I really don't want to start back with a month ago, so I'll just go over the major things and then stay current.
Obviously, I got over here just fine. Meeting up with the other IFSA-Butler people went smoothly and I've made quite a few friends of them so far. It helps that people who study abroad tend to be friendly and outgoing. The group that I hang out with the most normally consists of 5 girls from all over the US. I'm very fortunate to have gotten into their group, because they are a lot of fun and like to actually do things. Therefore, I always have someone to go with whenever I want to travel somewhere; conversely, I can join in on their travels too (That happens more often).
My classes are... different. I'm taking 6 courses and am listed as a "Arts and Occasional Celtic Studies" student. I don't have a favorite at the moment, because I am, quite honestly, lost almost all of the time. I have absolutely no idea what is expected of me, which readings to complete (we have very long lists of primary and secondary reading, with no timeline to follow so we know when to have a reading completed). It appears that we are supposed to read through everything at our own pace and take what the teacher (professor is an honorary term here) says and sift through it, deciding what we feel that we want to retain. As far as course names go: Irish Folklore, Homer and the Age of Heroes (I read and discuss the Iliad and the Odyssey), Classic Myth, Philosophy of Language, Nietzsche and Heidegger, and an obligatory learning about Ireland course.
One of the first weekends that I was here, I managed to get invited to go with a bunch of Germans, a few French, and Americans, on a hike just outside of Dublin; a place called Howth. It took a half hour by train or so to get all of us out there. The town is coastal and it appeared to centralize around the fishing industry. We located a path that would take us along about 3 km of cliffs overlooking the ocean. Pictures don't do it justice, because those cliffs were incredibly steep. On the parts that had two paths, I chose the one that was further from the edge. Survival instinct definitely was kicking in the entire walk. However scary it may have been, it was equally as pretty.
Just before the walk
Tara Place: just a house overlooking the sea
Gentle sloping cliffs; the rest were a bit steeper.
And... the group photo!
Between Howth and this weekend, I've also been to the Jameson Distillery, the National Leprechaun Museum, and a bunch of other interesting, but smaller places.
IFSA (study abroad group) organized an event this last weekend in Killary, which is in western Ireland. They brought in all of their students from across the country- from University College Cork, University College Dublin, Galway, Trinity College, and a few from smaller colleges (50+ students)- to a camp for "Adventure Weekend!." It was a grand ole time. The bus ride there took us about 6 hours, using tiny barely two car width roads that went up and down hills, and taking sharp corners in a large bus. I think a few people got sick from it. However, the countryside was just beautiful. If you think about your view of stereotypical Irish countryside, this is it, sheep and stone walls included.
View from the bus
View of the fjord upon arrival. No, this hasn't been edited at all.
The evening that we got there involved mostly catching up with the IFSA people and checking out the campus. I was very comforted by the wilderness, because Dublin is mostly cement and Fargo is quite the opposite. Killary is home to the only fjord in Ireland and has one of the best views I have ever seen. I actually spent quite a few hours sitting on a wooden picnic table, staring off at the horizon. After night fell, most people went inside for a table quiz and festivities.
I got an email at about 9PM that my parents had had to put down Tessa, our border collie, earlier that day. So, instead of joining in with the rest of the group, I sat outside and reminisced while stars provided the backdrop. I believe that it was quite fitting.
The next day consisted mostly of activities in two sessions. First, I went with a group of people to a zipline and then to a high-ropes climbing course. I'm terrified of heights, or at least I thought I was, so the fact that I had a lot of fun was incredible. The afternoon session was more of a workout, because I chose to undertake the "Turf Challenge." Killary is also home to some of the only bogs in Ireland, so the challenge is a bog run. At times, we would be completely submerged in frigid murky water, or wading through waist-deep muck. Some people got stuck and had to be dragged out by others. I was with a group of almost all girls, which ended up being quite interesting. No one wimped out and everyone made it through just fine. I've got a few pictures, but not as many as I wanted to because mud kind of ruins cameras, however waterproof. At the end of the run, when we thought that we were finished, we were told that there was one segment left, called "The Entrails." It was about a 25 meter stretch where we had to jump into a pool of muck and get completely submerged, and then wade through to the very end. It felt... just weird. The whole experience definitely made me feel more alive though. I'd challenged myself to do things that I would never have done earlier, and had fun while completing those tasks.
High ropes challenge; I'm on the left. I won, even though I'm not sure if we were racing.
Before the Turf Challenge. My swimsuit started off very vibrant. The bog toned it down considerably. My socks were also completely ruined and that shirt is at least two shades darker. I'm glad that those shoes were not my own.
The entrails. I think that's me at the entrance.
This is right before running into the fjord to rinse of the muck. From Left: Jackie, Caitlin, (both from University College Corkand some weird dude covered in mud. The water was obscenely cold, so I complained a lot.
The afternoon was spent recuperating from the tiring events, so that we would be ready for the disco that happened later that night. I got to go into town and watch the tail end of a rugby game, in Irish, so I was completely lost. However, having a Guinness in an actual Irish pub, where they speak almost exclusively Irish, was a great thing to do. It was also fun to get to hang out with the people who are the college contacts and authority figures at IFSA in a less formal setting. After the game was over, we went back to camp and started up the disco; some old guy was the DJ, so it started off very slow. But, it picked up. I got a great compliment from someone who told me "You should stop dancing in this group. You are making me look bad." I blame the shoes.
Here are some sheep. I named them all Thad, but I'm not sure why. Cars barely slowed down for them.
The night was a great success, but I was incredibly sore the morning after. The combination of activities during the previous day had caused an over-expenditure of energy, so I missed the days activity to rest. It was definitely worth it. The bus left around two and the trip back was pretty miserable. However, I'm now back at UCD and started up my day just fine.
I'm glad that I finally got something new for everyone to read. I'm going to Budapest on Thursday, so I'll write about that when I get back.
Location:UCD and Killary, Ireland