Sunday, January 31, 2016

After Saturday, I Just Want to See Moher Cliffs In Ireland

Despite how the title can be a bit misleading (had to throw in the pun), I did actually travel to the Cliffs of Moher on the west coast of Ireland this past Saturday. It has been my computer background for about 2 months now so one could say I was pretty excited to make the journey there and witness the breathtaking views the Cliffs of Moher had to offer.

The day started out bright and early, boarding a coach bus at 8am. Luckily our bus had Wi-Fi, although the two other busses did not, so I was able to pass the time pretty well. I sat next to a stranger on the bus in hopes to make a new friend and it worked out better than I could have thought. He was an agricultural science major from Cornell University and not only was he a study abroad student, he was directly enrolled at UCD and studying there for a whole year. Given that I am an Agricultural Engineering major, we connected pretty quickly. After about 30 minutes of talking, both of us realized it was still way too early for us to be awake and therefore nap time. I put my headphones in and was out.

I woke up to the bus pulling into a travel plaza. As I rubbed my eyes to wake myself up, I couldn't believe what the travel plaza was called....the Barack Obama Plaza. Was this a joke? Barack Obama in Ireland? Am I still even IN Ireland? All questions aside, everyone else was murmuring about it as well. And sure enough, this travel plaza was built and dedicated to Barack Obama because he had ancestors from that town and as they quoted in the museum in the travel stop, "There's no one as Irish as Barack Obama." I'm still having trouble wrapping my head around that phrase. So I guess if I ever get into a shady situation in Ireland, I'll just name drop "Barack Obama" and instantly I'll make friends because apparently the Irish love our president. The more ya know.

Continuing on in the journey, it snowed, rained, overcast and even sunny all in the span of about 2 hours. The weather is a mystical thing here in Ireland and can go from being 50 and sunny to rain in the blink of an eye. It still beats the 10 degree temperatures of State College any day though. About 2 hours later, we arrived at the Cliffs. We hiked up about 15 minutes to a picture perfect spot. Oh but I forgot to mention, to get to that spot, we had to push through winds as strong as I'd ever felt. I was getting pushed around and so was everyone else; I couldn't help but laugh about it. Not only was there wind, but the winds pushed and pulled the ocean water up the side of the cliffs and sprayed everyone on the path for a portion on the trail. I wish I would have gotten a GoPro video of it because it felt like a hurricane if I've ever been in one. At the top, the views were beyond breathtaking and it was amazing to witness something I had been starring at as a background for the past two months. The pictures barely do the cliffs justice. Some were as high as 700 ft which is unbelieveable. Despite the treacherous winds and constant body weight shifting to stay upright, the views were worth all of the trouble.

The Cliffs were amazing and I truly cannot wait to see Moher of this beautiful country and explore all it has to offer.


Cliffs of Moher Saturday Footage

Thursday, January 28, 2016

11 Days In and So Much to Look Forward To

For my whole life until 11 days ago, I'd only been out of the country once to go to Canada. I've been in Ireland for 11 days now; it's actually impossible for me to wrap my head around that. Moreover, that I'll be spending the next 4 months in this beautiful country. I can't begin to describe how much fun I've had so far but the experience has been all I could have asked for.

On Sunday January 17th, I flew out of Philadelphia International Airport at 9pm. That was only my 5th time flying ever. I've always been fascinated by planes and love the concept of flying- from successfully getting through security as a Caucasian American male (so difficult, I know) to walking down the tunnel and into the plane, it's always something I look forward to. I boarded American Airlines flight 722 (ironically my lucky number so I knew it was going to be a good flight) with my friend Kelly Risch who is also a Penn Stater at a branch campus. We had briefly texted before this to arrange flight details and such but this was the first meeting in person. We were just two of the many University College Dublin international students boarding this flight who were about to embark on the journey of a lifetime. Although I had the window seat, given that it was a redeye flight, I wasn't able to see much except the dark abyss of the night sky 30,000 feet in the air.
We landed in Dublin around 8:30 am and the sun was just coming up. While waiting in line to go through Immigration, I heard some people talking about UCD behind us. I started talking to this guy named Casey who goes to Norwich University in Vermont along with two girls. Upon realizing his hometown was Harrisburg, PA, I was blown away. I had just traveled across an entire ocean to a whole new country and the odds of me meeting my first UCD friend who lives 40 min away from my hometown was just unbelievable. Unbelievable in a good way. Since then, we've become great friends and share many similar interests such as skiing, hiking, and sports. We took a coach bus from the airport to what we thought was UCD's campus....although the bus driver decided to drop us off at a random stop and UCD was no where in sight...about 20 other international students were with me. Picture the sight of 20 college students, each with 2 suitcases full of luggage in a new country with no cell service at a bus stop all looking as clueless as ever hoping someone will step up and lead us in the right direction...2 minutes passed and still nothing...we had no clue what to do haha. We finally found a local resident of the area and they pointed us in the right direction; luckily the campus was about 5 min away. We finally made it to our apartments and got settled for the day. On Tuesday morning, we took a bus into Dublin and explored center city near the Spire Monument. 
Later that night, we went the infamous Temple Bar. Little did I realize, "Temple Bar" is actually a region of Dublin that includes many different bars and a lot of good nightlife. If there's one thing in the trip that I had already learned up to this point, it was not to be afraid to talk to people because you can always learn something new! It's a major key my dad taught me to do through all of his success stories of talking to everyone from pilots in a cockpit while on a commercial plane to locals in a foreign city. Within 10 minutes of being in Temple Bar, I had talked to two men from Spain and one from England. Between meeting a few new faces and the live music, it was a great night.

On Wednesday, UCD hosted an International Student Orientation where they introduced some of the study abroad advisors to us and gave us scarves with the UCD colors on them. We explored campus a bit after this; it is one of the nicest college campuses I've ever seen with 2 lakes, an enormous science complex, and most buildings are relatively new with incredible architectural features. And yes, the grass is actually as green as everyone says it is. It doesn't seem possible for it to be as green as it is in January.

I could go on and on about all the fun I've had in the past 11 days but what it really comes down to is that I'm incredibly happy and excited to be in my new home. I've met some awesome people from all over the globe, many from the United States, and connected with them on all kinds of levels. We've shared many laughs and many good times. Given how much fun I've had in the last 11 days, I can't wait for what's ahead in the next 111 days.