So far Ireland is amazing! Yes, it does rain a lot here and instead of thunderstorms there are extreme wind storms. It makes you appreciate the sun and clear day more than ever. The beauty of the rain is that the grass is always green and you learn how to layer your clothing. Now I am not saying Ireland is a terrible place at all. In fact, it is an extremely beautiful country with a lot going on. The cities are gorgeous and filled with history. Also, the country sides are magnificent rain or shine.
I am currently living in Limerick, which is on the west side of the country. There is so much natural beauty that I do not have to travel more than an hour by bus to see something new and wonderful. A couple of great things about Limerick is that it is very centralized to a lot cities on the west coast, there is a huge milk market (farmers market) every Saturday morning that is very unique, and Limerick has a castle located right in the center. It is about 2 euro from the University to the city centre by bus and you can find everything you will ever need in the city centre.
The university I am attending is the University of Limerick and it is the major sport campus in Ireland. I am not sure on the exact number but I know there are at least 6-7 pitches (fields) located next to my flat. Also, they have an olympic sized swimming pool, a large weight/ cardio room, four basketball courts and an indoor track that is six laps to a mile. All of the facilities are always in use; I saw an empty field for the first time last week and I have been here for over a month. The fitness center also offers a ton of fitness classes, which is pretty entertaining because one of the classes is held on two basketball courts and can accommodate over 100 participants (they have to turn people away half the time). As for being an exercise science major, this location is exactly where I need to be for the study abroad experience.
One really interesting thing is that this time of year is huge for the Irish because the Six Nations is in full swing. This is the only time that Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland come together. The Six Nations is a Rugby tournament between Ireland (consisting of players from both Northern and the Republic of Ireland), England, Scotland, Whales, Italy and France. They are very exciting matches and every pub is jammed packed with fans during the matches.
To begin my journey of Ireland, my study abroad group and I (18 students from all over the US) met up at the Dublin airport. From there we were introduced to Ireland through an orientation program with Arcadia. In the morning we would sit down and go through what to expect, things we needed to have completed and how to’s. In the afternoon we were given time to explore Dublin and get to know eachother. We had this schedule for about three days and were then taken to Limerick where we went through an orientation that University offered.
Settling in and classes was weird the first week. I live in a flat with five roommates; we each have our own room and bathroom but share the kitchen and family room. They are all really cool and from all over; two are Irish, one is from London, another is Canadian and then other is from Palestine. All of them are in the Music Grad program at Limerick, so I am the baby of the house. Four of them play instruments (fiddle, flute and pipes) and the other is in the Dance academy. They play in “sessions” at different pubs around Limerick with other students in the academy. Also, they invite me along to listen and watch. They play classic Irish tunes and lots of fiddle music.
Classes are a lot different here. I have three classes where I only have lecture once a week for two hours. One of my classes has a two hour lecture and a two hour lab. The final class has two, one hour lectures with a tutorial. I have never figured out what the difference is between a tutorial and a lecture. I think they are supposed to be smaller class sizes for more one on one and hands on activities, so far we have had two. Also, my final exams are worth 80-90% of my final grade. There is very little work that is to be turned in during the semester. I either have a paper due or a presentation at some point during the semester, but that is it. So right now it is smooth sailing, but come May things are going to start getting stressful.
Walking to class is also very, very different from Transy. My closest class is about a half mile walk, which is definitely different from the 2 minute walk from one end of campus to the other. It is cool to get the feel of a big school as well as getting my walking milage up. Also on my walks to class, I walk across this pretty quarter mile long bridge. It crosses the river shannon which has been filled to its max capacity for a few weeks now due to all of the rain.
As for now, things are going fantastic and my traveling is starting to pick up. So far I have been to Dublin, Galway, Connemara and Belfast. My future trips include many more Irish locations (Cork City, Killarney, Dingle, Kilkenny and more), Scotland, London, Amsterdam and Barcelona.
Just a few pictures of my experience so far:
Us American’s learning the Gaelic sport of Hurling. Here they have the GAA which is Gaelic Athletic Association and each town/county has their own GAA location. The GAA sports include Gaelic football, Hurling, Camogie and Handball.
Halfway across the Living Bridge that we cross everyday to get to class.
bridge from afar