Not even two weeks into this adventure and I already love Ireland more than I could have imagined. Everywhere I go gives me something new to love about this place. The food is amazing (I’ve grown a bit of a bread obsession), the history is fascinating, and the culture is one of a kind. As hard as it is to pick one favorite part about this place, I may have to say it is how slow-paced everything is. I learned that when I go to a pub for dinner I usually have to walk up to someone at the bar and ask for a menu. But until then, I can sit and relax at the table with my friends for as long as I want. Even after all the food is finished, and all the drinks are empty, you can sit and chat until they have to close up. Because of the extra time to breath and relax, I find myself enjoying the little things a lot more than I did back home- like clear days, fresh air, green parks, and a really good sandwich. This sense of having all the time in the world has made me see many things in a new light, and I can definitely say I’m happier for it.
Another thing I love about Dublin is how nice a long walk can be. One of the first things I was told when I got here is that Dublin is a very “walkable city”. Little did I know that a “short” walk for someone in Ireland is 30-35 minutes. But that 30- minute walk to class or to run errands is now something I am completely used to, and even enjoy. It gives me a chance to look around, people watch, and even find new pubs or restaurants to try. Going for a long walk is so simple, yet something that I never would have learned to love if it hadn’t been for my time here.
Although my new lifestyle suggests that I have plenty of time to stop and smell the roses, that hasn’t really been the case. In the few weeks I’ve been here, I have done and seen more things than any vacation I’ve ever been on. The first week of classes was busy, but exciting. I have five classes a week, in subjects like Irish short stories, gothic Irish literature, creating visual narratives through photogrophy, Irish history, and digital marketing. The teachers are so knowledgeable and helpful, not only as educators but also as someone to ask about good pubs to go to, places to visit in Europe, and ways to battle homesickness. I can truly say that in such a short time I have never come to admire and rely on someone more than I do the staff at IES Abroad.
Aside from classes, I have busied myself getting familiar with Dublin, as well as taken the opportunity to travel around Ireland a bit. The food in Dublin is amazing, and the restaurants so diverse, that I don’t think I’ll even hit everything I want to in my short time here! So far I’ve had some pretty amazing sandwiches (as I’ve said before… but they really are that great), hearty soups, and the obligatory Irish breakfast (vegetarian version because I don’t like bacon… weird I know). I’ve also visited Grafton and O’Connell Street, two of the main shopping streets in Dublin. Grafton Street was beautifully decorated with lights hanging above the walkway at night, definitely making it one of my favorite places to go so far. Of course we had to do the Guinness factory, which was super interesting to learn more about. Pheonix Park is still on my list of things to do, because of its unbelievable size (more than twice the size of Central Park!) and well-known zoo.
I also had the amazing experience of traveling to Howth for the day, with the rest of the IES Abroad students and staff. Howth is a little fishing village about a half hour ride outside Dublin. Although it was a little windy, the sun was shining beautifully all day. We hiked a cliff on the edge of Howth head that offered an amazing view of the sea. The entire experience was unreal, and I hope to do it again when the weather warms up! This past weekend a few friends and I took our first weekend trip to Galway. The bus ride was about 2 ½ hours from Dublin, and we spent one night in our first hostel ever. The town was small, but full of character. I had the best time wandering around the local market (where I bought a homemade loaf of bread…. amazing), exploring Galway Cathedral, walking along a path by the sea, and visiting the shops. A short bus ride the next day took us to the Cliffs of Moher, where we were almost blown off the edge by strong winds. The views were indescribable there, and I know for a fact that my pictures don’t do it nearly enough justice.
The experiences I’ve had and the memories I have made so far only make me so excited for what’s still to come! I plan to travel a lot outside of Dublin, as well (starting with a trip to Prague this weekend). I can’t wait to share everything else that I see and learn from my time here in Europe. For now, I’m focusing on making Dublin feel like home. So far I have successfully become a “tea person”, enjoy a night spent talking to friends in a nearby pub, appreciate a good scone when I see one (which is a lot), and aren't alarmed when someone says they had good “craic” last night, because I know they’re just talking about a good time. Although I have these few things down, I know I have a lot more to learn. Hopefully I’ll have a couple more tips for you guys next time. But for now, Cheers!
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<p>Hi! My name is Rachel Marini and I am a Junior at Penn State University. I'm majoring in Elementary Education (with an English focus) and plan to minor in special ed. I am a huge book nerd, but when I'm not reading I like to hang out with my family and friends, go to the beach, and just spend time outdoors. Traveling has always been a big part of my life, because I love exploring new places. Going to Dublin is something that I know I won't regret, and I can't wait to share my experience with all of you!</p>