The GoGlobal Blog

Tag: Ireland

Two More Weeks

Two More Weeks

Life as of recently has been stressful to say the least. It’s the end of the semester, which means that it’s time to turn in assignments and study for tests with deadlines that seemed like they were years away. Every time I check the calendar I am shocked to see that it’s yet another day later, and another day closer to my departure. For someone whose favorite holiday is Christmas, I’ve never dreaded it more in my entire life. It’s not that I don’t want to go home and see all of my friends, family, and (possibly the most important) dogs, because I really do, but I wish I could go home for a bit and then pack up my bags and come straight back to Cork.

The one thing I remember so strongly about my last semester abroad was the gut-wrenching feeling I had as I cried on the beach on my last night in Australia. Every time I said I was going to get up and leave, I couldn’t stop staring out into the water, fearful that this would be the last time I would ever take in that view again. But I know that for Ireland, this is not the case. I will cry, yes, but I know I will come back, which is comforting. I worry about how I’m going to feel the night of December 22nd, in my empty apartment after all of my roommates have left and we’ve said our goodbyes. It’s going to be like when I sat on that beach, wondering how I can go back to my old, normal life after such an amazing experience.

But I will. I will go home and things will be normal again. I’ll reminisce on the times I could take weekend trips to different countries and go listen to traditional Irish music in a pub after a rough class. I will look back and laugh, but I will continue on with my regular life in Chicago.

These past few weeks have been so crazy that I have to remind myself to breathe, but the stress and exhaustion is completely worth it. I wrote my final essays in airports as I traveled to Amsterdam, Budapest, and Paris. I fell in love with each city in ways that I was not expecting, and my heart aches for the times when I will no longer be able to travel so frequently and recklessly. I have always been a planner; I’d have details for any trip planned out months in advance, but not anymore. I’m leaving for Greece in three days and my roommate and I just decided we should treat ourselves for completing our exams and opt for a cheap hotel instead of our usual hostel. Not sleeping in a room with ten other strangers is such a luxury for a student studying abroad. We spontaneously booked $14 flights from Athens to Santorini so we could check off yet another place off of our bucket lists, and it hit me that this was my last trip before I head home. And my last ridiculously cheap RyanAir flight that I will anxiously pray doesn’t crash… Who knew fear of dying could ever be something I would miss?

I will miss the annoying parts of traveling too. I’ll miss running on no sleep and way too much coffee. I’ll miss the obnoxiously loud hostel roommates waking me up at 3am… And I’ll miss being that loud hostel roommate waking everyone else up at 3am. I’ll miss getting caught in the Irish rain when it was sunny 5 minutes prior. I’ll miss fighting with my roommates and hugging it out almost immediately after, because we’re all just tired and cranky but we love each other. I’ll miss the confusing school assignments and grading scale because, let’s be honest, I still don’t understand it. I’ll miss Ireland, not because it’s a perfect place, but because I’ve fallen in love with the not-so-perfect parts of it.

Highs and Lows

Highs and Lows

It’s hitting me that I’ve been in Ireland for almost two months, and before I know it I’ll already be home. I know, I know – it’s still October, how can I be freaking out about leaving in December? But how can I be okay with leaving a country I’ve never felt more at home in? How can I relax when every second flies by and before I know it I’ll only be left with memories? I want to hold onto this feeling for the rest of my life, I’m not ready to go. When you study abroad, you have to accept that there will be highs and lows. The highs are very high and the lows are, well, extremely low. For most people, including many of my friends, the lows are homesickness and missing family and friends. For me, it’s homesickness for a country that I have not even left yet. It’s homesickness for a country that has only been my home for such a short amount of time.

My imminent fate of returning to Chicago hangs over me like the clouds that are all too prevalent in the Irish sky, but the highs outweigh the lows. I can’t be sad for too long because I’m too busy having the time of my life exploring the pubs of Dublin or green hills of Kerry. I can’t linger on the idea of leaving when I’m learning how to Irish dance with locals. And I definitely can’t get distracted while I’m in my classes at University College Cork, because – let’s face it – school is the only thing I don’t love about Ireland. Everything is different but, for the most part, everything is good (besides the exam I have coming up this week).

Over the past month, I have spent every weekend taking trips all over the country, which is something I had not intended to do before I came. Ireland is a fairly small country so I assumed once you see part of it, you see it all. I could not have been more wrong and I’m so grateful to have dedicated my first half of the semester solely to Ireland. From Northern Ireland’s Belfast to the “South City” Cork, I have traveled far and wide to see as much of it as I can. I might be biased, but Cork is my favorite out of all of the cities I’ve visited, which is funny because Cork was not my first option to study at. Fate works in really weird ways, and I was really bummed when I realized I couldn’t afford Dublin, and now I could not be happier. I loved every second of my trip to Dublin but Cork is farther outside of my urban comfort zone which has really changed the way I view the world. Everything here is so much simpler and I want to live this lifestyle forever.

As some of my bigger trips to other countries in Europe are approaching, I hope that I still have plenty of time to find the hidden gems around Ireland. One semester is not nearly enough time but I think I am making the most out of it. I’m really excited to leave the country and go visit some other countries, starting with Switzerland this weekend! I know I’m going to have so much fun but deep down, I also know that nowhere will feel like home just like Cork.

Falling in Love with the Many Faces of Ireland

Falling in Love with the Many Faces of Ireland

I absolutely love Cork City. To me, it feels very small and quaint, but to the people in surrounding areas it is a huge urban center. To put things into perspective: you can drive out of the heart of the city and within 10 minutes you’re going through rolling green hills with cows and horses. It feels like a huge escape from the hustle and bustle of Chicago, a breath of fresh air. But after exploring the Irish countryside last week, I realized that my little town was only the beginning.

We took a trip out to Mizen Head, the most southwestern point of Ireland. Although it’s still in County Cork, it feels like a completely different world. After driving through the never ending greenery for 3 hours, we reached one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever laid my eyes on. I am undoubtedly a city girl, but when I walked out along the cliffs with the wind in my hair and the waves crashing down on the rocks far below me, I felt a certain kind of exhilaration that only nature can provide. In this moment I knew that I was truly meant to come here. Despite all of the stress of school, travel, money, and so much more, it all felt worth it. This was the picturesque Ireland I had always imagined it would look like: tall grass blowing in the breeze on top of cliffs with no sign of civilization in sight.

Then there’s the other side of Ireland. The historical, yet mythical side of the island, where you can stand in a stone box that was once a bedroom 600 years ago inside of a castle and climb up flights and flights of stairs to kiss a stone because it is supposedly magical. Sometimes I feel like I’m walking through the set of a Disney movie, because in our very “new” America we aren’t used to bumping into history everywhere you look.

But I think my favorite part of all is getting to each destination. We’ve been taking buses everywhere from Mizen Head all the way to Giant’s Causeway on the coast in Northern Ireland, and it really gives you an amazing look into what most of the country looks like. On the days that we travel, I probably see more sheep than I do humans. I had this picture of Ireland in my head but I didn’t expect it to be so breathtaking in person. There are many moments where I look out at the beautiful scenery and everything just feels so right, and although locals make fun of me every time I talk I kind of feel like I belong here. My cheeks are in a constant state of pain because I can’t stop smiling, which, besides my aching legs from climbing up cliffs, is the best pain you could ever have.


A Day Trip to Cobh, Ireland

A Day Trip to Cobh, Ireland

Last weekend we took a little trip to a nearby town called Cobh. I don’t really know why we went, because when we looked up the town there didn’t seem to be much to do. The internet actually told us that one of the most popular things to do in Cobh was to go visit Cork, where we live. Needless to say, we didn’t have extremely high expectations.

We decided to just go for it and made the trek to the train station, where we got on the cleanest train I’ve ever seen in my life and looked out at the Irish landscape roll by for a half hour. It dropped us off at a beautiful coastal town where the sun peeked through the clouds to shine on a cathedral on the top of the hill. We didn’t have a plan or know what to do, so we just set out and walked down the colorful streets with cafes and shops without a care in the world. We stopped to smell the roses, literally, because there were flowers outside of every shop and on every corner. After drinking lattes and eating bagels on the street, we ventured up the hill to the cathedral as the bells chimed and took in the view of Cobh from above. The view looked over the multi-colored town and the water that was sprinkled with sailboats. The smell of the ocean was my favorite part – there was something so comforting in the fact that I could be thousands of miles away and it still has that same smell.

After taking in all of the intricate details on the inside of the cathedral and posing for way too many pictures in front of blue houses on hilly streets, we ended our day sitting at the end of a pier with our legs hanging off, listening to crashing waves, and soaking up the bits of sun that we could. Cobh has quite a few sites and museums aimed at tourists and although I probably would have loved them, it was nice to show up with no itinerary and just walk around and get a little lost. I am a sucker for the little things; my favorite way to spend an afternoon is to find a corner in a cozy coffee shop and people watch. I have a hefty list of attractions and sights that I need to see before I leave Ireland but more than anything I want to take in every bit of this easygoing lifestyle. I am not usually one to travel without a plan but I learned that sometimes you need to escape to a small town you know nothing about and just go.

Changing Perspectives

Changing Perspectives

I started my senior year of college today and I have never felt more like a freshman. Attending a new school is intimidating enough, let alone when it’s in a foreign country. As an American, I know people are going to make certain assumptions about me (and I don’t blame them), so I’m trying my hardest to blend in and defy the obnoxious American stereotype. I’m a bit clueless about everything but I’m figuring it out with the help the friends I’ve made so far.

A lot has happened this week, but rather than dive into all of the big details about my new apartment, friends, and school, there’s a lot of little things I want to write about that have already made me fall in love with Cork. Like the way you walk into a pub and instantly feel like you’re in somebody’s warm home. Or the way your heels click as you embrace the 20 minute walk down the cobblestone streets to get to the nearest grocery store. Or how a rainy day is really just a constant mist that’s not enough to make your hair wet, but enough to make the ground sparkle.

It didn’t sink in that I was actually in Ireland until I was sitting in a pub, drinking cider and listening to two old men playing the mandolin and singing traditional Irish music. Up until this point, I had been walking around the beautiful streets of Cork feeling like I was in a dream, but this was the moment when I thought, “wow, I’m really here.” I had a laundry list of cities and countries that I wanted to visit while I’m living in Europe, and I know I will check a few of them off this semester, but now that I’m here I realize that I truly want to take in every second of Ireland that I can. I haven’t ventured outside of Cork yet, but this city is so beautiful in ways that I can’t even describe, and I’m sure the rest of the country will continue to amaze me.

I had always been the type of girl who was happiest in a big city and could only fall in love with a place where the sun shines, but Ireland, you might be changing me.

Céad Míle Fáilte

Céad Míle Fáilte

Ever since my fourth grade heritage report, I knew I wanted to someday travel to Ireland. Everything about the culture and the people fascinated me. From then on, I did every report I could on some facet of Ireland and with every fact I learned, I fell more and more in love with the country. Thus, when the opportunity came to study abroad in Limerick, I jumped at it!

From the minute we landed in the Shannon Airport, I was ready for my adventure to start! It was slow going at first as my roommate Abby and I were locked out of our apartment when all we wanted to do was sleep, but even in our jet-lagged and cranky states, we could still admire the open, friendly nature of everyone we encountered. I can’t even begin to remember how many times we were wished “céad míle fáilte,” or “one hundred thousand welcomes” by the locals. Everyone was so willing to help the frazzled Americans settle in!

Our first weekend in Ireland was spent wandering around the city center of Limerick doing touristy things like exploring the shops. We did go to a fantastic market in the heart of the city called the Milk Market. (No milk is sold there, surprisingly.) The Limerick Milk Market is a weekly event held every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday where local merchants can come and display their products. There were books, jewelry, fresh meats, baked treats, clothes, and everything in between! Abby and I went with another American girl named Ellise and two Danes named Trine and Laura. We had a great time wandering the aisles looking at everything and ended the day with a perfectly prepared meal of fish and chips. It was a little drizzly, but that is to be expected in January in Ireland. Regardless, it was a unique experience that was a great way to start the semester!


A stall selling homemade soaps and lotions at the Milk Market.

Some pottery for sale at the Milk Market.

The biggest struggle I’ve had in transitioning to school in Ireland is the rotating schedules. Classes are not at the same time each class meeting and they can be in different rooms, as well. My schedule is full of gaps and free time where I’m waiting for my next class to begin, but this does leave time for me to become better acquainted with the local pubs around the campus! There are several that a few of us have had a chance to try out, including Dolans and Fennesseys, where I had my first ever pint of Guinness! Pubs are a central gathering place for the neighborhood and being an American is a great way to start a conversation with anyone at the bar. They are also a great gathering place for students and often have live music, traditional and otherwise, so don’t be afraid to go out and have fun!

When in Ireland, you can’t escape trying a Guinness!

So far, studying in Limerick has been a whirlwind of meeting new people, having new experiences, and wandering around castle ruins. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the semester will bring!






For the past two months, I’ve been seeing familiar faces from home. I’ll be walking down College Road on the way to the library at UCC and catch a glimpse of so-and-so from high school. Or while grabbing a hot chocolate with extra whipped cream (yes, I am five-years-old, thank you very much) I’ll know I’m staring at what’s-her-name from the Starbucks on Sheridan Road. That-one-guy from work is definitely sitting in front of me in Modern Irish.

The lovely sprawling city of Cork.

It’s not them. Of course it’s not. But my mind has played this trick on me so many times that I’ve started cataloging which lookalikes I’ve seen. It’s turned into a game, almost as if I’m trying to collect all the familiar faces before I fly back to the U.S. I’ve even given this phenomenon a nickname: Doppelganger Syndrome.

And if that’s not weird enough, I’ve started having flashes of places around Chicago and Batavia. In the middle of reading about the 1937 Irish constitution, I suddenly see the Walmart parking lot on Kirk Road.

I just don’t get it. It seems like these images keep bubbling up to the surface because some small part of me is afraid I’ll forget them. To be honest, seeing bits of home is a comfort. I like being surprised when boy-from-freshman-year-dorm stands in line behind me at Tesco. My face splits with a goofy smile when a snapshot of the windmill off of Route 25 crosses my mind.

Even as I cling to these images, they help me settle in to my new surroundings. I can carry them around with me. They calm the fears that I’ll forget things about Cork when I go home, too. Maybe in four months, that afternoon I stood in the spitting rain watching the River Lee push beyond its banks and tear through the trees will meander on by as I’m sitting on the Red line.

The River Lee accompanied by a rainbow.

It’s funny what will wedge itself into your mind. It’s even funnier how much those strange moments, places and people will mean to you when you’re thousands of miles away from home.

Side note: I’m saying this because, well, I can. I’M OFF TO PARIS IN THE MORNING!

At the Heart of Culture

At the Heart of Culture

I am a firm believer in the link between language and culture. The daily vernacular can show as much, if not more, about a people’s beliefs, customs and perceptions as art or music.

“An lar” means “the center”

Americans are lucky; we share our language with several other countries while retaining our unique dialect. That patented American accent is the quickest way to find a kindred soul while abroad. While Ireland is in a similar position, the country has been working for the last 100 years to revive its native language, Gaelic.

And now, time for a history lesson with the man we all love to hate: King Henry VIII.

In 1541, the Irish Parliament passed a statute that declared good ol’ Henry the King of Ireland. The Irish nobility had given their allegiance to the King in order to maintain their titles, power and land. But, alas, allegiances are mostly just words, and as the newly Protestant England worked to impose laws upon the predominately Catholic Ireland, the English overlords ran into some trouble. So England tightened its grip. Eventually, the native Irish lords were stripped of their power, and Irish culture, language and law laid by the wayside. More Scottish, English and Welsh settlers moved to Ireland as English culture, language and law was enforced.

The next 200+ years saw English rise as the accepted language. Using Gaelic was looked down upon and even punishable at times. The late 1800’s, however, saw a push for the use of Gaelic as a cornerstone of Irish culture.  As Ireland gained more independence from Britain, the language found more of a foothold.

Another shot of Cork

Today, Irish students are all required to take Gaelic in some form. And I, being the cultural thrill seeker I am, am taking an intro class in modern Irish.

It’s different. Incredibly different. My safety net of Latin root words is gone. The words, so easily formed on an Irish tongue, sound strangled and clipped when I try to say them. And yet, I’m happy to learn. Its through language that we find the heart of a culture. I don’t expect to use it in everyday life, if at all, but it helps me decode my surroundings.

It’s something that many have fought for the right to speak. So even if I butcher it, I’ll give it my best go.


My American Problem

My American Problem

“Just say you’re Canadian.”

Before heading for foreign soil, Americans are often told to brush off questions of nationality by saying they’re Canadian.  The U.S. isn’t exactly the darling of the global community. And, I mean, it’s close enough, right?

The River Lee

For some, fudging the border lines is a non-issue. But for me, I have a hard time claiming I’m from a country I’ve only visited three or four times in my life. Luckily, I’ve never been in a situation where I had to lie, and I figured it wouldn’t be much of a problem while in Ireland

Four days in, though, and I’ve heard from a few locals that leaving the U.S. out of it might be the safest route.

As soon as I arrived in Cork, I struck up a conversation with a taxi driver as he drove me to my new home. When I mentioned to him that I’m a journalism major, the conversation quickly turned toward Syria. I wasn’t at my best after a six hour flight and a four hour bus ride, and I had a difficult time following him. I do, however, remember him telling me that it was probably safer if I avoid discussing politics with the locals.

Later, after I had settled into my room, I introduced myself to one of my Irish roommates. She’d been to the U.S. before, and while she said she admired our diverse wildlife, she did have some decisive opinions about how wasteful we all were. She couldn’t get over how big everything was there – the roads, the cars, the food. There isn’t even public transportation, she said.

All my encounters with the locals so far have been beyond pleasant, but I worry when I walk down the street. Not for my safety, no; I worry that they’ll recognize me as an American by the way I dress or the slightly dazed look on my face and think I’m yet another lost tourist. I fear that my slightly nasal midwestern accent will make them assume that I drive a tank and only eat McDonalds.

University College Cork

What I want is to be recognized as an individual. I want to be able to discuss politics and to hear other views. As I slip further into the culture here, I’m certain that my fears will vanish. I’ll learn the right way to approach a touchy subject. I will be proud of where I’m from without discrediting where I am. I’ll recognize that I have just as many preconceived notions to banish as others have of me. Hopefully, a frank discussion and a pint will be all it takes to air out those stereotypes.

But, at least for now, I finally understand why sometimes it’s easier to say you’re Canadian. Even if the Canadians don’t appreciate it.