Balance Abroad: Classes, friends, and travel

Madison Weaver
January 25, 2018
View from Chester Beatty Library

With my third week in Dublin finished, I am nearly a quarter of the way through my time in Ireland… and the feeling of panic is setting in. Where should I travel? When should my family visit? What do I still need to see in Ireland?

My time here has been a fantastic blur of exploring city streets, meeting locals, visiting Irish towns like Howth, Galway, and Cork, finding local pubs and restaurants, and making friends with other IES Abroad Dublin students. I’ve learned how to use public transportation, cook meals for myself, Irish step dance, and to plan a budget (sort of). Whenever my roommates and I get a little lost walking home, or accidentally hop on the wrong bus, we joke that “all roads lead back to Rathmines” because our street is so easy to find. A sense of humor and some flexibility goes a long way when you’re just learning about a new city and new culture.

The biggest challenge during these three weeks has been balancing time between classes, exploration, resting, and planning. Our courses meet only once per week, so planning when to do homework and group projects is a major necessity. Each course has their own readings, assignments, and field trips to be juggled during the week and long term projects on the horizon. Most days, I also try to work on personal projects like applying to internships or editing all the photos I’ve taken. My roommates and I are attempting to plan weekend travels (look out Amsterdam!) while still planning day trips around our host country. It’s a challenge to balance homework and exploring Irish pubs; finding local restaurants and eating in to save money; traveling the country and resting our bodies, minds, and wallets.

My courses are fantastic: each week, I’m excited to listen to our professors and learn more about writing, business, marketing, and history through an Irish context. Last week, my Photo/Graphic course visited the Chester Beatty Library in city center, and this weekend, my Northern Irish Troubles class is taking a day trip to Belfast. I find my mind engaged with what we’ve covered in class when I'm walking around the city, connecting bits of history to the buildings and names, or spinning short story ideas from people and places I see when exploring.

I’m a huge list maker, but I’ve really neglected to do so in the blur of the past three weeks. So today, I cleaned up our kitchen and living room, spread out my planner, and made an extensive homework to-do list. Then, I checked up on my Ireland Wish List to see what I’ve checked off, and what I still need to see and do!

Been there, done that:

  • Howth Cliff Hike
  • Galway
  • Cork
  • Blarney Castle
  • Chester Beatty Library
  • Grafton Street

Places to see:

  • Trinity College and Book of Kells
  • Dublin Castle
  • National Gallery
  • Museum of Modern Art
  • Bray to Greystones hike
  • Phoenix Park
  • Causey Farm
  • Cliffs of Moher or Donegal
  • Belfast and Northern Ireland

Today, my roommate and I plan to visit Phoenix Park, where we can rent bikes to seek out the resident deer and hopefully snap a few good pictures. Tomorrow morning, we’ll be on a train to Belfast, then Saturday we’ll spend the day at Causey Farm to pet some animals and make traditional Irish soda bread.

When your main objective is studying while abroad, some days can feel monotonous or even tedious. There’s projects to do, kitchens to clean, laundry to wash, and sleep to catch up on. But planning your free time and allowing yourself the freedom to explore is so important, whether it’s a weekend spent in another country or checking out beautiful library or trad music just down the road.

There’s always a new experience to had in Dublin, and this week has been a healthy reminder to go seek them!

Madison Weaver

<p>My mother is a professional photographer, instilling in me a life-long love of photography and visual art. Assisting in her studio since I was fourteen, I've learned to capture landscapes and people in unique ways. I am a creative writing merit scholar at Bucknell University, where I have found my passion in nonfiction writing and honed my writing and editing skills as a news editor for the student run newspaper. Inspired to combine my passions for the literary and the visual, I took the initiative to create an interdepartmental Multimedia Communications major, utilizing the design, marketing, and business expertise on campus to expand my passion for sharing and communicating.</p>

2018 Spring
Home University:
Bucknell University
New Brighton, PA
Creative Writing
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