Category Archives: Study Abroad

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 – that is, breathe in,

La Giralda

Amazing find in La Giralda cathedral – Sevilla, Spain

breathe out the place and enjoy it to its fullest – it 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 – on 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’s something else I’ve 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’s 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’s 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’t want to leave and was crying for a while on her last night. She told me she would “move to Sevilla in a heartbeat”. Sarah expressed that she couldn’t 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 – Rachel 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

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.


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