Wow, where do I begin? 2 weeks is just way too much to catch you all up on, but I'll try. The last time I posted I talked about going to England, so I shall begin there!
I left for Cheltenham, England to visit my friend Vanessa from Elizabethtown. We work on the newspaper together at school and I was so excited when we finally made plans to see each other. But, apparently traveling always has to be an adventure with me...
I left UL Friday afternoon around 1:30 p.m., the 25th of February, to go to England. I got to my friend's room in Cheltenham at 1:30 a.m. on Saturday morning. If that isn't an indication of how the trip was, I don't know what is! Let's start from the beginning. I went to class Friday morning and then came back to my room, packed, showered, made lunch and then headed to the library to print off my boarding pass and bus tickets. Oh, tangent if I may...that's another thing I take for granted at Etown...printing! At Etown, it's free (or included in tuition, whichever way you want to look at it haha). It's 7 cents per page here at UL! I know that doesn't seem like much, but when every professor is posting 60+ PowerPoint sides and handouts/worksheets online after every lecture each week, it absolutely adds up to an unnecessary amount! Super annoying, but, I digress. My bus was supposed to leave UL at about 1 on Friday, but let's be honest this is Ireland and buses run whenever the heck they freaking feel like it. It finally came at about 1:40 (hey, at least it came!)and I got to the Dulin Airport at about 5 p.m. My flight was supposed to leave at 8 p.m., but didn't wind up taking off until about 8:30 p.m. because the flight in front of me, headed to Paris, took off late as well. People are just too funny. On the Ryanair website, it strictly says ONE carry on bag. This INCLUDES a purse, laptop, whatever. Everything MUST be in one bag. Some (French) guy got to the gate, had 2 bags and was forced to check one bag for 35 pounds/euro after being asked way too politely (if you ask me) by the flight attendant. He proceeded to curse at her in French saying how ridiculous it was that he couldn't being both his bags on the flight...really? Learn to read buddy, everyone else had one bag, didn't you get the hint? Anyways, after what seemed like forever, the flight boarded and we landed 38 minutes later. Shortest flight I've ever been on haha. I got on the train from the airport to meet my friend at a few stops down the line. Well, just my luck, the train broke down and we were stopped for over an hour. After they realized that they couldn't fix the problem, we were transferred to another train. It was about 11:00 p.m. now and I was definitely getting tired. I guess traveling does that to you, even though all you're doing is sitting around and waiting. Must be the stress of it all. We finally boarded the second train and went on our merry way, only to come to a dead stop about 15 minutes down the tracks. There was a very large freight train in front of us (really? at midnight?) that WAS NOT scheduled to be there. Apparently the British fail at communicating because we were forced to switch trains yet again. Third times the charm I suppose. I got to my friends stop at about 12:25 a.m. After about a 2 mile walk to her flat it was time for bed. What an adventure that night was.
After waking up refreshed and ready to go (even though I slept on the floor!), we woke up Saturday morning and headed to the town of Gloucester, about a 40 minute bus ride away. We went to the Gloucester Cathedral where parts of Harry Potter 1, 2 and 3 were filmed. For those of you Harry Potter fans, I actually stood at the door to the Gryffindor common room! It was an absolutely beautiful place.
The town of Gloucester was so beautiful. We stopped at the Beatrix Potter House, where the author and illustrator of Peter Rabbit worked, lived and wrote the famous children's stories!
While I obviously love Ireland 10 times more than England, one thing I really did enjoy was afternoon tea! We went to an adorable little tea room called "Lily's Tea Room." English tea is A LOT better than the unflavored Irish tea they have here. Although, don't tell my Irish friends that because they all love it for some reason. Good thing I brought about 30+ tea bags from home with me :-) We got scones and biscuits at the tea room and it was so incredibly delicious.
We walked around the town later on which was so lively and really cute. I thought of my sister Morgan because one of the musicians on the street was playing "Phantom of the Opera" and I think Morgan's seen that at least 6 or 7 times? (correct me if I'm wrong haha)
When we got back to Cheltenham, Rachel and I HAD to stop and get our picture with the phone booths. I know, I am such a tourist, but I'm honestly okay with it. I'd rather have the pictures and be able to look back later and remember all of the neat things I did!
Saturday night we went out for dinner and drinks with some of Vanessa's friends. We went to a really cute restaurant right on the strip with live music. And to make things better, we got Pina Coladas :-) Oh, how I miss the summer time...
Sunday morning we walked Rachel to the bus stop because her flight back to Derry was Sunday afternoon. I went back very early Monday morning, but more on that later...Vanessa took me all around Cheltenham on Sunday and it was gorgeous. We did some shopping which was a lot of fun. Britain is extremely Americanized though. Either that or Ireland is just way behind on the times. I am assuming a mix of both. I just felt very at home in England I guess. Although, I am SO glad I don't go to school there because their fashion is crazy. I could never begin to keep up with how everyone dresses over there, nor would I want too haha. I did wind up getting a really cute dress for only 11 pounds though! It is a black v-neck that has gold on the top and bottom and I really like it! If I can find the right shoes I'll definitely wear it on Easter because it'll be perfect once it gets just a little warmer outside. Sunday evening we just hung out and watched a movie after our shopping extravaganza. I went to bed early because my flight was at 7:55 a.m. ugh. Vanessa stayed up doing a paper and I crashed early.
Monday morning at around 5:15 a.m., Vanessa's roommate drove me to the Birgmninham airport...well, sort of. We had plugged the wrong address into his "satellite" aka, GPS and we wound up NOT where I needed to be. My stress level was at about 100 when I looked at my watch and saw that I had less than an hour til my flight and we were still over 25 minutes away. I got to the airport at about 7:25 and went to the check-in line. Being the smart person that I am, I had printed my boarding pass double sided, from Dublin-Birmingham and then Birmingham-Dublin. On my flight Friday, they had ripped the bottom part off, so I got sent to a new line to print a new boarding pass off. Since I am not an EU member, I got sent to ANOTHER line to get a stamp on my boarding pass to say I was cleared to fly. I got to security with about 15 minutes to go and went through. My bag got pulled aside, which was the absolute last thing I needed. I had forgotten to take my half drank water bottle out of my backpack...sigh. I got to my gate as it was boarding and got on my flight. My stress level went down to around 50. I landed in Dublin around 9:30 a.m. Monday morning and my bus back to UL, which goes directly from the airport back to campus (score!) was at 10:45. I grabbed a bagel and went to wait at the bus stop. After checking to make sure I was in the right spot, I felt much better. But then it hit 10:50 and there was no bus. I double checked with the guard that I was in the right spot, but he told me that I was not. I ran to where I was supposed to be, and as I got there, my bus was literally pulling away. I couldn't believe it! I felt so defeated. The next one was at 12:30, so I had some time to kill. After pulling it together, I walked back inside (it was raining, of course) and went to the book store. The best 7 eruo I have spent so far was on this book I bought! So, that's a plus right? It's called 'Pieces of my Heart' by Sinead Moriarty and it definitely kept me occupied while I waited for the next bus back. Well, I finally caught the bus back to campus and arrived to school around dinner time. I met my friends for dinner and called it a night after my way too stressful day. At least I know for next time, right?
It was time to start a new week and put my travel troubles behind me. Week 6 at UL was RAG (Raise and Give) week, which is basically where no one goes to class, drinks literally the entire week (no matter what time of day) and tries to raise as much money as they can. And let me tell you, it was an absolute blast. They had activities like bull riding, trampolining, human chess, etc. And they weren't kidding when they said that no one goes to class. I went to all mine, of course, and in my 550+ people macroeconomics lecture, there was less than 100 people easily. My 50+ person geoscience lecture had about 12-15 people on Thursday as well. The teachers are used to it though because it happens every year. They really didn't care, they just went on with their lesson plans. It was a really fun week of drinking, hanging out and meeting other Irish students. The pictures below feature: sidewalk chalking, drinking half price milkshakes, a sausage eating contest, bull riding, trampolining, sumo wrestling, and my friend John being hypnotized!
Besides the usual classes and hanging out with friends, I finally completed my macroeconomics project (thank goodness!) 4 pages and about 9 hours later, it is now done and handed in. We also had 2 group projects due as well for journalism. Not surprising because I guess this is about the time I would be having midterms at Etown. haha, midterms...
Thursday night we all went to another ultimate Frisbee party and it was hilarious as usual. It was a great time and I'm so glad I've gotten to know a lot more Irish students this way. They're all really funny and even though I've only met some of the guys two or three times, they call my name halfway across campus when they are outside practicing. I'll definitely miss that when I leave.
This past weekend a group of us went to the Aran Islands, which I organized. I feel SO accomplished after pulling this all off! And, it was also probably my favorite weekend so far of the semester. I knew it was going to be beautiful, but it really blew me away. We all took the bus to Galway on Friday around dinner time because the ferry to the Island left early Saturday morning. After getting to our hostel around 7ish, we set out to find some dinner and got some drinks. We finally got fish and chips! It was expensive and a lot more than I wanted to spend on my dinner, but it was SO worth it. I would venture as far as to say that it's probably the best fish and chips I've ever had :-)
Our hostel was actually incredibly nice and I liked it SO much better than our last one. This one, Woodquay, is run by an Irish lady who has been a tour guide all over the world. She opened up the hostel about 30 years ago and the building is over 300 years old. She was very friendly and gave us a fifteen minute talk about the history of Galway which was really neat.
Saturday morning we caught the ferry off the coast of Galway to go to Inis Mor, which is the largest of the The Aran Islands. When we got there we rented bikes and went ALL around the beautiful Island. It was incredible. By the end of the day, we had done the 9 mile loop and were exhausted. It was completely worth it though. Some of the most gorgeous scenery I have ever seen. I would go back in a heartbeat. The Island is almost entirely Irish speaking residents which was really neat. It was such an undisturbed and relaxed climate too. I took about a billion pictures which are on facebook, but I'll post a few here too :-)
After our amazing day on the Island, we went back to Galway and grabbed some dinner. We headed back to our hostel to freshen up and then went out (of course!) Some wanted to go dancing, others wanted to just walk around the town. We wound up going to the Spanish Arch, which is the last step that Columbus took before setting off for the new world, but it really wasn't too impressive honestly haha. I guess I was expecting a bit more after all the fuss people have made about it. But regardless, it was still neat to say I've been there!
Sunday morning we went to mass at the Galway Cathedral. It's a shame that we caught the "please give us money, we are in a huge recession" service, but it was still gorgeous nonetheless. Such a beautiful place that I really didn't care what they were saying, it was just neat to be a part of it. Some of it was in Irish too which was very cool!
After the service, we walked all around town and grabbed breakfast. I finally got my Claddagh Ring! It's so neat to be able to say that I actually got it in Galway, which is where they originated. It's beautiful and I love it :-) If you don't know what I'm talking about (but I'm sure you do) google it! Throughout the rest of the day, we saw some awesome musicians all over the streets. Galway is such a great place to be and I can see why so many people love it there. It's definitely one of the most popular cities in Ireland, and for good reason. A lot of young nightlife because NUIG (National University of Ireland, Galway) is right down the road within walking distance of the main square called 'Shop Street.'
We took the bus back to UL Sunday afternoon and got back around dinner time. We all unpacked, showered and made some dinner. It was nice to not have to spend money on dinner and just be able to make something in my apartment with my roommate! But I won't rant about the expensiveness that is Europe because this post is already way too long haha. I got to Skype with my wonderful sisters Sunday night which was hilarious as usual. I am absolutely loving it here, but I will be so excited to see my parents and sisters next month!
So, that's pretty much the low down on my life the past few weeks. A few random thoughts/facts for you all that are completely unrelated to life abroad. But I feel the need to keep those of you that actually read this informed on my life's happenings.
1) I got my position back for ResLife at school next year! I'm going to be the RA in the apartments with my friends and I couldn't be happier. I did my interview over Skype and I'm so glad it all worked out. Trying to figure out living arrangements while abroad is tough, so I'm really glad it's all settled now.
2) My freelance journalism piece that I wrote for the Schreiber Pediatric Rehab Center was officially published and the book was circulated last week. I'm bummed I couldn't go to the book signing that took place a few weeks ago, but Mindy, the lady who runs the amazing center, has sent a copy of the book to my house! I am so excited to see how it turned out.
3) There has been A LOT of drama at Elizabethtown so far this Spring. My friends keep telling how it's a good thing I'm abroad right now because each week something else is falling apart! Hopefully they'll get their act together soon, or at least by the time I come back. We had a crazy professor write for a local magazine about how social work, elementary education and communications are not real majors, (see here: http://takimag.com/article/campus_witch_hunts/print and then here: http://www.etownian.com/opinion/professor-s-article-outrages-student-1.2045479), there were acts of racial discrimination happening all over campus, 6 students were arrested last week, and now the college is being sued too! Jeez, hopefully all of this will be resolved soon. Have I mentioned I love UL?
4) I've been emailing with the newspaper about writing a travel feature for this semester, so I'm hoping it will all work out. I REALLY miss working at the Etownian, more than I thought I would! The newly designed website (www.etownian.edu) just won a second place award for "the best designed liberal arts college website in Pennsylvania." I was pretty excited. Looks they are getting along more than fine without me haha.
5) I really am lucky to have such amazing friends and family. I got a card from my family today that made me laugh so hard. All of my cousins, especially. They are just too funny. Every time I go to pick up mail, which is usually around once a week or once every other week, the village manager, Michael, tells me how loved I must be at home. It puts a smile on my face each and every time :-)
And, last but not least, here are some photos of my crazy friends and I. I've met some great girls from all over the U.S. who I know I'll keep in touch with long after I leave here in May.
Well, that's about it. If you actually made it through this post in its entirety, I will give you a HUGE hug when I get home! I really am going to try and be better at this because this post took me forever to put together haha. But I know I'll thank myself in the long for keeping track of my journey while over here.
This weekend I am headed to Brussels and Amsterdam with my roommate! I am really excited. I am sure it will be an adventure, as it always is, but I am really looking forward to it. I'll update you all when I get back. Thinking of everyone all the time!