Goodbye Ireland!

Originally written on 16 May, 2016, as I was leaving Ireland:

collage_207

Just a few of the amazing places I’ve been…

What’s the word for “goodbye”, “I’ll be back”, “I’m already missing here”, “thanks for all the memories”, and “I fell in love with this place”? I’m having trouble finding one!
Ireland has been an amazing place to spend four months, and I feel incredibly blessed to have had the opportunity to come, study, and travel from Dublin. The people – even strangers – have been so loving and generous. I’ve made wonderful, amazing friends who I love and will miss terribly. The natural beauty is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Ireland’s history is amazing and I feel so fortunate to have witnessed the 1916 centennial, visited museums, and participated in the census.
At times, time passed very slowly. I didn’t always liked my professors and missed people back home. But looking back, the time has passed so fast. I can’t believe it’s time to go, and wish I could stay longer. There are so many places I would love to see, and things I would love to do still, especially around Ireland.
Getting to Dublin was much more difficult than some other people coming here, or other places abroad. My friend Macy (not her real name) who came with me from Gordon applied with me, and it was a tough process. We had to petition to come to Ireland, since Gordon didn’t already have a programme set up – so we had to make sure credits would transfer, confirm UCD was safe, etc. etc. – all to say that process wasn’t easy. But I don’t regret that process; it was all worth it.
I have so many mixed emotions as I go; I’m not sure exactly what I feel. I’ve felt this way before: leaving China after 6 weeks (I think it was 6!), Gordon, sleep-away camp… but those were usually for shorter periods of time or about the same, and I always knew I would be back. In Ireland, my stay was comparatively much longer, and farther away, and I’m not sure the next time I will be back in this beautiful country.
Despite the uncertainties, I do know for certain: My heart will always have a place here. Thanks for everything.

wicklow

The grass is actually greener here.

P.S. If you are ever studying in or travelling to Ireland (especially Dublin) on holiday or travel and need some tips, I would love to be of help! Send me a message or comment below!ūüôā

Plaza de espana

Travel and Technology

Technology is an amazing thing. It’s so powerful, and has the ability to connect in so many ways. But strangely enough, I’ve found it also has the power to disconnect. Let me explain.

From my experience, I’ve always noticed that when I put the camera (or in my case, iPhone camera) away, so that I can experience a location Рthat is, breathe in,

La Giralda

Amazing find in La Giralda cathedral – Sevilla, Spain

breathe out the place and enjoy it to its fullest Рit makes so much more of a difference. I often times find myself so consumed with taking pictures, trying to remember all of this that I’m seeing because it’s all so amazing! But I also need to remember to put it down, and really connect with the place. It’s hard to do sometimes, but it’s so worth it!

I also connect with a place by utilising all five of my senses. Breathe in, breathe out. What am I feeling Рon my face, fingertips, feet? What am I touching? What do I smell? Taste? Hear? See? I try to pause to ask myself these questions whenever I see something beautiful, or am at a location or experience I really want to remember. I give myself a little time to take pictures, but then I want to feel the wind in my hair, hear the water or the scent of local coffee on the street in that moment. It’s not a moment a picture can capture.
Then there‚Äôs something else I‚Äôve been noticing – not the connection between traveller and camera, but between the traveller and a physically distant person. I spent a few nights at a friend who was studying in Sevilla, Spain. She was living with a host family and had two other international students living with her. The difference between those two girls was ginormous. The first – let‚Äôs call her Rachel – had invested everything in her time in Spain. Sure, she used her phone, but she put it away at the dinner table, and used it mostly for goodbye-selfies with her Spanish friends. The other girl, let‚Äôs call her Sarah, was constantly on her computer or phone, communicating with someone from home – Skyping, Facetime-ing, voice messaging, text messaging… it was as if the conversation between those physically absent from her presence where taking priority over the potential conversation between those in front of her.
Because I¬† stayed at the end of their programme, I got to see the how the girls felt about leaving. Rachel was torn up – she didn‚Äôt want to leave and was crying for a while on her last night. She told me¬†she would ‚Äúmove to Sevilla in a heartbeat‚ÄĚ. Sarah expressed that she couldn‚Äôt wait to get home, telling us about all the things she was excited to see and do once she got back. It was as if she had never really left her home.
My theory is that Rachel had experienced Sevilla to its fullest because she had fully invested herself and her time in the culture, people, and country. She had experienced love in the country, and love makes leaving hard. Sarah, on the other hand, experienced love at home and wasn’t ready to let go of that to experience something else in a foreign place fully. It came as no surprise to me to find that Rachel’s Spanish was much better than Sarah’s РRachel talked with her host mom and everyone at the dinner table in Spanish. She spoke English too, but it was a lot less than Sarah, who seemed to be using English much more than Spanish.
Technology brought Sarah close to those back home, but distanced her from the people right in front of her. Rachel limited her technology use so she was able to keep in touch with those far away, so that she was able to grow close to those nearby. This is a lesson for me – I want what Rachel had, and I realise now that technology can get in the way of that.
Sevilla bridge view

A breathtaking view in the La Giralda cathedral //Sevilla, Spain

“I read; I travel; I become.” -Derek Walcott

Around Dublin

I’ve been in Dublin a while¬†(okay, three months!), and as a result, I’ve been¬†familiarising myself with the local transportation. (Forgive my British/Irish English spellings if you’re not used to it, I just don’t want to be¬†THAT¬†American when writing, you know?) It’s good to be able to navigate a city when you love it, or you’re just learning to.¬†Here are a couple tips I would have for getting around Dublin – not just from UCD!

1. Bilingualism

One of the first things I noticed that took me by surprise was the English and Gaelic around. After looking more into it, it’s only the west coast of Ireland that really uses Gaelic, but Gaelic is still one of the official languages of the Republic of Ireland. Don’t worry, this won’t be a history lesson! (Personally, I think it makes a pretty cool one.¬†#historybuff¬†) As a result, you’ll be seeing street signs and bus stops with both the Gaelic and English name.

Trinity Library

Trinity College Library

2. AirCoach

Arriving to¬†Dublin, and getting to UCD, I took the AirCoach bus, which was¬†super¬†helpful. Comfortable seats, clean bathroom, storage for your luggage – it’s a long trip, but I really can’t complain. There are a few stops the bus makes along the way, but it’s a good way to get out from the airport for sure. (Cost is 10 euro round-trip.)

 

3. The Dublin Bus

I could go on about the buses around Dublin (there are several, many of them touristy or horse-and-carriage), but the Dublin Bus is the main, best way to get around. It¬†might be a tad confusing, but it’s easier when look up the timetables/schedules online beforehand. They also have an app! Fortunately for me (worst sense of direction here!), many of the bus stops have the bus number and destination on a screen, and¬†the amount of time expected on little screens at many of the stations.¬†Without a Leap Card (London equivalent to Oyster card), one bus ride to anywhere costs 2.70 euro. However, 3-day visitor Leap cards are available! See the link above for details.

4. Maps, etc.

The Spire

The Spire monument

 

Knowing the city is very helpful. Newfangled inventions like Google Maps help for sure, but it’s also good to know what you’re getting into ahead of time. My sense of direction is very bad, so¬†I need to know where I’m going and the general direction of where I’m headed. Or I take a more directionally-gifted friend with me, that always helps! The city centre is not too difficult to navigate, since it’s not a huge city (compared to NYC or Madrid), and you can walk almost everywhere. While there are some small roads that change names (very confusing!), having a map in hand, plus an Irish person nearby is all you need!¬†For me, Irish people are SUPER warm and welcoming, always ready to help out if you need directions. You can ask anyone on the street –¬†even Dublin Bus drivers are willing to help!

In other words… just go to Ireland! If your time is limited, I would highly encourage you to take a guided day trip tour outside Dublin (usually three locations for about 50 euro, available through several tour companies), even if you’re only around for two or three days. As much as I love Dublin, I feel that you¬†only really sense Ireland once you go outside the city.¬†It’s a BEAUTIFUL country and I don’t think you will regret it. I’ve been here three months, and I certainly don’t!

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

How to survive a long trip: 11 Do’s & Dont’s

Nowadays, in-flight movies have great selections. But you’re not always flying, and the plane doesn’t always have¬†a TV. So what to do?¬†I recently traveled for more than 24 hours straight (including layovers). So I can say with confidence: it’s hard, but you can do it. Also, I know I have more do’s than I have don’ts. I guess I’m just a positively-thinking person? Sorry if I’ve disappointed you with my 7 do’s and only 4 don’ts. But remember, these are just suggestions from me – you can disregard them if you’d like, but these are what I’ve found helpful.

  1. Do: Bring a good book: It can be a book you’ve read before, or one that’s been sitting on your list for a while. Just bring something that you know will take up your time and keep you engaged.
  2. Don’t: iPhone/electronic games: If you’re on a long flight/trip, it has a good chance of running out of battery. These days, a lot of airports provide outlets to charge your phone/computer. Regardless,¬†I would go with the paper book (or other non-electronic things) if possible, but if you trust the battery level to power through (literally!), then go ahead. I’m not there to stop you! If you’re going internationally, your phone bill will thank you later¬†if you¬†turn your cellular data OFF¬†and go into airplane mode for the entirety of your trip.
  3. Do: Sleep. It seems like a no-brainer, but you want sleep – that new time zone demands it. If you’re like me, you’ll be needing a Pillow Pet or some kind of cushion so your neck doesn’t fall off, and maybe¬†an eye mask/ear plugs so you can black out (in a good way, of course). For your trip, you might want to try falling asleep to the tune of your destination’s time zone, so you’re not COMPLETELY jet-lagged.

    Sleeping

    Getting over jet lag like…

  4. Don’t: Talk too loud. Respect other people by keeping quiet. They might be trying to sleep, didn’t read this blog post, or¬†forgot their earplugs at home – and now they’re depending on you. You might¬†be sitting with your best friend for the next 12 hours, but everyone else doesn’t have to know.
  5. Do: Bring food. Check ahead of time to see what meals you’ll be getting, if any. If you have a lot of layovers, this can be important. Even if you are getting food, it might stink and you might be allergic to it. If you have layovers or¬†transfers (i.e. plane to train to car, etc.), then who knows – you could get delayed, and you don’t want to pay 5 times what you should be for a bottle of water, amiright? ¬†This is especially important on buses, where the only food is at the station.¬†Plus, you get the food you want, when you want it. Sounds good to me!
  6. Don’t:¬†Bring fragile foods. You might love your fruits and crackers, but¬†they can get easily smooshed or explode and then¬†leak.¬†That would¬†be terrible. Also, for the sake of your fellow travellers, don’t bring anything strong-smelling: you can have egg salad or tuna any other day.
  7. Do: Bring toiletries¬†in your carry-on: Brushing your teeth, a splash of cold water on your face, or for the ladies out there, some eyeliner is one of the best ways I know to freshen up. A little mouthwash works too, if the space is an issue. For plane rides, make sure it’s 2 ounces or less! A comb can go a long ways as well. These tools are best utilized at the very end of the trip, like the last hour (or every 12 hours, depending on your travel¬†time).¬†I know that¬†you know that you need a toothbrush, etc. But I would make a note to myself: bring it in the carry-on. It’s easy to stick it in the suitcase, but when you need to look pulled together as soon as you¬†hop out of¬†a¬†taxi, bring those toiletries. Maybe a mint, too. Hopefully it won’t, but¬†carried-on toiletries¬†become much more important if your luggage gets lost!
  8. Don’t: Ladies, if it’s that time of the month, you don’t want to be caught unprepared. I think that’s all I need to say about that.
  9. Do: Bring puzzles, etc.: Scrabble grams, sudoku, crosswords – all legends. They drive me crazy, but hey – you will have¬†the time to work through it! When I’m sick of my book but can’t seem to sleep (shoutout to the crying baby), a good Scrabble gram will keep me engaged and doing something.
  10. Don’t: Leave luggage unattended. If you’re travelling with a friend, ask them to watch it while you use the bathroom. If you’re not with a friend, make a friend! Ask them to watch your things for you. You might also want to bring your most-valuable things (i.e. phone, wallet) with you to the bathroom or wherever.
  11. Do:¬†bring a notebook or journal. I journal a lot, so while I was travelling, I wrote¬†a couple entries. But you don’t have to be a consistent journal-er to find time to write down your thoughts on your 13-hour flight! I’m sure most people don’t, but I also practiced my cursive and made a list of the things I was going to do once I landed. At the same time, paper¬†isn’t limited¬†to journaling! My brother and I have this game where one person draws an unnamable squiggle or line, and the second person has to make it a recognizable object. Once I drew a swirl, and my brother made it into a snail. Another¬†time Jon drew a boxy shape, and I made it Spongebob. It passes the time, and it’s fun!

And an extra¬†“do”: Locate the bathroom. it seems a little weird, and I might be the only person to do this kind of thing, but on a long¬†ride I’ll find the bathroom and utilize the facilities… to get my crazy out. See, I have wiggles. They need to come out. So I get them out by doing some exercises like squats or high knees or just any kind of movement. Tip: Don’t do anything too crazy in a bus bathroom,¬†it could shake it and you could get weird looks after you walk out!

But above all, do¬†TRAVEL and LOVE IT. After 18-hour flights and 24-hour travels (including layovers, etc.), I can say travelling can be VERY hard and can definitely take a toll on you! But it can also be VERY worth it.¬†Don’t let a bad experience get you down – there are still so many beautiful, amazing places out there to see! Take a deep breath, remember why you’re travelling, and book your next flight.ūüėČ

Paris

“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” -Mary Ann Radmacher

Little Fish, Big Pond

I have a lot of post drafts on this blog. Some go back a long way, but others not so much. I feel like I want to say something, but I’m not exactly sure what or how. But since it’s March, I’m in Dublin, and I’m a girl meeting the world (not¬†just America and China), I figured I’d publish something! (I’m not going to post it all in one go, rather I will spread the posts out over time.)

For those who keep up with me on Facebook, you may have noticed that I’ve been posting a lot about travels – Dublin, Belfast, London, etc. while studying at University College Dublin (UCD). So I figured while I’m at it, I might as well document it here, for you! I will also be posting some hints and tips for you – especially my fellow study abroad-ers.

UCD.dorm

My room at UCD

The semester at UCD began at the end of January. I got into an on-campus apartment (Belgrove – super nice! Definitely would recommend), I¬†have gotten somewhat acquainted with the campus. UCD is a big school, so it’s impossible to know everything, everywhere – but transportation has been essential – more on that later. It technically still is in Dublin (after all: University College¬†Dublin), but it’s a bit farther from the city centre than I thought. I did a little research about how to get to the airport to UCD: turns out, there is a bus that goes straight from the airport to UCD! Perfect! It’s called AirCoach (tickets can be purchased at the airport and online), and it’s a bit of a ride, but it’s comfortable and direct!

As someone from Gordon College, a small school just north of Boston, I have to say UCD is very different. For starters, UCD has a population of about 32,000 students. That’s¬†30,000¬†more than Gordon! So yeah, little fish in a big pond. But I like more than the on-campus Starbucks. Travel, new friends, different cultures… I’m excited for what’s to come!

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” -Anonymous

Mountain range

Taiwan: Chinatown Island

Remember how I wrote about Christmas in China last year? It’s a little d√©j√†¬†vu-ey to be writing about being back in China over my winter break again, especially when I didn’t think I would be. (More on that later.) A little bit of Chinese history, to get us started. Before the 17th century, it was mainly inhabited by Chinese aborigines, so it’s got a bit of history all its own. However, in the 20th century Taiwan changed: it was relatively unaffected¬†by the political movements of the Communist Revolution, but it received a lot of the Chinese that decided to move¬†out. In fact, it is actually free from communist rule.¬†If you visit Taiwan today, you’ll find a lot of ‘traditional’ Chinese culture that was brought over and preserved. They were¬†allowed freedom, in a sense, to do their thing without a government and rule in flux. Kinda like an island of Chinatown, minus the fortune cookies, and plus 100% authentic food… Chinatown Island?¬†Well,¬†it’s not¬†that simple. There is still a tension between mainland China and the islands of Taiwan, and if you’re a history buff¬†like¬†me, go read more about it yourself! However, for my purposes right now, Taiwan will be very much like¬†China¬†and¬†Taiwan is¬†one¬†island. My point is, Taiwan has preserved some traditions of China in different ways. This is fantastic for: the lNight marketanguage, the sights, and (of course) the food. Disclaimer: while very Chinese, Taiwan also has a¬†Japanese influence – see Taiwan history for why that is. Don’t worry: it’s not too much,¬†just enough for you to get Japanese translations and eat good sushi at¬†the Night Market.ūüėČ

Now for a little geography! Taiwan is on the map for the Ring of Fire Рthat is, riding along the tectonic plates that continually rub against each other, creating mountains and valleys (depending on how they rub). For Taiwan, that has resulted in beautiful mountain ranges. Yesterday, I went and saw some. They are GORGEOUS. Yes, the water really is that color!

Hualian coast

While I have been to mountainous areas of China, I could never seem to create¬†in my mind the depictions of mountain ranges that Chinese¬†paintings do. Going here helped me¬†fill in the gaps.The pictures don’t do these views¬†justice.¬†I wish you could see these for yourself, they really are amazing!

You might be wondering: “What are you doing in Taiwan?” Well, you probably aren’t. But just in case you were, I’m here with my mom for 5 days as a part of her 50th birthday present. My dad flies a lot for his job, and¬†as a result, he has a lot of air miles that he can use for other trips. He allowed my mom to choose one destination and one person to go on a trip with her, as a birthday present (husband goals!). My mom said she wanted¬†to go to Taiwan, with me. Woo hoo! After I heard the news, I figured: if we’re going on a trip all the way out to Taiwan, why don’t we make a stop along the way and make a long layover? So with¬†a little sweet talk, we’re also going to Rome for 5 days – which I’m sure will be amazing. Yup, I am traveling a LOT!¬†Honestly, I’m pretty proud of myself for surviving more than 24 hours of travel, so I’ll write something about that eventually.¬†Regardless,¬†I still have 3 days in Taiwan (AKA Chinatown Island)!¬†I feel very privileged¬†and blessed to be here, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of my trip has in store. I’ll make sure to keep you posted!

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound and all that is in it -Psalm 96:11

A Vermont ‘Spring’ Break

So, I know I haven’t written in a while. A huge thank-you to goes out to Jack and Andrea! I got your email, and greatly appreciate your loyalty!

I haven’t written about my life since my China trip. To¬†make a long story short, after leaving China, my family went landed into San Francisco, meeting my mom’s brother and his family. We stayed at a nearby motel. Let me tell you, it is¬†warm there! I felt like wearing shorts – a huge change from the cold¬†that I had just escaped from. Time with family was nice, especially on a side that I don’t see very often. I came home, feeling that my Chinese had greatly improved. (It leaves you¬†fast when you’re surrounded by English-only speakers!)

However, the winter I had left was absolutely¬†nothing like the winter I was about to face. The thing about moving from Virginia (a place where the bulk of winter takes place December to January) to Massachusetts (a place where winter is November to February, March even), is that you get disappointed very fast when you hope for spring to come¬†in March.¬†¬†Well, it is March 13, and there is still snow on the ground. Albeit, this is (almost) a record-breaking winter. So. Many. Storms. Four days off school in three weeks, almost all on Mondays – and last year, there was only one day off the entire year. Let’s just say, for sake of all of our sanity, it was a¬†LOT¬†of snow, and a LOT of days of school to make up for!

The snow outside the library. It got to be taller than a lot of people!

Some snow outside the library. It got to be taller than a lot of people!

Besides that, the new semester has been okay. Not incredibly exciting, but¬†not out-of-this-world challenging. However, I have grown to appreciate my friends and my roommate a lot more this year. This semester has had its’ fair share of challenges, and my friends have really been there for me. For Valentine’s Day, most of these friends are single for something we nickname “Single’s Awareness Day”. But it was okay – the day fell on a Saturday, so we went out to a diner for brunch, and had a secret Valentine exchange (like Secret Santa). It was really fun, and I love how my friends are so fun and there for each other.

Friends

Friends

Now, I’m writing from somewhere I’ve never been: Vermont! My friend, Kirstin, invited me to her house for our week-long spring break. Except it’s not really spring, because there’s still snow everywhere and your average¬†day is somewhere¬†below freezing. Kirstin technically lives on a farm – although she doesn’t consider it to be, it fits all the farm requirements for me! – horses, goats, chickens, a rooster, barn cats…. the works.

IMG_4520

The meadow

Have you ever been to a farm? The closest I’ve ever been to a farm was a petting zoo, but of course that isn’t really a farm. Although I love being at Kirstin’s – her family is great, and we watch great TV (see the new show Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt!). Of course there are boring moments, but it is definitely an experience to be somewhere you’ve never been before!

Sometimes I think about where I am right now, and then I think of the places where it is warm Рeven hot! Places like Florida, California, New Zealand РI have friends who currently live in or are visiting those places, and I am incredibly jealous. It will be sunny soon enough, and summer will come. It might be a bit of a wait, though.