Saturday, June 10, 2017

Final Blog Post w/ Video

After finished Spring semester at The University of Maine at Orono I've decided to create a short video of memories of my time in Ireland.

I still cannot explain how receiving the George J. Mitchell Scholarship has influenced my life in only positive ways. A little over a year ago I received a letter in the mail congratulating me on winning this scholarship, little did I know that effect it would have my life. I was just excited to have a chance to study and explore a part of the world I've never been to but oh, didn't I gain and experience so much more! My semester abroad allowed me to grow as a person both academically and socially. I remember my first day back in the States (after spending Christmas with my sister and father in Germany) in January my older sister said "you've grown so much, I barely recognize you and I mean that as a compliment."

One of the requirements in order to be considered for this scholarship I had to write an essay detailing how this scholarship would benefit you personally and academically.. in my essay I talked about becoming more independent, becoming less shy, and adapting to new environments. Reflecting back on my time abroad I believe I've made great progress towards all these things (obviously, there's always room for improvement) but I'm on the right path.

I hope this blog can be beneficial in easing the nerves and providing guidance or as a insiders looks into how this amazing this scholarship is for future applicants and winners. I am elated and honored to be a part of this George J. Mitchell Scholar family and hope to stay an active member and inspire others to apply in the coming years!

I want to keep this blog post short so I just wanted to say thank you to Dorry French, the Board Member, and Senator Mitchell for selecting and allowing me to have this once in a lifetime experience and to Greg Swett for being my mentor during the application progress!

Obviously, a HUGE thank you to all the wonderful people I met and all the great friendships I created in Ireland from all around the world.

With this chapter of my life closing I'm now off to Nursing school at the University of Maine at Fort Kent.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Very Non-American Thanksgiving. Can London get any prettier?

Thanksgiving in the Enemy's Territory.

Thanksgiving 2016, is a strange one to say the least especially because I spent it in two different countries with two Canadians. Thanksgiving started off in Cork, Ireland with nothing special planned since we were to leave for London mid afternoon. This trip was taken with Hanna and Michelle who weirdly enough met in Ireland but live wicked close to one another in Canada, just another example of how small the world actually is.

Anyways, we had booked this trip way back in October when round-trip flights through RyanAir were only 35$. No, that is not a typo we literally flew from Ireland to London and back on 35$. It's crazy and amazing at the same time. Our next step was finding a hostel within our price range, which we did, a grand total of 40$ for 4 nights... once again a steal, although this one has a different outcome haha. The trip to Cork Airport was uneventful and even when we arrived everything went swimmingly, or so we thought. Security took all of 5 minutes to get through so we had time to kill before we boarded. What are three of age girls suppose to do with time to kill in Ireland? Drink. Obviously, we hit up the airport bar and indulged in the wonderful flavors of beers.


Happy Thanksgiving 2k16!
Cliché Airplane photo.
As we boarded the flight to London we were told we were actually suppose to get our VISA's checked downstairs but that we did not have time to do so. Bless the ticket agent who just allowed us to pass through. Now, in my experience of traveling when you flew to a different country you had to go through Customs to enter, but not in Stansted. We walked right off the plane into the airport, no security, no VISA checks, We were thankful (+1 For Thanksgiving) for that and that we didn't have to explain our stupid mistake we made in Cork. At this point the excitement can't be obtained. We are in LONDON.

The trip and memories begin now. I love to explore as I'm sure Hanna and Michelle do to... pretty sure that was a common thing amongst people who study abroad. Anyways we had to take a bus to Central London and then the tube (Underground) to our hostel. When we got off the tube and walked out to the street we all had pretty much the same thought "where in the world did we book our hostel?" Now, yes, never judge a book by it's cover is a good rule to follow. But we were judging this town hard by the all the signs that said "Do NOT leave anything unattended. Robbery High Risk." Safe to say we knew we were in for a treat, good or bad we weren't too sure.

We had booked three bed out of eight in a co-ed room for budgeting purposes. It happened that the whole room was full with some interesting characters. Our roommates for the next four days ended up being 2 middle aged men, 2 people who were always asleep when we returned, and a long-term stay ex-sex shop worker. Having a early morning the next day we decided to crash and rest for tomorrow. There was a general consensus to be in the hostel as little as possible- more time to explore.

Day 2:

Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour

The faces of two people freezing
waiting for their bus.
Being the frugal travelers we are, Hanna and I decided to book a Hop on Hop off bus tour around London. This is where you jump on any bus (with your company's ticket name on it) ride it to any stop and get on the next available bus. Travel around London for 20 GBP, score. Hahaha, little did we know we would actually be walking 6 miles around the city instead. We waited at our bus stop for 45 minutes before deciding to walk and after seeing 15 buses from our tour companies come through. We called the company from a different bus stop who said the bus would be there in 10 minutes...15 minutes later no bus.

Can London get any prettier?
We ended meeting two representative from other bus services that said our company was awful (Great news to hear), eventually our bus came but we were scared to Hop on and hop off in case another one never showed up. We had already walked basically the whole city so we took the bus until Big Ben came into view jumped off and never looked for another Golden Tour's service bus again. We agreed walking aimlessly around finding random quirks of the city would be way more fun.
Taking on the city with no Wifi.

We walked the whole city, no lie. We saw Big Ben, Harrods, London Eye, Buckingham's Palace, Piccadilly Circus, Hyde Park and so much more all without LTE on our phone :O #FirstWorldProbs. Although, when lunch time cam around we specifically searched for a place with the golden sign that said "FREE WIFI." In actuality having this standard set brought us to a small Cuban restaurant with the most amazing food ever. I still occasionally crave it.  Honestly, the rest of the first day was just walking around taking in the sights and being free from the stress of school. We did stumble onto a Christmas Market down by the Thames River, which reminded me of Germany so much!
Few of the interestingly names shops.
We met up with Michelle after this and decided to WALK back to our hostel a near hour walk. By walking we got to see the streets decorated and lit up for Christmas and found a few interesting named shops haha. It also turned out to be Black Friday in London that night so the streets were packed with street performers. Not wanting to go to our hostel at 9pm we decided to explore the town our hostel was in and did a DIY pub crawl through the three bars.

DIY: Pub Crawl

Day 3:

PSA: If you go to London and want to see Stonehenge book through Premium Tours.

Lets face it every morning during this trip was early, we didn't want to waste time sleeping in, we could do that back in EdenHall. Through this company Premium Tour everything was included, even a lunch at Lacock, a small village in England.

Our first stop being Windsor Castle. This is where the Queen now stays most of the time in comparison to Buckingham's Palace. The royal flag was flying above head so she was actually residing there when we toured it! This castle is hard to explain in words. Simply put it was AMAZING and very well kept compared to the castles in Germany.
Windsor Castle.

Can't describe just how amazing it was.

Next stop was Stonehenge, which I absolutely loved. Stonehenge should be added to everyone's bucket list. Unfortunately, to the action of some ignorant people who would chip away pieces of the rocks we were not able to get very close to the structure. Nonetheless, I enjoyed learning about the history and some folklore behind the construction. Theories of why and how they came about ranges from aliens to religious beliefs. I personally enjoy the alien theory. Just imagine, Aliens come to earth constrict this rock formation and leaves us humans in confusion for years and years. They are probably chilling on their spaceship laughing at us....

The last stop we went to was Bath, England the site of the Roman Baths! Another plus was that a Christmas Market was being held there too! Unfortunately we did not get a chance to actually go in and see the Roman baths (one of my few regrets), I'll just have to do it next time!

Getting back to London was a short 3 hours bus ride haha which dropped us off about 20 minutes from our hostel. Yay, to Fitbit steps. Walking through the city at 10pm was magical with all the lights. Now, to get to our hostel we had to walk through Hyde Park which was hosting a Winter Wonderland Carnival. I thought Germany did Christmas markets right but this one took the cake. It was as if we teleported to a whole different dimension when we crossed the archway leading to Hyde Park. Each section represented a different country and had food, costumes, and drinks pertaining to its respective country.

Decorated streets of London for the Holidays.

We finished the night there before crawling back to our hostel exhausted at 1am with a 4:15am wake up call... So worth it though.

Setting my alarm for 4:15am was difficult to do knowing I would only get 3 hours of sleep, but if we wanted to make our flight it had to be done. Some time during the night I guess my phone had fallen off the top bunk under the bed below me, unbeknownst to me. I guess my mind knew it was close to 4;15am so I went to the bathroom and when I came back Hanna and Michelle were already dressed and ushering me back out the door. Apparently the alarm was going off for 5 minutes before Hanna could find it and turn it off and everyone was now awake in the room.. whoops :/.

Overall, the trip was amazing and cheap and the company wasn't bad either :P. One of the many benefits of living abroad.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Kilkenny and Unforgiving Winds.

I give Carrie Bradshaw props for being able to keep a daily blog/article/column, whatever she does. Keeping a blog up-to-date is a lot harder than it seems. When you are out and about exploring, adventuring writing your blog is the last thing on your mind. Anyways, Kilkenny was a trip I went on with the International Society WAYYYYYY back at the beginning of November. It was also the last overnight trip hosted by the International Society.
International Group for Kilkenny trip!
Kilkenny is a medieval town located in the southeast region of Ireland. When you arrive in Kilkenny you can feel the history the surrounds the town. The itinerary for this trip included: Kilkenny Castle, Rock of Cashel, Smithwick's Brewery, and the Dunmore Caves. 

Day One: Smithwick's Brewery & Kilkenny Castle 

Our hostel was in a prime location only about a two minute walk from Smithwick's Brewery which happened to be the first stop of our day. Smithwick's Brewery is Ireland's oldest operating Brewery and was founded by John Smithwick. 

Smithwick's gives you a "hands on" experience. We are lead through the history of the brewery and then through the process of creating the different brews Smithwick's has! We even had a chance to taste the grain before it finished the process of becoming the delicious Smithwick's ale. I do have to say, it's a taste I hope I will never taste again. Near the end of the tour we got a glimpse of the 'secret' ingredient which was placed and locked behind thick glass, suspended in the middle by wires. Once the tour was finished each person was given a complimentary pint of Smithwick's.
The 'secret' ingredient. 
 They has three choices to choose from: The original Smithwick's, Blonde Ale, or a Pale ale. I obviously had to stick with the original, I felt that going with that one gave the most authentic feel to the whole experience.

Our selections of a free pint!
Kilkenny Castle was our second and final stop for today's adventures! This again was only a 10 minutes walk TOPS from out hostel. It was so strange seeing this large castle in the center of the city, just chilling, locals walking by like it was nothing. Then there out huge tourist group oohing and aweing at it. 

This castle was built in 1195 to help with protecting passage through the river channel nearby. We were given a semi guided tour through this castle. I say semi because our group was so large us who got stuck in the back could not hear everything clearly or fully. A few of us broke of and decided to just explore on our own and read all the plaques to understand the history of the castle.
Outside view of Kilkenny Castle.

After the castle tour we were given the rest of the day to explore and do whatever else we wanted around town. A group of us girls decided to get a reservation at a thai place and have a nice sit down dinner with good food! One I don't see too often because I am a poor excuse for a cook, although I have improved since September. It was a cool experience to sit around a table with 10 other people from around the world, at a thai restaurant in Ireland... an eye-opening experience to sat the least. 

Day two: Dunmore Caves & Rock of Cashel

The second day was by far the coldest day I have experienced in Ireland. The wind was an unforgiving force and lucky for us all of the scheduled stops were outdoors. Today's plan included the Rock of Cashel and Dunmore Caves. 

Dunmore Caves were our first stop and I can't explain how breathtaking they were. Although on the way down I did have some flashbacks to 127 hours, praying none of us would have a similar fate. These caves were insane!
Entrance to Dunmore Caves.

The group of people that established their village around these caves used them as a hiding spot from Vikings, our tour guide told us. When the vikings came to attack the villagers retreated into the caves torched their light sources (which were torches ha) and hid deep inside. The vikings be unfamiliar could not find any of the villages. However, being the ruthless vikings they were a new plan was hatched. Instead of executing the villagers themselves they would fill the caves with smoke eventually smothering the villagers to death. 

Even to this day vikings coins can be found in the caves that were probably lost during battle or an exploration of the caves.
The descent into the caves :O. 
At the very end of the cave tour our tour guide told us to stand still and she was going to turn off of the lights. It was probably the eeriest feeling I've felt. We all stood motionless and silent in the dark for a good minute or two. It gave a real since of what the villagers who too refuge in the caves felt as they awaited their unescapable doom.  

Rock of Cashel would have been a beautiful, rich part of history I wish I could have been more grateful for but the wind tarnished it for almost everyone. No one could keep war, being up on a huge hill with no protection from the piercing wind. Thankfully, our guide kept it short and sweet, I honestly felt he was just as cold as us and probably wondered if his job was worth it.....
Rock Of Cashel 

Just a random cool photo outside of Rock of Cashel.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Just a wannabe Galway Girl.


So much has been going on that writing this blog, honestly, was the last thing on my mind. Which I guess is a good thing, means I am taking full advantage of my limited time in Ireland and exploring as much as I can.

Since my last post I have gone on a few trips with the International Student Society (ISS) and celebrated Halloween.
Galway trip 2k16

October 21st-24th, 2016: Overnight trip to Galway.

Out of all the places I have traveled to Galway is one of my favorite if not my favorite. I am not sure if it was the group of people I went with, the activities planned, or that it was the first trip I went on but I fell in love with Galway. I told everyone if I ever made it back to Ireland to visit Galway would be the city I go to. We left CIT on Friday and started our 3 hour drive to Galway, making one bathroom break at castle. It's weird to say so nonchalantly that a bathroom break was taking at a castle, that's Europe for you though.

Day 1 Friday: We arrived at Galway around 7:00pm and had a bar crawl organized for all of us. Due to the large amount of students on this trip we were split into two teams: Blue vs. Red. If we had a yellow team it could have been an impromptu Pokemon Go battle. We ended up going to 4 bars and one night club, which was American Themed. The Coyote were decked out in American flags and license plates from every state placed around the walls. Obviously, the Blue team won in the end.

Not a sight you would expect to see in Ireland. 
Day 2 Saturday: After a fun night out it was actually surprisingly easier to get up for an 9:00am bus departure when you have an amazing day planned ahead. I guess that's the cure to a hangover: have fun activities planned. The second day we drove through Connemara, visited Kylemore Abbey, and hiked through Connemara National Park.
One of the many breathtaking views.
Connemara was absolutely stunning, mesmerizing. You felt guilty taking your eyes off of the horizon to take photos. Seeing the landscape through a 4-inch screen does not do any justice for the natural beauty of Connemara. We drove through Connemara on our way to Kylemore Abbey.

Kylemore Abbey was another breathtaking place. This 'castle' was built by Mitchell Henry as a private home for his wife. After this trip you know every female is going to be comparing and searching for her Mitchell Henry; quite the standard to reach fellas. Not only did this estate hold a beautiful house but it also had a private garden and church.
The house a man gifted to his wife....

Day 3 Sunday: THE CLIFFS OF MOHER ! I still don't know the correct pronunciation of the Moher part but I do know this is my favorite place I have been to in all my travels. I'm getting ahead of myself though. Before out stop at the Cliffs of Moher we visited the most quaint island called Inis Oirr. This island is only reachable by plane or boat and the population is a staggering 250....
Inis Oirr, island of 250. 

The tractor gang: USA, Canada, France,
Holland, and Finland represent
I said the whole time we were at this island that I would move there. I loved the closeness and simplicity you could feel while roaming the streets and taking in the sites. The island had a small grocery store, school, hotel, and bar; really what else do you need? The only downfall would probably be the strong, unforgiving winds. We spent a few hours touring the island in whatever way you wanted to. Some walked others opted for biking, some others and I decided on taking a tractor ride. The trait of laziness was definitely prominent when this decision was made. After touring the town we all boarded the ferry and headed towards the Cliffs of Moher, seeing them from the bottom and then driving to the top.
Even growing up in Maine did not prepare me for this boat ride.
Describing the Cliffs of Moher and portraying the beauty I think is unachievable at least for me, maybe Mark Twain, Ernst Hemingway, or even Dr. Seuss may be able to think up a cool rhyming book to describe it, but I can't. Cliffs of Moher was the #1 attraction I wanted to see during my time in Ireland. I looked up photos on the internet and sent them to my family with the reply "what's so cool about them?" Which I guess is an appropriate reaction, they are just cliffs after all. But once you are standing on the edge looking down at the waves crashing, the ragged cliff face, or just the massiveness of the cliffs you're opinion will change forever. The Cliffs of Moher is one thing that you can't truly appreciate until you are there in person.
Boat view of Cliffs of Moher
Just living life on the edge.
There were no guardrails.

This trip will probably be the highlight of my trip here. I can confidently say that I will most likely return to Ireland hopefully with friends or family and take them to Galway.


Halloween ended up being a two-night celebration. It started off with a pub crawl organized by the International Student Society, which also involved the competition of two teams supplied with tasked to finish through the night with predetermined points.
Halloween night one. 
The pub crawl was my first actual time experiencing the nightlife in Cork, which is totally different from Bangor, Maine. The diversity between bars/clubs is amazing, there is something for every type of taste you can dream of. It's also always nice to hangout with the other International students, everyone is here away from home experiencing Ireland for the first time. It's always easier to relate and talk to others going through the same thing as you so even if you are shy hanging out with the International Students is by far the most easy going/ carefree attitude of people I have ever met. We all com from all around the world: USA, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Spain, Austria, yet we all have the similarity of being foreigners in Ireland.
International Society takes on Halloween.
The second night of the Halloween festivities is when we all dressed up. The nights started off with meeting at a friend's place where 10-12 of us International students hung out and then trekked downtown. Dressing up wasn't as big as a deal over here though as compared to the USA. It was mostly just our group dressed up, but it was well received.
Anyone need a doctor?
There's really not too much to say about Halloween, it was fun to experience it in a different country but it didn't really feel like Halloween. I mean I only ate like 3 candies bar that day. Haha... All in all it seemed like a costume party that us International kids definitely demolished the other competitors but was a great time to bond and get to know one another better. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

All Aboard the RMS Titanic

The Titanic Experience

Young love, carefreeness, adventure, sorrow, and heartbreak is everything one of my all-time favorite movies graced upon on in 1993, Titanic. Sadly, my Titanic this past weekend didn't include my own personal Jack Dawson instead I had a grim first person experience of what happened in the early morning of April 15, 1912. 
Group of the International students at the Cobh day trip.
For some background information the CIT International Society visited Cobh this weekend, which was the last docking of  the Titanic before its fateful collision with an unforgiving iceberg. Now, at some point during childhood you are taught of the Titanic, the tragedy and then eventually exposed to the movie. The movie is the closest thing we have to understanding what occurred during the final hours of the self proclaimed Unsinkable ship. It shows us the division of classes, the priority of boarding determined by age and sex, the heartbreak that must've coated the decks as families were broken up and most likely those left on the ship did not make it. Truthfully, it was a story that portrayed a tragedy but was also about a blossoming love story that many young girls, myself included, could only dream of experiencing...minus the premature death. I swear this whole movie review has a point, I'm not just rambling. The movie was able to mask some of the tragedy with a love story and in the end Rose escaped her abusive fiance, Cal. However, being at the Titanic Experience in Cobh there was no star-crossed love story to alleviate the sorrow that surrounded the sinking. 
"The Journey to America begins here."
Drawn to scale replica of the Titanic.
As you enter you the museum which is the same building the passengers back in 1912 entered through you are given a boarding pass with your passenger information on it. These are actual passengers that boarded the Titanic from Cobh, formerly Queenstown. I was Thomas McCormack, age 19, third class, traveling with 2 other adults. The tour lasted about 30 minutes and you were treated as a passenger boarding the ship. Now, I thought I was a well-versed student in the class of facts about the Titanic, however this tour informed me I was not...not even close. Cobh, although dubbed the last docking port of the Titanic, technically is not. The Titanic was actually anchored about 2 miles away from where the 123 passengers gathered and shuttled to it on tender boats. As the time period required the classes were divided... the third class members had to cram on tender as the first and second who were about 10 in total leisurely rode out in another one. The original pier still stands, although as probably guessed in pretty bad shape and not walkable.
My ticket to board the ticket as Thomas McCormack 
As you 'board' the ship the tour continues on to a third class bunk room which actually had electricity and running water although quite subpar in comparison to the first class suites. The second class boardrooms were larger than third class but still had no comparison to the first class. First class rooms were each individually decorated, ranging from single, larger rooms, to en suites with rooms for the passenger servants and a private porch. Each room we entered had port holes that contained few of the only photographs that existed of life on the Titanic. Most photos that we have are from passengers that disembarked in Cobh, not realizing how thankful they would be in 4 days time. The last room of the tour was dark and had a projector screen that simulated the sinking. It was the closest to a first experience we could have. We were situated in lifeboats and listened to voice overs of surviving passenger interviews while watching a reenactment of the chaos that swarmed the ship post iceberg collision. And no, "My Heart Will Go On," was not played once while there. :(
Model of a
third class room. 
First class suite. 

First class passenger
After the viewing of the sinking, in video form, we entered an exhibition room that had some interactive activities. You were able to play a game called "Guess the Smell," which included smells that would have been found all across the Titanic. These aromas ranged from, parlor smoke to the burning of coals. In accompany to the interactive stations the three room museum had historical facts listed about. You were able to learn about the Carpathia (ship that came to the rescue), families that were aboard, daily ship life, and there was a list of the passengers that boarded in Cobh. This is where you discovered if the ticket you were given at the beginning survived or not. I'm please to sat Thomas McCormack survived and lived, I hope a wonderful life, until 1975.

The Irish Alcatraz 

As a preface, I did opt out of the guided tour and explored Spike Island with a few friends so I do not have much inside knowledge regarding it. 

Spike Island, also known as the Irish Alcatraz, is an island viewable from Cobh but a ferry is needed to explore it. The island that started as a fort to protect Cobh from the threat of France invading turned into a prison to house criminals afterwards. Surprisingly, the island was inhibited by some 60 families who lived off of daily ferry loads of produce, milk, and other good from the mainland. The fort was in the start shape and strategically positioned to be able to ward off attacks from possible attacks. While exploring the island you are able to walk through underground bunkers, past prison cells, and actually see where the Titanic was docked. 
Titanic was docked off of the land in this picture.
Seen from Spike Island.
Through my knowledge Spike Island had some troubles within itself. These troubles were mostly brought on from the prison population. Uprisings were a common occurrence, during one of them the inmates climbed atop a roof where they stayed in contest for 12 hours before surrendering... all that work for nothing. All with this, the families that lived there during this time petitioned to be given safe haven elsewhere. I'm guessing living 1000ft from an unstable prison was not a great selling point, a realtors nightmare I suppose. Haha. I do not recall if they were ever actually granted it, but as of today the population of Spike Island is zero. One interesting fact about the families is that there was no school on the island since the attendance would've been below 12... it would've been 1. One lone pupil made the trek of boarding a ferry to Cobh and back every day to attend school. That's some real dedication. 
Entrance to prison/fort on Spike Island. 
Church located on the mainland of Cobh. 
I went to Cobh with the mindset of the Titanic correlating with love, hope, passion and left with a new real understanding of the tragedy behind the word Titanic. This experience wasn't sugar-coated with a Hollywood tagline of whirlwind love, no it truly showed the bare bones of the tragedy and gave me a new profound respect for it. Don't get me wrong the movie Titanic is still a 10/10 and I'm hoping for a Jack Dawson to show up in my life, but I've given a new definition of what Titanic means to me. I had the opportunity to experience and learn more about this historic event in greater detail than my third grade history book or reading about it on google ever could. I was there, I was able to walk and stand where these 123 people from Cobh stood thinking of their new lives that awaited them in America, not knowing what fate actually awaited them. It truly shows how unpredictable life and fragile life is. These people were boarding the Unsinkable ship with no worries in the world. The Titanic Experience fully immerses you into the what being a passenger on the Titanic was like during those last few hours. It's truly not something a movie and reading about can ever achieve. 

You can probably tell what event was my favorite at Cobh. Don't get me wrong, Spike Island was a wonderful place to see but the Titanic Experience, being a movie fan, was just amazing.