The GoGlobal Blog

Author: Hope VanDevere

Hello, my name is Hope VanDevere and I am "just a kid from Akron", Ohio. I am a sophomore studying Secondary Education and English with a focus in Creative Writing. I am an enthusiast of new experience, adventures, and traveling, so studying abroad seemed right up my alley. I am so excited to embrace new places, people, ideas, opportunities, and food! I am hoping to gain legendary adventures, everlasting friendships, and, of course, a polished education in my major and of Ireland! 
Killarney National Park

Killarney National Park

Fun fact: There are only six national parks in Ireland.
Another fun fact: I want to all of them before I leave.
This past weekend I started and went to Killarney National Park. I talked about my needing to start my National Park Challenge enough that five other girls agreed to go with me. It was one of those trips in which you could plan and research it inside and out, but then have no idea what to expect when you go. So basically any international trip. The girls and I got on a bus bright and early Saturday morning, only knowing we had to get off in Killarney. Where exactly? We weren’t sure. The bus ride was around two hours long, but all of us wouldn’t have cared if it were five hours long. Our eyes were glued to the window and to the green wonderland that was passing by. Rolling hills covered in different green swatches, charming farm houses with sheep frocking in its field, and heartwarming towns that smelled like candies and happiness-we could have looked out the window all day. Although, about an hour and a half into our journey all of us were shocked to our core; there before us were snowcapped mountains. IRELAND HAS MOUNTAINS! All of us stared in disbelief at the scene and then started yelping for joy when we realized that we were going to those mountains. Those mountains were Killarney National Park! (Okay so maybe we didn’t plan and research this trip inside and out).
Getting off the bus, we found our way into the park and instantly were in awe. The monstrous mountains stole our attention as they guarded over the green valleys and forests of the park. The sky and trees had a morning mist, a thin layer of fog blanketed the grass, and you could feel the earliness of the hour in the air. Everything was dense, yet gentle. An overwhelming peace crept over us and it seemed as if we all entered a dream state. Dazed, we just started walking. We followed no path nor any sense of direction. Just go to the mountains. We walked  through the rain, the muck, and the grass until we came to a fence. We honestly did not know what to do and just kind of stood there waiting for it to open or something. In silence we stood for over a minute in the hazy surroundings, trying to snap out of it and gather a plan. Then a car drove up to us. I did a double take. Sure enough, in the middle of this green valley a white van was pulling up to us. Unsure how to even start comprehending this, I simply waved my hand and got the van’s attention. The white van pulled over and two nicely dressed Irish men politely gave me directions to a path they thought we would enjoy and then causally drove away into forest. This was easily the most bizarre scenario that could have happened but we all just went with it like it was normal. We followed their directions and sure enough found a mossy path along a gurgling river. The Irish men were right, we would enjoy this path.
The rushing blue river was lovely, but our main attention was on the trees. There were massive trees with branches eagerly reaching towards to the sky and moss scampering to cover any bare bark. There was not enough room for these trees to expand so the roots and branches became entwined and tangled together, creating an allusion of one overpowering tree. It was love at first sight and I never wanted to leave. But all good things have to come to an end, so we turned the corner.
I couldn’t feel much remorse, for leaving the woodsy enclosure for each part of the hike was a new type of mesmerizing. We walked through open green fields, looking at the now clear and wide view of the mountains; we walked through stone cobbled paths by the lake, listening to the luring lullaby of the water; and we walked through fairytale-like forests, smelling the fresh earthy soil. It was hours of pure bliss. Nature has an odd way of making me feel like my truest self, of making me feel like I belong, of making me feel like I am home.
We left Killarney with heavy hearts and our heads full of plans to come back. Walking around ten miles worked up an appetite, so we walked around the little city outside the park and found a place to eat. After a nice relaxed meal, we checked our phones and left the restaurant in a chaotic sprint trying to find our bus stop. We had twenty minutes before our bus left. Panicked, with ten minutes left, we scrambled aimlessly around the city asking anyone and everyone for help. Five minutes left, we were running distressed from street to street. Two minutes past the departure time, we see our green bus driving towards the exit of the city. Screaming and waving we run to it. The bus driver spots us, pulls over, waits for us to reach him, and then lets us on with a warm welcome.
What to take away from this article; Irish people are the nicest people on Earth, Ireland has mountains, and Killarney National Park is beautiful.

The Start

The Start

I walked on, sat down, and walked off. It was so simple. I walked on, sat down, and walked off-but when I did everything was different. The air was heavy with moisture and held a earthy tin smell. Everything in sight was green and bursting with life, except for a road that had cars zooming in a manner that was wrong or backwards to me. There was no noise to be heard except for the yawning wind and the gentle murmur of people chatting. The people were all unfamiliar, with different voices, appearances, and behavior. I felt my heart putter softly but quickly. I tightened my hand around the handle of my bag, trying to contain my excitement, but a smile escaped and spilled across my face. It always amazed me that entering, what seemed like another world, could be so simple. I walked on an airplane in Cleveland, Ohio, sat down for six hours, and walked off in Shannon, Ireland. This was it. My semester abroad, my adventure, was starting.
I have been in Limerick, Ireland for nine days. In these past days I have met extraordinary people from all over the world, have seen beauty of all types, have been introduced to a new culture, and have fallen in love with Ireland. I walked out of the plane having no preconceived expectations or really any knowledge of what this journey would entail. The idea of living and studying in Ireland for fourth months was something too large to really wrap my head around and dissect, so I left it at “I’m going to Ireland.” I was clueless of what people I would be with, what conditions I would be living in, what the city would be like, what my education would be, what I would be doing, what I should expect-I just knew what time my plane was leaving.
Starting out clueless worked out for me because everything has been a wonderful surprise. I was like a child in an amusement park the first time walking through the city of Limerick. I fawned over the quaint shops, admired humble charm of the architect, and jumped at the endless rows of restaurants, cafes, and pubs. There was emerald ivy growing up old stone buildings, twinkling lights struggle across small side streets, and Irish flags waving softly in the wind-my heart was bursting with joy. I didn’t think it could get better, but then we turned the corner. There stood the King John’s Castle, standing tall and proud on the lip of the water’s edge. The grainy stone of the castle contrasted with the rushing blue river beside it and the rolling green hills behind it. I was speechless. This was going to be my home for four months-how did I get so lucky?
Although, I could be living in a dusty city with nothing to do and still be enjoying it, simply because the people I am with are amazing. The first couple of days here it was only the international students on campus. There is about forty of us and we are from all around the world. France, Germany, Netherlands, Australia, Spain, Belgium, Austria…the list continues. Everyone has such different stories, social norms, accents, and ideas, and we are all interesting in finding each others out. I have never had such constant enlightening and beautiful conversations. I have been in awe. Sitting and talking has become favorite thing to do simply because there is so much to discuss. Other than having a diverse background, everyone in the group has great personalities. We all seem, somehow, on the same page with what’s important and how to handle things. Becoming friends with everyone has been the peak of this experience thus far.
It has only been nine days, but it feels like I have been here so much longer due to the immense about of stuff I have done. I have been to a numerous amount cafes, restaurants, and pubs. I have moved into my flat and have actually gotten settled in. I have explored the city. I have gone into the castle. I have seen live music and Irish dancing. I have watched a rugby and hurling game. I have gone to classes. I have learned a decent amount of French, Gaelic, and Dutch. I have planned five trips to different countries. I have gone to the Milk Market. I have tried my first Guinness. I have danced with strangers. I have made lasting friendships. I have been happier than I could imagine. And the adventure has merely just begun.