Goodbye, Ireland

First year of college is officially over!  I can’t believe how quickly it went; sometimes it feels like I was in Texas yesterday and sometimes it feels like I haven’t been back in years.  But I will officially be back tomorrow afternoon. I’ve got a long day of traveling ahead, but it will be nice to come home and see my family. I’m going to miss Dublin, though, and I can’t wait to come back late August.

It’ll be nice to be home and relax, because this past week has been so hectic getting ready to leave.  I had my final French exam on Monday, which went well. I had an article to read and answer following questions, and then I had to write an essay on how the digital age could affect future democracy.  It was only a two hour exam so it went by rather quickly. Sadly, the end of exams did not mean the end of things that needed to be done. Figuring out how to pack all of my stuff took a lot more effort than I thought it would at first.  At first I was trying to find a storage company and figure out how many and what size boxes were required like most students do, but two of my roommates volunteered to store my stuff and Frenchy’s stuff over the summer. We couldn’t have been happier!  They deserve a huge thank you, because I am saving a ton of money and I got to use bags and any other packing things I wanted and not storage box requirements.

Other than packing, there was so much cleaning to do before we left the apartment.  We got an email of a huge list of things that had to be done, and the amount of fines that we could get if something was not clean or broken.  The kitchen in particular took a long time, especially when you have to deep clean all the appliances and scrub the floors and walls.  My roommates and I have also been to a lot of apartment and house showings.  We’re trying to find a place to live next year, but with a housing crisis going on in Dublin right now, it is proving very difficult to find a place.  We constantly keep looking and sending out emails, and hopefully we’ll find a place this summer or early this next semester.

But my final week hasn’t been just work.  On Tuesday one of my Trinity friends and I took the train to Boyle, in county Roscommon, to go see one of our other friends.  Roscommon is in the west of Ireland, so the train ride was about two and a half hours. Our friend lives in the country, so we got to see a lot of sheep, cows, and green countryside.  We spent a couple of days at her place, enjoying the sunshine and making a bunch of food. Her brothers tried to teach me how to play GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) which is what they call Gaelic football (soccer).  Needless to say, sports is not my forte, and that lesson was rather short. But it was still good craic. 🙂 We also went to a neighboring town to go to the cinema, and that evening I could not believe how silent it was at night.  Usually back home you hear crickets or some type of bug, but if no one was making any noise, there was absolutely no sound. I thought it was kind of creepy, but the noise was made up for in the morning when we were woken up early by the loud cuckoo birds.  

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Last night after more cleaning my roommate (the only one that was left) and I decided to go into the city one last time.  We got some ice cream and walked around, enjoying the lights and doing some exploring. I finally walked across the harp bridge, which is a famous bridge in Dublin shaped like a harp.  I can’t believe I’ve been here for about nine months and had not walked across it. But now I can say I have.

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Today, sadly, was my last day.  I checked out of Halls and moved my stuff to a hostel for the final night (today was check out day).  My roommates had all gone home, but a couple of my friends had come down to say goodbye to me, so we decided to take a quick trip to Malahide, which is a town north of the city.  We walked around the castle and greens there, and spent some time at the beach. It was a fun last day, and now I’m exhausted and ready to get a lot of sleep!

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I’m really glad I chose to go to Trinity; I think it’s the perfect school for me and for what I’m passionate about.  I get to study my favourite subjects, and the people here are so diverse and have all sorts of different cultural backgrounds.  I’ve made friends with people all over the world, and I feel like I’ve learned so much more about not only about Europe, but other places where my friends are from.  The city also is another great perk for living here. It’s a large enough city to have some of the top companies worldwide and all the conveniences of a capital city.  But it’s also small enough to not be overwhelming to live in, and it’s surrounded by mountains, beaches, fields, and all sorts of nature. (Also loving the fact that it is very cheap to fly to other European countries from Dublin).  

I love that I didn’t live and eat on campus. Leaving in an apartment in the suburbs, making my own food (or other people making food for me a lot of the time) and then going to college being just another part of my life makes me feel like I’m really leading my own life.  I didn’t have the experience of going to an American school, but I feel like going to a typical American university would kind of feel like boarding school. Living in the dorms, eating the cafeterias, and only a short walk to my classes would feel kind of strange to me. I’m sure not all universities are like that, but I do love my setup here in Dublin.

Finally, I’m really going to miss my roommates, as we kept getting closer as the year went on.  It was a little intimidating at first being the only American amongst four Irish girls and a French girl, but we really bonded over different things throughout the year.  Of course we make fun of each other’s cultural habits and differences, but we’ve also learned a lot from each other as well. I’m very fortunate to live with girls who really look out for one another.  If we go out, we make sure we are all together and no one gets lost. If we’re studying (aka they think I’m studying too much), they’ll take my books from me and make me food and remind me that everything will be grand.  We’ve made sure everyone’s birthdays got a huge celebration, and we would have the best Mario Kart competitions on our old Nintendo Ds’s.

But now it’s time to say au revoir.  Dublin, it’s been grand, and I’m going to miss your weather (I don’t remember the last time I was in above 75 degree heat).  I’ve learned a lot this year, and I am so excited to come back keep learning some more. I hope you all have enjoyed my updates; it has been a great way for me to share with my friends and family back home what I’ve been up to.  Have a wonderfully summer, and I can’t wait to see you all soon!

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Nice is nice

Bonjour (again)!  Amongst all the craziness of exams and getting ready to leave in a week, my trip to France was a lovely break and a fun way to practice before my final exam this Monday.  Four of us flew to Nice Monday evening, and we had a couple of days to explore the south of France before flying back home Wednesday night. Nice is a beach town in the south of France close to the Italian border.  Of course the weather was amazing, and although on the chillier side of the week, it was much warmer than Dublin.

Monday night after we arrived we checked in to the hostel.  We originally had opted for the ten person room since it was the cheapest, but when we arrived they offered us a private room instead, so that was a bonus.  The hostel is only for students (and rated the best hostel in Nice) so it was a very friendly and fun play to stay. The receptionist spoke to us in French since we were French students, and thankfully none of us had any problems.  Our room was on the fifth floor, so we had a lot of winding stairs to walk up. We could have used the lift, but it was only big enough for one to two people and looked like a closet from the outside. The rest of that evening we walked around and, went out for drinks, and explored the city.

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The next morning we went to a supermarket to buy breakfast then went to go eat it on the beach. It was very sunny, and the water was some of the clearest and bluest water that I’ve ever seen.  Like most European beaches though, it was very rocky, so walking into the water was a bit of a painful adventure. (Even though it was warm and sunny, the water was freezing, so only one of us was willing to actually go swimming.  He lasted about five minutes). Afterwards we climbed up a zillion stairs to get a nice view of the city. We didn’t realise until we got there, but because we’re students we get to do a lot of stuff for free, so afterwards we went to Nice’s modern and contemporary art museum.

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That evening we took the train to Cannes to see what was going on for the film festival.  Using the train was definitely an adventure for us, and it involved a lot of false timetable information, machines eating bank cards, and not being able to find the right platforms.  But it was all well in the end, and we ended up taking a 30 minute train right to Cannes that evening. The city was all set up for the festival, and everyone was all dressed up (and so many fancy cars everywhere).  We walked to the beach where everything was set up and got to see the tents for each country and the stages. We saw a large group of people over at one end of the beach so we went to check it out. Turns out it was the red carpet, and we got there as they started introducing the cast to the most recent Star Wars film.  We also saw a few other actors, and some from Game of Thrones as well. We took the train back that evening and collapsed at the hostel because we were so exhausted.

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The next morning we checked out of the hostel and went to have crêpes for breakfast.  Afterwards we took a bus to the Matisse museum and spent some time there. There was a large monastery garden nearby that we walked through as well, and we got another spectacular view of the city. We also stopped by the archaeological museum next door.  They had a bunch of artifacts and old ruins from when the Roman were in southern France.

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Later that afternoon we took a 20 minute train to Monaco, which is its own country within the French borders.  Monte-Carlo (basically the city in Monaco, since Monaco is just the size of a city) is famous for its casinos and where lots of rich people go to vacation and gamble.  We felt a bit out of place walking around, since almost every shop we saw was for a famous designer and pretty much everyone was wearing a suit or fancy clothes. The city was very mountainous, and the roads winded tightly around the buildings.  Monaco is also famous for its motor races because of this, and we were there when they were in between races of the Monaco Grand Prix, so there were gates set up all around the city. We ran into so many dead ends and had a difficult time finding out how to get places because it seemed like the entire city was blocked off.  But we figured it out eventually, and had enough time to explore the city for a bit before taking the train back to Nice. Once we got back to Nice we say au revoir and got a bus to the airport.

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Even though we were there for just a few days, it felt like we did a mountain of things.  It was definitely a fun way to practice our French before our exam. We spoke a mixture of French and English with each other during the trip and obviously French with the locals (unless they detected our accents and wanted to speak to us in English).  But now that I’m back in Dublin I’ve got a bunch to do before leaving next weekend. Packing, more apartment viewings, etc. Thankfully one of my roommates offered to store my stuff over the summer, so I don’t have to coordinate with a storage company (Thank you so so much!).  I also want to say congratulations to my sister, whose graduation is today. Sadly I can’t be there to see it, but I know it will be lovely ceremony. Can’t wait for her to be joining me here at Trinity this fall!

Exams :(

Bonsoir tout le monde!  I hope May has everyone off to a good start.  Unfortunately I don’t have much exciting news to tell, as we are officially in exam month.  Everyone has been busy studying and preparing for exams (at least most of the time 🙂 ). I’m not quite sure how it works at American schools, but here, your exams are your life.  Since we don’t really have marked assignments throughout the year, the final exams are the passing grade for each module. The only module I don’t have an exam for is programming, because we had four smaller exams throughout the year instead.  But for everything else, I needed to revise all that I had learned since September. It’s a lot of material, so that’s why we had three weeks off to study before exams started (excluding my French aural/oral exams, which took place while classes were still on).

My exam schedule, sadly, is not that great.  I had an exam every day for the first week, and I finish up with my last exam on the 21st, and all of them except one are at 9:30 in the morning.  The people doing regular computer science and the people in my course studying German all finished today, but of course, the French people still have a couple weeks to go.  At least the French exams should be my easiest ones, so the only thing I really have to stress out about now is preparing to go home (what to do with my stuff, where I’m going to live next year, etc).  

Most of my exams are three hours long, but thankfully the linguistic ones were only an hour.  The exams were pretty typical exams, I would say.  For maths I just had problems to solve, mostly matrices and propositional calculus/logic.  Computing was just writing code and a bunch of calculations (which was no fun to do on paper). For linguistics I wrote two essays, one on migration and language loss, and one on language and culture.  For phonetics and phonology I had to analyse the sounds of words in a corpus of words in Georgian. Syntax was the only test I was a little uneasy about, but mostly because of the time and not the content.  We only had an hour to analyse six sentences, which was everything from breaking each sentence down to the parts of speech, identifying the lexical and phrasal categories of the words, drawing tree diagrams, analysing the verbs and subordinate clauses, etc. (What do you call Santa’s elves? Subordinate clauses!  My friends say I’m a huge nerd).

The locations for my exams are all over the place.  I had a couple on campus; the nicest place was for my phonetics and phonology exam, which was in the traditional exam hall.  The exam hall is a small building in the front square, and it kind of looks like a chapel, but without the altar and pews and other things that make a chapel a chapel.  It had a bunch of stained glass on the inside, and paintings and sculptures. It still felt weird though to leave the exam and walk straight into a bunch of cameras from tourists taking photos of the building.  Other than Trinity, the majority of the exams are at the RDS, which is a convention center in Ballsbridge. The RDS is huge, so multiple exams take place at the same time in there, and trying to find your seat number (which is in the 1000s) can be an adventure.  Thankfully one of my flatmates has a car and can drive us there if we have exams on at the same time.

Other than exams, I’ve been enjoying the time I get to spend with my flatmates and friends, now that we no longer have to go to class every day.  We might have all gone a bit crazy because of exams, but we make sure to take time off every now and then (mostly to eat food; people feed me so much there’s no way I’m going to go hungry).  We celebrated one of my flatmate’s birthdays, and we spend some time outside now that the weather is so beautiful (although it got to 75 degrees the other day and we all thought we were going to die from the heat).  The cherry blossoms are blooming all over Dublin, and they make the city smell so nice. One day pretty much everyone at Halls put on summer-like clothes and sat outside to soak up the sun. It might have seemed normal to me if I were back home, but here it kind of looked like everyone was playing dress up.  Also, I don’t think I’ve ever seen people who were so pale. Guess I’m not used to living in a place where there is minimal sun!

That’s mostly what’s been going on here, study (lots of breaks) and study.  I still have two French exams left, one grammar and the other reading/comprehension.  My grammar one is on Friday, but my other French one isn’t until Monday a week later. So my course decided that the best way to study for our exams is for us to go to France.  So we got cheap flights to go to Nice on Monday. We’ll spend a couple days there, practicing our French and enjoying the beach before we head back to finish up our first year. Should be an exciting and very busy last few weeks!

Day Trip to Belfast

Hola everyone!  It’s our last week before crazy finals month.  My Trinity friends and I have been living in the computing labs these past few weeks (in an attempt to study, but sometimes we get distracted and end up looking at nerdy computer science memes and other things instead).  However, one can’t study forever, so for one of my friend‘s birthdays we took a day trip to Belfast.

Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland.  Even though it is the same island, Ireland is split between the Republic of Ireland (part of the EU and where I live) and Northern Ireland (part of the UK and no longer part of the EU).  Even though it was only a two hour train ride away, the currency is different (pounds, not euros), and my friends said that the set-up and buildings are very English. They also don’t speak Irish there, so the signs are only in English.  They do have a very strong Northern Irish accent though, which can be a bit hard to understand. Belfast is also known to be a very quiet city, which I noticed shortly after we got there. The city just wasn’t that noisy, and when we went into buildings everything was oddly quiet.  It wasn’t really that extreme, but enough for one to notice. We were also very fortunate with the weather, because it was supposed to rain all day. It did rain on us a couple times, but when it wasn’t raining it was nice and sunny.

There were nine of us in total, and we got the morning train so we would have lots of time to spend in Belfast.  The train ride was fun; I got to see more of the countryside, and I still marvel at how green the grass is. Since my friends are obsessed with the card game Uno, I brought it and we played a couple times on the train to pass the time.  Once we got to Belfast, we first went to St. George’s Market, which is an indoor market that had a bunch of different stalls for food, homemade products, and other vendor things. A lot of the food stalls had samples, so I tried an oyster for the first time.  It was a bit slimy, but not bad. They had hot sauce and lemon to put on it. For lunch one of my friends and I went to the Spanish stall and got some paella, patatas bravas, calamari, and a couple other things, and it was all so delicious!

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After the market we walked passed the capital building and Titanic memorial garden.  The building was impressive, as most capital buildings are, and since it’s spring the gardens were very pretty.  There was also a mini parade put on by the scouts for St. George’s Day.  Since the Titanic was built in Belfast, there are a lot of memorials to the construction of the ship and to the disaster.  (Belfast also has a really cool Titanic museum but sadly it was too expensive and long to fit in our itinerary). Afterwards we walked to see the Big Fish (aka the Salmon of Knowledge), which is a fish statue on Donegall Quay.  We spent a lot of time taking pictures around the water and other statues they have around the quay.

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Later we walked a ways to the C.S. Lewis square, which is a plaza with a bunch of statues of Lewis’ Narnia characters.  The walk to the plaza was also fun because we got to see more of the city.  Lots of shops were closed because it was Sunday, but there was a lot of art on the buildings and colourful murals.  Lots of murals for the Titanic and the IRA (Irish Republican Army), which is a terrorist group that sought to end British rule in Northern Ireland.  

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That evening we went to a Mediterranean restaurant, and the food was absolutely delicious!  Grilled Halloumi cheese is definitely going to be eaten again. Afterwards we went to a pub to kill the remaining time until our bus back to Dublin.  There was live music, and some older couples were dancing, which made for a fun and lively atmosphere. Overall it was a really fun trip, and I had been wanting to go to Belfast this year, so I’m glad I got to mark it off the list.  There’s so much more we want to do before I leave at the end of May, but with exams coming we’ll see how much stuff we can fit in!

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Trinity Ball

Classes are finally over!  (For the most part). We are now in the final three weeks of study period before exams begin.  At least the majority of exams, as I already had my aural exam, and yesterday I finished my oral exam.  I think yesterday’s exam went well, although it is kind of hard to tell since I wasn’t the one grading. I had to speak for five minutes about the migration crisis and how it is affecting the European project (future unity of the EU), and then the next ten minutes the two instructors asked me questions about it.  The entire process was conducted in French, of course, but thankfully I didn’t seem to have any problems. Guess I’ll have to wait for results to come out in June to see how I did. Afterwards I spent the next few hours in the library to help my friends practise for their German oral exams. They had it so much easier; they only had to have a conversation (about anything) with the examiners.  But I guess it makes up for the fact that they have to do a German history module as well.

On Friday Trinity hosted the annual Trinity Ball, which is a ball on campus for Trinity students and alumni (and for anyone else lucky enough to know one of us 🙂 ).  It is like a mini music festival, and it is also said to be one of the biggest private parties in Europe. The headline performer this year was George Ezra. I didn’t really know many of the other bands that were playing since I have a slightly different taste in music, but everyone was super excited about the lineup.  I went to the ball with my flatmates and a few of their friends, and well all had a pretty good time! Thankfully it wasn’t cold, but it was super crowded. It was hard to avoid getting stepped on throughout the night, and most of us woke up the next morning with bruises on our legs and feet. It is definitely the Trinity event of the year, and some say the celebration actually lasts a couple days.  I can believe it, as you could see people still in their tuxes/dresses by noon the next day.  But overall, it was a pretty fun evening.

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I thought I would finish this post just by mentioning a few cultural things or other things I’ve noticed living here in Ireland.  I’ve probably mentioned some of these already in previous posts, but I want to kind of combine them all here.

First, it’s the food.  There are a lot of food options here since Dublin is such an international city, but one thing the food seems to have in common is that it will never be spicy.  It seems like the Irish get a tiny taste of spice and they can’t handle it. A lot of restaurants, instead of having salt and pepper shakers on the table, will just have the salt.  The extra spicy sauce options are never really that spicy. If I buy salsa, I buy the hot one and put extra crushed chilis in it, then I have a nice mild salsa.  Also, most of the chocolate here is milk chocolate.  I can only eat a little bit because it’s really sweet.  But that means my friends don’t eat my dark chocolate. 🙂

Other than the obvious thing that they drive on the left side of the road, cars and driving here are a bit different than back home.  Many cars park with half their wheels on the sidewalk (or as they call it, footpath). And it took me a few weeks living here to realise that the reason most cars roll back a bit before driving off is because the majority of the cars here are manual shift.  They’re slowly starting to add more automatic cars, but it is much cheaper to have a manual shift car, and many (mostly older) people prefer being able to “feel the car” and drive manually. There are also a couple things that make me glad that I don’t drive here.  Cars park together so closely that I don’t understand how there aren’t more accidents. Just walking down the road I’ll see cars parked to close together that I don’t even think I could fit a finger in between them. Most of the parking here is parallel parking too, but new drivers aren’t tested on parallel parking.  Another thing that I found surprising is that since there isn’t a lot of parking space, cars will park parallel to other cars, but put their car in neutral so that it can be pushed out of the way if someone needs to get out.

Another thing that I didn’t really expect to be true when coming here but it actually is, is the amount of redheads you see around.  There definitely are more redheads here than back home. It seems to be more common amongst the guys, but you see girls with curly red hair too.  Red hair isn’t the only distinguishable Irish trait though, because I have been mistaken for Irish a couple times. One of my flatmates’ dad calls me Maddie Paddy cause he thinks I look Irish.  However, I’ve also been mistaken for Canadian, since I’m not a stereotypical loud, chatty American. I’ve also been asked multiple times if I’m French (probably because of my name), or if I’m Ukrainian (don’t know where people get that one).  

There are so many more things that I notice or see, but I always forget about them until later.  Maybe I’ll think of some more for next time. Until then, I will be busy preparing for the exams that are coming up way too soon!

Happy Easter

Happy Easter! I hope everyone had a good holiday; I certainly enjoyed the four day weekend (even though this is our last week of classes 🙂 ).  And of course I have to talk about the weather, cause I always do. It’s mostly been rain, what a surprise! The weather app on my phone for some reason began giving me notifications for when it was supposed to rain.  I had to quickly turn that off because I would get them all day long!

Things are starting to wind down, but that doesn’t mean we have nothing to do.  We’ve got loads of exams coming for us in the next month, and some are even happening this month.  I had my French aural exam last week, which I think went well. We had to watch a news clip and answer questions about Emmanuel Macron’s election.  The scary part was that the exam was worth 50% of our mark for that module, and the exam only had ten questions, so each question we answered was worth 5% of our overall mark.  Super scary!  I guess we’ll have to see how it went.  The other half of that module is made up of our oral exam, which is a week from tomorrow.  For that exam we have to give a five minute presentation (in French) about some political topic that we don’t know of yet.  Then there is ten minutes of questioning and answering. I’ll definitely be using Frenchy’s help a lot this week.

But life hasn’t been just all academics.  Last week Trinity hosted a Holi festival, which is an Indian festival that celebrates the end of winter.  During this festival it’s tradition to throw coloured chalk at each other. One of my school friends (who is Indian) asked us all to come celebrate with her; so we spent one rainy afternoon in the front square throwing chalk at each other.  It was so much fun! Except when you got it in your eyes and mouth. Everyone’s teeth were every colour of the rainbow that day. Thankfully I didn’t have anymore classes that day, but some of my friends had to spend a good amount of time in the bathroom trying to wipe the chalk off of their faces.  One of my flatmates was there too, and our appearance startled a bunch of people on the tram on the way home. 

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That weekend we had Hall Ball, which was a dance for the students at Trinity Hall (where I live).  It was a masquerade ball, which was kind of fun, even though most everyone ended up taking off their masks anyway.  The girls in my apartment and I all went together as a group. Thankfully my Irish flatmates have lots of dresses from previous years and debs (which is like their prom), so Frenchy and I got our pick of dresses and accessories to wear.  It’s very nice to be able to share things for formal events, and it helps us all save money.  Frenchy ended up wearing one of my prom dresses for the night, and I borrowed one from my Irish flatmate.  It was a fun night for us to all go out together.  Sadly one of our flatmates wasn’t there because she has been gone for several weeks (and several more to go), since she is in placement in Cork. Placement is kind of like an internship.  She’s studying radiation therapy, and the last few weeks the students have to work in a hospital, so she’s been gone for a while.  It doesn’t feel the same without her when we’re all together!  But she’ll be back for exams, so we’ll get to see her again.

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Last week my flatmates and I had a pizza movie night, cause even though we live in the same flat we still always feel like we need to do stuff together.  We wanted to watch a scary movie, so we watched Get Out, which I thought was actually really good.  Some of my flatmates were freaked out though so we had to watch some funny tv shows afterwards to lighten the mood.  

And finally, Frenchy, and my American friends and I had a fun Easter celebration yesterday!  I made an Easter bread, which we ate while colouring eggs.  The eggs here are all brown, so the colour didn’t stand out as much as it usually does on white eggs.  We also ate chocolate eggs, which here are ginormous. There are so many different kinds, like Cadbury, Dairy Milk, Aero, other Irish chocolate etc, but they are at least five inches tall.  It’s a lot of chocolate, but it’s also kind of fun to unwrap such a giant chocolate egg.  One of my friends ended up hiding eggs for us to find, just for fun.  It didn’t take long in our tiny kitchen/living room, but it was still fun just the same.  We ended up watching more movies (my projector is definitely getting its use) and playing games.  At one point I was practicing French on an app (which is something we all end of up doing with various languages at some point) and I was doing a lesson on food from Brittany, which is where Frenchy is from.  Frenchy was playing Mario games on her Nintendo DS from across the room, but she could still somehow here the vocab and would have her own commentary on my lessons, pretty much saying how much she wanted that particular dish at the moment or how her dad would cook it, or she would make fun of the voices in the dialogue exercises.  She could be pretty funny, but it was also nice to hear her cultural input and experiences on certain things.

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Now we’ve got lots to prepare for our last week of classes.  Even though we can get tired of the rain, it’s kind of nice to make a cup of tea and study by the window.  There’s going to be lots of that coming up! Hope everyone had a great holiday; we’re getting to that final stretch!

Spring Break No. 2 and St Patrick’s Day

Happy spring everybody!  (Yes, it is officially spring for me, even though it was February 1st for the Irish).  The weather is amazing, as it is finally starting to warm up. Unfortunately, that means it will rain a whole bunch in the next few months.  Good thing I like the rain!

Last week my friend and my sister, Gracie, came to visit me for the week, and we had loads of fun!  The first day was a bit hard since they had to stay awake in order to not have that much jet lag. But I kept them occupied by showing them around the city and introducing them to my friends here.  They explored the city and different coffee shops while I was in class, and when I was free we would do touristy things or go back to Halls to make dinner and hang out. One day we took the DART to Howth, which is a small fishing village north of the city.  It was extremely windy, and a bit cold, but the coastal views were very nice.

One day one of my Irish friends and I took them to a wax museum.  I had never been to one before, but I found it super cool and at times a bit creepy.  There were all sorts of different themes per room, and of course, being Ireland, they had a section for the potato famine.  We also spent a lot of time trying different places to eat. Of course Gracie had to try the famous Butlers hot chocolate, the gelato, and crepes.  We also went to a really good vegetarian restaurant which served vegan food, since my friend is vegan. The night before they left we walked around the Temple Bar area, which was packed with people from all over the world coming to celebrate St. Patrick’s day.  There was so much live music, and so many buildings were lit up green. The outside of Trinity was completely green.

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Sadly they had to leave early Saturday morning on Paddy’s day.  (Here St. Patrick’s day is usually shortened to just Paddy’s day, short for St. Pádraig.)  After they left I went back to Halls to nap before tackling the rest of the day. Later that morning my friends and I got our celebratory gear and went to see the parade.  I have found Irish parades to be rather… interesting. They’re always full of strange floats and costumes that don’t really seem to have a theme, but it was fun to see anyway!  Most of the parade was filled with American marching bands, which was a bit bizarre to see. We saw the bands from Stephen F Austin, University of Alabama, Perdue, and many other schools that we were familiar with.  

The city was wild that day (well pretty much the past couple days too), so we headed back home to bake an Irish cake, watch Irish movies, and enjoy the rest of the holiday at Halls.  Paddy’s day was also the day of the Grand Slam, which is the rugby version of the Super Bowl. Ireland went up against England, their biggest rival, and (thankfully) they won! Everyone was ecstatic, and the pubs were full of rugby fans watching and celebrating the game.  Monday was a bank holiday (so the country had time to recover I’m guessing), so it gave me time to catch up on school work that I didn’t get done over the busy weekend and while my sister and friend were visiting.

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Tuesday a couple of my school friends and I got to go to Google! My friend’s mom works at Google, so she invited us to come for lunch and get a tour of the building (which is, although not for long, the tallest building in Dublin).  My friend told us that she works in sales, but she didn’t tell us until we arrived at Google that her mom has another job. The other being the boss of Google Ireland. She is in charge of Google Ireland, the headquarters for Google Europe!  We were so surprised and amazed; we couldn’t believe that we got a personal tour and free lunch with the head of Google Ireland. It was a short visit, as her mom had to go back to work, but she invited us to come back sometime and talk with the engineers/programmers.  You can imagine how excited we were!

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That’s all I’ve got to say for now!  Exams are coming up very fast (just two more weeks of school left before exam studying period!).  We’ve got lots of studying ahead and lots to do before we are out for the summer. Until later, enjoy the spring weather!

Nach Deutschland

Guten Tag!  It has been a very fun, yet also very interesting couple weeks.  My two American friends and I flew to Cologne, Germany last Saturday for a trip to explore the city and visit with my friend’s family (even though my friend has spent most of her life in America, she’s also German). We were supposed to fly back Wednesday evening, but the Beast from the East prevented us from doing so. But before I get into that spiel, I’ll talk about the fun adventures that were planned.

Our Ryanair flight got in late Wednesday, so we took a taxi to my friend’s place and crashed in our room, which was downstairs of the apartment setup. Her family have different apartments all in one “house”. Her uncle has an apartment on the first floor, and she has other family in an apartment on the second floor. We stayed in the basement downstairs, which has a room with enough beds for us and also had the laundry room and a kitchen. One of the relatives is from Thailand, and she has her own catering business and Thai cooking lessons, so that is her “work” kitchen. She also has two kids, who are half Thai and half German, and we spent some time with them while my friend caught up with her family. The kids are two and seven, so they always had a bunch of energy. We were supposed to speak to them in English, so they could practice, but they were really shy so they would usually respond in either German or Thai.

Sunday was tourist day, and even though mostly everything was closed, we walked to the city center and explored the city. My friend lives about a 40 minute walk to downtown, and looking back at it I’m a bit surprised that we made that walk at least twice a day. The weather was pretty cold, being around 25°F everyday and super windy (according to the locals, it’s the coldest weather they’ve had since 1953).  We took the bus once when we went downtown with my friend’s aunt, but the rest of the time we walked.

There were many different things we got to explore in Cologne.  We visited the famous cathedral, which was very impressive, and apparently has the largest free standing bell in Europe.  On our last day we walked up the (500+) steps to the top and got a great view of the city. The steps were mostly a tight spiral staircase, which I thought was a lot of fun to walk up.  In addition to the cathedral we walked across the Rhine, which was right next to it. The bridge we walked across was covered in locks; I have no idea how it has been able to sustain so much added weight! 

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If we weren’t walking around and taking in the sights, then we were probably eating.  My friend had a large list of food she wanted us to try, and we certainly got through most of it.  One the first day we had spaghettieis, which is an ice cream sundae but the ice cream is shaped like spaghetti.

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One day we also went to a chocolate museum, which was very yummy!  The museum had exhibits on the history of making chocolate, explanations on the cultivation and exportation of cocoa, the advertisement of chocolate, etc.  They also had a small greenhouse where they grew cocoa beans and other plants used for chocolate production. At the back of the museum they had a huge glass window showing a view of the Rhine, and a large chocolate fountain where we got free samples.  There were also a lot of Easter related chocolate since the holiday is coming up soon.

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Even though we walked into town every day, we did spend a lot of time just relaxing at home too.  My friends love to sleep, so I was usually voluntold to go to the bakery down the street and get breakfast in the morning.  We ate so many pretzels; I could have eaten them every day.  Being in Germany was also fun for us because we got to see cultural things that were different from Ireland.  On our taxi ride from the airport, we had to remember that the steering wheel was on the opposite side of the car, and that they drove on the right side of the road. It is also known that many Germans do not like crossing the road when it is red.  We thought this was just some stereotype, but when we got to Germany we found it hilarious that it was actually fairly true. In Ireland, people cross the street at whatever chance they get, even if there are still cars coming. In Germany, we could be standing at the side of very small street, with no cars coming at all, staring at the people on the other side about five steps away, but still no one would move.  We learned when was the right time to be either Irish or German.

On Wednesday, disaster struck.  (At least it was for my friends; I quite enjoyed being stuck in the country for a few extra days).  Ireland got hit by storm Emma, aka the Beast from the East, and the airport was shut down. Ireland didn’t have that much snow in about a decade, and basically the entire country shut down.  Since we were on Ryanair airlines, the cheapest of the cheap, our flight was cancelled.  We got a refund, but they don’t reschedule flights, we had to book a new one with Aer Lingus. We booked a flight with Aer Lingus for that evening, but obviously with the weather it was cancelled.  We spent a lot of time on the phone and website trying to get our way back to Ireland, but everything was getting cancelled or booked up.  About three tries (and days) later, we got a flight out of Düsseldorf Saturday night.

Public transportation still wasn’t running, so we stood outside in a 30 minute line for taxis once we arrived.  Thankfully there was another person at the front of the line going to Halls, so we got to share a taxi with him.  The stores had been wiped for days, so I wasn’t able to get much when I went to do the grocery on Sunday. Thankfully yesterday they started to get some bread and eggs, and public transportation is working again.  It’s started to warm up, so most of the snow is gone now. There are just a few ugly piles on the side of the road, and there is still a lot on the mountains.

This week I’ve been catching up on work that I couldn’t do last week and getting ahead so I can spend time with my friend and sister, who are coming to visit me next week.  I can’t wait to see them and show them around Dublin; it’s going to be good craic!

Study Study (Play) Study

Bon week-end tout le monde!  We finally made it to the halfway point of the second semester, and final exams are starting to become a reality for us.  I don’t have very many updates for this week, but I have been asked a bit about the classes I am taking, so I will mention a bit about that.

Monday evening my school friends and I went to go see a German play, Space Junk, since our friend was in charge of doing the lights for the show.  It was a very…interesting show.  If modern art were a play, that would describe the show pretty well.  It didn’t matter whether you understood the language or not; most people left the show a bit confused.  It was about these five people and their fear of flying, and these two “doctors” who have their ways of helping them get over this fear.  But the story line was very random, and most of the play was built of the characters taking turns ranting about particular topics.  There was even a part where a guy completely covered from head to toe in sticky notes walked onto the stage and just shook around for a bit before walking off.  Very strange, but we all had a good laugh!

Tuesday evening Frenchy made dinner for all of us.  We had crêpes (sweet and savory), with apple crumble for dessert.  They were so good, and we all ate way too many.  My turn to make dinner for everyone is coming up, so I have to decide what I am going to make soon.

The rest of the week was filled with studying and homework, as I had a couple examinations for the “end of the quarter.”  I had a test for syntax, which is basically an English grammar class.  We dissect sentences and identify the function and categories of certain words or phrases.  It is a pretty straight-forward class, but it’s nice to get a complete breakdown of English syntax so we can compare it to other languages, and see how these structures could be computerized for language identification software.

Maths is going okay; the teacher is a bit strange, but I do well as long as I look at the material on my own.  Our teacher loves to go off on tangents and talk about the most random things, so last class we got a twenty minute lecture on Italian (apparently the logic theory we are doing right now was invented by Italians, and the only books you can find about the topic are in Italian).  Last semester we were doing linear algebra, but this semester is more logic based; we do set theory, propositional logic, KE deduction, and stuff like that.  Basically trying to prove theoretical situations with proofs and truth tables.  

Programming is grand, the class (both semesters) is basically AP computer science, which I did last year, so it’s an easy class that I don’t have to worry much about.  We get weekly programming assignments, and they could be anything from designing a game to creating programs that manipulate fractions and other mathematical functions.  We had a test on Friday were we had to create a virtual book store, and I feel like it went rather smoothly.

French is going fairly well too.  I’m constantly in need of improvement, but I don’t feel slightly behind anymore like I did at the beginning of the year.  Sometimes class can be a bit boring, since the topic every week always has something to do with politics or current social issues (could use a bit more variety).  I might not feel completely comfortable ordering food off a menu in France or getting directions, but sure I could have a debate over the refugee crisis or Emmanuel Macron’s politics.  I’m lucky to live with a French girl, because she is always willing to read over my essays or listen to my presentations for oral French.  This week I had a five minute presentation over French colonisation, and thankfully Frenchy was there to help me, cause it is very easy to accidentally include innuendos in French…. I guess we learn from our mistakes.

Phonetics and phonology is definitely an interesting class; I’ve never taking anything like it before.  We just finished learning the consonant sounds from the IPA (international phonetic alphabet), where we learned to pronounce sounds not only in English, but sounds present in other languages as well.  They’re not all easy to do, however, and many of us end up choking on our own words or producing very silly sounds.  We know the placement and function of all the articulators in the vocal tract when producing certain sounds, and how certain sounds behave, like whether they are fricatives, plosives, approximates, etc.  Now we are moving on to vowels, which are a bit more difficult than consonants since there are so many variations.  And since we are focusing on Irish English, I always have to remember to make sure I don’t answer questions based on the way my tongue and hard palate are shaped when saying certain words.  Instead I have to learn to mimic my classmates and figure out how they say certain sounds.

I’m glad that my course has a pretty interesting group of modules.  It’s fun to program one day, and then listen to French grammar lectures on another.  The second years in our course are always telling us how everything will start to fit together for us next year, and programming takes another level in focusing on computational linguistics.  Can’t wait to see what the rest of this course brings!  Gotta go pack now, since we have next week off (it’s reading week) my American friends and I are going to Germany for a few days.  One of my American friends is actually German, so we are going to stay with her family in Cologne.  Should be a fun trip, bis später!

 

So Much to Do!

Hello everyone!  It’s been a busy week; there has been so much going on compared to the simplicity of last month.  I’ve been kept super busy with school work and other events going on, school-related and not.  

Last weekend a couple of my friends and I took the bus to Dublin’s national botanic garden.  We knew it was winter and that most of the plants would probably be dead, but they had several large greenhouses that were fun to walk through, and the grass is green here 24/7 so it was still very pretty to walk through.  (According to the Irish however, who follow the old Celtic calendar, spring starts February 1st, so I guess we should have expected some greenery.  Don’t try to argue that spring begins in March; trust me you’re going to lose).  It was a really nice, clear day, but then it started to snow on us as we waited for the bus back.  It’s snowed a couple of times in the past few weeks, but it never sticks in the city.  Someone managed to make a snowman though at Halls last week, but sadly it was destroyed by the end of the day.

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Monday night was a charity event for the rugby team.  They needed more money to get new jerseys, so my apartment went in support of our flatmate who is on the rugby team.  The team organised an event based on the British tv show Take Me Out, which (I think) is similar to the Bachelor.  The girls on stage all had heart shaped balloons, and one by one a “bachelor” would come on stage and talk about himself, and either tell a story or perform a talent.  The girls would pop their balloons if they didn’t like him, and at the end the guy would get to pick a remaining girl to take on a date (aka the other side of the room where there was pizza).  It was pretty funny to watch, especially since we knew some of the people playing.

Tuesday was Pancake Tuesday!  They don’t celebrate Mardi Gras, but instead everyone eats a bunch of pancakes.  One of my friends and I queued for about half an hour outside a shop so we could get free crêpes (we got the last batch they were making!) that they were making for the holiday.  That evening I also went to an event my friend helped organise for the environmental team at Halls.  We listened to a few speakers talk about the environment, and then they had a pancake reception afterwards.

Thursday my classes ended at noon, so a friend and I went to go visit another friend who lives in Donabate, which is in north Dublin.  We took the DART up to Donabate and stopped at a chipper for lunch, since my Irish friends were appalled that I have never been to a chipper or eaten fish and chips.  The food was really good, and I definitely ate more than I should have, because I was stuffed for hours.  

I hadn’t really been in a proper neighborhood in Dublin yet, so it was fun to see how the layout compared to the houses back home.  The houses all vary; the ones that don’t look like British townhouses look a bit like cottages on the outside, but they are really modern on the inside.  One thing I noticed when we were looking for her house is that they don’t use numbers for addresses.  Instead, all the houses have names, so you find the house based on the name written on the gate.  Her house is named Ard Na Greine, which roughly translates to “sunny heights.”  Once we found the house, we spent the rest of the day chilling with her and her little sister.  They have a Nintendo Switch, which is a video game kind of like the Wii, and we competed against each other for hours.  My friend had to leave early, so I traveled back into town that evening on my own.  

One thing that has improved drastically since when I first came here is my ability to use the transportation and get around the country.  When I first came here, all of the places were unfamiliar, and I didn’t really know how to use the bus right outside of Trinity.  But now I have to confidence to find out where I need to go and how to get there, figure out what train to take or where the station is, what stops I need to take (Irish or English), and other ways of getting around that I wasn’t comfortable with at first doing by myself.  And now that I’m used to it, I find it weird that I have to drive everywhere when I come back home.

Friday night was the engineering ball!  My friend in engineering convinced my other American friend and me to come with her and her engineering friends to the ball, which was held at a hotel not far from Halls.  Thankfully the Irish have a bunch of nice dresses, so one of her engineering friends lent me one to wear for the night.  Frenchy was dying to do my makeup, so she came over to my friend’s apartment with us and helped me get ready.  The ball was a lot of fun; after a Prosecco reception we went in for dinner, where we got salad, roasted chicken, potatoes (of course) and Bailey’s cheesecake for dessert.  The band was really good, and one of my friends would get super excited pretty much with every song and would make me dance with her.  

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It was a really good week, especially since it is getting warmer as well.  This upcoming week is our last week of classes before our week off, so we are all very busy with school work this weekend.  Until then, I will be buried in my notes analysing sentences and pronouncing consonants that do not exist in the English language.  I’ll be back once I’ve got more to tell!