time overseas. There are things that I have gained that I knew I would, like an understanding of culture (both Irish and Australian) and a newfound confidence and independence. What I didn’t anticipate about my time abroad, was how much I would learn about myself. By meeting a whole new group of people I’ve learned so much about my personality and how I interact with others. Saying goodbye to these people was the most surreal experience. My exchange friends were also my family whilst I was abroad and I spent every day with them. I’m going to really miss them. Before I left for Ireland, my best friend wrote a quote to me in a plane letter “you’ll come back the same but different”. At the time I had no idea what she meant. But as I progressed through my exchange I slowly began to understand that I’m still myself but my exchange has developed me as a person and given my experiences I couldn’t have received at home.

I was also amazed about how settled I became in Ireland. When I left I had a routine, I was comfortable and no longer missed home. At first I found it really hard that my family was asleep when I was awake and visa versa. But it meant that I learned to deal with crisis or moments of weakness by myself and then was able to reflect on it by talking to them when they woke up.

It was small things that made me realise how much I’d adjusted, like the fact that I no longer had to convert euros into Australian dollars in my head to see home much something was worth. That I started using similar slang to the people around me and also adjusted my studying methods to suit the Irish system. I was also surprised about how confident I became overseas. When I left for Limerick I had EVERYTHING planned. I created a document with flight times, maps of cities and how much money I anticipated to spend in each place. By the end of my trip I no longer needed to use these crutches when traveling. I took this a step too far when I took a weekend trip to Belfast and got there without any maps of the city and no idea where I was! Taking weekend trips has allowed me to leave my comfort zone and experience new things. I feel like less of a homebody now and I’m excited to get home and explore Australia.

Although I’m sad that I’m leaving a whole life behind, I’m excited to get back to Australia armed with everything I learned overseas. I’m mainly excited for the warm weather, Australian accents and avocado (Irish avocados are rubbish). I think what I’ll miss the most about Ireland is being able to fall asleep to the sound of rain, Costa Christmas drinks, being so close to a diverse range of countries and the people.

I honestly can’t recommend doing an exchange enough. Yes there are times where it seems overwhelming and daunting, but that moment when you realise that you have created a life across the world from everything you know, it feels fantastic.
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Traveling Alone

At the moment university is going really well. I’m currently in the 9th week out of 15 of my semester so I’m more than halfway there! Since I’ve last written I’ve taken two trips away. Firstly I travelled to Belgium with a group of friends when we had 2 days off uni. Then the following weekend we had a bank holiday so I went to Brighton by myself. I had a fantastic time on both trips but it made me think about the differences between traveling alone and traveling in a group.

I’ve always been an independent person, I’ve never felt the need to have someone else around all the time. This doesn’t mean that I don’t get lonely or want friends. I really value all my friends and family and love spending time with them. It just means that I don’t mind going to the movies or shopping by myself. It therefore made sense that I wouldn’t mind traveling by myself and its actually something that I really enjoyed. My opinion about traveling by myself is that for me it was all about preparation. Making sure that I had all my hostels and transport booked well in advance made me feel better about being in a foreign place alone. I also found it handy to have a google map saved on my phone of how to get to the hostel from the airport.  When you travel in a group you tend to prepare a lot less, because there are more people to rely on. There are more phones and maps to follow so you feel safer, but you can still get really lost…trust me. Story time, with Alanna:

When we got to Brussels, we had 5 people and so we had to split into two cabs. We had the address of our apartment and I jumped into the cab with 2 of my friends. Our cab driver told us that there was a protest in the city but he got us to the apartment pretty quickly. My friends weren’t so lucky, their cab driver decide it was too hard to navigate the protest and dropped them at a metro station. Now they had the address, but no map and no wifi. They did have a working phone… but we didn’t. So they didn’t know what station to go to. Eventually they found a hotel with wifi and made it to the apartment after being lost for 2 hours.

So you can get lost in a group but I guess you feel safer. Although there is safety in numbers, as long as you’re smart and don’t have all your valuables in one place I’ve found it perfectly safe to travel buy myself.

Something that I loved about my trip to Brighton is that I got a chance to walk along the “beach” and have a think about the incredible experiences I’ve been having on my exchange. I’ve found that my time in Ireland is incredible but I spend my time either at class or with friends or studying so it was really nice to relax in Brighton.

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( One downside to traveling alone is that you have to take a lot of selfies)

Belgium was a completely different experience the 5 of us all had different things that we wanted to do so our time was filled with activities and I was so grateful it was.

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( This was the last time I ever saw that hat)

For example going up the bell tower in Bruges was a scary experience for me but I wanted to do it because the group did it and I was so glad that I did. Another experience I would have never done if I had been alone was going on a boat tour in Bruge, here’s me and some swans in the most well timed selfie ever.

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However in Brighton I decided to book tickets to see a show in London and take a day trip, which is something that is harder to arrange especially if you have a big group. You can also go back to the hostel for a nap without feeling guilty if you’re by yourself. So when you travel buy yourself you have complete control over what you do, but in a group you get the opportunity to see things you may not have considered. My recommendation? Do both! Traveling in a group is always fun, but sometimes its also fun to concur your fear and take a trip by yourself.

Irish Slang

I’m back again! So I’ve been away from home for exactly 2 months now and been living in Limerick for 6 weeks. It’s strange to me how easily I’ve started to fit into Irish culture, at first the way everybody talked and acted seemed strange, but now I find it normal and even caught myself doing some of it.

For example Irish people say the word “grand” all the time, I’m grand, you’re grand, everything is grand. Fun fact, if something is grand, it is not as good as when something is great, which makes no sense. It’s probably because they throw out the word grand every 5 seconds it loses its meaning.

My other favourite Irish saying is “no bother”. It’s just so easy! None of this “ oh don’t worry about it” “ oh your fine! Haha”. Just no bother move on. If somebody bumps into you “no bother”. If someone steals part of your traditional Irish meal of chips with a side of chips “no bother”. If someone hits you with a truck “no bother”. If someone steels your pint of Guinness…. Ok no then you have a problem.  It’s simple subtle changes, but it really makes you feel like your part of the culture when you start using it.

Classes are also in full swing here, I’ve discovered that many of my courses consist of a group project and an exam, with an essay sometimes. Although the concept of having to form a group to work in is initially daunting, I’ve met some cool people, both Irish and international. Also all of my teachers are so welcoming to the international kids and they all offered to help us find people to work with.

Last Friday we went to a Munster Rugby game locally in Limerick, which was a really strange experience. Firstly the crowd was really close to the players. Secondly when a player went to kick the whole crowd went silent, no matter what the team. There was just another level of respect that I’ve never experienced at a sporting event before.

12067822_10153271323255208_1502202654_nThe following day we went to Galway, which excited me muchly because my favourite Irish song is Galway girl. I think the high point of Galway was firstly seeing the sea for the first time in months and secondly sitting in a pub watching Australia kick England out of their own Rugby world cup. Super satisfying.

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I’ve had a blast being so close to the UK when the world cup is being hosted in England, it’s been a really fun atmosphere here. Another Irish saying that I’ve picked up at Irish rugby matches is “Come on lads”, which in the Irish accent is MON LADS. Just shout that whenever and you sound like a professional Irish rugby enthusiast.

The next weekend I spent the day seeing cork and Blarney castle. Here’s me kissing the Blarney stone and gaining the “gift of the gab”.  Basically now I’m super eloquent and have the ability to talk for ages about nothing. Score.

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This looks ok but is actually terrifying, like there is a man holding you there so you don’t fall to your death. Ok I’m exaggerating slightly. It was grand. No bother.

I enjoyed cork as well, but I have to say I’ve become a bit of a castle enthusiast since I’ve been here so I really enjoyed the first part of the day wondering around the grounds.

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Also apparently I’m scared of horses

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Aran Islands and Bunratty castle

It’s crazy that only two weeks has passed since I last wrote, it feels like so much has happened! Basically I’ve settled into classes and life at Limerick. Clubs and societies are really big here at UL and I’ve joined the swim club, drama and the international society. It’s been really fun to be able to immerse myself in stuff that I don’t get to do back at CSU. The student union and international society also organise heaps of trips so I’ve recently been to the Aran Islands.

Storytime with Alanna so on the Saturday morning that I went to the Aran islands all my flatmates had gone home for the weekend. So I got up in my pj’s to get myself some breakfast and I come back…my door is locked. I have nothing to open it, except a fairly useless bowl of muesli. I don’t know who to call, I don’t know how to call the number that I don’t know. It’s 7:30 and I have to be on a bus at 8. My highly intelligent solution was to push on my door really hard. Which conveniently worked. I’m fairly sure I didn’t shut it properly. So I actually spent 15 minuets almost crying about a door that wasn’t even shut Anyway nothing wakes you up on a Saturday morning more than thinking your going to have to wonder around university in your pyjamas.

I wasn’t too sure what to expect from the Aran Islands because I didn’t really look up what it was, I just went for something to do #wellresearchedtraveler. I also didn’t really think the whole “island” thing through because it literally didn’t occur to me that we would have to get on a boat until we got to the dock. I guess you could say that was my bad. Apart from the crippling seasickness that nearly lead to my demise, it was a pretty good day. Turns out that the Aran islands are an incredible place. It is a little Irish community, on an island (no way!)  and it was just incredibly cute and fascinating, here’s some pictures because my words are not doing it justice.

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On this day we also experienced some traditional Irish weather. It rained for 10 min, then the sun came out, then it got cloudy, then the sun came out, then it rained with the sun out, then it got super windy, then it was sunny. What an emotional rollercoaster. But I am so grateful that it didn’t rain all day!

DSC02790 much wind. Much squinted eyes.

So the weekend after that I decided to stay local in Limerick and go an see Bunratty castle nearby. I thought that it would just be a castle but it turned out to be a town with displays of Irish homes throughout time. It was really cool to see all the traditional Irish farm houses.

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My castle. Bow down Peasants
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Also I bought this incredibly traditional and not at all touristy hat.

I have managed to get all my classes into Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays. Although it means these days are busy, it also means that I can travel around Ireland on the weekend and still have time to study on the other weekdays. Its also really convenient that Ireland is so small that you can get wherever you want to go in pretty much a few hours. Overall I’m having the most incredible time! More soon.

Settling in to Limerick

I’ve arrived in Limerick, bright eyed and terrified! I’m not afraid to say that the idea of starting university where I literally knew nobody was a really daunting experience for me. I’ve been here for 2 weeks now and I’m having a blast! The first week was designed to help us settling in and now I’ve just finished my first week of classes.

Story time, with Alanna:

The first day I got here nobody had moved into my apartment yet. There were welcome drinks at the student bar that night. I kind of felt like, “What am I going to do? I don’t know anyone, am I going to go and just hang out by myself?” I had about a half hour debate with myself about whether I would go or not. No really, I got dressed up and then just lay on my bed for 15 minuets just talking to myself. I convinced myself that I would force myself stay for exactly one hour. When I got there I recognised some people from the airport bus although I had barely spoken a word to them on the bus, I clung to them. Then an orientation week leader came over and made it her mission to introduce us to every group in the room, although we didn’t quite make it all the way round, I ended up meeting some really cool people. I’ve actually become good friends with the people I met on that night. I can’t imagine how different my university experience would have been if I didn’t bite the bullet, put my fear behind me and go out by myself that night.  Here’s me not drinking Guinness because beer is gross.IMG_4725

News flash, culture shock is an actual thing… who knew? I think I just got really overwhelmed when I first arrived, I had so many things that I had to do and I didn’t know where to start. As well as having to go shopping and buy literally everything, I also had heaps of forms to sort out as well as my timetable, visas, gym membership, opening a bank account and trying to find my way around the huge campus. But slowly each of these problems was solved through the various workshops and campus tours. About 13% of Limerick’s students are international so the university really understands the concept of culture shock and the process of settling international students into their university. This means that we had heaps of workshops and busses into town in orientation week.  It’s like every time I freaked out about something, the Uni was prepared with an answer.  I am really grateful that Limerick has such an extensive international program. It helped me get through the initial shock of getting here and allowed me to have a really fun first week.

Here’s me enthused by life with a statue for a treasure hunt

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Then on the Sunday after living by myself for a week, I finally got some housemates! I’m living with 5 Irish people in an apartment. It was a little intimidating at first that they all lived together last year, but they have been really welcoming and answered all my questions. So I ended up being really lucky that I have made friends with international students and Irish students. Also the view from my apartment is incredible!IMG_4723

So I’ve been at Limerick for two weeks and I’ve made friends and managed to find all my classes and I’m starting to feel really settled… more soon.

Paris and Venice and Munich… Oh my

That was such a cheesy title. I’m so sorry. I’m tired from all the travel i’ve been doing #segway. So on the 14th I hopped on a bus and set off around Europe for a tour with this incredible group of people.

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So much happened over the next 11 days, I walked a lot, it rained a lot, I ate a lot of cheese, but mainly it was the most incredible experience that I would recommend to anybody.. heres how it went.

Paris

What can I even say? Paris was definitely the drawcard for any tour that I was doing. We got to do a city of lights tour, bike tour and had a picnic by the Eiffel Tower. One day was not enough, I barely got the chance to touch the list of things I wanted to do  and I was really glad that I had booked a hostel for 3 extra nights after my tour.

Highlight- taking this incredible photo11888108_10153174160175208_4109566296116291877_n( seriously.. do you know how well timed this is? have you ever tried to take a jump shot. It’s really hard).

Switzerland

Switzerland was just so incredibly beautiful. My favourite thing was learning about all the laws they have, for example it is illegal to make noise after 10pm. Like the cops can show up and arrest you. For making noise. At 10pm. Yeah. I got the train up to the top of Europe and I’m not going to lie I was a little disappointed, because of low cloud, we couldn’t see a thing. Here’s me.. not being able to see a thing. DSC01840

Having a great time looking at the sweet view–>

So all I really got was an expensive meal and altitude sickness. HOWEVER I’m sure it would have been beautiful on a nice day, but I wish I’d gone paragliding instead, NEXTIME.

Venice

Venice was probably my favourite stop on the trip. It was the majority of my group’s least favourite destination, probably due to the fact that it poured with rain and everyone got lost. But I was prepared for the rain, I had experienced squelchy shoes and soaking clothes in London, so I stayed pretty dry in my boots and very flattering poncho. I think it was my favourite stop just because it’s so different to anything else in the world. I just found it incredibly beautiful… and the gelato was the best

Highlight- Just walking around and taking in the beauty of the city.DSC02086

<– I’m flirting with danger by taking off my poncho for a photo.

Munich

Not going to lie, I didn’t really see much of Munich. It rained whilst we did our walking tour and we didn’t get in until about 5pm. BUT we were there the day I turned 21. I booked the tour not expecting to do anything on my birthday and I had celebrated with my family before I left. So the fact that my group made a big deal of it made it really special. Here’s me being terrified by an apple strudel covered by a wall of fire. At least thats what it felt like. Have you ever been sitting somewhere enjoying your authentic German meal and then suddenly 15 people start yelling at you in chorus and there is fire? I have. It was awesome.

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Highlight- Turning 21 in a foreign country!

Rhine Valley

The sun was incredible. The rhine valley was such a beautiful place, but Literally all I remember was that it was sunny. After days of horrible weather… it was the best.

Highlight- The sun came out. Did I mention the sun? It didn’t rain. It was super sunny. Also there was sun. Here’s me basking in the glorious sun

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Amsterdam

Amsterdam was an incredible way to finish off the trip! We got to cycle the streets and I discovered that the most dangerous thing about doing a cycling tour in a foreign country is not the pedestrians or the trams or the cars, because they all know what they are doing. No it’s the fact that you are in a pack of 20 tourists who have no clue what they are doing, including myself, which adds to the “adventure”.

Highlight- The boat cruise because it was one of the last things that we all did as a group.

To finish up I’m going to get real. I was super nervous about traveling alone and doing a tour by myself. Much to many people’s surprise I can be really shy and didn’t want to isolate myself.  My advice to anyone is that you don’t have to be nervous. Firstly everyone is in the same boat ( no really. we caught a ferry. HA) and most people are alone or only know one other person. Secondly it gives you a chance to meet a whole bunch of people, I didn’t have to be shy because i didn’t have anything to lose! Just do it. Seriously. Book a tour. Just make sure you pack a sturdy poncho.

Anyway! Next stop… Ireland! Uni starts Monday!

To London and Beyond

My adventure has begun! I really enjoy the concept of travelling, but I always seem to forget about the part where I hurtle through the air with 800 other people for 20 hours. On my trip from Sydney to London, I discovered something worse than hurtling through the air with 800 strangers… being stuck on the tarmac for 3 hours with them. It’s frustrating because if you’re hurtling, at least you’re getting closer to your destination. A delay is just a little extra time for your butt to fall asleep and your legs to cramp up. But I am greatful that it did only end up being a 4 hour delay and that we didn’t have to stay in a hotel for a night, because that would have been incredibly frustrating. The best part about being stuck on the ground, was that they served us hotdogs! Not just regular hotdogs, these hotdogs were incredible! I think Qantas should put less time and funds into plane technology and more into ensuring that every flight has these incredible hotdogs. So we finally took off and thoughts such as this went through my head “we’re not moving fast enough to take off. We’re dead. Have the delicious hotdogs weighed us down? How dare they betray me”. Turns out the pilot actually knew what he was doing, and I actually have no knowledge of aerodynamics. Go figure. Anyway the rest of the flight is a blur of neck pillows and swelling feet and BOOM now I’m in London!

I spent most of the first day walking round like a zombie. I did a free walking tour which was actually incredible, it was really good to get orientated.  One thing I have noticed about London is that they don’t have the best street signs… I’ll never take the incredible Sydney street signs for granted again. Most of the times that I’ve gotten “lost”, I haven’t actually been lost, I’ve either been on or walked past the street I wanted, due to lack of adequate signage.

On my second day I bought one of those hop on hop off bus tickets and it was very over priced, but also actually really fun. Thats right, I rode about on a giant cliche double decker red bus. It was awesome. Here’s some shots of me in my natural element.

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My selfie game got so strong

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So I did one loop to work out what there was (Buckingham Palace, London Eye, Big ben, Tower of London ect) and then a second loop where I got off at the places I wanted. It also began to rain. Here’s some shots of me in a poncho.

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So yeah I’m having a great time so far. Also remember how I was nervous that 20kg of luggage wouldn’t be enough? Well I HATE it at the moment because my bag is so heavy and it’s so full that every time I want to take something out I have to repack the whole thing. I know I’ll enjoy having the extra stuff once I get to Ireland, but at the moment it’s a pain.