I studied abroad in Dublin, Ireland for the first half of my collegiate senior year (2006). I hadn't seriously considered study abroad until it was almost too late--the summer had already arrived when my friend S and I realized that we were facing a pretty dull semester. Our friend B had graduated early and our friend C was already signed up for a study abroad program in Niger. To shake things up a bit, we decided (almost on a whim, as I tend to do) to spend a semester in Dublin. It was a pretty easy choice. First of all, it was the only place we could go (aside from Australia, which failed to excite me) without first fulfilling a foreign language requirement--no time. Secondly, I had always wanted to go to Ireland--the closest thing I have to an ancestral home.
It was decided. Once we arrived, we did the usual sorts of things:
1. Drank Guinness.
(and then discovered Bulmer's, the Irish equivalent of Magner's cider, and didn't drink anything else for the entire semester... it's that good)
2. Explored Dublin's Fair City
(view from St. Stephen's Green)
2. Roamed around the Irish Countryside
(Glendalough monastic ruins)
(henna precursor to my real tattoo, in the seaside town of Dun Laoghaire)
(Newgrange Megalithic Passage Tomb - County Meath - This ancient temple was built around 3200 BC, making it older than Stonehenge and the Pyramid of Giza. The entrance to the Newgrange tomb, decorated with multiple tri-spirals. During the Winter Solstice sunrise, natural light pours into the cruciform chamber, illuminating the passage. We were there during the fall, but we were still able to enter the tomb on a fascinating guided tour. Because Stonehenge and the Pyramids are so famous, they have become overrun with tourists and I've heard that the experience isn't all that enlightening--it was incredibly cool to be so close to relatively unadulterated ancient history.)
(We chose a pretty unfortunate day to visit the Black Valley... )
(It's not really the countryside, but we also took an organized class trip to Belfast for a day--I was surprised to see that the Protestant and Catholic sections were still divided by high barbed prison-style walls, decorated with huge political murals.)
(my friend Olya and I stayed in Ireland for an extra week after the Program ended, so we could visit the coast. We took a bus through the country, which was an interesting adventure in and of itself... the trip ended on a rather sour note, when I left my purse [passport, credit cards, cash] on top of a pay phone in Galway and it was stolen... I had to fly back into the USA without a passport--it can be done!)
(Sligo, a surf town on the west coast of Ireland, where we took seaweed baths at a local spa)
(Blarney Castle - I couldn't resist kissing the Blarney stone, despite the obvious sanitation concerns... unfortunately, I do not think that it "worked." I am not blessed with the gift of gab, and I am certainly not skilled at empty flattery.)
(I am, however, quite skilled in the art of dance.)
4. Played in the mud.
(Beer + semi-organized sports + Ireland's wet climate = lots of fun)
I had a really incredible time in Ireland and wouldn't trade the experiences I had there for anything in the world. I met some really wonderful girls (who I haven't seen in far too long because they live too far away), learned a lot about Irish history and heritage, and was able to take full advantage of my proximity to other European (and African) countries.
Next week: Scotland!