The GoGlobal Blog

Author: Kelly Mahoney

Hey everyone! My name is Kelly Mahoney from Cincinnati, Ohio. I am currently a sophomore at Loyola and am spending my semester abroad in Cork, Ireland. At Loyola I am a double major in Political Science and Public Relations but here at University College of Cork I will be taking a variety of classes with almost all of them focusing on an aspect of Ireland or Irish culture. Studying abroad is something that I have always wanted to do so I am so excited to finally have the opportunity. I look forward to blogging about my experience here in Cork, enjoy!
Back to My Roots

Back to My Roots

One of the main reasons why I chose Ireland to study abroad, is because of my family background. Both sides of my family stems from Ireland and I was so excited to become enriched in a culture that my family both values and reflects. Since being in Cork, I have begun to notice sayings or traits that remind me both of my family and myself. The most recent one was introduced to me by my Politics of Northern Ireland professor. She was explaining the background on some Irish history and she said to the class, “One thing you must know about the Irish is that if you ask them to do something, make them seem as if they have a choice, they will bend over backwards to try to accommodate you. But if you make it sound like a demand or don’t ask, they will refuse to do anything you say.” This made me smile because I felt like that 100% applied to both me, and a number of family members. Now whether that really is some Irish blood that is being passed down, or just a coincidence, little things like that make me feel as though I have a true ancestry here. The connection of going back to my roots is something I hoped to experience and hope that I will continue to do so. Plus, there is always the bright side of seeing my last name in true Irish form around the city. And yes, two different Irish people have told me that I am pronouncing my last name wrong.


A sign for a meat counter in the English Market in Cork


Since I have last written I have had the wonderful experience of traveling to Blarney. Where, of course, I saw the Blarney Castle and kissed the Blarney Stone. For those who don’t know, it is believed that if you kiss the Blarney Stone you will receive the gift of gab. Now, I don’t think I necessarily need the gift of gab, but it could never hurt. However, one thing I didn’t know about kissing the Blarney Stone is that it is easier said than done. To reach the Blarney Stone, you have to climb to the top of the Blarney Castle (don’t worry there are stairs, but they are very narrow and winding), once you reach the top there is someone there who will help you actually reach the stone. In order to kiss it, you have to lay on your back, scoot back out into a gap between the castle wall and where you are laying, and lean back and kiss it. Now this is made easier by the building of rails to hold onto and the guy who helps you back up, but it is definitely a bit more terrifying than I anticipated. But it was worth it, and both the Blarney Castle and the gardens were beautiful.


Blarney Castle
The view from the top of the castle
Kissing the Blarney Stone


Classes here at UCC have been fantastic. My favorite one right now is my Irish Politics class, both because the subject is extremely interesting and my teacher is fantastic. It is crazy to really look in depth about why there is a Republic of Ireland and a Northern Ireland, and to hear about the process, time, fighting, and legislation it took for Ireland to become its own nation. It really puts into perspective how much “easier” it was for the United States to become its own country when compared to the conflict that lasted so many years in Ireland and the turmoil and unrest that is still prevalent to this day. I look forward to learning more and more about the current political system here since most of my classes so far have dealt with the history and background of the country. This class complements well with my Politics of Northern Ireland course so by the end of the term, I should be able to explain to anyone who asks why there is both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and why it is not as simple as some preconceived notions may have you think.

Lastly, one thing you can count on if you come to Ireland for longer than a week, you will most likely develop a cold. It seems as though all of my friends and roommates are contracting a runny nose or cough that will hopefully go away at some point. The amount of moisture that is constantly in the air, and the fact that it rains on a daily basis, is the perfect combination. However, nothing can bring us down, and we have another group trip planned for Cobh this weekend and a pub crawl tonight.

Stay tuned for more!

Cultural notes:

~You WILL hear Fresh Prince of Bel-Air played every single time you go out. Whether it is a club or a pub, you will hear (and sing along to) this tune.

~ The greatest shopping store you will discover is called Penneys, which is a super cheap clothing and home goods store that will save you a bunch of money. A few of us went on a quick Penneys run the other day and the store was swarming with middle schoolers who had just gotten out of school. Apparently Penneys must be THE PLACE to hang after school is released because there was a large number of kids just running around and hanging out.


Hoods Up for Curly Hair

Hoods Up for Curly Hair

I have finished my first week at Ireland and feel as though I can already relay loads of advice to anyone who wishes to come and visit. While some advice is more philosophical than others, the main piece of advice I can give you all is that there is one thing you must accept if you have curly hair– it will never look good. As someone with VERY thick and curly hair, I have grown up being told again and again how Irish my hair looks (no it’s not red but the curls are enough). So when I embarked on my trip to Cork, I loaded my suitcase up with hair product. Deep down, however, I had this hope and prayer that the majority of people in Ireland have curly hair, so there must be something about the air and water that allows curls to always look salon finished. I was very wrong. Every night I would wash my hair, go through my hair product ritual, but it would never work. The constant moisture in the atmosphere never seemed to allow my hair to dry and when it did, it was simply a frizzy mess. I have yet to completely give up on having a decent hair look, but a fellow curlier haired friend and I have simply adapted a catchphrase “hoods up for curly hair” which means that pretty much every time we are outside and we feel just one raindrop, hoods go up. Definitely not a full-proof plan, and it is a a sure way that we stand out as tourists, but it is only an uphill battle against the fight of frizzy curly hair, and our hoods seem to be our only weapon.

After a paragraph like the one above, dedicated to hair, you may think the only thing I do in Ireland is get ready to go out, go out, and then have my hair ruined. But I have been exposed to a number things in my week here. As a USAC group we went on a scavenger hunt of sorts in the city center. We broke up into teams of 6 and took pictures of various locations around the city. My team came in first, thanks largely (if not all) in part of one of my suite mates, Casey, who we simply call the human GPS. Our prize was a €10 gift card to Tesco (the grocery store) and when I received said prize, I was definitely more excited then I should have been. I have seen a lot of the city so far, been to a number of pubs, eaten at a number of restaurants (yes I have had fish and chips), and walked up and down so many hills in this one week then I think I ever have in my whole life.


cork pic
Best group out there


I have also begun classes here at UCC. The way international scheduling works here, it that we can go to as many classes as we would like the first week and then register by the end of the second week. This gave me the option to visit a number of classes before picking my final schedule. I will be taking Introduction to Traditional Irish Music, Aspects of Irish Folklore, Irish Politics, and Northern Ireland Politics. So it is safe to say that I will be a bit of an Irish expert at the end of the semester. All of my classes seem incredibly interesting and all of the professors seem so excited to teach their courses. This leads me to believe that going to class will not be a drag, especially because I get to go to class at such a beautiful, very green, campus.


This is the main quad at UCC, if you walk on the grass it is rumored that you will not graduate


My final note for this post must, of course, discuss my seemingly terrible luck when it comes to weather. Yesterday, it snowed in Cork for the first time in over 5 years. The last time there was any significant snow in Cork was back in 1976. Needless to say a lot of my West Coast suite mates were extremely excited to see the snow. But my 2 fellow Loyola friends and I simply groaned, we had assumed that we would not have to see snow ever again (or at least until we returned to Chicago). This snowfall was of great excitement to the Irish students as well, who posted all over Yik Yak (an anonymous social media site) how they were going to go out and have a snowball fight. However, seeing as the snow barely stuck and turned into rain for awhile, I don’t see how it would be possible to form even one snowball, let alone to have a full out fight. The snow and rain did leave me with yet another gift, a terrible cold. I am attempting to cure myself with an IV of tea and honey, and will hopefully be better by Thursday which is one of the main nights that all of the college students go out. But alas, it has been raining for hard for 5+ so my odds of fully healing are bleak.

More later!

Cultural notes:

~Whenever an Irish person asks where I am from and I say Chicago, 9 times out of 10, their response is, “Oh the Windy City! Barack Obama!”

~You have to flip on a switch every time you need to use an outlet. I vaguely remember it being like this last time I was in Ireland but I can’t remember if it like that in the rest of Europe. Normally, I remember the switch no problem, but two nights ago I turned on the stove, sprayed the pan, and cracked an egg onto it. It took me 3 minutes to realize why the egg was not cooking whatsoever.

~ Most UCC students, go home on the weekend so the biggest night for students are Tuesday and Thursday. Leaving the weekends open for travel for all of us international students. This weekend, maybe Blarney?

Dia duit Ireland

Dia duit Ireland

After arriving a day later than planned, with a sore back from my backpack and completely exhausted, I am glad to finally report that I am safe and sound in a cute little apartment in Cork, Ireland. My first night in Cork was spent how I am sure many study abroad-ers find themselves once they arrive in their new home country– dazed and confused. Armed with three new friends I had met in the airport, we decided to head out on the town to find something to eat. This all seemed easy enough seeing as it was only 8 o’clock and we were all starving, but as soon as we walked down the road from our apartment, it became clear that we were completely clueless with no real plan on where to go. After walking into two different pubs and being told that they didn’t serve food, 45 minutes of walking later, we finally found a restaurant where we could have a meal. While it had taken us much longer than planned to arrive at a destination, it did give us the opportunity to see some of Cork at night. All of the row houses packed tightly together, leading us down narrow cobblestone streets, to a river near the city center, was the first sample of picturesque Ireland that we were now living in.


University College of Cork is home to over 400 international students this semester alone. This morning, we all sat in a giant auditorium to listen to a number of speakers explain both the academic aspect of school as well as all of the clubs and different opportunities that will be available in the coming semester. All of this information, while extremely overwhelming, was also extremely exciting and I look forward to all of the adventures that this semester will bring to me. But for now, I am in desperate need of a nap and a Guinness.

Cultural side notes:

~Everyone here speaks extremely fast, and a variety of different accents, which is making me feel a lot less alone in the fast talking category.

~If you want to quit smoking, Ireland is the place to go. There is a €3,000 fine if you are caught smoking in a place that is not designated as a smoking area.

~The pub to restaurant to barber shop ratio in Cork is very bizarre. On our night trip to a restaurant, we could barely find one compared to the large number of pubs that did not serve food. As for the barber shops, on our 15 minute walk to the grocery store in the city center, we spotted at least 8 barber shops, we couldn’t even find that many restaurants the night before.

That’s all for now, so as the Irish (used to) say, slán!