Monday, May 9, 2011

"Well, I've been afraid of changin' cause I've built my life around you. But time makes you bolder and children get older, I'm getting older too."

So now that I am down to one week before I depart the beloved Emerald Isle, I feel as though I need to share with my wonderful readers a few things I have learned about myself while on this journey. Before I left, I knew I was in for a great experience. I knew I'd go through periods of happiness, sadness and just pure amazement at what the rest of the world has to offer. Here are just a few of the things which this semester away has taught me, both the good and the bad alike. Because hey, life isn't perfect, and this semester has certainly had it's fair share of up's and down's. Although for me personally, there have been more up's than down's, which is definitely a good thing, right? I'll start with a few serious things, but I shall end with some silly antics as per usual. Because everyone always needs a good laugh, and it's even better when you're laughing at someone other than yourself...

Things I have learned (for real):

1. Not everything will go the way you plan, and you have to learn to be okay with it. I have always been the kind of person who feels the most comfortable when surrounded by familiar settings. Yes, it's true that I've always adapted well to change, considering the fact that I can't stand to stay in the same place for too long. A lot of you don't consider me to be a "homebody" but I consider myself one in a different sense. Not in the way that I need to be home necessarily, because I think we can all agree that I enjoy making my own life experiences. It's more in the sense that I've truly learned the importance of family. Whenever I was having a somber day and I would Skype with a member of my family, my day instantly went up ten notches. I can't say the same for any other activity or person, expect maybe writing. Being so far away from home but being instantly connected gives you a sense of familiarity that I often really needed.

2. I've learned to adapt well to change, and for that I am very thankful. "Change" is a very broad and inclusive word, and a word that really made me nervous for a long period of time. Considering I have lived in the same town for my entire life, I've never really had to deal with new situations or surroundings, except when I moved up in school. Before I began this experience four months ago, not knowing where I would be sleeping that night while country hoping all over Eastern Europe would have absolutely terrified me. But now, I am strangely comfortable with it. The thing I fear most about leaving is the fact that I feel like I'm going to lose the sense of adventure I've gained while over here, and I hate that. I've worked so hard to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations, but everything about home is of course wonderfully comfortable. It's definitely bittersweet.

3. It's okay to have time to yourself and be alone. I have always been an independent person, but I also love people. Back at Elizabethtown, I am involved (WAY too involved for my own sanity) and I literally never have a minute to myself. I guess I like it that way. I like keeping busy and being on the move. Like my dad always says, "moving targets are harder to hit." At first it was hard to have "free time," considering I haven't had a break from classes since the summer of 2009. It absolutely did me some good and I'm going to carry this mentality with me when I get home.

4. Your true friends will always be there, no matter what. Boy have I learned that in these last four months. It was amazing to see which of my friends really cared and made the effort to stay in contact with me while I was 3,000+ miles away. I'm a really lucky girl.

5. Probably the most important lesson I've learned, or at least am trying to learn. You can't compare yourself to other people. I constantly find myself doing this, and it's something I have gotten better at but really need to keep working on. I know that a lot of times I am way too hard on myself and never take the time to stop and be happy about my accomplishments. I really have done a lot with my life over the past 21 years, and sometimes I forget that. I guess I was kind of having a career crisis while I was over here, and that really scared me. It took a lot for me to step back and look at the bigger picture and my future ahead of me. I've always been set on one career path and have been determined to make it work, but today I came across something that really caught my attention and made me excited to graduate next May (WHAT!?!?) It crosses with my two absolute favorite interests. More on that later...probably much later, actually. Hey, I can't reveal ALL my secrets now ;-)

Okay, so now on to the less serious stuff...Things I have learned (not so serious):

1. Boys are, really. I can't even begin to describe...

2. When boys drink instead of study, you wake up the next morning and find furniture on your porch...turned upside down, nonetheless.

3. The wonderful art of procrastination. Well, I don't know if this really counts because I obviously already knew this, but I am pretty sure I mastered it this semester. Let's hope getting back into the swing of things in the fall isn't too horrific. I can't even think about that yet...

4. Staying out until 4 a.m. (especially in places like Spain) is very normal. Actually, you're kind of not normal if you're like me and go to bed at say 1 or 2 a.m. Sometimes I feel like a grown woman, not a 21 year old.

5. Attending half of your classes in a semester is cause for a high-five, not a failing grade.

6. Church services in different languages are immensely interesting.

7. Americans are so much less friendly.

8. Persistence. Gosh have I learned to be persistent...

Things I have NOT learned:

1. How to cook...if anything I've gotten worse actually. Is that even possible? The only requirement I have of my husband (okay, maybe not the only) is that he can cook. That might have to be the first thing we have to discuss.

2. How to drive on the other side of the road. I don't think I could ever be completely comfortable with it actually.

3. How students handle drinking every single night. I think this is a good thing though. At least I'm sure my mom thinks so.

4. The European grading system. I can't tell you how many times I have tried and failed to comprehend this one. Even my Irish classmates aren't completely sure. How can you not be sure of your own grading system?!?! Anyway...I got a 69 on my macroeconomics project, but apparently that is an A- to them? Yeah, okay...try adding 21 points to that and then maybe I'll believe you, just maybe.

5. How to relax. The culture in Ireland is so laid back that sometimes I feel people are actually horizontal. Sometimes I love it, sometimes it gets my insanely structured and routine personality very uptight. It's good I didn't adapt to that one too much though or else I'd be in some major trouble upon returning.

6. The conversion rate from Euros to U.S. dollars. Okay, I have, but I HATE thinking about it so half the time I pretend that I don't know what it is. Good plan, right?

This little list doesn't even begin to outline all the things I have learned/not learned from my time overseas, but I think it's a good stepping stone to seeing some differences that I've encountered. Since I usually give you a little rundown about my week, I shall now commence that process.

Since exams started on Monday the second, I really haven't had much of a social life this week. On Wednesday the fourth I had my Geoscience exam which counted for 100% of my grade. If that isn't enough to make me want to crawl in a corner and cry then I don't know what is! After a pretty sleepless night on Tuesday, I spent the majority of Wednesday until 4 p.m. studying...I feel like I'm back at Etown already. It went okay I suppose. Hard to tell honestly, but our fingers are crossed that the professor is having a good day when he grades the exams. It was four essays within two hours, and we had no guidelines or study sheets containing any information about what we were going to be tested on. The hard thing is that the Irish students are very used to this way of examinations and grading, and obviously we are not, at all, which makes it doubly as difficult for exchange students. But alas, all we can do is hope for the best and pray our wonderful accents get us the grades we need. Thank God for pass/fail...

Thursday at four I had my macroeconomics final, so the same procedure as above took place for Thursday morning/afternoon. The professor had given us about 15 or 20 formulas and equations to memorize, of which I happily did. I thought to myself "hey, if you passed Public Policy Economics at Georgetown last summer in the top 15% of your class AND had the professor from you-know-where, then you'll have no problem with this." Wrong mentality I suppose because the exam really wasn't anything like the lecturer and tutorial professors made it out to be. We had our equations, but for half of the problems didn't have enough numbers to input so that we could get a calculation for our outputs. It was actually kind of frustrating, but I did the best assuming I could. The other thing I don't understand...negative grading. Why oh why do you LOSE marks for an incorrect answer. It isn't enough that you don't get the credit, but you actually lose marks and points get taken away from what you worked out correctly. I think this is an extremely ineffective system and I've never had anything like it before. Stupid negative grading, what is the reason for your existence?

Thursday night my friend Jill (who is Canadian, NOT American and gets really offended whenever Irish folks call her's actually quite amusing if you are around her when this happens!) came over and we had one our famous jam sessions. Okay, this was only the second time we had one, but after once it can become a tradition, right? She plays guitar and is fantastic, so we had a de-stress night and just played and hung out. Afterwards we were both more than ready for a drink, so we went to the Stables for a pint and just talked until they kicked us out.

Friday morning my friend Anthony and I had our weekly talk session over some tea. Jill, Angela and Sara joined us for lunch at Scholars and the afternoon ended in a fierce game of Jenga. Angela decided to build her own sky-high town out of the Jenga blocks, Jill decided she would make a huge rukus by having the blocks come crashing down and Anthony decided he would give the funniest reaction possible and nearly jumped out of his chair. I don't think we'll ever be invited back to Scholars. Guess we need to find a new place for tea next Friday, Anthony!
After lunch Jill and I headed in to town to walk around since it was finally a nice day out. It has been raining literally nonstop since I returned from Berlin last Monday. Not fun! I got a dress at Penny's for the three graduations I'm attending this month. It's a lot different than anything I've ever bought before, but Jill said it looked really nice so I went for it. I'm excited to try something new :-)
Friday night Morgan had a party at her house, but there is a story behind why this party actually took place. One night, Morgan and Heather (coughdrunkinlycough) decided that they wanted to buy plane tickets to go to Sweden for the weekend. However after our week long Euro trip that was definitely not cheap took place, the funds were running dry so neither of them attended this great little adventure. So hence, the "Morgan and Heather cannot afford to go to Sweden Party" took place. It was an extremely humorous night that, of course, got shut down by midnight. It helps that Morgan knows campus security on a personal basis, though.

Saturday I slept in (hoor-ah!) and cleaned my room a little bit. I started to get a few things organized to pack-up and then watched a movie for maybe the second time since I've been here. The weather was just AWFUL which was definitely no fun at all. Saturday night my friend Katrina had her "Irish Birthday" at the Stables so we all headed there for a little bit. It's funny how we didn't go to Stables for about a month and half straight and now we've been there twice in the last week.

Angela I had decided Saturday night that we wanted to go to church at the Limerick Cathedral on Sunday morning, but we had also decided that we did not want to dish out the 12 euro to pay for a cab to get there (the buses don't start running until 11:20 a.m. on Sundays). So what do two cheap college students do on a Sunday morning to make it to church? We walked the four miles instead! It was finally nice enough outside for a change, so we really enjoyed our morning walk (or brisk when you're with Angela) in to town. We met a really nice young gal there from the states who recognized our accents right away. She was from Colorado and is studying at Mary Immaculate College for graduate school. After church we had lunch at my favorite pub in town, Flannery's. They have delicious four euro toasties (sandwiches) which is perfect for us budget students. We had a delicious lunch, and before we left we noticed a sign for traditional music that night, so we decided we would come back a little later to hear it. Sunday night we brought Jill and Sara to our favorite spot for dinner and to hear the music, and the bartender noticed Angela and I right away. (I knew we should have changed our clothes, Angela!) He laughed at us and I'm pretty sure we became his favorite Americans (and Canadian, Jill) by the end of the night. I might have to go back one more time before I leave, just to say goodbye to him! The night ended with us almost burning down SuperMacs when we ordered baked ice cream for our dessert and the man at the counter forgot he had put it in the oven...always an adventure.

Today was another terrible weather day. Angela had heard that the Baily's Cheesecake in Limerick was to die for, so once the weather broke for about an hour or so, we made our way up towards town to try and find her and the rest of the girls this famous cheesecake. We came back an hour later with no cheesecake, bananas (?) and completely soaked clothing. But it's okay because we made some warm tea and watched 'Gilmore Girls' so my day was basically made.
Tonight one of the girls in my program, Sarah, had a going away party because she leaves Ireland in the morning. She goes to York College, though, so I promised to attend one of the Etown/York soccer games because she is apparently a soccer super-star! Tonight was our first goodbye, and I must say, I didn't like it at all. I can't believe our program is over in a week. It went entirely too fast.

Tomorrow morning, Angela, Jill and I are meeting to enjoy a traditional Irish breakfast before our afternoon exams. Irish Folklore is tomorrow at 4, and then my last exam is Saturday at 12:30. Oh, and tomorrow night is MY Irish Birthday Party! I'm really excited and it should be a lot of fun. I'll let you know how it turns out.

For now, I will bid you adieu. I'll update you after all of my exams are complete, for then I will truly be a happy camper.

So long, farewell...

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