HI AGAIN! I saw another study abroad student who did a question/answer thing in her blog, and I thought it was a really good idea, because when people talk to me about my experience they usually ask the same several questions. Plus I have literally nothing to do right now and I’m super antsy so this is a good way to entertain myself.

Q: What are your classes like?

A: Classes here are structured pretty differently. Lectures meet once a week for two hours at a time with a ten minute break in the middle. Sitting through a two-hour lecture is as painfully boring as it sounds. Luckily, all of my classes transfer back to U of I directly. I’m in a BADM 323 equivalent, BADM 374 equivalent, a starred marketing elective (services marketing), and an international business elective (Irish history). Yay! Another main difference is that the final is worth a ton of your final grade, which will be very stressful in about two weeks. Finally, the grading scale is extremely different. Getting a 70% or above is considered an A, yet an A is supposedly still pretty difficult to obtain, which is unfortunate. Interestingly, the Irish students all seem pretty content with simply passing the class, which you only need a 50% to do. Consequently, all the study abroad students come across as type A psychos, which maybe we are.

Q: What’s your living situation?

A: I live in a house off-campus with 5 other girls: 2 are from U of I, 2 are from Tulane, and 1 is from George Washington. Living off-campus is fun because we’re close to the city center, groceries, and it’s easier to go out. However, we have to rely on the horrible Dublin Bus system to get to class, which is annoying and unreliable. It also is slightly obnoxious when we have to stay on campus all day sometimes to do group projects, use the library, etc., because we end up buying food on campus and being gone all day. Finally, if you’ve never gotten to hear me rant about this, the house’s WiFi is THE WORST EVER. It goes out at least twice an hour, and half the time if we’re all home my computer won’t even connect. Can’t deal. This is also an issue because most cafes close early, by 7pm, and our school library/buildings close at 10. Clearly the Irish are not supporters of late night studying?

Q: Were you friends with your roommates/people from your program before coming here?

A: Nope! I had met some of the U of I kids at our orientation/meetings last semester before leaving, but I didn’t actually know any of them. My friend Medha and I learned we have like a million mutual friends and would run into each other every Thursday night, so we were pretty excited to spend a semester together, but I didn’t actually know anyone really well before coming. However, most of the U of I kids have become pretty good friends, and we’re planning LOTSSSS of reunion activities over the summer and back at U of I πŸ˜‰ yay!

Q: Do you go to class or do any work, ever?

A: This question annoys me. I’m still taking 4 upper-level courses in my major, I still go to class, and I still do work. Additionally, I took 19 credit hours my spring sophomore semester and will be taking 18 when I get back to make up for a lighter course load this semester. The difference is that I get to take awesome trips every weekend, but during the week I still have quite a bit to do. This was especially true earlier in the semester when I was doing 1-2 group projects a week. Yes, my life is incredibly awesome, but I still do obnoxious homework just like everyone else. God.

Q: Do people ever think you’re Irish?

Lol no. Never. I fit in okay because I’m super pale and have light hair and features, but once I open my mouth people can tell I’m from America, and the really smart ones can tell I’m from Chicago. Additionally, the Irish tend to dress up and look nicer for life in general, so when I do things like wear leggings and a noodie to class it becomes pretty obvious. Also, Irish girls look extremely “done up” to go to class… full make up, straightened and teased hair, fake tan, the works. I don’t get it… it’s 9am; what time did you get up to start this process, and was it really worth it?

Q: What are the biggest differences between Ireland and America?

A: Luckily, Ireland is not a dramatically different place than home, because people speak English and many of the products we would use at home are more available here than they would be in other parts of Europe. The biggest and nicest difference is that every single Irish person is super friendly and kind, and they seem to enjoy Americans, which is great. The Irish spend less time working and more time enjoying life. Actually, from what I can tell, this is true in all of Europe. The most difficult difference is that those convenient, one-stop superstores we have like Target and Walmart simply do not exist here or in Europe in general. There’s a grocery store, a pharmacy, and oddly specific specialty stores, but I’m still not sure where I would go to get stuff for a kitchen, or a nice set of sheets, or something like that… luckily our house came with all that or I’d probably still be without. I REALLY MISS TARGET.

On a similar note, studying abroad creates a different college experience in general. Despite taking a normal-ish course load, I only spend 9 hours a week in class, and I have no chapter, exec, sorority events, etc. to keep me busy, so I have WAY more time on my hands than I’m used to during the week when I’m not traveling. So once my homework is done I usually don’t know what to do with myself. For entertainment, I have been watching Modern Family on Netflix UK when my internet works, and reading for fun when it doesn’t. I think I’ve read like 10 books this semester, which is not usually something I would do during the school year.

Q: Are you homesick?

A: Despite my track record in my youth as being the child who would get homesick at sleepovers and have to go home early, I was never really that homesick. I had some brief culture shock that was exacerbated by the fact that I was jet lagged for a week, but as Ireland is not overly different from home, that wasn’t really wasn’t an issue once I got on a real sleep schedule. I have brief flashes of extreme homesickness at random times, like when all my besties are at Thursday Night Bro’s, Unofficial, the Indiana buzzer beater, the snow day, random things that would have been really fun to be at… but then I remember I’m traveling the world and I feel better. I do really really miss my family, friends, and the convenience of life in the States, though.

Q: Are you ready to go home?

A: I briefly mentioned this in my last point, but the answer is no, not really. I have brief moments where I’m like OMG I MISS AMERICA like when my wifi won’t connect and I need to do something or when I realize how none of our kitchen appliances actually work. But, my dad and grandma will be here this weekend, I’m going to Barcelona the following weekend, and I’ll be in Portugal for a few days the following week. Then I have a few more things in Dublin I want to see. But once finals are over and I’m totally drained from them I think I’ll be ready to get home! Though I already know I’ll miss Ireland and being abroad a ton next year/forever.

Q: Why did you pick Ireland?

A: I used to want to study in Barcelona, but then I learned they speak Catalan and only let three students in, so I let go of that dream pretty quick. But then I saw there was a program in Ireland and I was like… yes. I’m super Irish and thought it would be amazing to spend the country in the homeland, and I was right πŸ™‚ It would have been nice to study on the continent of Europe for some easier travel, but I honestly have no real complaints about my location. Ireland is amazing and I would encourage everyone to visit if they can!

Q: (vague questions about Irish stereotypes)

A: Yes, it rains more than at home, but it hasn’t been nearly as bad as I thought it would be. January and February were definitely unpleasant, but that would be true at home as well. The difference is that when it’s cold here, it’s a damp cold that stays with you for hours, so that part is definitely NOT fun.

Yes, the pub culture here is pretty strong, but Dublin is not full of a bunch of alcoholics staggering around every night. I have not noticed an abnormal amount of drinking, but I am a college student at U of I, so I might be biased on that. Also, during the week, pubs close super early, which I hadn’t expected. But during the weekends you can bet all of the pubs and clubs will be full of people looking for the craic – Gaelic for “fun!”

That’s all I can think of for now! Hope you enjoyed a little insight into my ever interesting thoughts. Have a good day!

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Greetings friends! I am currently feeling rather pretentious, sitting in a Starbucks as I type away on WordPress and listen to the Lumineers… help… but it’s time to update the blog!

This weekend some friends from U of I and I took a two-night trip to Amsterdam. After an extremely early flight Friday morning, we arrived, not really sure what to expect from the city. It’s definitely an interesting place! The city itself is very pretty, full of canals and old, gorgeous buildings. It reminded me of Venice and, from what I’ve seen in pictures, Prague. As far as I know, Amsterdam is not home to much history, though it is home to a couple of industries I won’t be mentioning here in an effort to keep this blog rated mostly PG. However, I will say that I am honestly baffled at the types of things that are legal in Holland. Okay, moving on….

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Am I in Amsterdam or Venice?

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Despite the fact that I look hopelessly American, I was asked for directions twice…

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Friday we indulged in some of Holland’s delicious food- pancakes and fries to name a few things- which was delicious as always, though I have to admit I’m actually looking forward to getting home and starting to eat healthily… all this heavy Euro food is amazing but I’m genuinely concerned my summer clothes won’t fit me like they used to. Such an abroad problem πŸ˜‰

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Nomzzzz

We walked around and got to know the city a little bit, found the hostel, and took a much needed short nap before heading back out to the Heineken Factory. Much like the Guinness Factory in Dublin, they created a fantastic experience that’s much more than just how the beer is made- there were different ad campaigns (yay ads!), history, interactive games, free samples, a boat tour, etc. It was fun! I actually don’t like Heineken at all so the free samples weren’t really doing it for me, but it was still a good time. After, we wandered around until we found the IAmsterdam sign, which is a photo-happy tourist’s favorite spot in Amsterdam. Feeling pretty goofy after our free samples (there were a lot of samples), we had a long and obnoxious photo shoot that resulted in some pretty amusing photos. Finally, we ate a delicious dinner at a stir fry place and went to bed pathetically early, though it was much needed after our long day and 3am wakeup call!

ImageI’m normal.

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Pretty friends and me!

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“I” for Illini!

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“Wheeee!”

Saturday was a pretty chill day. We started off with a delicious breakfast (see below)! For some reason, Holland is obsessed with the “English breakfast,” which is a huge meal consisting of fried eggs, toast, tomatoes, mushrooms, baked beans, and sausages. It’s actually sort of ridiculous but I gotta admit it’s great. We walked around and explored the city and its many canals before taking our Heineken boat tour, as it had been full the day before. The tour ended at a giant Heineken souvenir shop where we all got free bottle openers, which was pretty legit. Next, we continued walking towards the Anne Frank house/museum, where we took a tour. Unfortunately, I had never read the book in school so I didn’t know much about it (brief tangent- honestly, how does Grayslake pick the books we read? Why have I read stupid books like Watership Down and A House on Mango Street but not Anne Frank’s diary? Can anyone explain this to me?) but it was still very touching. I am becoming slightly concerned at all the tragic history I have gone out of my way to see this semester; it’s kind of a morbid interest I guess but well worth learning about. Funnily enough, if you haven’t heard already, Justin Bieber had been at the house just the day before! After the museum, we found dinner and then dessert, of course, before taking a quick detour to the Red Light District. We wandered through the sketchy alleys that are, indeed, lit up with red lights, for about 1.5 minutes before deciding we had gotten the gist and escaping. Too weird. Finally, we headed back to the hostel before exploring the night life. Interestingly, going out was the least expensive part of our trip- apparently Amsterdam believes in good drink deals, though everything else was absurdly expensive.

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More nomz

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I felt kind of weird smiling next to this, but…

Sunday we packed up our stuff and headed out to Keukenhof, a famous tulip garden just outside the city. Before going into that, I would first like to congratulate myself for being able to pack for 3 and 4 day trips in a single backpack. This is not an easy feat, guys, but I can do it now! However, my backpack weighed as much as a small child, so luckily we were able to find storage at the airport before catching a bus to the garden. The garden was insanely beautiful; I have never seen so many tulips and flowers in my entire life- and a lot of them hadn’t even bloomed yet! My friends and I walked around admiring them and taking a bunch of pictures, enjoying the beautiful weather- no jackets needed! After a couple hours there, it was time to head back home to Dublin. Unfortunately, the hour-long flight was absolutely miserable as I had a pretty nasty head cold, which, combined with the pressure from the flight, was enough to make me worried my head was actually going to explode. My right ear still hasn’t popped yet! But, it was worth it for such a fun weekend.

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Friends!

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Beautiful flowers everywhere

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Random child… I can’t look at this without laughing.

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It’s pretty insane how quickly this semester has been passing. I’ve been here for 13 weeks to the day and I still have moments like “wow, I really cannot believe this is my life.” I’ve had some amazing trips and still have Barcelona and Portugal to look forward to! This is my second to last week of classes and I have just one more assignment and a presentation before the ever-dreaded finals. Because I am occasionally exceedingly unlucky, I have two finals on Saturday the 11th and two more Tuesday the 14th. Like, why can’t they be a little bit spread out? I guess it will be nice to get them over with quickly though and have a few days to enjoy Dublin before I head home on the 19th! People keep asking if I’m ready to go home, and for now, the short answer is no, not really. The weather here is finally clearing up and I am unbelievably excited for Spain and Portugal so I am still thrilled to be here! However, when all that is over and all I have to look forward to are exams, then yes, I will be quite ready to get home and enjoy the summer and see my friends and family.

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Cherry blossom trees on my street!

I guess that’s enough rambling for now! Hope everyone has a great week, wherever you are πŸ™‚ xoxox

Hey friends! Happy April! April is always an insane month for me at school (various birthdays, philanthropies, formal, Mom’s weekend, Atius… it’s insane), and April while abroad is proving to be no different!

Last weekend three of my housemates and I set to Galway to go on a few day tours around western Ireland. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but as soon as you leave Dublin, Ireland is unbelievably beautiful. Don’t get me wrong, Dublin is great and a super fun city, but the true beauty of this green island is definitely elsewhere. The first day we went to the Cliffs of Moher, which I had been super excited to see! They did not disappoint…

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Roomies!

That night we had a fun night out in Galway, which is such a cute city! Unfortunately, due to the day trips, we didn’t get to see much of the city during the day, so I definitely want to go back! The next day we took a trip to the Aran Islands, a set of three tiny islands about 9 miles west from the coast. This was possibly one of the saddest places I’ve ever been. There is literally NOTHING TO DO THERE. Actually nothing. It was freezing cold so we couldn’t rent bikes, so we basically just looked at the few shops on the island all day. The entire population gets everything they need for survival at a single Spar (a convenience/grocery store). The island is also a gaeltracht, or an Irish-speaking population, and is basically really antiquated. Not to mention I had HORRIBLE motion sickness from the ferry ride (and, okay, had stayed out a little late the night before… but I swear it was mostly motion sickness) and felt like death all morning. Riding the struggle ferry. So yeah this was not my favorite day, but we had a few laughs at the situation and still saw some great views, and I got a super warm Aran Islands sweater so that was good too πŸ™‚

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Studying in Ireland means you look at lots of cemeteries.

After catching up on some sleep in our surprisingly nice hostel that night, I felt like a real human again the next day and was able to enjoy our trip to Connemara, which is basically just a nature district that’s basically been untouched, and a stop at Kylemore Abbey. Kylemore was home to a super rich MP (member of Parliament) and his wife and is now famous for reasons I don’t understand, but it was still pretty cool.

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The Abbey

After a pretty chill week, two friends from U of I and I headed out to London late Thursday night! This was my first RyanAir experience, so that was something. RyanAir is a discount airline with questionably certified pilots, a severe lack of organization, and obnoxious flight staff who continuously try to sell you things, but it’s super cheap so it’s worth it, maybe. After a longgg bus ride from the airport and a cab ride to the hostel, we finally made it and crashed into bed around 2am to rest up for the weekend!

FRIDAY:

We went to Camden and Portobello Market and admired all the cool/weird stuff they have for sale. Unfortunately, due to limited funds and absolutely no backpack space to bring things back, I didn’t buy anything, though the clothes were extremely cute. After perusing those, we went to Leinster Square to find discounted tickets to see a show that night, and stumbled upon M&M World… obviously we had to go in. We also saw London Tower and London Bridge before one of the highlights of the trip… seeing A Chorus Line! It was hugely entertaining and energetic and I loved it. The dancing was amazing minus one brief point where they do a questionable ballet combination, but other than that it was great!

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SATURDAY

My friend Nathan and I took a trip to Stonehenge while Medha visited some family she has in London. Stonehenge is in the middle of nowhere; the drive was oddly reminiscent of my drive down 57 to school. No one knows for sure exactly how or why Stonehenge was made, which reminded me a bit of the Newgrange tomb in Ireland I saw with my parents. They think it likely had something to do with time and the sun, because the sun shines through certain areas on the solstice, equinox, etc. It’s a world heritage sight so I’m glad I got to see it!Image

ImageSUNDAY

We started the day with the London Eye, which is a giant ferris wheel that provides some great views of the city. Fun fact, London is four times the size of Chicago, which I was not expecting at all. It’s HUGE! Luckily their public transportation system is super easy and convenient so we actually didn’t have to do a ton of walking. Anyway, the Eye was fun, but after came possibly a highlight of my life… the Harry Potter exhibit. OMG life. This was extra amazing because it was actually sold out for the entire weekend, but Medha basically called them and begged and managed to get us two tickets for Sunday. Bless her. (I screamed and caused a scene when she told me. Why am I so embarrassing?) The exhibit is HUGE and has tons of sets, artifacts, etc. about the making of all 8 films. It was truly amazing to see my favorite series to come to life. While my obsession has definitely diminished since the series ended, I was pleasantly reminded of my many good memories of seeing the movies with childhood best friends, finishing the seventh book reading side by side with my brother because we couldn’t stand waiting for the other to finish, and basically growing up with the series. So glad I got to go! (Also I can’t get this paragraph to un-italicize so… yeah. Sorry.)

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What? No, I’m not tearing up, there’s something in my eye…

MONDAY

We reserved this day to basically see all the tourist-y sights we hadn’t gotten to yet- Big Ben, Westmisnter Abbey, and the Buckingham Palace.Β  After walking around and buying some souvenirs, it was time for a Ryanair adventure back home to Dublin. It was an amazing weekend; I loved London and would definitely go back! (Even though it’s unbelievably expensive and will cost way more than you expect just to exist there. It’s gross.)

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This is my “I’m really tired of carrying this backpack all day” face.

Now I’m home for about 72 hours before jetting off to Amsterdam! I actually have some homework to do so I guess that will keep me busy until then. Until next time! Miss you all!

Welcome to Caitlyn’s spring break recap! After a mere 8 weeks of classes, during which I spend 9 hours a week actually in class, we received a completely undeserved two week break to travel Europe. My life isn’t real. To begin… Italia!

ROME

Rome is awesome. Exhausting, but awesome. The best thing about it (besides the food, obviously) is that you’ll just be walking and then out of nowhere a hugely famous and historic landmark appears out of nowhere. For example…

Image Victor Emmanuel (unified Italy) monument

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The Colosseum! We also were invited by some Italians to take part in their Harlem Shake video, so that was normal. We haven’t been able to find the video yet though 😦

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New friends?

ImageMy sorority sister, Allison, and me in front of the Trevi Fountain! Our second meet-up that week- Dublin the weekend before, and in Rome a week later!

We also took a day trip to Pompeii, which is something I’d always wanted to do! I don’t even remember what grade I was in when I learned about it but for some reason I thought it was super interesting (my interest in tragedies and disasters is more than slightly concerning…) and hoped to see it one day. When I realized it was close-ish to Rome, I died of excitement and decided we had to go. It was a struggle to get there as I had stayed out way too late and was on my death bed (hi Mom and Dad!) and was absolutely no help to my friends as they tried to figure out the train system. However, we got there eventually and enjoyed beautiful weather in Pompeii and in the ruins!

ImageThis is my ecstatic to be in Pompeii/I finally don’t feel like death anymore face. Also I manged to get sunburned this day. Classic.

ImageRuins and mountains!

We also went to the Vatican, which was cool enough but the Sistine Chapel was closed and that was the part we really wanted to see… but it was closed for conclave so I guess that’s legit. Anything that gives me an excuse to go back to Italy! Our ticket also allowed us to go to St. Peter’s Basilica, and we trekked to the top for a great view…

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ImageSt. Peter’s Square and Basilica! And approximately one billion tourists.

FLORENCE

After a whirlwind 3 full days in Rome, it was off to Florence, my favorite city of the trip! Florence is way smaller and is just really charming and easy to navigate. I already can’t wait to go back someday. Highlights include…

ImageBrunelleschi’s Dome! After reading a whole book on its construction for AP Euro, I was so excited to see it in real life.

ImageView from the top!

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Illegal pictures of David

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Viewpoint where you could sit and see the whole city! We chilled there for a long time enjoying the sun and people-watching.

ImageSO MUCH GOOD FOOD! We went to several really delicious restaurants and kept getting free drinks with dinner, so… that was good.

VENICE

Easily the most unique city I’ve ever been in, and so pretty. I have talked to several people who LOVE Venice, and while I liked it, it wasn’t my favorite. Basically all you do there is go to St. Mark’s Square, maybe go on a gondola ride, walk around and buy leather and glass products, and eat a lot. So we definitely did all that, but I don’t think I’d ever need to go back.

ImageArtsy picture of gondolas

ImageExcited!

ImageVenice is home to some really weird night life.

MILAN

We spent one night and day in Milan before flying back to Dublin because the flight was so much cheaper it was comical. It’s a very urban city that didn’t necessarily feel that European, except for the people were well-dressed to be in the fashion capital of the world!

ImageEl duomo! Yes, another one.

ImageAnd yes, we climbed to the top! 400 stairs? No sweat.

And that more or less concludes my brief-ish summary! Italy is an awesome country with something beautiful to see around every corner. Just be prepared to walk a TON, which is much needed when consuming that much delicious pasta, pizza, wine, and gelato. Oh and I had gelato I think 11 times, so that was really healthy.

ImageThe cone was filled with chocolate. It changed my life.

DUBLIN

St. Paddy’s day in Dublin was definitely an experience, and not what any of us were expecting. Obviously, it’s mostly an Americanized holiday, made evident by the TONS of tourists in the city. Pretty much everyone I saw out and about that day was either an American tourist or an Irish high schooler trying alcohol for the first time. HOT MESS. Probably theΒ  most amusing/embarrassing part is when we wanted Irish coffee with breakfast and were denied because it was a Sunday and they couldn’t serve till 12:30. Um, I think God would have made an exception just this once…

ImageIrish breakfast!

ImageAt the parade, which was also weird. Lots of abstract floats that no one seemed to understand…

I’m glad I got to experience the day in Dublin, but I would strongly dissuade anyone thinking of traveling to Ireland specifically for St. Paddy’s. Stay in Chicago where drunk Irish Americans belong πŸ˜‰

BERLIN

Off again for spring break part two! I really wanted to go to Berlin for the history there, and luckily I had my chance over break. As anticipated, there was lots of history, along with more delicious food. Berlin is a huge city that’s very spread out. Between that and the snow, I felt like I was in Chicago!

ImageMemorial to the Murdered Jews in Europe, or the Holocaust Memorial. I learned about this in a Holocaust class I took sophomore year and honestly never thought I’d see it in person, so I was super pumped. It’s abstract on the outside because its creator believed traditional memorials were not effective reminders of the brutality that took place. It’s not supposed to symbolize anything specifically, but it looks like a bizarre cemetary. Unfortunately, due to the snow and our inappropriate footwear, we didn’t walk through, but instead visited the underground display. There, there is a Room of Dimensions explains the vastness of the Holocaust and breaks down the number of deaths by country. Next a Room of Families has notes and letters that were recovered, and finally a Room of Names plays a recording of every known name and a short bio of each victim. It would take over 6 months to read all of them out loud. This stop was obviously somber, but I’m so glad I got to see it.

ImageCheckpoint Charlie, the crossing point of the Berlin Wall for Western allies crossing through. I had literally forgotten everything I learned about the Cold War so this memorial was a great refresher.

ImageMore Berlin Wall!

ImageTop of the TV Tower, the tallest and most pointless building in Germany. Seriously, this building is only home to a skybar and a revolving restaurant. Super cool but I never figured out why the built it.

BRUGE

After an EXTREMELY long day on various trains from Berlin, we finally made it to Bruge, Belgium, which might be the cutest city of all time. You can walk basically the entire thing and we saw all there was to see within about 6 hours. Also, the food in Belgium is actually unreal. Like better than Italy. Amazing waffles, chocolate, and fries!

Image Bell tower in the market square

ImageNaturally we went to the top. This was the fifth tower I climbed to the top of over break. So many stairs!

ImageThey call Bruge the Venice of the North!

BRUSSELS

Last stop of the trip! I was prettyyy much exhausted at this point and the weather was god awful, so we only spent a few hours out and about. The highlight was probably a little food crawl we went on- waffles, sandwiches, fries, and a chocolate. It’s honestly a miracle my clothes still fit after these two weeks. Good thing we walked incessantly!

ImageAtomium structure thing. No clue why it exists.

ImageI have no words for the amazingness of this waffle.

ImageOr these fries.

ImageThere’s a famous statue in Brussels called Mannekin Pis that is literally just a 60 cm statue of a little boy peeing. I don’t even know. We didn’t see the actual one, so I’ll leave you with this chocolate version.

THAT’S A WRAP

Anddd that concludes my absolutely crazy spring break 2013! 8 cities, tons of food, one billion miles walked, and countless laughs and memories. I can’t imagine another time when I’ll have two weeks to do whatever I want in Europe, and I’m so grateful for this opportunity, as well as for my amazing parents who have provided everything I need for my study abroad experience. I can’t believe that I was once the little girl who got homesick at sleepovers and had to go home, and now I’m here on this unreal adventure. Life is grand! Thanks for sticking with me through this long post; hope you enjoyed it!

Hi there! Doesn’t it feel like I just wrote one of these? This week FLEW by!

After a lovely time with my parents, I was joined almost immediately after returning home from Limerick by a steady flow of friends from my sorority! It was so great to see some familiar faces and I was thrilled that they all loved Ireland. But I mean… who wouldn’t?

Friday we celebrated Unofficial (which, if you live under a rock and are unaware, is a U of I tradition that celebrates St. Patrick’s day). I had a lot of fun but missed U of I and my friends a TON that day! So much FOMO. (Fear of missing out… if you still live under a rock.) I’m already SO excited for my last unofficial as a senior- party at the round balcs!

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All the friends!

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Sistas! ❀

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Yeah… this happened.

Saturday all of the girls visiting us (four SigKaps and 2 friends of my housemate Rachel), as well as Rachel, Medha, and myself all went on a day trip to Wicklow County! We spent a lot of time in the Wicklow Mountains and saw the bridge from P.S. I Love You! It was great. The bus driver told us a story of a time when he was on this tour and a guy proposed to his girlfriend… SO CUTE! He either thought we were super obnoxious or hilarious… unclear. Oh and also I wiped out again by just casually sliding down a hill, so that’s where my life is at. That night was Christine’s 21st, so we had a good time celebrating for that!Image

Roomies at Upper Lake in Glendalough!

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Huge group of girls.

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What is wrongggg with me?

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Happy 21st, Christine!

After this weekend, my week was prettyyyy boring. I had three projects due this week so I actually had to buckle down and focus. Still, the amount of work here doesn’t even begin to compare to the amount of work I’d do in a semester at U of I. Senior year might be a bit of a slap in the face.

Tomorrow marks the start of our two week spring break! I am leaving bright and early tomorrow with a group of friends for an 8-day, whirlwind tour of ITALIA! So excited! My alarm is actually set to go off in 6.5 hours, so… maybe I should get packing?

With that, I leave you until next weekend, when I come home for St. Paddy’s before leaving again for Berlin and Belgium. I’m telling you, my life is really hard πŸ˜‰ Thanks for reading and have a great week!

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Greetings friends! (And happy Unofficial eve to my U of I readers! YAY!)

This blog post I’ll be telling you all about the Kelleher family experiencing their homeland! My dad works in Limerick a few times a year, so I was fortunate enough to have them visit me in Dublin for a long weekend, then spend a night with them in Limerick. Great craic (Gaelic for fun) was had by all…

The Kilmainham jail (you would laugh if you saw how I spelled that before Googling it to double check) was our first stop on Friday. This former jail (now a museum open to the public) is mainly famous because of who it imprisoned during the Irish rebellions and struggle for independence. It was cool to see some of what I’ve learned in my Irish history class come to life.

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The jail from the outside

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And the inside

After that, we went to my parents’ hotel to drop their stuff off, then kept moving to get dinner and drinks in the Temple Bar area. Let me tell you, it’s awesome going out on your parents’ dime! πŸ˜‰ And I’d also like to applaud them for handling the jet lag WAY better than I did. Seems like the trick really is to keep moving. Rookie mistake, Caitlyn…

Saturday was a painfully early morning getting up for a day trip to Newgrange. Seriously, I don’t know how I got up at 6:30 for high school every morning because when my alarm went off at 6:45 I just wanted to cry. However, the early wake-up call was well worth it to see this place! Newgrange is a bit north of Dublin in the Boyne Valley. It’s a 5000 year old passage tomb of great astrological and religious importance. It was constructed so that during the winter solstice, the sunrise would flood the tomb and fill it with an amber, glowing light, which was meant to be a very spiritual experience for those inside the tomb. We were able to go inside and they had a large lightbulb that could stimulate the experience. As it’s so old, it’s really hard to say exactly what the solstice’s light meant to these people, but we learned it may have been a symbol of victory of life over death, or a way for them to ring in the new year. It’s amazing the precision that was needed to build the passageway and tomb so that the light would shine at exactly the right place. Also, the rocks and stones used to build it are HUGE and were dragged in from miles and miles away… before the invention of the wheel. Whaat?!

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The Newgrange tomb

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The entryway!

Its location near the Boyne Valley is also significant. The Battle of the Boyne was a huge bloodfest in 1690, William of Orange vs James II. James’s ultimate defeat resulted in Protestantism reigning in England, and thus, Ireland, which spawned a solid three centuries of further distress and warfare in Ireland, but that’s beside the point.

That night, we went on a literary pub crawl! The night paid homage to the famous writers who call Dublin their home- James Joyce, Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, and W.B. Yeats to name a few. I knew virtually nothing about Irish literature before the night began, but the tour was led by two actors who would act out scenes and teach us about the authors and the significance of the pubs as the night went on. We had a lot of fun!

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Keepin’ it classy

Sunday we visited Malahide Castle (why am I always in castles?!), which was cool because it was inhabited by its family members, the Talbots, up until the 1970s. It’s still furnished and had a lot of historical connections to the Battle of the Boyne, Cromwell’s takeover, the Tudors and the Stuarts, etc. After we went to Howth, a fish town north of Dublin, for lunch. I loved Howth the first time I went so I was happy to go back!

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Parentals and me by the water

Monday I had to do that whole school thing… gross… but after I met my parents to continue my dad’s quest of going to all the top pubs in Dublin. He succeeded. We called it a pretty early night because the next morning we left bright and early for Limerick! Limerick is the fourth largest city in the Republic of Ireland. It is not like Dublin City in the slightest. It definitely feels much smaller and doesn’t have nearly as much to do. However, my main motivation for going (besides spending more time with my lovely parents, of course) was an Angela’s Ashes walking tour! For those who aren’t aware, Angela’s Ashes is the first in a series of memoirs by Frank McCourt. It depicts his thoroughly depressing Irish Catholic childhood in the slums of the city. They had no money, the dad was an alcoholic, he lost three siblings to illnesses, they moved all the time to avoid eviction, he dropped out of school at 13, he was full of Catholic guilt… any depressing Irish stereotype you can think of, this family had it. But the books really are worth reading; I read them my freshman year of high school and will definitely read them again after this tour. Our tour guide was fantastic, full of knowledge because he had suffered a similar type of childhood in Limerick (without an alcoholic dad, which appears to be the difference between having just a difficult time and being completely miserable like the McCourts). It was great to see the sights of the book and learn more about the family! Definitely worth reading if you have the time!

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The River Shannon

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Frank McCourt’s previous schoolhouse, now renovated into a museum

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Frank and me just chillin’

Then yesterday I had to come back to Dublin for class. The “study” part of studying abroad is cramping my style. Now I’m getting ready for a very Irish Unofficial weekend! Four friends from school are in town, along with lots of other abroad students from U of I, so it’s sure to be a fun weekend! Though I really do miss my friends at school and wish we could be together for what is some of their last Unofficial celebrations 😦 Thank goodness for Skype!

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Gonna miss this!

With that, I’m off to go buy some green to wear! To those celebrating, have fun and be safe! Thanks for reading πŸ™‚

Hey guys! Welcome to another blog post, where I attempt to explain my trip to Northern Ireland in its historical context without boring you all to tears.

(I wonder how many people closed this upon reading that sentence?)

This past weekend a group of international students from UCD and myself headed up to Derry & Belfast for a weekend trip. Northern Ireland is actually part of the UK- they use the pound as currency, there’s no Gaelic on the signs, the British flag flies high, and they resent the Republic of Ireland. If your high school history curriculum was anything like mine, Irish history was largely overlooked. Thus, a brief history:

Ireland was at first invaded by Normans in around the 11th century. Fast forward about 500 years to Henry VIII, who was over his first wife Catherine after she failed to give him a son and needed to find a way to get divorced, which wasn’t allowed within the Catholic church. Protestantism became the official religion of England and he proceeded to have way too many wives. Oliver Cromwell (any Irish person’s least favorite human being) torched the countryside and made the lives of the Irish miserable. The Protestant William of Orange defeated the Catholic King James II and Protestants took over Ireland, developing laws that left the Irish devoid of rights. After years and years of unsuccessful rebellion, in 1916, the Easter Uprising took place, a bloody battle that eventually took down the British and thus Protestantism within Ireland- almost. The British left 26 counties of Ireland, and retained 6, which became Northern Ireland.

And here we are today! Derry and Belfast are both full of religious conflict and tension to this day. Both cities have dividing lines between their Catholic and Protestant sides:

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The Peace Bridge in Derry, donated by the EU

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The dividing wall in Belfast (Protestant side)

Both cities also have tons of depressing murals sprinkled throughout. While I know it’s important to remember your history and what you’ve fought for, I feel like they’re just a painful reminder of lives lost and not exactly what little kids growing up there need to be looking at, but that’s just me. A few examples:

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A mural from the Civil Rights movement in Derry (a movement that almost directly paralleled Martin Luther King Jr’s) that depicts a young person getting shot on Bloody Sunday in 1972. 26 unarmed protestors were shot by the British army (the guy on the far left) and 14 of them died. Note that the British guy is standing on the Civil Rights banner.

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An Ulster Defense Association in Belfast (a Protestant group). Our tour guide said this one was Mona Lisa-esque because wherever you walk, it looks like the gunman is looking at you. There’s a primary school right around the corner from here which is nice.

However, the weekend was not all doom and gloom! It was extremely interesting to learn about the history and I would recommend reading more into it if anyone’s interested. We also went to Giant’s Causeway, an awesome sight on the Northeast coast of Ireland created by boiling lava and plate tectonics and some other stuff… Not really sure. I just know it was beautiful!

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All of the rocks I’m standing on are actually tall cylinders that reach down into the sea. Someone who actually paid attention in Geology 118 could tell you more about their formation. I am not that person.

We also saw where the Titanic was built! I was that weird kid in elementary school who thought tragedies and disasters were really interesting, and I’ve always LOVED learning about the Titanic so this was great.

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We also went out both nights and had a great time! We were at a gay bar on Saturday and didn’t realize it… hilarity ensues. It was amazing to see more of Ireland. Even just sitting on the bus and driving through is worthwhile. Literally the whole country is green, hilly, and beautiful. Dublin is a cool city, but I think the best part of Ireland is when you leave the urban areas.

One main takeaway for me this weekend that so much of what you learn in school, in the news, or through the media is just a small representation of the truth. I was completely shocked that I had never learned about all of this religious and political conflict within this country. I don’t understand why I’ve learned about the Revolutionary War like seven times but never about such an important part of Irish history. Even little things like the Titanic are not fully explained in our history classes and in the movies. I didn’t know that the Titanic had almost identical sister ship, the Olympic, that did the exact same journey in 1910… the Titanic was only famous because she sank. I guess my point is… don’t take what you learn for granted! If you are interested in something, it’s 100% worth it to open your mind and learn more about it!

And with that I’ll get off my soapbox. Thanks to those of you that stuck with me πŸ˜‰ Have a good week!

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