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Blarney Castle and Ending Thoughts on my Semester

Time January 5th, 2016 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

My friends and I decided to end our semesters in Ireland with one of the most quintessential activities of Ireland — visiting Blarney Castle and kissing the Blarney Stone. Below you can see some photos of the castle and grounds, including some beautiful waterfalls.

But this post isn’t just about another adventure I had. Looking back, I realize how little time I’d spent wondering about how my semester abroad would be spent. I chose Galway because of its beauty, but it ended up being so much more than that. Galway became my home base during a three month European adventure, and I definitely couldn’t have chosen a better one. No matter where I was jet-setting off to, by the end of the weekend I was excited to board the bus headed west and see the friendly faces of Galway. Additionally, my semester abroad pushed me to be more independent, something that will become essential in my life as I graduate college and go off into the “real world”. Not only was I really living on my own in a new country, but I was also planning trips and travelling internationally by myself. My semester abroad prepared me for what is in store in just a year and a half, when I leave the JHU bubble and have only myself to count on.

For any future IFSA Galwegians (Galway-ers?), here is my final list of unexpected/weird things about Ireland.

*Note: I’m sure there are more things

  1. It is almost impossible to find normal potato chips. The standard flavor is “Cheese and Onion” (not a personal favorite, but not the worst thing I’ve ever tried)
    1. Note: another common flavor is “prawn”, or shrimp flavored chips
    2. Note 2: it is also nearly impossible to find pretzels in Ireland. This was especially upsetting to me, a self-identifying pretzel addict)
  2. I can’t speak for the rest of Ireland, but at least in Galway, pedestrians do not have the right of way. This is especially important when crossing the major roads nearby when grocery shopping.
  3. The Irish (and much of the rest of Europe) find American politics hilarious, and often make jokes about it during lectures.
  4. While the national language is Irish (note: not ‘Gaelic’ as Americans call it), only a minute percentage of the population actually speaks fluent Irish, let alone those who use it as their primary language. This is odd on its own, however it is stranger even that almost all official signs (e.g. street signs, billboards) are in Irish with an English translation.
  5. While holding up two fingers with the palm facing out is a symbol for peace, flipping your hand so that the palm points in means the same thing as putting up your middle finger. For short: there are no “deuces” in Ireland, so be wary.
  6. Times of day that are 30 minutes past the hour are referred to as “half”, for example “Breakfast is at half nine” or “We arrived at half three.”
  7. While we refer to the school subject as “math”, they make it plural, for example “I study maths at university”.
  8. The last letter of the alphabet is pronounced “zed”. I found this especially funny while listening to Irish friends sing the alphabet song, as it doesn’t complete the rhyme of the song.


I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my semester abroad. Personally, I’m excited to get back home to my family and friends to have a nice winter break before heading back to school. Happy holidays and have a happy New Year!


November in Galway

Time December 1st, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

So instead of jet setting like I’ve been doing for many weekends here, I’ve spent the last 4 weekends in Galway. The first picture you’ll see is that of my late umbrella — it became that sad little pile of cloth and metal after a walk to campus one day. Everyone warns you about the rain in Ireland, but no one prepares you for the wind! Some days it just comes out of no where, and your umbrella just isn’t up for it. (Update: I’ve bought a new umbrella since the demise of this one).

The next you’ll see is that of my friend up on stage. She’s one of the Irish friends I’ve made here and she has an incredible singing voice, so we were out supporting her at a competition!

You’ll then see a few from the Galway Christmas Market — one of the actual market, one of the amazing cheese stuffed bread I had for dinner, and one of the candy stall (I stop here every time I’m down by the market).

After this you’ll see my friend and I holding matching drinks. This is another Irish friend of mine, and we were out celebrating our friend’s 21st birthday! Even though turning 21 doesn’t mean anything special here in Ireland, the Irish still make a big deal out of it.

After this is a photo of my friend buying his daily coffee from the Coffee Hut. The owner uses the small opening below the billboards as a small cafe and gets loads of customers.

The oysters in the following picture are local Galway oysters, and they were delicious! I’m always a sucker for oysters, so I had to try the most famous ones in Ireland.

After this are some photos of our Thanksgiving dinner in Galway, which we called “Friendsgiving” (I made that stuffing from scratch). Our two roommates from France shared their first Thanksgiving experience with us, and said they hadn’t eaten so much food in very a long time. We explained that that’s what Thanksgiving is all about!

There is also a photo of a few of my friends and I trying on some hats — there is a little vintage store in Galway that we love to visit.

In the gallery you’ll see an updated picture of the foal up the road that was born at the beginning of our semester here. We’ve watched him grow up!

Last are some photos from our breakfast at Dungeons and Doughnuts, a local shop that sells both board games (e.g. Dunces and Dragons) and some very creative donuts! They were perfectly sugary and definitely worth sharing.


IFSA Butler Weekend — Northern Ireland!

Time November 11th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

This weekend, IFSA Butler took  all of us to Northern Ireland, which (confusingly) is actually a region of Great Britain. Our first day, we got up early and made our way to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge which connected a small island to the mainland. We were able to walk across and get some beautiful views on the island (and look at how blue the water is! I promise I didn’t do anything to enhance it!)

After this we drive to Giant’s Causeway, which is the most visited attraction in Northern Ireland. It is most famous for it’s ‘hexagonal’ (read: pentagonal, hexagonal, and many other variations of sides) pillars that make up the shoreline. Lucky for us, it was an absolutely gorgeous day outside, so the pictures below show the real beauty of the area.

The next day, we took a Black Taxi Tour of Belfast, where we learned about the violence that’s taken place there in the last 50 years over whether Northern Ireland belongs to the UK or Ireland. We saw murals honoring those who fought for their beliefs, and also the Peace Wall that separates the two factions. We each got to sign the wall and I got some great shots of my friends writing.

After this we had the afternoon to ourselves, so my friends and I walked to the Titanic museum (the Titanic was built in Belfast). Unfortunately it was closed by the time we got there, but you can see below how beautiful the building is.

This was definitely the most educational trip I’ve taken during my time abroad, and I’m really glad that IFSA brought us here together, because I don’t think I would have taken the time to explore this part of Belfast otherwise.


Last Big Trip for Awhile — London and Brighton, UK

Time November 4th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

Ok, so this will be my last jetsetting-across-Europe post for awhile (I’m exhausted and getting a bit tired of my weekly trip to the Dublin Airport). But what a weekend to end on! I got to London very early  in the morning on Friday and met up with a friend of mine who is studying there at Royal Halloway (not sure if that’s spelled correctly). She showed me some of the big sights of London, including Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, before bringing us to a really cool tea house called Sketch (definitely recommended! See the picture below of a room that looks like it’s full of giant eggs, that’s the bathroom). But the main part of my trip was visiting some family friends about an hour outside of London, or rather about 15 minutes from another big British city: Brighton. After getting my first good night’s sleep in weeks, we took a beautiful walk through the South Downs, a preserved area near where they live. I was able to get some great shots of the British countryside (as well as some of my new best friend, Otis the Water Dog!) Later that day we took the train to Brighton, which sits right along the English channel. Brighton is known for its artists and its proximity to the beach, so we made sure to see both before the sun went down. You can see some graffiti and some shots of the pier/beach below. All in all it was great to see my family friends, as well as see such a cool and different city in Europe.



Time October 28th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

Another weekend, another trip to a new country! I met up with my two best friends from the US who are studying abroad and we spent the weekend in Copenhagen, and I have to say it was probably my favorite weekend trip so far. We quickly figured out the metro system and the first day visited Freetown Christiania, a subsection of the city known to be full of artists and have independent laws from the rest of Denmark. You can see some photos of the area, plus the arch that specifically denotes entry to the neighborhood.


Next, we climbed to the top of the Our Savior Church (the black, spiral tower) where we got an amazing view of the city. We then walked to the edge of the city to find the famous mermaid statue along the water.

The last thing we wanted to make sure to do that first day was go to Tivoli Gardens, one of the oldest amusement parks in the world. It was decorated for Halloween and there was even a small parade!

The next morning, we insisted on finding Danish danishes for breakfast, and they didn’t disappoint! Last but not least, we took a canal tour of the city, where a tour guide pointed out many of the city’s landmarks, and we also got a chance to see a well known area in Copenhagen called Nyhavn. This is the area along the canal with the colorful houses, which looked so beautiful on such a sunny day!

I’m so glad I’ve been able to travel around Europe a lot while studying abroad in Galway. Once November rolls around I won’t be doing much travelling, but then I’ll be able to do some more exploring of Ireland!


Weekend in Edinburgh

Time October 20th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

This weekend I took a flight “across  the pond” to Edinburgh to visit one of my best friends from Johns Hopkins, who is studying abroad through IFSA-Butler and interning in the Scottish Parliament. One of the first things we did was go to the Elephant House, famous for being the cafe where JK Rowling wrote the entire first Harry Potter book. We then walked past an adorable statue of a scottish terrier (look up Greyfriar’s Bobby if you’re interested in the story behind it!), and on to a graveyard behind the Elephant House where JK Rowling used to take walks, and accidentally named some of her characters after the names on the headstones (see Tom “Riddell”‘s grave photo). Later we took a tour of Hollyrood Palace, where the Queen of England stays when she visits Scotland. The palace was also where Mary Queen of Scots lived during her days in Edinburgh. Unfortunately we couldn’t take photos inside the palace, but you can see some photos of the front fountain and abbey.

The next day we hiked to the top of Arthur’s Seat, a famous mountain right in the middle of the city. Although  it was difficult, we were really proud of ourselves for getting to the top!


Killary Adventure Weekend with IFSA Butler

Time October 12th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

Last weekend many IFSA students from the different universities met up at the Killary Adventure Center in Connemara, which is located right along the Killary Fjord. We all got to try new and exciting activities such as clay pigeon shooting, the turf challenge (basically an obstacle course in mud), kayaking, zip lining, and much more. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the activities I wasn’t able to bring my camera around to photograph everyone participating, but on the last day of our trip a few friends and I took a walk around Killary and I was able to take some great shots of the surrounding area! Walking around in this area of Connemara made me feel like I was in the real heart of Ireland, which was the reason I wanted to study here in the first place.


Weekend in Brussels and Paris

Time September 30th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

A few weeks ago my friends and I discussed wanting to go to Paris, but the flights were so expensive we worried we wouldn’t get the chance. However, after looking at flights through Ryanair we realized that we could fly cheaply to Brussels, Belgium, then take a bus to Paris for a day, returning in time for classes on Monday. As much as this was a lot of travelling (and I lost my phone in the process), I can’t stress enough how happy I am that we spent the day in Brussels. It’s not a city many people mention, but it is definitely one I hope to return to. Belgium is mainly known for 3 foods: chocolate, waffles, and beer. However, a little known fact (that I’m about 80% sure is true) is that french fries (or “frites”) were invented in Belgium! I have to tell you, I have never had better fries in my life.

The main hub of Brussels is Le Grand-Place, an area surrounded by breathtaking architecture (see the buildings below). Another symbol of Brussels is the Mannekin-Pis statue (see the small statue of the baby peeing into a fountain). All in all it was an amazing day, and I suggest a visit if you can!


That night we took a bus to Paris (about 4.5 hours) where we met up with a friend of mine from college who is studying abroad there. It was great seeing her, and she was a great guide to Paris (especially because she speaks fluent French!) We had breakfast at Cafe Angelina, a famous Cafe near the Louvre with the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had. Since I was mainly there to visit my friend from college, I split up with my IFSA friends who went to do the main sights of Paris while we took a walk along the Seine and in Le Marais, the Jewish section of Paris and also a big fashion district. Later we went to Les Catacombs, a museum which houses innumerable skeletons underneath the streets of Paris. It definitely made for some interesting pictures!


24 Hours in Killarney

Time September 23rd, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

A few friends and I took a last minute trip to Killarney in County Kerry, which is apparently a pretty big tourist area. After arriving pretty late at night, we went for traditional Irish food (I got beef and Guinness stew which was to die for). We stayed in a hostel called Neptune’s (which I totally recommend!) and got up crazy early on Saturday morning to get to Killarney National Park, which was absolutely beautiful. Our first stop was a waterfall pretty far into the park, and then we continued walking towards the Muckross Mansion and Abbey. I definitely feel that I’m fulfilling one of my main reasons for coming to Ireland, which was to see the beautiful landscapes I’ve always heard so much about. Once we were ready to go home, we couldn’t find the shuttle to take us back to the hostel, so we hitched a ride with a horse drawn carriage!


First Weekend of Sightseeing: The Aran Islands and Cliffs of Moher

Time September 21st, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

A group of my IFSA friends and I decided to spend last Sunday on a full day of sightseeing. A tour bus from the Galway Tour Company spent almost 12 hours driving us to the Aran Islands and then the Cliffs of Moher, giving us a break in a cute pub in a fisherman’s town called Doolin.


Our first stop was the dock where we took a 40 minute boat ride to the smallest Aran Island called Inisheer. The Aran Islands are a group of islands off the west coast of Ireland and collectively have around 1,300 inhabitants. They can only be accessed by ferry, and therefore have kept much of their original charm without as much globalization from the rest of the world (or so our tour guide said). Below you can see some photos from Inisheer, including along the shoreline and from the top of a cliff where O’Brien’s fort sits, and the beautiful view over the cliff. Unfortunately, I have to wait until I get home to put together my panoramas, so if I remember I will add those to this gallery in January!



After  this we took the ferry to the bottom of the Cliffs of Moher, known to be the most visited tourist attraction in Ireland, and rightly so! Many movie scenes have been filmed here, including one in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (you’ll know which one after seeing the photos below). It is hard to describe how awe inspiring this view was, and the photos don’t begin to capture it, but hopefully they convince you to take a trip here yourself! After sailing around the bottom of the cliffs, we had our lunch in Doolin and then drove to the top of the cliffs. Once again, I was incredulous at the views. My fellow IFSA friends and I walked the edge of the cliff for about a half hour before we begrudgingly realized we had to turn back in order to catch our bus, but I promised myself I’d be back here soon!



Two Weeks in Ireland

Time September 15th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind!

First, we had an orientation in Dublin where we got to explore the city, make friends, and tour the Guinness Storehouse (pride and joy of Ireland)


After a few days we were off to our university for the semester, National University of Ireland, Galway. The apartment complex is beautiful (you can see a picture of the courtyard below), and we are about 20 minutes from Eyre Square — the main hub of Galway! We’ve spent a lot of time down here at restaurants, shops, and beautiful pubs.


One of my favorite things about the location of our apartment is that on the way to school, we pass a meadow with horses who are very used to people and love to be pet! You can also see a newborn baby foal beside its mother.


Also, there is a weekly farmer’s market every Saturday near Eyre Square, where we found an incredible doughnut baker. If you’re ever in Galway, you’re missing out if you don’t try a Boychik doughnut!



Why Galway?

Time August 26th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

So many people have asked me the same question about my chosen abroad university: why NUI Galway? To them, it’s the predictable backwoods to the hustle and bustle of Dublin and the many other posh European cities. But what they don’t realize is that’s exactly what I want. I’ve lived my entire life 20 minutes outside of the most famous city in the world: New York City. Why would I travel across the Atlantic to live in yet another city that can really only come second to what I have at home?

This has been one of the best summers of my life. As a newly declared photography minor at The Johns Hopkins University, I wanted to get out and take as many photos as I could so that I could find what my style of photography is. Below you can see some of my favorite photos from the summer: flowers in the Berkshires in MA, a house in the Garden District of New Orleans, a scene in Audubon Park in New Orleans, and a panorama of the Blue Ridge Highway (probably somewhere in Virginia). From these, you can probably tell I love nature photography, and I know that I’m in for a whirlwind when I get to Galway. I hope to explore every minute of my time abroad, roaming the exquisite countryside of Ireland and learn more about myself as a photographer, and I can’t think of anywhere else in the world better for me to do that.