From a plane somewhere over the western United States

Departure & Arrival in Dublin:

I’m writing in my journal on a plane, perhaps the fourth I’ve ever been in, sitting with Nathaniel on my left and the wing out the window to my right. We’re skipping several hours of our day as the sun gets farther and farther behind us and we’re headed toward Philadelphia. I’m only just now having time to reflect and consider this start to my journey. We’ve been going nonstop since 7 this morning packing and saying hurried goodbyes (where I didn’t cry as I suspected I would), driving 2 hours to the airport, and running to our flight gate on last call, nearly missing it because we just had to stop and buy some neck pillows (it wasn’t that close though, we made it just fine).

Now I’m thinking about the next two days, arriving in Philly, my first time on the east coast, spending our 23 hour layover there, and finally flying 6 hours straight to Dublin where the real adventure will begin. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the whole idea of physically being in a new country for three months. I’m not too worried about homesickness (perhaps naively) because I’m not alone. Sometimes that makes this seem like less of a character-building exercise than I might like, and I have to remind myself, that whether or not I’m with my boyfriend, it still takes some kind of guts to move somewhere new across the world and live a different life for awhile. And I don’t think the experience will have any less of a profound effect on me. In fact, I’m betting on the opposite, that it’ll be better, more rewarding and educational and memorable to do it with someone else.

I’m making a list (I really like lists) of what I expect from my time in Ireland, it’ll be something to compare when I’ve returned home. Here are a few, not all, of the thing on my list:

I expect…

-to drink a lot (however I’m not much of a drinker at home, so we’ll see)

-to be slightly disappointed by the amount of things familiar to me (like McDonalds, for example)

-to have something take my breath away

-to get lost

-to hit every stage of culture shock at some point abroad, and perhaps even more when returning home

-to make a few friends (and even more facebook friends)

-to have my name spelled wrong many times (the Irish Shannon, instead of Shannen)

-to have a lot of conversations with strangers

-to ask “what?” a lot, because accents are hard and I don’t want to get stuck doing the awkward thing when someone asks you a question you don’t understand and you just laugh.

-to pick up a tiny bit of an accent

-to learn a lot of Irish lingo and new curses

-to regret how much I packed

-to wish I studied French better the last two years

-to eat something gross

-to eat something (or more likely many somethings) awesome

-to spend a lot of money

-to be inspired to live in Europe

-to see a lot of plays

-to have a really fun halloween

-to take too many pictures

-to be amazed at how old the country, history, architecture is there

-to learn random things about myself and my culture I haven’t thought of yet

-to do something crazy and unexpected

-to stay in touch with home a lot less than I said I would

-to change, in good ways

-most of all, to be surprised.


When I think about Ireland I always have this picture of the beautiful country landscape and of small villages not quite situated in the 21st century, and of old pubs when locals sing songs and ask you lots of questions because Irish are supposedly nosy and extremely friendly people. I know very little about the country and I don’t often think about its more modern developments, in Dublin especially, its largest city and what will be my home for 3 months. Because of this idea, I expect to have a certain experience in Ireland but honestly know how different and probably unidealistic it may actually be. After all, I’m not going to experience the country as a tourist, I am going to experience as a sojourner, and as much as possible, as a local. I know I’ll often be uncomfortable, if for no other reason than I am not comfortable in large cities, I will be shy but try to make friends as best as I can, and as much as possible I will try to get uncomfortable for the experience of it, and try to see the part of Ireland I never even dreamed of before, even if they shatter every idea I had of it before this trip. That is one of the ideas of traveling, right? To make the exotic familiar.



We’ve made it, finally. After our first 5 hour flight and a day exploring Philadelphia, followed by a 6 hour delay, exhausted, we landed in Dublin around 2pm local time. At immigration we wait in line, separated from the line of European union passport holders, and a rude Australian man cuts us. The immigration worker is the first of (I’m sure many) to comment on my name, “Shannen with an ‘e’ huh?”, “Yep.” immigration check goes smoothly and is less scary than I thought, but we struggle with the Irish accent. We find luggage, and get our first euros from an ATM, and they are so colorful. By a payphone, right where he said he’d be, is our program coordinator John here to meet us. Because of our delay we’re the last to arrive, and John who has been up since something like 4 or 5am looks just as tired as we are. We make casual conversation, he makes some jokes and welcomes us to the country and we head toward our small bus. I’m pretty overwhelmed, reminding myself of where I am, really, because so far nothing looks too different. It’s a beautiful day and we all comment on how lucky we are to arrive with the nice weather. At the van, John and our driver have an exchange that reminds me of every Irish exchange I’ve ever heard or read, complete with Irish humor and cursing, and it me excited. We meet an intern from Seattle, Audrey, in the van and she is so nice. We drive to our apartments and I look at everything I can, the traffic moving in opposite directions from home, and the color of the grass, I see a few old buildings, most are new and modern looking, we arrive soon to the apartments. We’re dropped off and told, see you Monday. We go into the office and get our keys and information. Our apartment is 4 bedrooms with a kitchen, and they look just like residence halls at home, and I feel like a freshman again. We catch our other roommates, Zach from Colorado, and Hannah from California. We take a minute to appreciate the start of our journey, because we made it, we are so far from home, and then we fall asleep for 15 hours.


Our first photo in Ireland

Week 3: Lisa goes to Ireland

I was able to study abroad by going through a program called, CIS abroad. In Ireland, they have two schools which they send students to: University of Limerick, and Dublin City University. The two universities are about two and a half hours away from each other so there isn’t a lot of interaction between us. However, as part of our program there are four excursions planned through out the year. The students from both universities in CIS Abroad attend the excursions together. It’s a great way to meet new students from other areas.

This last weekend we had our first excursion to Galway, which is about an hour and a half away from Limerick where I’m currently living. There are only three other students on my campus that are in the CIS program with me, however, there are fourteen students in Dublin. It was so great being introduced to a larger group of people. coincidently enough, there were two students from Western Oregon University, where I attend school in the states, studying in Dublin through CIS. It was so nice connecting with people from the my home state and school. Who would have thought that we would actually miss our small school in good ol’ Monmouth, Oregon, but enough about that-back to Galway.

Galway is a beautiful city. It was hard coming back to Limerick today because well.. Galway is SO much nicer than Limerick. Everything is within walking distance, the streets, the people, the shops etc was exactly the picture I saw in my head of what Ireland would look like.

The group stayed two nights in Galway in a hostel right downtown. This was my first experience staying in a hostel and it wasn’t terrible. We were lucky in that all the people in our room were from our program. Though I could see how it would be a little more awkward sharing a 12 bed room with 12 other people you don’t know. The room was crammed; here were 6 bunk beds and one bathroom with two showers and toilets. It was fun to experience staying in a hostel, as I’ve heard so much about them, however, I think from now on…I’ll stay with hotels.

While being in Galway we had the chance to visit the Aran Island, and the cliffs of moher. We took a ferry ride out to one of the three islands where we were able to see the cliffs of moher in passing. The island that we visited was the smaller of the three. It  has a population of around 200 people and is about 2.5 miles in size.  There were two schools on the island: a primary and secondary, a landing strip for planes to come and go, and 3 cafés / restaurants. It was an adorable island. You could rent bikes to get around and there were a few horse and buggies too. Though I can’t imagine ever living there. Any time you’d have to go to the store you would have to either fly or take a ferry which is about a 30 min ride. What is enjoyable about that? LOL. Though it was certainly fun to experience.

Along with visiting the islands, we also stopped to hike along the cliffs of moher. I’ve spent months looking at pictures of cliffs-captivated by the beauty of them. Yet as I stood along them, it still didn’t feel real. I couldn’t fathom that I was standing along one of the most beautiful attractions in the world. When people think of Ireland, if they often think of these cliffs, and here I was experiencing them.  It was a very surreal experience for me.

Galway was an incredible trip and by far one of the highlights since I’ve arrived in Ireland.

The island

The island

One of the ways of traveling on the island

One of the ways of traveling on the island


Plassey ship reck that crashed along the island. Of the six people on the ship, all of them survived. When the ship crashed, it was carrying the first toilet to the island which is still in use today.

Plassey ship reck that crashed along the island. Of the six people on the ship, all of them survived. When the ship crashed, it was carrying the first toilet to the island which is still in use today.

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A few of the girls from DCU

A few of the girls from DCU

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Of the things I was prepared to see in Ireland: clear water and dolphins were not one of them.

Of the things I was prepared to see in Ireland: clear water and dolphins were not one of them.

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

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Downtown Galway

Downtown Galway


First night out in Galway

First night out in Galway

The hostel we stayed in. As you can see, it is very crammed.

The hostel we stayed in. As you can see, it is very crammed.

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Irish Coffee (:

Irish Coffee (: t

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Week 2: Lisa goes to Ireland.

It’s hard to believe that week two is already coming to an end. It seems like just yesterday that I got off the plane and stepped into the beautiful country of Ireland. Time here seems to vanish in a blink of an eye. Though that could be because I’m still not entirely adjusted to the time and Europe is eight hours ahead.

I started my first week off classes and much to my surprise, they’re not nearly as difficult as I anticipated though they are HUGE. An average class back home is between 25-30 people, whereas here a single class may be anywhere from 100-500 people. I feared that going into a foreign country where a single class is six credits {and I’m taking four of them}, that I’d be ill-equipped and fail. Luckily, that does not seem to be the case. Most my classes have between two and four assignments over the entire term, including the final. One of my classes for instance has a singular paper that’s due at the end of the term and voila-that’s the class. It’s nice not having tiny five or ten point assignments thrown at you each week as busy work-this I could get use to.

I made it into the city alone this week which was a major accomplishment. Public transportation is a completely foreign concept to me, let alone doing so alone so this was a huge deal. Turns out, it’s not as terrible as I thought it would be. It’s almost freeing, not having to rely on anybody else. The problem with going with people is that you go with them wherever they want to go, and you may not have the time you want to spend at the stores you want to see. Learning to be alone or go places alone has been scary. I fear the judgement of others and am extremely self-conscious, but why? Being alone is a beautiful thing and is completely and utterly freeing.

The stereotype that the Irish drink a lot is not a stereotype it’s the bloody truth. People here party and go hard every single night.. even school nights. This is too is completely foreign to me. Back home I would find myself on a Friday night drinking a bottle of wine either alone or with my boyfriend, watching a documentary and in bed by 10pm-11 if I was feeling like a bad ass. Not to mention, I don’t really drink. I love the simple life that I have back home: it’s quiet, it’s quaint, and it’s mine. Life in Ireland is completely different. People socialize by going out to the bar and the clubs. One of the hardest transitions for me here in Ireland is laying my introvert tendencies to rest and pulling myself out of bed at 10pm to go socialize and the bar or club. Though I haven’t mastered this skill yet, as in, I haven’t summoned the energy to get out of bed at night to socialize, it’s my hope that I will. I need to let go and indulge in activities that I wouldn’t otherwise do back home-I need to explore different activities and even sides of myself. It’s so easy to fall into the habit of laying in bed watching Netflix alone, but I didn’t pay nearly $20,000 to have that type of experience. If that’s what I wanted, I should have stayed home.

I’d say that overall I’ve been very fortunate traveling to this country-I haven’t faced many big “culture shocks”. People speak English which is one less barrier I’ve had to face. I can’t imagine howe difficult it is for those individuals who’s second language is english. The weather here is also very similar to back home and the people are friendly, if not friendlier than back home as well.  Though people speak slightly different, and drive on the wrong side of the road, I’ve been very lucky that I haven’t faced any extreme differences between back home. In fact, being in Ireland feels like home.<3

Also, HUGE shoutout to Sarah Nagel who has answered every single one of e-mails about helping me register for classses. Trying to find classes over here that meet the requirments back home has pain such a pain in the bum. Sarah has been AWESOME about helping me find classes last minute. Thank you!!!

Lisa goes to Ireland day 3/4

I’ve been in Ireland for four days and though that doesn’t seem like much time, I think I’m finally getting the hang of this.

Public transportation has been the biggest culture shock for me. I’m so use to running downstairs to grab dinner or driving to Safeway. Limerick is on the country side so to even walk to campus from my apartment where the nearest food is, is about a 20 min walk. From there I can take a bus to town which will put me into the city in about 30 min. Grocery shopping is also hard because everything you buy you have to carry back with you. My legs and arms are so sore. HAHA.

Though I’m feeling more comfortable doing things alone and using public transit. HEY! I think I got this.

Yesterday  I took a tour of downtown limerick and Saint John’s Castle. Downtown Limerick is exactly how I imagined Ireland to be. It was the picture I’ve had in my head, put into real life.  I had my first Irish meal and it definitely wasn’t the picture I had in my head.. turns out shepherd’s pie is not a thing over, however big surprise…. potatoes are a huge thing. I ordered a baked potatoes and it came with french fries.. I ordered pizza a few nights ago and it came with chips and french fries.  At least it’s very filling.

The people here are also very friendly it makes me so thankful that I chose this country to study in.  The weather and the people are very similar to home. However, THESE PEOPLE DRINK SO MUCH. I’m not 21 so in the states I’m unable to drink. It’s weird enough for me to go into a bar let alone see how much these people drink.. do they actually get any studying done? I’m not convinced they do.

I met two of my five other roommates and they are very sweet. They’re two friends from Belgium. It’s less lonely having people in the apartment with me finally.

I’m starting to feel more at home here-like I finally have a grip on things. I think I got this.

My room which finally feels like home.

Seeing Ireland for the first time-one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen yet.

The 3 other members in the study abroad program

The center of campus here at the University of Limerick. It looks like a castle.

St. John’s Castle

Downtown Ireland-just as i’ve always imaged


Week One: Day One. Lisa goes to Ireland

After 13 hours in the air, I’m finally “home”-home for the next three months it is. I arrived at Shannon International Airport about 20 min away from Limerick and it was just as I imagined- all my preconcived notions were actually correct:

1.It’s sunday, so everything is closed and it’s very quiet.

2.There’s greenery and castles everywhere I look.

3.The accents are strong and I could listen to people talk all day.

4. It’s in the country side so it has a calm, mellow feel.

5. Everyone is friendly and very c’est la vie

Igot into the taxi and the woman who picked me up was so excited for my arrival she gave me a hug. Let me tell you one thing about the Irish: They are so incredibly nice.  I had a near heart attack the moment I got into the car and saw cars driving at us. I don’t think I will ever get use to cars driving on the opposite road.

Things that I was most surprised by:

1.The nearest town is Limerick which is about 20 min away by bus-it’s not in the city where you can go downstairs and grab something to eat. Trips have to be methotical and there’s not as much acess to things when you need them quickly. I see that as being the most problematic for me.

2. The apartment is nice but rather empty. I’m thankful I brought a towel and a blanket otherwise I would have had to dry off with clothing, and would be sleeping on a cold matress.

3. The time difference. It’s hard commuticating with people back home when the time difference is eight hours.

This next week I have orientation and classes start on the 7th-looking forward for what’s ahead

Until then,

Living area

Living area



View from my balcondy

View from my balcondy

Walking into the apartment this is what it looks like. I The 6 doors on each wall are private bedrooms with a bathroom. Luckily, we don't have to share. The door straight ahead takes you into the common room /living room

Walking into the apartment this is what it looks like. I The 6 doors on each wall are private bedrooms with a bathroom. Luckily, we don’t have to share. The door straight ahead takes you into the common room /living room


Back at Home

It’s always strange to return home after spending so much time in a different country. The adjustment period is always the trickiest part for me to deal with. Like my body suddenly deciding that it’s 3 am in Warsaw right now so obviously I should be reacting like that. Or forgetting that everyone around me speaks English so I need to remember that as well.

But the biggest has been having a room to myself at home again. For the last month, I have been spending 24 hours a day in the company of others. Now, back home, there are large chunks of the day when I am by myself and no one is talking to me. It’s taking me longer than expected to deal with it. I keep expecting to wake up sharing the bed with Sunny in a humid hostel with noisy neighbors getting back from the pub next door. But instead I go to bed and the only thing I have to worry about is fighting my cat for the space.

But other than that, its been amazing to be back at home. I get to hang out with my friends, I’ve started working again (yay money!) and my family has been doing day trips. Just this last week the four of us went to Santa Cruz  for the evening. And three days ago my parents and I spent the whole day in San Francisco. And this upcoming week my best friend and I are going to Napa for the day!

Which goes to show what I learned this time around with studying abroad. There are beautiful and amazing places all over the world. Both in the US and in foreign countries. But the become even better when you go and see them with the people you love.

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So today has been very long. Sunny and I took a night train from Prague to the town Auschwitz is located in. It was hot and stuffy and I didn’t sleep at all because there were six of us crammed in a car. It got even better when a Boy Scout troop went to sleep in the hallway so we couldn’t get out. We had to flag down the conductor and make him stop it again so we could get off.


After that we had to walk to the hotel at 5:30 in the morning. It sucked but we had to do it cause we had no Polish money for a cab or bus. But we made it and got checked in. The original plan was to sleep till 10 then visit, but we were so tired we slept till 11 and then went to the mall where we could actually get money. It was crazy.

But we made it and it was azong to see. I’ve studied this camp for 11 years so it was mind boggling to see. We only saw camp 1 because we spent so much time looking around at the exhibits that there wasn’t enough time to get to camp 2. But it was very moving.

I can’t describe what it feels like to walk into the remains of a gas chamber. The utter chill that goes down your spine as you walk under the gate saying “Work Makes You Free* or staring at the execuction wall. The shock of walking into a room still filled with human hair and being told there used to be warehouses of it here. Or seeing the remains of gold fillings for teeth, of the massive list of the book of the dead.


It was unreal. I was standing in a place I’ve only read about and seen pictures from. There isn’t a good word for describe how utterly small I felt standing among the barracks with my friend as we both realized that seventy years ago thousands of people were dying in these streets. And there were moments when we’d pass elderly people wearing long sleeves and you could:t help but wonder…


If we had time, I would go back and see all of camp 2. But tomorrow we’re headed to Warsaw so now I have a reason to return here again someday.

Hello from Prague

Hello again all, just checking in to prove that the amazing Sunny Wen and Jennifer Hight are still alive and well! Last time I was on was back in Paris, and quite a bit has happened since then. We spent nine hours on a train to reach Berlin and it was brutal let me tell you. The first five hours were alright even though we were delayed due to cows on the road. Stupid French cows.

But Berlin was stunning. The city was beautiful, and very clean. Sunny was wondering about how new everything was and apparently was surprised when I informed her it was all less that seventy years old because of WWII. Even the trees there are very young because the Americans blew the old ones up.

We took a walking tour of Berlin because we were only there a day and it was increadible. It was basically a tour of WWII throughout Berlin which I enjoyed because it is my focus as a history major (a little part of me is still sad Germany doesn’t offer history study abroad…) ad I pestered the guy with questions. He was also very sweet, he kept making sure my bum leg wasn’t hurting and said if I ever needed a rest to let him know. There was a lot of strange history in Berlin. From the shopping mall and kindergarden over Hitler’s old office, to the patched up WWI and II memorials (from the bullets), everything was scattered on top of each other.

After that we headed to Prague which is a beautiful city. It remained mostly in one piece after WWII so many of the sold buildings have survived to today. That means walking around we got to see several magificent cathedrals and many old medieval buildings such as the clock tower.

Today Sunny and I went with a tour group up to the Prague Castle. It is the largest castle in Europe with three different churchs standing inside of it. The main cathedral is so massive it was only recently completed in the 20th century. The castle itself is made up of over twenty different buildings all combined into the massive structure that looks out over the rest of the city. It is simply a breathtaking view standing up there looking out over the hills surounding Prague and I was quite content to stay there.

Until it got cold, then we booked it back to the hostel until the weather changes for the better,

Galway Part Two

Not much has happened since the Aran Islands. We’ve stayed in Galway and toured around here. I went shopping today and got a cute tank top that I can wear tomorrow so I don’t have to dig through my laundry. Other than that it has mostly just been eating.

Yesterday we went to the Coole House. It was a rather pretty place that has recently been turned into a nature reserve. The house itself no longer stands, not because it was torn down during the Civil War. But instead because it was so decayed it was unsafe. I wrote more about Lady Gregory, who made Coole House famous, here:

Today I spent the day in Galway some more. The fabulous Courtney Richardson came up for the day and we hung out mostly in the morning. I introduced her to my class, and embrassed her in the middle of Eyre Square. I just clung to her wailing about how I’d never see her again there while everyone just watched and she tried to get me to stop. Good times. Added to that, I believe I have shown that Ireland is better than England because of how awesome everything here is! She better write about this on her blog or I will be quite cross.


Also today we wathed Gaelic football in a pub. It makes no sense. Sometimes they carry the ball, sometimes they dribble it. And every now and then they throw it or something. Not sure why. But hey, I got to see more football. While watching I had my first shot of Irish whiskey. It tasted like death so I had a sip and refused to touch the rest of it. Nothing should be that horrible. Except math class.

Tonight we had dinner at the King’s Head Pub. The pub was built on the spot where Charles I of England was executed on the order of Cromwell. Turns out the order was sent only to Scotland and Ireland because they didn’t think the Englishmen could kill their king. But the Irish had no problem apparently. I love this country so much. Murder a king in Galway? Awesome! Let’s drink alcohol here to always remember it.


I only have two more days here, and they I travel onwards into London. So that will be a fun adventure!

Inis Mor

So for the last portion of my trip, my class and I have been staying in the lovely city of Galway. I personally love it. It is beautiful. It looks like a traditional Irish village but it big enough that there is always something fun to do. Personally I’m just excited that I get to run around in a really cool city and have lots of fun. I like it even better than Dublin, which is awesome.


But we haven’t just stayed in Galway. Yesterday out class was loaded into a bus and taken out to Inis Mor, an island off of the Irish coast. To get there we had to take a ferry ride and I believe the sea was mad at us. It was the most brutal boat ride I can remember, with us being tossed around and rolled. Even worse was the fact that I spent the entire time panicking. The waves threw us sideways at one point which sent me into a flashback of the accident I was in earlier this year. If that had been the end of it, I would have been fine. But instead we were thrown around for another 30 minutes so I had a panic attack and spent the entire time sobbing hysterically. But I made it off the ferry and was rewarded for my bravery with this…


Ruins! Wonderful, beautiful 7-8th century ruins of the monastic community that once lived on Inis Mor! OHMYGODITWASAMAZING!!! I may or may not have run around the ruins like a hyper active six year old yelling at the top of my lungs about the great historic treasure we were seeing while everyone else stared at me like I was insane. But hey, it got my mind off the ferry ride.

Now I should probably describe the island for you all. Inis Mor is a god forsaken (get it? Cause of the abandoned monastic community?) chunk of rock off the Irish coast. It’s only ten miles length wise, and two across. The soil was created by the first settlers who made it out of seaweed and sand so they could live there. Hearing that, I began to question the sanity of these individuals. Ireland is just an afternoon boat ride away. You can see it from the island. And these people chose to stay there? Crazy.

But the view does make up for it.


All around the island are these stone walls. At first we thought they were for farms, but they’re not. The island is so rocky that when farmers were planting their fields, they kept creating piles of rocks. Unsure of what to do with them, they then created all the walls we saw.

And one of the most impressive walls is the ancient fort: Dun Aonghasa. Built in the early broze age, it is the oldest fort in all of Europe. To get there, we had to climb straight up a mountain. I went nice and slow not to stress my leg and it was beautiful to look out over Inis Mor and see the landscape stretching out. The view at the top was just as spectacular as the rest.


The fort once was away from the cliffs, but the years have eroded it so it hangs off over the edge of one. Now, you may be wondering why I look so ridiculous in this picture. The reason is simple. At the top of the mountain, gale force wind hits you. It knocked me back a couple of feet when I first got there. The entire time I was slanted sideways into the wind.

It really made me miss my little brother Spencer. He’s about a foot taller than me, so when we go to places like this he is my babysitter. His job in high wind conditions is to keep a firm hold of my hood so I don’t get blown off over the cliff. Without him there I had to make sure I didn’t get knocked over the edge.

It was a great little day trip. And the ancient history I saw made me ridiculously excited. Seriously. I was the most excited person once off the ferry of doom. I would love to got back there some other time when it is not super windy and spend more time poking aroung Dun Aonghasa and the surrounding shops.