January 26, 2014

Study Abroad - Week 3: Class, Travels, & Friends

I can't believe I'm about to start my fourth week here in Ireland!

It feels like I just got here, but it also feels like I've been here for months! I've definitely settled in & I'm starting to really get used to Dublin. I'm ready to do more exploring around the city now!

This week has been fairly quiet, with the API welcome event last Sunday & classes as usual during the week. This weekend most of the students in my program decided to go to Galway for the weekend, & I joined in! It was fun to travel a little & I got to see my friend & fellow blogger Merrill, as she's studying abroad through API at the National University of Ireland, Galway!

Beautiful ceiling of the Dublin Town Hall during our tour

So, last week for the API event we had a walking tour, scavenger hunt, & dinner in Dublin. The API Dublin group is made up of students studying at Trinity College Dublin (TCD), University College Dublin (UCD), & National University of Ireland, Maynooth. At the time of the welcome event, the Maynooth students hadn't arrived, as they're actually arriving tomorrow, Monday. So, for our welcome event it was just the Trinity & UCD students, about 30 of us in total.

Unfortunately, it poured all during our walking tour, so everyone was really wet & cold. But, I had a blast. The walking tour was led by a history professor from Trinity & was really interesting. Then, the scavenger hunt was so much fun! I'm very competitive, so I may have gotten a little too into it.

Dinner at Gallagher's Boxty House

Last, we all met at Gallagher's Boxty House in the Temple Bar area of Dublin. We had a delicious dinner & got to see a demonstration on how to make Boxty, a traditional Irish dish. It's essentially a potato pancake & it's really good. Gallagher's is actually really well known & the cooking demonstration was given by the restaurant owner, which was cool. For dinner I had soup & bread, tea, Irish lamb stew, & chocolate cake. So good!

During the week I had classes. As I said before, I'm taking four classes - two history & two english. Here they call classes or courses "modules." For every module, students usually have a lecture & a tutorial. In lectures, students are in large classes & simply listen to their professors. Every class is 50 minutes long. Depending on the number of credits a class is worth, students have one or two lectures each week. My two history modules are worth more than my english modules, so every week I have two lectures per history module & only one lecture per english module.

Tutorials don't start until week three & are a little different. They're usually led by Teaching Assistants or graduate students & are much smaller. I've been told that tutorials are where students learn the most, as all students are expected to be a part of the discussion. I'm actually lucky because I only have tutorials for my history classes. Also, my tutorials don't start until week four, so I have an extra week to relax.

Students seem to have very few homework assignments, & are instead expected to continually study throughout the semester. Then, at the end of the year, students have final essays & exams. Again, I'm lucky because I only have two exams. I'll end up with an essay for each english module & an essay & an exam for each history module. That makes a total of four essays & two exams. It sounds like a lot, but my two english essays are due around March 26th. My history essays & exams won't be until May & even then the exams will be spread out. I won't know my exam schedule or my essay topics until about February or March.

Me & Olivia

Me & Merrill

Onto a more interesting topic - traveling to Galway! As I mentioned, the students in my program decided to travel to Galway & I was happy to join them. Most students had class Friday & took an afternoon bus. However, Olivia & I didn't have class on Friday so we decided to take an earlier bus Friday morning. We took a Citylink bus, which cost €9.50 each way. The bus ride was about two and a half hours, which isn't too bad considering we drove to the complete opposite side of the country. It was also an easy ride, as the bus was similar to a Greyhound, so it was pretty comfortable.

 Olivia & I arrived in Galway at around noon on Friday so we walked around a bit, got lunch, & met up with Merrill. Then the three of us went to a museum & walked around a bit more before finding the hostel & then meeting up with everyone for dinner. After that we went to a cool pub for a while. I got to meet two of Merrill's friends - Sarah & Kiersten. Friday night I stayed at Merrill's, so I got to see her apartment. We also got to call our friend Cait on viber, which was super fun.

Saturday morning we got up & met Sarah, then the three of us went to the market. There's usually an awesome outdoor market in the city center every Saturday. It was pretty fun when we went, but it was pouring rain all morning, so unfortunately a lot of vendors didn't show up. I still got to get a claddagh ring & some triquetra earrings. The earrings are studs but they're in the shape of a triangle with an interlocking design. It's supposed to represent the trinity & the design is also known as the trinity knot.

Me, Sarah, & Merrill

For the rest of the day we walked around, shopped, got lunch, & tried not to freeze outside. Eventually Merrill went home to nap & I met up with the students in my program. Saturday night I stayed in the hostel so I dropped my things off there & went to dinner with everyone. Then, I went with Sarah (from API, not my new friend from Galway) to a pub with traditional Irish music. Our friends Olivia & Gretchen came & Merrill came too with Sarah & Kiersten. We all talked for a while, met to a man from Galway, & basically just hung out, which was really fun.


Sunday we just headed home. We got up early-ish because we needed to check out by 10am. Then we grabbed a quick breakfast & caught the 11:15am bus home. I've just been chilling in my apartment & avoiding work for the rest of the day.

This week is more of the same. Classes & some homework. I have some work to do, like internship applications & finishing my application for a research grant. I'm also going to try to do some exploration if it's not too cold or rainy this week. Finally, we have another API excursion on Saturday, a Gaelic football game Saturday night, & then watching the Super Bowl together Sunday night, thanks to some planning by my roommate Kate.

I'll plan to blog again next week! Feel free to email with any questions!

January 17, 2014

Study Abroad - Weeks 1 & 2

What an exciting, busy, and exhausting two weeks it's been!

So, starting at the beginning. When I flew to Dublin I left from Logan Airport in Boston. My flight left Monday, January 6th at 6:15pm. It's about a six hour flight, but due to the time difference, we arrived at 5:30am.

I met up with other students in the airport and we waited for our Resident Director to show up. After collecting some more students, we all left to drive to our apartments. For the rest of the day we had orientation meetings about safety and such in Dublin. We also had lots of time to move into our apartments.

Over the next several days we met with our Resident Director several more times. We had some other meetings about Irish culture, we were shown how to get to Trinity College, & we went shopping for any items we needed at Penneys, a department store. We also registered for classes and generally got acquainted with Dublin and got to know the other students in the program.

As I briefly mentioned in my last post, all of the API students going to Trinity live at another college, which is about a 30-minute walk from campus. There are ten of us API students living here, but plenty of students live here as well. The college is roughly the same size as Saint Mike's, with about 2,000 students. Most of the other students at this college study here as well, but there are also plenty of students who, like us, simply live here and attend another college.

On Monday, January 13th, we started classes. I'm taking four classes while I'm here - two History and two English classes. My favorites so far are Twentieth Century Women's Literature & Themes of Modern American History. The first discusses works of literature by female writers and seems like a really engaging class. For the second, I have a fun, passionate professor. It's also interesting to hear about American politics from a different perspective.

We've had a bit of free time these last two weeks, so I've used the time to do some exploring. All of the API students got together to tour the Guinness Factory last week, which was really fun. I wasn't sure how much I would enjoy it, but the tour was really interesting. We also learned how to properly taste a Guinness & how to pour our own.

Awesome view of Dublin from the factory

On my own, I also spent some time touring the Dublin Castle & going to seeing the Book of Kells & the Old Library on Trinity Campus. The Dublin Castle was used a lot by English royalty when they ruled Ireland. Now, it's mainly used for tours but it's still used for the induction ceremony of Irish Presidents. John F. Kennedy, Nelson Mandela, & Bill Clinton have also all attended events at the castle.

The Book of Kells is a copy of the four Gospels of the New Testament. It was creates by Celtic monks around the year 800. It's well known because it is such an old collection of documents & because it is so ornately decorated. Upstairs from the Book of Kells exhibit is the Old Library. You may have seen pictures, as this library is constantly voted one of the most beautiful in the world. It is incredible and breathtaking. It was really beautiful and I advise anyone to go and see it.

Tomorrow we have a welcome event through API. We'll have a welcome tour of the city then we'll get a cooking lesson & will have a huge dinner together. We're going to get together with students studying at University College Dublin through API, so it will be cool to meet them.

I'll blog again in the next few weeks about what I'm up to. If you have any questions, feel free to email!

Studying Abroad in Dublin, Ireland


It's been a looong time since my last post, but for good reason! I've been busy! After finals ended last December, I packed up, drove home to Massachusetts, celebrated Christmas with my family, then packed again and flew to Dublin, Ireland!

 Trinity College

I'll be studying in Dublin for the entire semester; I arrived on Tuesday, January 7th and I'll be flying home again on Saturday, May 24th. I'm studying at Trinity College but Trinity doesn't have a lot of housing, so I'm living at another college, about a 30 minute walk from Trinity, with other students from my study abroad program.

So a bit about how study abroad works. Saint Mike's has a pretty sweet set up. Students keep their financial aid and scholarships and, while abroad, pay Saint Mike's like they would normally. Saint Mike's then pays your host institution.

Students are required to apply to study abroad. This sounds daunting, but it's fairly simple. Students first need to apply through Saint Mike's to be allowed to study abroad. Basically you need to have a certain GPA, get approval from your advisor, etc. All the requirements and forms are available on the SMC study abroad website. Next, students apply to a program through which they will study abroad. SMC has a list of programs that are pre-approved. These programs will help provide orientation in your new country, will help you get your student visa, will find you a place to live, and things like that.

I'm studying abroad through API, or Academic Programs International. I chose it because I'd heard good things about them & because they seemed on top of their game. They also have a whole bunch of excursions included. This semester I'll be travelling to Belfast in Northern Ireland & Edinburgh in Scotland, among other places!

These programs have locations all over the world, so you can really go anywhere. I have friends studying all over. Many of my friends are in Europe in Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Denmark, Spain, France. I also have friends going to Costa Rica, Ecuador, & Morocco!

It's only week 2, but I'm already so grateful to have the opportunity to study abroad! I would definitely recommend that students study abroad if given the chance! But a bit of advice: plan your study abroad journey early! I knew that I wanted to study abroad since I was a first year. Because of that, I saved some LSRs, or Liberal Study Requirement classes, to take while abroad. It made it easier to plan my classes and to get courses abroad approved by the SMC registrar.

I'll be posting soon with more pictures & stories about my first few weeks in Ireland! If you have any questions, feel free to email!