Sunday, November 1, 2015

Reasons To Study Abroad

You get to listen to people complain about how they have to go back to Ireland and find yourself thinking things like, "Ugh, I guess I could go to Wales next weekend."

But in all seriousness, it really gives one an opportunity to reflect on how large the world is and how much of it there is to see.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Time of My Life

As always, I apologize, my dear readers, for the fact that I'm sorely behind in posting. I hope this post will help explain some of that, among other things.

I think that last time I posted I mentioned talking about culture shock, or lack thereof, and that is relevant to today's discussion. Because I am in a different culture, where people comment things like 'I'm f------ lakes out of me noodle sham' on each others' statuses (this is my not so subtle plea for someone to explain to me what that means. I believe it's an expression of jealousy? Google has not managed to help me), and they say 'craic' about once an hour, at least. The crosswalks are different, the food goes moldy quicker, there's actually water under the bridges.

But like, I still say whoopsadasie, wait until the green walking signal tells me to go (though apparently jaywalking isn't illegal here? I still prefer not to do it), eat my same 5 dishes, and it's not like I haven't seen rain before, even if it was before I moved to California. Everyone kept warning me about how bad culture shock would be, and how it would grate on my nerves that everything was just slightly different, and I have heard people talking about how that's true for them, but... I kept waiting for the shoe to drop and then it fell off the foot I wasn't expecting it to*.

I've had a couple discussions in the past couple days that basically amount to "You can go to a new country but you'll still be yourself."
And it's not like this shoe dropping was actually that unexpected, I chose to study abroad partly because I wanted to learn more about myself and who I am and all that jazz. Mostly I think that's been a product of not drowning in homework, as non-American colleges (and especially non-Mudd colleges) have very little homework comparatively.

This is getting hard to pin down, but earlier one of my friend messaged me in reply to a selfie I'd taken in Belfast, "Kira you look fantabulous! Are ya having a great time??" and I decided to give the honest answer.
"I just don't know."

I could regale you all with stories about going to see Connemara and Castles and Belfast and the Giant's Causeway, but I could just as easily tell you about days spent curled up in bed with the Hamilton soundtrack, or a new book, or Netflix, days spent effectively living off Nutella as I wondered how I was ever going to function as an adult in the real world. Trying to interact with my peers and remembering how exhausting it is to try and get to know new people when you don't have the common threads of Mudd Core and the fact that you're the type of person who goes to Mudd, honestly.

I've gone half-way around the world, but I'm still me. And part of being me is having Major Depressive Disorder and Anxiety, and I knew that going into this, but it's still... When people talk about study abroad they talk about how "you're going to have so much fun" and it's going to be the "best time of your life" and "you won't possibly regret it!" and I don't regret it, but that doesn't mean I'm having the best time of my life. The best time of my life could be when I'm 76 and look back and realize how far I've come, or when I'm 176 and pronounced a medical miracle for surviving that long. I'm joking here, but I also genuinely don't want to peak at 19. The world is still so big and open, and if I let this be the last time I remembered that, I'd be doing myself a disservice.

So this is my post to tell you that I'm sad. I'm studying abroad and I'm lonely and I miss my friends and family. I only have one plug adapter, and I'm avoiding most people when they ask me how I'm doing because the expected dialogue involves me talking about how beautiful it is (true), and how nice everyone is (true). and how I'm so glad I came (partially true). But if I want to fully explain my study abroad experience I also need to be able to tell people that I'm curled up under two blankets right now, that the fact that I've made it to all my classes this week is a minor miracle, that I've eaten 2.5kg of Nutella in the past ~3 weeks because I stress eat chocolate when I'm sad. That this isn't the greatest time of my life, and I'm sure I'll get new friends and great memories from it, but there are bad memories to be had to.

So if you're planning to study abroad, I don't want to discourage you, but I do want you to realize that when you're sad on your trip, you're not alone. It's an entire semester, it can't all be spent thinking how beautiful it all is and how lucky you are to be there. You'll have fun, sure, but you'll also have times when you're feeling horrifically down. And that's okay. I'm making it through, and I'm pretty sure you can to.

*I honestly find interacting with other Americans more of a culture shock because I'm supposed to have everything in common with them, and yet I don't. Also I'm feeling some culture shock because cookie clicker just changed their font- what's up with that????

Monday, September 21, 2015

Settling & Fresher's Flu (Weeks 2 & 3)

Hopefully this will be my last post which starts with an apology for how late it is (I'M SO SORRY), but, well, I shouldn't make any promises. (I will also hopefully get out a post about culture shock and lack thereof a little later this evening).

Galway! I'm here! I've been here for more than two weeks at this point, and it simultaneously feels like I haven't been here any length of time at all, and like I've been here forever and a day.

Practicalities to know:

  • In Ireland the hot water for showers works through what's called an 'immersion'. Basically you need to turn the immersion on 15-30 minutes before you shower and turn it off again after you're done, to conserve energy. I was also repeatedly told that showers here are typically shorter, only like 5-10 minutes, but that's about what I average anyway, so I didn't consider that a big change.
  • Grocery shopping! If you want really cheap food, Lidl and Aldi are both owned by some company which is like, industrially cheap. Dunnes and Tesco are both also pretty cheap, and I've been doing most of my shopping there because while I find it odd that pink lady apples are a brand name, I still crave them. The packaging on the fruit is kind of weird? Berries come in like a little plastic bowl with a plastic seal you peal off (think boba but like a flat rectangle and no smoothie or boba, just berries), and it's so hard to find apples not in a bag. How am I supposed to save the environment when everything is overpackaged??? (Hint: maybe I should make it to the farmer's market someday).
  • I've been a dark chocolate person for the past 7 years or so, and I was a little worried about how big Dairy Milk is here. Except now I can't stop eating the Cadbury's Oreo bars, so I really can't say the situation resolved itself (they do sell dark chocolate here, there's just a little less selection), but I ended up happy anyway. 
  • Bedding: I'm a big fan of the difference here. The program I'm studying through, Arcadia, they bought us a comforter and pillow already, so we had to get our own comforter case, pillow case, and fitted bed sheet. Which is how the sets come anyway. You can get a loose sheet, but it's not in the big set, which personally I'm a fan of. I did buy a throw though because the comforter I got is a little small, and also the beds here are twin instead of twin extra long. 
  • Laundry is pretty awful though. This is largely because the student housing I'm in has absolutely exorbitant pricing. It costs 6 Euro to wash and dry a load. I'm really glad my roommate and I decided to buy our own detergent, because it cuts down on the pricing a little bit. It's still a bit ridiculous but part of that could be that Mudd has spoiled me with their pricing.
  • Clothing here is a little bit fancier, I will be honest. But it's also not that big a deal? Like, sure there are people dressed better than me, but there are also other people around wearing jeans and hoodies. Today I followed a girl to class who was wearing a tardis backpack. I don't think I've seen anyone wearing like, sweatpants, but my advice would be (if this is something you're worried about) to just dress how you're comfortable. I mean, that would be my advice anyway, but while some people will be wearing really fancy clothing it's not going to be everyone. Penneys has cheap 'fashionable' clothing if you get to your study abroad experience (and it's somewhere where Penneys exists) and panic about your lack of fancy clothing. 
  • Ordering things from Amazon is... well, I've only done it once at this point and I ended up setting up an account. That's because there are weird restrictions on purchasing some items through the US. Video games in my case (I just wanted the next Professor Layton game!!!!). But even though one of the games I tried to buy was technically from the UK I had to go through the UK site for it to be able to be shipped without weirdness happening. 
  • Water fountains are not a thing. I have found one building which might have a water fountain, but since I've never tried to turn it on, it could just be an odd art installation. Even sometimes when I've asked at like, Subway, if they could fill up my water bottle they said no. Is everyone here dehydrated? I'm really not sure at this point.
  • For purchases I've just been using my American debit card, which does have a chip but I still have to sign my receipt every time, so self-checkout isn't really by myself. But also my experience has been that I just get a 1% charge on everything for international processing, and if I use the ATM there's a little bit of an extra fee as well. It's not a bad system.
  • I haven't gotten an Irish phone/phone number but people keep giving me their phone numbers whereupon I sigh heavily and then debate what to do with my life.
  • You don't actually need a visa if you're a student studying abroad in Ireland for the semester, but you do have to register with the Garda, or GNIB. They're the Irish police system (their name translates to Guardians of the Peace), and NUIG is small enough that they have assigned us all times in which to do this. I'll let y'all know once I've actually gone (my appointment is later this week), because that's a pretty important detail. 
I can't think of what other practicalities I can give advice on, though if you have any questions about anything in particular, feel free to comment! I'm going to move on to talking about some of my adventures though.

It's probably bad that I can't remember what I did the first weekend I was in Galway, and means I really should be blogging more consistently, but it's highly possible that I just watched Brooklyn Nine Nine (If you didn't know: Netflix selections are different in different countries) so we're going to move on. The first week of classes was pretty fun, if a little confusing. Most of the first classes were just handing out of syllabi and going over them, so that was a nice comforting detail. I also did end up finding a math class I want to take (oops), so am in the process of trying to get that approved on this end because it's not in the visiting student course currently. 

Wednesday night I decided to "go out" with my Irish house mates, who are really very lovely. I went to a birthday party with one of them and it was just a bunch of people standing in a room socialising, so that was about what you would expect in America as well. Probably. Not sure I've actually been to a Birthday/House Party before. But then we tried to go clubbing, except the queueing was just awful, so actually we just stood outside for 90 minutes before realising that it was getting late before we'd even made it in, and that maybe we should give up. The thing to do here is go to Supermac's after a night out, so we did still do that, and I actually feel pretty satisfied in my experience anyway.

On Friday night was an Arcadia event called Fairies and Folklore where they bought us dinner and we listened to a local storyteller tell stories. Honestly it just made me sad that I hadn't stayed up all night to try and register for the literature class I wanted (it was much more competitive than I expected) because I started analysing all the stories for narrative cohesion as well as gender politics. So, you know, typical me. But then the next day we went to the Aran Islands (Inis Mor, in particular), which was just grand. Honestly, everything was just stunningly beautiful so I wandered off alone (and almost missed the ferry back) and just walked through the countryside. I'll include a few photos because I think they'll speak more prolifically than I can.

Isn't that all just gorgeous???? Except I possibly went to the Fairies/Folklore event with wet hair, and so walking around Inis Mor in the cold for four hours (even if it wasn't raining) was not my brightest idea. Suffice it to say that I got sick. For an entire week. I doubt y'all need a blow by blow of that experience, so just imagine me coughing and blowing my nose a lot, if you really must.

This past weekend I had a homestay experience in Cork. I didn't find it exceptionally different from Galway, but I also haven't spent a whole lot of time out and about in either (whether due to illness or time limitations). If you do find yourself in Cork, I thought wandering around the English Market and related areas was fun, and I ended up rooming with a girl who's studying abroad in Burren right now, so now I have somewhere to stay when I end up going there. 

Overall everything is a whirlwind of technicalities so far (am I supposed to be taking out my own trash? How frequently should I be grocery shopping? Where's the student health center? How much is a reasonable chocolate budget?), but it's also a lot of fun. There are so many people to meet and places to see that it can be overwhelming, but also astounding to think about how many experiences there are in the world. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Origin (Orientations, or, Week 1)

(I'm so sorry!!! I meant to be updating this blog once a week, like I'm supposed to, but time just keeps slipping away here)

Something I should have expected, and yet somehow didn't, is how many orientations I would be expected to go to once arriving. I'm studying in Galway this semester, but flew into Dublin because... Galway doesn't have an international airport. Besides, my orientation for Arcadia University (who I'm studying through) was in Dublin, so I was supposed to arrive in a certain time window anyway and...

Anyway, being in Dublin was weird. On the one hand, it was fun and exciting to be surrounded by new people and they had us do lots of fun orientation exercises (I can now... still not play Gaelic Football or Hurling), but it was also frustrating. I just wanted to get to Galway, and unpack, and most importantly, figure out what my academic schedule for the semester would be.

Here's something they told us about 800 times: ECTS stands for European Credit Transfer System. Here's something else I heard about 800 times: because students here enroll in "Courses" instead of having "majors", the departments don't bother to publish time tables until the first week of school. Apparently, Irish students take some sort of test near the end of their school year, and how they do in each subject lets them apply to go to university in that subject as well. Instead of having general education requirements the same way the US does, they just take classes in the department of whatever subject they're taking, and that's their "course". Because visiting students are allowed to pick and choose "modules" (class means year level here, and course means your pathway, so module means a particular lecture/seminar/whatever you go to) from different courses, they have to work out their own schedule based on the time tables published by each department.
I got my timetables the Thursday before classes started (on a Monday), some of which I had to obtain by emailing particular people because there's no centralized location for them online.
I tried very hard to not stress about this.
I may or may not have a spreadsheet of potential classes I could take.

People I met who'd heard of Mudd in week 1: 2

Monday, August 31, 2015

Indexing From 0

Hi! Welcome to my study abroad blog! By the time this posts, I will be in Ireland.
I was hoping to get this posted before then, but alas, I fought a battle with the airport wifi, and the wifi won.
I’m not quite sure how I’m feeling at this moment, to be quite honest with you all. Tired. Nervous. Excited. Ready to be settled in.
If there’s one thing I do know, it’s that I’m still glad about my choice to study abroad. I think it’s going to be fun, I think I’m going to get to meet new people, see new things, learn new things about myself and the world, and hopefully even grow as a person. I love Mudd, I do, but as much as we joke about living in a bubble it’s actually a terrifying reality for me. I sometimes feel as if I’ve spent my life hopping from one bubble to the next, when all I really want is for my bubble to include the whole world. Maybe this is getting too personal, I apologize if so.
But Ireland is supposed to be beautiful. The people are rumored to be nice, I’ve heard that there’s even going to be rain (shock!), and it’s going to give me an experience unlike any other.

I can’t lie and say I’m not scared. I’m terrified. I’m a bundle of nerves and anxiety and would like nothing more than to have a hot shower and curl up in my bed back home with a well-loved book and stay there for the forseeable future. Except maybe, I guess, I’d like to get on the plane which is waiting for me, and fly off into my next adventure. I sure hope that’s what I want, because it’s what I’m about to do.