Friday, 27 February 2015

I admit that I'm beginning to fall behind on posts, but I have a good excuse, I promise...
But that's besides the point. The main event from last weekend included a day trip to Dublin with a friend, Krystal, who also studies Animal Science/Pre-Vet...and who goes to Purdue, as well!  We are the same age and year, and are taking the same microbiology class here at UCD.

We decided to spend our Saturday (21 February) in the city of Dublin. Krystal is living with a host family over the semester, who lives in the village of Clontarf up north, so she's gotten to know the city pretty well since she must frequently rely on the bus. I, on the other hand, am downright awful at navigating my way through city streets (On a sidenote: every Irish and American alike finds it either interesting or hilarious that I grew up surrounded by cornfields and never used city transport before coming to Ireland).

Here is the extensive list of all of the places Krystal and I visited on Saturday:
Queen of Tarts
The village of Clontarf, County Dublin
Trinity College
Irish Museum of National History
Irish National Art Gallery
St. Stephens Green Park
Irish Whiskey Museum
Wing's Gourmet Burgers
Auld Dubliner Pub

Queen of Tarts - home to every pastry, scone, and tart flavor you can imagine.  It has been around since 1998 and has two locations here in Dublin. We decided to stop by for a mid-morning snack before we hopped another bus to Clontarf.  Read about Queen of Tarts here.

I'll have the Tangy Lemon Meringue Tart, please and thank you

Next, we made a stop in Clontarf so that I was able to meet Krystal's host parents. The village lines the coast on the north side of the River Liffey. It is famous for the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. If you are interested, you can read about the battle and other facts about the village here.

We caught the bus back into Dublin and set off to see as many sights as possible. We ventured first to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells and the Long Room, which is the college's library with a famously prestigious collection of books from throughout history. The library has also been used in a number of films, including scenes from the Jedi Library in Star Wars III.  The Book of Kells is a Latin manuscript of the four Gospels of the New Testament, which is beautifully decorated with Celtic-inspired artwork throughout. Unfortunately, taking pictures of the Book of Kells is strictly prohibited, so pictures taken from Google will have to do.

Read about Trinity Library here.
Read about the Book of Kells here.

The Long Room

As far as we could see, this staircase was the only way up to the second floor of the library.




Afterward we visited the National History Museum and the National Art Gallery, but I did not take any pictures there.

These next pictures are from Saint Stephens Green Park, where we stopped to feed the pigeons. Laugh if you must, but where I come from, birds fly away when you get anywhere near them. I've always loved the idea of sitting on a bench feeding pigeons. This bench, the pond, the pigeons and seagulls made perfect scenery and it was every bit as fun as I had imagined.

Krystal taking her turn with the pigeons :)

They were hesitant at first, but I knew they would eat out of my hand. Just the other day, I saw a woman letting pigeons land  atop her hat and eat the crumbs she had placed there.

Our next stop was for a tour through the Irish Whiskey Museum. It cost €13 but we had been assured it was well worth the money. Our tour guide's name was Rory, and we spent about an hour learning about the actual production of Irish Whiskey (which until recently could not be sold or labeled as true whiskey unless it was distilled at least three times) to the effects of Prohibition to the 1875 Great Whiskey Fire.

At the end of the tour we each got to taste three different kinds of Irish Whiskey. If I am not mistaken, we tried Kilbeggan, Powers, and Jameson. Powers was my favorite of the three.

Myself and Krystal

Krystal and I have both been missing buffalo chicken wings from back home, so Krystal found a place online that had them advertised on the menu. The place was called Wing's Gourmet Burger. They only had regular wings, while I prefer boneless, but that didn't stop me from ordering buffalo sauce on my burger. It was so American (besides the Irish flag toothpick...) and delicious, and we even got a student discount!

After having dinner, we met up with some friends at Auld Dubliner's Pub to have a drink for our friend Caroline's birthday. After being on our feet all day, one drink was all it took to convince me it was time for bed.  It was a wonderful afternoon spent in good company in a beautiful city - no complaints here.

On a different note, I mentioned having a good excuse for having been late to posting recently... and I blame school.  I figured that since I am now a bit more accustomed to the college life around here, I would share with you how my semester is turning out.

The semester here is aligned much differently than home. At Purdue, each semester we have fifteen weeks of class and one week of finals. Here, they have twelve weeks of class, followed by one week without class (referred to as "Study Week") and two weeks of finals. At home, our final exams take place in a lecture hall and each individual class is scheduled a different examination time. Here, they take their finals at an off-campus site in blocks of about 3,000 students per seating for the 3-hour examinations.  At Purdue, under the standard grading system, a 90% is an A-, an 80% is a B- and so on. Here, a 70% is an A- and a 60% a B- and so forth. It is still near impossible to get an A in most subjects, but just the idea of it makes it seem so much more attainable than ever getting that 90% in a college course...

My Equine Nutrition class will be taking field trips to the Irish National Stud and Alltech in the coming weeks. My Principles of Dairy Production class will be taking a trip to Lyons Farm.  Next week I am required for my Ireland Uncovered class to take a walking tour of Dublin (which I already did once in January) and must present information to my tour group about one of the landmarks (for which I was assigned Trinity College).

Spring break starts the week after next, so the first full day of break is Saturday, 7 March, and it will go through Sunday the 22. We get not one, but two weeks away from school here. St. Patrick's Day (17 March) falls in the second week, so I won't be missing out on that!

Below is the percentage breakdown of each of my classes. MCQ stands for multiple choice question. A major difference in the system here is simply that the majority of the overall grade relies on retained information  at the time of the test, rather than doing any continuous assessment in the form of homework or quizzes.

Principles of Microbiology:
Essay 1: 20%
Essay 2: 20%
Online Assignment: 10%
Final Exam: 50%

Equine Nutrition:
Group Presentation: 20%
Essay: 20%
Midterm MCQ: 30%
Final Exam: 30%

Principles of Dairy Production:
Literary Review: 20%
Midterm MCQ: 20%
Final Exam: 60%

Ireland Uncovered:
Seminar Attendance: 10%
Field Trip Presentation: 10%
Work Pack Assignments: 30%
Final Exam: 50%

Thanks for reading, everyone! Cheers!

Monday, 16 February 2015

Yesterday (15 February), I had the opportunity to take a drive through the Wicklow Mountains, courtesy of Gerry. Though it was a beautifully clear and sunny day at ground level, upon arrival we discovered the mountains shrouded in fog. It was considerably windy, so we knew that parts of the fog would clear if we waited long enough.

The lake known as Guinness Lake, so named for the blackish color of the water due to the runoff from the boggy soil.

We waited for twenty or so minutes for the fog to clear, and sure enough after giving up standing in the cold, it cleared after driving just a bit further up the road.

The pines that throughout the mountains are commercialized forests

Read about Wicklow Mountains National Park's commercialized forestry on their website here.

Remnants of a house


This next spot is apparently a popular spot for some major films' production, a combination spot including a river, across which gain you access to the remnants of a large house.

Trees decorated for Christmas are scattered throughout the hills

I cannot imagine owning this property; waterfall and river flowing through the back yard, mountains for miles around, and enough land for their sheep farm. That scene just screams to me serenity and happiness.

 On the way back to campus, I was able to take pictures of Guinness Lake without clouds blocking the view. An estate lies offshore, which can be booked for vacationing for what I imagine to be an outrageous amount of money.

Fun fact: Sally Gap is a famous crossroads (famous simply for being one of the only actual intersections throughout park. It heads north to Dublin, west to Blessington, south to Glendalough or east to Roundwood. (Read more here.)

I found this picture of Sally Gap on Google images; I didn't get a picture while we were out

Interestingly, Gerry and I managed to approach Sally Gap from three of the four directions throughout the course of the day.

I will definitely have to find my way back here for a full day's worth of hiking at some point. There is a well-known trail called the Wicklow Way that traverses 80 miles of the mountains, so if nothing else, I can start there :)

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

This past Saturday (7 February), the International Student's Society again provided us with another amazing day trip. We signed up and paid for these trips in advance, as there is a limit on how many people they can take. This week we took a group of about 120 students up to Northern Ireland.

For those of you who don't know, this island is actually composed of two different countries: "Northern Ireland," belonging to the United Kingdom, and "The Republic of Ireland," which is part of the European Union. Northern Ireland is inclusive of six of the island's 32 counties, and has a population of about two million, compared to the Republic's four million. In Northern Ireland, they use sterling currency, whereas in the Republic, the euro is the accepted form of currency.

It took us about three and a half hours to get to our destination in County Antrim, our first stop being the famous Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge site, and it was a one kilometer hike to the bridge itself (0.62 miles). On the way, I got my first real view of the north coast of Ireland, which is altogether different from the east coast that I have grown used to seeing. The water is a beautiful teal and the landscape is different as well.


If you look closely enough, you can see people hiking along the cliff trails, and that should give you an idea of just how big this place really is.

The bridge, which is 30 meters above the water (98.5 feet), had a capacity of eight people allowed at once and people could only cross from one direction at a time because of how narrow the walkway was.

The view over the side of the bridge as I crossed
We made it across! It was well worth it; the view of the land from the other side was even more beautiful.

There was a lookout point from the other side of the bridge, but nowhere else to go but back across to the other side.

Seagulls nesting along the cliff side

Glad to have made it across safely, and as we waited for our turn to cross back over, we took a few pictures together.

Myself and Hannah

Myself, Audrey, Nicole, Erin, and Will

Nicole and myself on our way back across

Our next stop was only about a fifteen minute drive from the bridge: The Giant's Causeway

Many people know of this one-of-a-kind landmark, but the story behind it?  How such a formation came to be along Ireland's north coast and across the ocean along the coast of Scotland, where there is a smaller version of the Causeway, remained a mystery for years.  Now, scientists may spin some story about an underwater volcanic eruption so many millions of years ago...but the Irish, they have a story of their own, and I know better than to question Irish tradition.

Here's the real story of how the Causeway was formed...

Again, we walked about a half of a mile down to our destination

Getting closer...
...and closer...
I couldn't believe my eyes, and had never seen anything like it. It was unreal and unbelievable that something like this could happen by nature (which is why we ought to believe the tale).

Audrey, Erin, Nicole, Hannah, and myself

Nicole, Audrey, Hannah, Erin, and myself
Front to back: Hannah, myself, Nicole, and Audrey

Erin, myself, Hannah, and Nicole


Audrey, Hannah, and myself

The "wall" along the back side of the causeway

Nicole and myself
People who visit the Causeway leave coins behind in the cracks of the stones along the wall

I didn't want to be the exception, so I left something behind as well.
 After leaving the Giant's Causeway, we stopped for a quick photo of Dunluce Castle.

And for our last stop of the day, we ventured to the city of Belfast. We didn't have too much time here, so I will definitely be making a trip back to see more of this beautiful city.

Belfast City Hall
Belfast City Hall
Church towers

Beautiful red brick building
Victoria Square Mall, from the top of which you have a great view of the city
The mall is open to the street on every side

These cranes, belonging to the company Harland and Wolff, built the Titanic

We were about twenty minutes too early for sunset, but still had a spectacular view

Political artwork stretches for miles along many of the streets throughout Belfast

More political artwork
And as we were leaving, the sun set beautifully in the distance.

On our way back to Dublin, our tour guide, Val (short for Valentine, and can you guess his birthday?), sang us a song which he credited to be heard more commonly than Ireland's own national anthem, a song that is held very dear to every Irish heart. I have posted the lyrics below. It is about one of Ireland's greatest tragedies, the Great Potato Famine.

Read about the famine here. 

The Fields of Athenry

Pete St. John

By a lonely prison wall
I heard a young girl calling
Micheal they are taking you away
For you stole Trevelyn's corn
So the young might see the morn.
Now a prison ship lies waiting in the bay.

Low lie the Fields of Athenry
Where once we watched the small free birds fly.
Our love was on the wing we had dreams and songs to sing
It's so lonely 'round the Fields of Athenry.

By a lonely prison wall
I heard a young man calling
Nothing matters Mary when you're free,
Against the Famine and the Crown
I rebelled they ran me down
Now you must raise our child with dignity.

Low lie the Fields of Athenry
Where once we watched the small free birds fly.
Our love was on the wing we had dreams and songs to sing
It's so lonely 'round the Fields of Athenry.

By a lonely harbor wall
She watched the last star falling
As that prison ship sailed out against the sky
Sure she'll wait and hope and pray
For her love in Botany Bay
It's so lonely 'round the Fields of Athenry.

Low lie the Fields of Athenry
Where once we watched the small free birds fly.
Our love was on the wing we had dreams and songs to sing
It's so lonely 'round the Fields of Athenry.

I have a few questions to answer from a "fan," and in case anyone else is curious...
 1. All event schedules and digital clocks here do go by military time, yes, but the people don't speak in military time. However, there are some quirks. For instance, if someone says "half-nine," what they mean is 9:30.
 2. They have peanut butter here, but it is different in color as well as in taste (so I've been told). A few people have mentioned finding good-quality peanut butter at specific locations, but it is the general consensus that most Americans do not like the taste of it here. Regardless of the taste, it is expensive anywhere you buy it.
 3. I have been packing my lunch for each of the day trips - it is much easier, cheaper, and definitely more convenient not to have to take time away from sight-seeing to find somewhere good to eat.
 4. I don't think I'll be taking a liking to beer any time soon, no matter how many times I try it. I'd rather have a pint of cider any day.
 5. It get's dark currently between 5:00 and 5:30, which I found surprising when I first arrived. For some reason, it seemed strange to me that they can still have the short days of winter even without the snowfall. By May, it should be getting dark closer to 8:00, so I have been told.

This weekend I hope to take an independent trip to Kilkenny (both the county and city named for it), so hopefully there will be more posts coming soon! Thank you for reading!

Cheers, everyone!