Oct 23, 2013


Hello once again my friends! As I mentioned in my last post, I went to Dublin this previous weekend with two of my friends, and I have finally managed to organize my thoughts enough to share my experience with you. So, here we go.

Dublin is a beautiful city, but it is important to remember that it is indeed a city. I loved the time I spent there, but I want to start by warning you that if you are looking for a truly "Irish" experience Dublin may not be your best bet. It certainly has its Irish charms, but as with most big tourist cities, it has modernized itself in many ways, giving in to many chain attractions and cheesy theme restaurants. That being said, there are so many amazing aspects of the city that I want to share with you!!

We started our trip off late Friday night in Birmingham and spent the night in a hostel, so we could make our very early trip to the airport on Saturday morning. The hostel was nice, clean, and had Mario Kart 64, but it also had extremely thin walls. We stayed up later than we should have watching The X Factor and then were kept up most of the rest of the night by various tourists coming back to their rooms none too sober. Then it was up at four and off to the airport by 5:30.

This being the first time that any of us had traveled alone, we had a bit of a hard time at the airport. We traveled Ryanair, and they have a policy that all non-eu passports need to be checked before you board the plane, which is verified by a stamp on your boarding pass. The only problem is that where you get this done is outside of security by the baggage check desk. We only had our carry-ons, so we didn't think to go to there and instead continued on to security. We did however know that we needed our passes stamped and asked the lady who checked our boarding passes before going through security if we were ok to continue on, and she told us we were fine.

This was only the beginning of our problems. When we were going through security my boots set off the metal detector, and I had to get checked and scanned before I could go through, and Jasmine apparently didn't have all her liquids in the correct bag, so was pulled aside to make sure they all fit within the required size. Next, we went to get breakfast, thinking the worst of it was behind us, until we realized that we had most likely missed something in regards to our boarding passes. So, we rushed over to the gate area and found some people who worked for Ryanair and asked them about our passes, at which point we were told to hustle back through security to get it stamped and make sure we made it back to gate one before we missed our flight. We were then escorted back out of the secure area, went through the wrong line, then the right line, and brought through priority security on our way back. I was at this point luckily chosen for a random body search, making that the second time that some random lady patted me down in a\one day. We then had to semi-run in an airport past a group of policemen armed with automatic weapons to make our flight. I am sure we weren't suspicious at all. The whole ordeal was indeed quite stressful. Especially considering that we all got hardly any sleep the night before. Once we boarded the plane however, things moved much more smoothly, and we arrived in Dublin without another hitch.

Talking with our cab driver from the airport to our hotel was probably one of my favorite parts of the trip. He was such a nice man, and he gave us wonderful advice on places to visit, told us all sorts of facts about Ireland, regaled us with stories about his family, and talked to us about how Dublin had changed in his lifetime, all in a very charming Irish accent.

Our hotel was gorgeous. Very posh considering what we spent, but we didn't hang out there very long. Our first mission was eating, and I finally got the Chinese food I have been craving since my arrival! All of us were a bit crabby, what with our lack of sleep, and that chicken fried rice was a godsend.

After we ate, we headed off to see the National Library of Ireland and the National Museum of Ireland archaeology exhibit (both of which were free). They were housed in beautiful twin buildings, and there was so much to see inside. I wish that I had found some sort of tour through the museum, because there was so much there that would have been more interesting if it had been explained to me in context. Nonetheless, I found a lot of it quite fascinating.

It started raining when we left the museum, so we escaped to Starbucks until it subsided. Then, we headed over to Dublin Castle for a tour. I was a bit disappointed by medieval area of the castle that they boasted. It was just a bunch of half-dug up stones, but I very much enjoyed the staterooms. Much of it is still in use today, and I stumbled on a picture of General Cornwallis (who is portrayed in the movie The Patriot as the English general who has his dogs stolen by Mel Gibson) that I very much enjoyed seeing, as well as a few other things.


After Dublin Castle, we headed back to the hotel for a bit and then went out to supper. We ate at Bobo's, which is a highly rated local burger place. Then, we went out to experience the night life. We stopped by the infamous Temple Bar, before heading off to find someplace a bit quieter with live music and then calling it a night.
Sunday was by far the superior day for me however. We started off by doing some tourist shopping and getting a few souvenirs. Then, we went to St. Patrick's Cathedral, which was absolutely beautiful. The building dates back to 1220 and serves as a kind of national church for Ireland. Words can't describe it, so you are just going to get some pictures. I have about a million, but I think that these select few capture it the best. I wouldn't want to overwhelm you. It was absolutely breathtaking.
The next stop on our tour of Dublin was Trinity College. We were hoping to see the Book of Kells, but money got the better of us, so we decided to just tour the campus. It too had some really neat buildings, but since we weren't going to visit the library, there wasn't much to see. So, we headed off to the Dublin Zoo.
Many of you may not know this, but I absolutely love zoos. Yes, I do sometimes feel bad that the animals are caged and aren't allowed to run free, but there is something about seeing animals that I would never have the chance to see otherwise that makes me as excited as a small child when I enter a zoo. You just turn around and Bam! there is a tribe of gorillas! It's like being on a Safari!
The Dublin Zoo especially had some great exhibits. Some of the animals, like the giraffes, zebras, and antelopes, were put together in larger fenced areas to interact with each other and roam much more freely than they would have been able to if they had been sectioned off from each other. They also had a great array of animals to see, over 40 species, and you can bet that I made my friends go and visit each and everyone of them! Unfortunately, they didn't have an owl, but I did get to see a few of my other favorite animals, including a snow leopard with a really great personality (pictured below), two gorgeous red pandas, and some adorable penguins. If you ever have some extra time in Dublin, I highly recommend a visit to the zoo. It really was one of my favorite places that we got to visit.
After the zoo, it was time to head back to England, so we took a cab to the airport and made our way home. And that my very dear friends was the end to my Irish journey. Hopefully I will make it back someday, but until then, these are the memories I will take with me.
On a slightly different note, I joined student council here as a Non-UK Student Representative and have started writing for the school newspaper this week, so here is to hoping that all that goes as planned.
(Some of) What I Learned On This Trip:
  • A good nights rest is more important than arriving early when traveling
  • Watching an Ostrich somewhat fall down a hill is actually incredibly entertaining
  • Get your boarding pass stamped before going through security
  • Burger King may be a bigger deal around here than McDonald's
  • The Irish really do hold a bit of a grudge against the English
  • At least one man in England knows about Cash Cab
  • Food is way more expensive when travelling than it should be
  • Bring earplugs if you are going to be sleeping in a hostel
  • Irish Whiskey Chocolate is really strange, but in a good way
  • I need to buy a new carry-on and learn to pack more efficiently
  • Irish cabbies are a fun lot of people overall
  • Always ask your cab driver if they take cards, because they may not (even if they have the machine that reads them in the car)
  • I get really controlling when asked to find our way around a city (I don't like people to question my direction choices)
  • I have some really great travel buddies
  • And so much more :)
Our UMD group has a trip scheduled for Bath and Stonehenge this weekend, so my next post will be about that. I can't wait to tell you all about it!
More soon! 
Love from England.

Oct 11, 2013


Another two weeks my friends. I can't seem to keep up with my posts as well as I would like. It turns out that my tendency to procrastinate doesn't go away when I change continents. Who knew?

I can't believe that I have been here for an entire month already! Thirty-three days and counting. And so far it has been a truly awe-inspiring experience!

The last two weeks have been mostly filled with school. The academic system here is much different than the one I have experienced back home, and to be honest I am having a bit of a hard time getting used to it.

Classes, or modules to the Brits, are almost exclusively three or four hours long and held only once a week, at least in my experience. This system has its advantages. For instance, it is much easier to form a schedule where I only have modules three days a week, but it has its disadvantages too. Perhaps it is only because my own system has conditioned me to hour long classes, but I find it almost impossible to stay engaged in a lecture about the same topic for three hours at a time. Also, because I am taking almost all Freshman level classes, a lot of the material is stuff that has been introduced to me in previous classes.

They also have a completely different grading/assessment system. Each module will set up somewhere around two or three assessments, usually papers or portfolios, that will combine to make up 100 percent of your grade. So, while attendance is mandatory, you get no points for participation in discussions or smaller assignments that are given to you. Also, a lot of the classes have moved away from testing, so note-taking and detailed reading of text seems to become less important. Add to this that at least in this semester I am not taking any modules that count toward my major and my normal studios tendencies have gone out the window.

My main problem currently is that I have found myself in a beautiful county with plenty of distractions and little emphasis on my academic life. I think that next semester however, when I am taking more classes that fit into my degree and that I am genuinely interested in, I will much prefer the British system, but only time will tell.

My favorite school memory so far was when we were asked to draw what we thought represented America in our Social Constructions class. Of the all the pictures I think that Mount Rushmore may be the best.
Last weekend, our group participated in home stays. Each of us was assigned a family to stay with, and we got our first taste of British life. The lady I stayed with had two teenage children and a dog. I'm not going to lie, I was more excited about the dog than the home stay, (I have been in serious need of animal company) but everyone was very nice. There was a bit of awkwardness, because they were in the midst of dealing with some family issues, but it was a good experience nonetheless. They took me to Broadway,  a little village nearby (pictured below), and I got to have my first cream tea. It turns out that people were not lying to me when they said that clotted cream was good, no matter how gross it sounds, and Jackie, my host mom, told me I did a very British job of getting all the cream and jam onto my scone, so go me! The next morning, I went to my first English church, and although I was the youngest person there by about 20 years, looking back I am glad that I went along, if only to compare it to my own previous experiences. Then, it was back to the Flats for me.

That's about all that is worth hearing about since the last time I posted. It's been a lot of TV watching (I caught up on The Walking Dead and have finally started Breaking Bad) and hanging out with friends. I started cooking group dinners with a few people, which has been much better than eating peanut butter sandwiches alone in my room, not to mention healthier. We also planned a trip to Dublin for the 18th through the 20th of October, which I couldn't be more excited about!! I can't wait to tell you all about it! And, I went to my first club! How did I almost forget to share that! It is so out of character for me, but I actually had a really good time, even with little to no alcohol. It was one of my friend's 21st birthday, and she begged me to go out with her, so I did. We went to one of the tamer ones, and as I mentioned I actually had a lot of fun!

What I've Learned:
  • If you want really good hot chocolate in Worcester, go to the Chocolate Deli
  • British Snickers taste much more like peanuts, and Twix taste really different
  • On a similar note, British Dr. Pepper tastes more like Mr. Pibb
  • In almost all British restaurants you pay before you eat, and many don't have take out boxes
  • They call baked potatoes Jacket potatoes
  • You need a passport sized photo to get your railcard
  • Freshman only get pass/fail grades their first year at Uni
  • British bacon is more like ham; you need to find streaky bacon if you want American bacon
  • Even the British are disturbed by Miley Cyrus' twerking
  • When the red and yellow lights on stop lights are lit up at the same time, it means prepare to go; just yellow means prepare to stop
  • They call cheese like Kraft singles American cheese
  • Again about a million other more useful things that just aren't coming to mind

Anyway, that is all for now. More soon.

Love to you all