Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Samantha L. - Ireland - Spring 2009




“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.”~Susan Heller

Hello everyone!
I have been studying at the National University of Ireland, Galway for about two months now. However looking back, it does not seem like it has been that long!
The first place the program sent us to was Limerick for the program orientation. It was a crazy but awesome three day, hanging out with new people and figuring out what was in store for the next five months. The hardest part of the trip, so far, was the week after the program orientation. Mainly because the wall-heaters in the apartments took forever to warm up the freezing rooms and we had a lot of downtime to get home sick. The one good thing that came out of that bad situation was my close friends! Since we all felt the same way, we talked, hung out, and did pretty much everything together!
Now that I have become comfortable with my surroundings, I am beginning to notice that Ireland is very ‘Americanized’. They have McDonald’s, Papa John’s, and Subway everywhere! And they even get MTV and other American television shows! However, their culture is still shown through all the ‘American-ness’. For example, they have a few pubs only play traditional music and even a TV channel that is strictly in Gaelic!
The classes, on the other hand, are completely different from Elmhurst College courses. Instead of 4 classes, I am taking 6, to be considered full-time. However, most of the classes only meet for 2 hours a week. Another thing to get use to is the class sizes. At Elmhurst, most classes have maybe 25 people, but here they have about 100. When studying abroad, there is a lot to look into, so that you won’t be surprised.
But overall, I think that I have adjusted well and I’m really enjoying the whole experience!

8 Comments:

Anonymous Crystal Pope said...

Hi Samantha!
Since I'm going to be studying in Cork, Ireland this coming fall, I thought I would comment on your update.

So, with which program are you studying abroad? And you mentioned being with close friends, are they from Elmhurst and did you guys plan this all out?

I'm kinda sad to hear how "Americanized" the country is even though their culture definitely shines through. Although it is nice to know there will always be a Papa John's if I burn my dinner. Would you say that the amount of American establishments is almost the same as the amount of Irish ones?

Also, I've heard that the rooms there can get pretty chilly. Could you describe it to me in "Chicago-weather" terms so I know what to look out for?

Oh, and my last question: are you interacting very much with the Irish students there? Or even with the residents of Galway? Or do you mainly just see the other foreign students?

I hope things continue going well for you!

11:11 PM  
Anonymous Samantha L said...

Hey Crystal,
I'm on the IFSA Butler program. And I have to say that I am really glad I picked this one! They are very personable. They know everyone's names, are easy to get into contact with, and help with transition stuff the whole way. They even do a couple weekend trips! And on the topic of friends, I actually came over here completely on my own. And met people along the way! It is super easy to get to know everyone, as long as you are open-minded and friendly. The rest just falls into place...

There are definitely other stores and resturants here besides American ones... For some reason, people in Galway have been obsessed with Chinese lol. So expect to see a few of those. As far as shops/malls go, there are a lot of cute clothes and shoes! (Pack light, and bring money lol) Things are slightly more expensive out here. A shirt that would be $15 in the States will be 15 euros ($20). So don't get fooled by the number amount, because the value is different. Oh, one last thing about fashion, everyone is obsessed with Abercrombie and Hollister. Don't know why.

The rooms can get a bit chilly at night, but it's not bad. Me and my roommate invested in a space heater because it was freezing cold in Jan. But I really don't know how much you'll need that because you'll be here in the fall... The average temperature so far in March has been around 45. And it rains about 3 days out of the week. When packing, remember that the warmest it gets here is 65 and that it is rainy. Bring boots and a couple hoodies.

And for your last question, yes, I have a lot of Irish friends. The Butler program has apartment style housing. There are 5 people (including me) living in one apartment. 3 of them are Irish and Me and my roommate are Americans. It is super helpful to have Irish roommates, because they can give advice and answer any wierd question that you can come up with lol... However, on the weekends, everyone goes home to work and see their families. This kind of sucked at first, but now I like it. It allows me time to work on assignments without distractions. And the program people are still around then too, so you'll still have people to hang out with.

If you have any more questions, feel free to ask! Its good to figure out everything before you go!

8:56 PM  
Anonymous Ashley said...

Hey Samantha :)

I'm going to be studying in Glasgow, Scotland next fall...I thought I'd pick your brain apart since Ireland & Scotland are so [geographically] close...and hopefully I'll be able to spend some time roaming around Ireland too.

So have you been able to travel within (or outside of) the region yet? Or if not, do you plan to..?
And what about transportation? I know much of the UK is pretty well-connected via trains, tubes and what not...but how's public transportation in Ireland?
And, if you don't mind me asking, about how much was your ticket out there -- and where did you buy it? I'm starting to compare plane prices and I'm hopefully going to start finalizing some plans soon, but everything seems sooo much more expensive this time of year (or maybe it's just usually that much...ouch!)

Thanks!

11:21 PM  
Anonymous Samantha L said...

Hey Ashley,

Scotland and Ireland are very similar, but different too! Scotland is part of the United Kingdom, so they use pounds as their currency instead of euro’s. And even though the pound is becoming weaker (closer to the value of a dollar), items are still going to be a little more expensive. My best advice is to use a convertor to see how much pounds you have for a given amount of dollars. Clothes and food are normally the same price. (example: If a shirt would be $15, then it would be labeled 15 pounds. But converted it would be about $22.) By pre-converting the value of the money, you will not be surprised by price difference.

As for transportation, there are many buses and trains that will take you everywhere! The thing to keep in mind with transportation is that buses may be cheaper, but they take longer. So save time slots for traveling when planning trips! And yes, I have traveled around a bit in Ireland. The program I am with does a few trips that are pre-paid for through program dues. They took us to the Cliffs of Moher and to Belfast. (Belfast is actually part of the UK and is a 15 min plane ride to Scotland.) I am also planning a mini-euro trip for spring break. There is this pass called the EUrail pass, and it allows you to travel from different countries for as many days as you choose for one flat price. I plan on going to Italy, France, the Netherlands, and Belgium. If you are planning a big spring break like this, I would recommend using more trains and buses because these types of transportation will lead you into the heart of the city. (Whereas, airports are always about 20 minutes from the city, and you have to pay for a bus into the city.)

As for plane tickets from the States here, everyone paid around $1000 (round trip). This price is unusually high because we had to fly out right after the New Year’s holiday, so there were a lot of ‘black-out’ dates and limited flights. If I were you, I would book the ticket a few months ahead of time because the prices will not get much better. I was looking at tickets the other day for a friend and a round trip ticket was only about $550. So the prices can be reasonable when flying at the right time. Also when booking a flight, look into their baggage charges. I almost had to pay $200 because my bag was 5 lbs over weight!
Good luck with your planning and if you have any more question, just message me back!

8:27 PM  
Anonymous Crystal Pope said...

So Samantha,
When you say pack light, what exactly do you mean? Like, how much clothing did you bring? Oh, and where have you been doing your laundry?

Eek, Abercrombie and Hollister? Lol, I've never bought anything from either store.

You suggested that I bring a pair of boots. Well, I do have a pair of rainboots that I bought at Target earlier in the year. Should I bring those? I had thought that they would be too cumbersome to pack.

So what classes are you taking? And how did you decide? Are you taking anything for your major or gen eds? Do you have any tips for selecting classes?

Oh, and do you talk with people you know from back home very often? I mean, on the phone.

Thanks!

7:11 PM  
Anonymous Ashley said...

Hey Samantha--
Thanks so much for the response!
I'm glad you mentioned that about trains/buses. I've been researching different train passes and stuff for over a month now (pathetic, I know!) and I was leaning toward the Global Eurail pass too, so thanks for solidifying that :-) At first I was iffy, because trains are soo much slower than flying -- but seriously, the landscape's gorgeous so why not?

So how are your classes? Are they very difficult, or would you consider them average...? And what are your teachers like? I've heard that teachers out there aren't as easy to approach as back home, but would they still help you if you get stuck in a subject?

So sorry for bombarding you with questions...but I have a few more :-P lol

What's life like out there, in general?
What do you do with your free time?
What's the food like?
And what are the other (native) students like?
What's the pub life like?
I heard that in Scotland, if someone offers you a glass of whiskey and you're not a drinker (like me!), then they take it as a personal insult...do they really offend that easily?

Thanks!

7:55 PM  
Anonymous Samantha L said...

Crystal and Ashley-
Sorry that it has taken me so long to respond! I was on spring break…

By packing light, I mean don’t bring ten pairs of jeans, because you won’t wear them all… Instead, bring like 3 or 4 pairs of jeans and some shirts that you can layer. It’s kind of cool in temperature out here so layering is a good thing to do. The best items of clothing I brought would have to be different colored cami’s or tank tops… You can throw different colors under different tops for a different look and layer them too… It kind of sucks that you start to wear the same things over and over again, so try to bring stuff you can change up.

I brought some going out shirts, a few pairs of jeans, normal everyday shirts, and a couple sweatshirts. I also brought some shoes, mainly flats because they fit easier. Some of my friends brought leggings, jean skirts, and cute sundresses. I would say just bring stuff that you will be comfortable in… No one judges what you wear.

As for laundry, my apartment has a washer/dryer machine but other apartment buildings have it by reception. I’m lucky and I don’t need to pay for it, but my friends in the other apartment do. One thing to keep in mind, the Irish are very energy efficient… Meaning they try not to use any energy, mainly because it is expensive. My roommate and I did not understand things concept and doubled our bill… yuck! And our Irish roommates weren’t happy with us…

Oh and I would definitely recommend bringing rain boots or tall boots… it does rain a lot here, so having boots will keep you dry.

As for classes, I am taking a variety of different ones. Some of them apply to my major and others are just for gen. eds… The process for picking classes was really weird. You have a two-week long ‘shopping’ period, where you can sit in on any class to see if you want to take it. In general, the class sizes range from 80 to 100 people… And it is hard to get to know your professor because they just lecture to the group…

As for talking to people at home, I normally use skype, which is through the computer and is completely free… There is an option on skype that allows you to call cell/house phones for like $3 a month or something like that… I don’t have it, but a friend does… Other than that, I use AIM and Facebook… Sometimes it is hard to talk to people because I am 6 hours ahead of home… (so if its noon there, its 6 pm here)

I would definitely say it is better to look things up now and plan ahead then to be confused when you get out here…

The classes are kind of easier out here… You don’t have homework assignments or quizzes and only a few classes have mid-term assignments. The only scary part is that your whole grade depends on the final test. The final tests are normally essays… there are like 5 questions and you have to answer 2… Teachers normally give you the topic of each question, so that you can study, and there are no surprises. Basically, my final schedule is: write a paper and study for a test for 5 days, then testing. Then study for a two tests for 4 days, then take those… Study a few more days and take another… then I have 10 days to study for my last one… its spread out, so I’m not that worried.

The teachers are there to help you when you need them. I think the easiest way to get a hold of them is to email… but you can go up to them as well.

In general, life is pretty relaxed out here. The Irish don’t pay for school, so they only go when they want to and do what they want to do. The weekend life is pretty dead, because they all go home and work. But you get to know all the Americans on the weekends and travel.

With my free time, I normally hang out with friends and cook… sometimes we take day trips to different parts of the country or just go to the local beach… At night, we either go out to the pubs or have movie nights… If I’m by myself, I like to journal about my time here…

The food is very blah… lol the Irish don’t use very many seasonings. It isn’t bad, but it’s not to die for. I mainly cook my own food to the way I like it. For the Irish, their main food is chicken, potatoes, and pasta.

The Irish students are really cool and easy going. They will help you with everything you need.

Every pub is different… There are clubs that play loud music and stay open all night. Then there are late night bars, which plays music and has a dance floor, but then has a seating area to talk and chill… then there are pubs with traditional music… Depending on what you are feeling, every place can be good.

And I don’t think the Irish would be offend if you turned down a drink… however they kind of would be if you turned down tea or coffee lol… but that is more along the line of refusing hospitality…

Fun Facts:
We say They say
jell-o ------------jelly
jelly -------------jam
fries are called chips
chips are called crisps
*They don’t have anything grape flavored

If you have any more questions feel free to ask...

6:13 AM  
Anonymous Samantha L said...

Crystal and Ashley-
Sorry that it has taken me so long to respond! I was on spring break…

By packing light, I mean don’t bring ten pairs of jeans, because you won’t wear them all… Instead, bring like 3 or 4 pairs of jeans and some shirts that you can layer. It’s kind of cool in temperature out here so layering is a good thing to do. The best items of clothing I brought would have to be different colored cami’s or tank tops… You can throw different colors under different tops for a different look and layer them too… It kind of sucks that you start to wear the same things over and over again, so try to bring stuff you can change up.

I brought some going out shirts, a few pairs of jeans, normal everyday shirts, and a couple sweatshirts. I also brought some shoes, mainly flats because they fit easier. Some of my friends brought leggings, jean skirts, and cute sundresses. I would say just bring stuff that you will be comfortable in… No one judges what you wear.

As for laundry, my apartment has a washer/dryer machine but other apartment buildings have it by reception. I’m lucky and I don’t need to pay for it, but my friends in the other apartment do. One thing to keep in mind, the Irish are very energy efficient… Meaning they try not to use any energy, mainly because it is expensive. My roommate and I did not understand things concept and doubled our bill… yuck! And our Irish roommates weren’t happy with us…

Oh and I would definitely recommend bringing rain boots or tall boots… it does rain a lot here, so having boots will keep you dry.

As for classes, I am taking a variety of different ones. Some of them apply to my major and others are just for gen. eds… The process for picking classes was really weird. You have a two-week long ‘shopping’ period, where you can sit in on any class to see if you want to take it. In general, the class sizes range from 80 to 100 people… And it is hard to get to know your professor because they just lecture to the group…

As for talking to people at home, I normally use skype, which is through the computer and is completely free… There is an option on skype that allows you to call cell/house phones for like $3 a month or something like that… I don’t have it, but a friend does… Other than that, I use AIM and Facebook… Sometimes it is hard to talk to people because I am 6 hours ahead of home… (so if its noon there, its 6 pm here)

I would definitely say it is better to look things up now and plan ahead then to be confused when you get out here…

The classes are kind of easier out here… You don’t have homework assignments or quizzes and only a few classes have mid-term assignments. The only scary part is that your whole grade depends on the final test. The final tests are normally essays… there are like 5 questions and you have to answer 2… Teachers normally give you the topic of each question, so that you can study, and there are no surprises. Basically, my final schedule is: write a paper and study for a test for 5 days, then testing. Then study for a two tests for 4 days, then take those… Study a few more days and take another… then I have 10 days to study for my last one… its spread out, so I’m not that worried.

The teachers are there to help you when you need them. I think the easiest way to get a hold of them is to email… but you can go up to them as well.

In general, life is pretty relaxed out here. The Irish don’t pay for school, so they only go when they want to and do what they want to do. The weekend life is pretty dead, because they all go home and work. But you get to know all the Americans on the weekends and travel.

With my free time, I normally hang out with friends and cook… sometimes we take day trips to different parts of the country or just go to the local beach… At night, we either go out to the pubs or have movie nights… If I’m by myself, I like to journal about my time here…

The food is very blah… lol the Irish don’t use very many seasonings. It isn’t bad, but it’s not to die for. I mainly cook my own food to the way I like it. For the Irish, their main food is chicken, potatoes, and pasta.

The Irish students are really cool and easy going. They will help you with everything you need.

Every pub is different… There are clubs that play loud music and stay open all night. Then there are late night bars, which plays music and has a dance floor, but then has a seating area to talk and chill… then there are pubs with traditional music… Depending on what you are feeling, every place can be good.

And I don’t think the Irish would be offend if you turned down a drink… however they kind of would be if you turned down tea or coffee lol… but that is more along the line of refusing hospitality…

Fun Facts:
We say They say
jell-o ------------jelly
jelly -------------jam
fries are called chips
chips are called crisps
*They don’t have anything grape flavored

If you have any more questions feel free to ask...

6:13 AM  

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