The Final Stretch

(Written Friday Dec. 4, 2015)

Next week is my last in Dublin and I couldn’t be more sad to be leaving or more ready to be home and see my family and friends. I’m sure it’s been used a hundred times before to describe the end of this kind of experience, but it truly is bittersweet. I could really live here, I really feel like I do, in fact, and so I feel a bit like leaving a home. I find myself with more places to call home as I get older and I absolutely love it. I’m more confident now more than ever that I am capable of making myself comfortable somewhere I never before thought possible. That’s just one of the many things I’m taking with me from Ireland.

So, my last few weeks in Ireland have been going well, but noticeably different from all the weeks before. Mainly, I’m stressed, and because I have more school work than the rest of the term combined all to do in these final three weeks. The first of those three was mostly occupied showing my visiting friend Heather around Dublin and Ireland, and the rest of the week spent recovering from those fun and exhausting five days. Now I’m at the end of the second week and can confidently say, most of my work now remains to be completed my final week here. If all else fails, I have a cushion of one week between the time I leave and the time most assignments are technically due. Thank goodness for the internet.

So between stressing about semester finals and packing three months of things back into my suitcase (I tried but did not do well “packing light” as was suggested, and I knew I’d regret it–and I do), I still want to get out and see some things, but that isn’t really happening. I’m learning to be okay with that though, and we’ve now planned our last few plays and free days. Thursday night we went to our farewell dinner with our program and program coordinator. It was nice and we went to a great new pub which made me realize, or remember that there is still so much to explore in Dublin. I think I could live here another month and never go to the same place if I tried. I haven’t decided yet whether that’s exciting, or makes me feel unaccomplished in my explorations these months.


Later, in our last week…


We visited the Rock of Cashel…

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And the Jameson Distillery…

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We went to the Blarney Castle (and kissed the Blarney Stone)…

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Went to You Never Can Tell, and Mary Poppins, our 13th play…

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Said Goodbye to Dublin and friends…

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We left a little something behind…


And ended our trip with a final 7am pint at the airport. Cheers, Dublin. Till we meet again…


Week 9 perhaps? – Classes, Dublin, and an Hour Glass quickly running out of sand

It’s mid November and I’ve been too afraid to count how many days I have left in this lovely country, but I’m growing more aware of my time left (four weeks, I just checked). School is getting more demanding now and all my class projects are in full swing and all due at the same time. I’m becoming more worried about having regrets when I get home about things I wanted to do here and didn’t. While I’m becoming more busy the weather is getting colder, the days shorter, and my money tighter. Things are pretty against me getting out and seeing more of Dublin and the country. Despite that, I still have one more program excursion to look forward to (they’ve been a great benefit of CIS abroad just like Lisa mentioned recently) and this weekend I have a very good friend coming to visit from home for several days, and we’re going to adventure! Four weeks is still a lot, and I can and plan to do a lot with it.
I haven’t been homesick much here which has been so nice, but I’m wondering how much of it has been because I’m comfortable here, and how much because I’m here with someone I’m comfortable with. Either way, it’s been a blessing. Studying abroad has given me the chance to grow in completely new and unexpected ways, some of which I don’t expect to fully realize till after I’ve been back home for a while. But I’ve also noticed myself growing in smaller ways, toward things I’ve been aiming toward for some time now but was not able to reach at home, where I was beginning to feel a bit stuck. I needed a catalyst to move forward and studying abroad was it for me. I’m already starting to look at things back home in a new light, appreciating things and people more and becoming more hopeful and excited for things I wasn’t before. I’m really excited for the chance to reflect more over the break on my experience here.
I don’t have much else to say now, not much has been going on besides school and the occasional excursion into the city center, but I have a few photos to share from the last few weeks from the Jameson tour, holiday lights, and other random things. Enjoy!

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Dublin, Ireland week 7 – Hard times traveling the UK

(I’ve had problems with photos and uploading so this sounds outdated, I wrote it Nov. 6 – sorry)

We’re in the middle of reading week, a class-free midterm break, and it’s been off to a very interesting start. Nathaniel and I traveled to Scotland and London, which was really exciting, but we cut our week long trip by four days after we learned some things about international travel. Personally, I learned that I have too organized a personality to be spontaneous when it comes to travel, my stress levels are high when traveling and it doesn’t take much to throw me off balance, and that, because I’m new to traveling sort of alone and to international travel entirely, it’s okay for me to have not learned all the important things about both overnight, as I must have expected I had after living in Dublin for a month.
We talked about traveling Europe during our free reading week for awhile, but only just decided on a schedule last week. Then we didn’t get anything booked till Halloween, and at that point I knew I was going to regret something, if nothing else but that I was only going to get four hours of sleep that night because of our Halloween celebrating and early morning flight. I did later regret not planning this trip weeks before. Through the course of our three day trip and our one day of prebooking, we made four calls to the bank because of a declined card, accidentally bought two sets of tickets for the same flight, had a night train (with beds) cancelled and instead had to take an overnight, nine hour bus ride to London (no beds), got moderately harassed by a crazed, flower-wielding Londoner, missed a bus, missed a plane, and paid probably over three hundred pounds more than necessary and still didn’t make it to Paris and Italy as we originally planned. But that was just the bad stuff. I learned some other things too.
I learned that Scotland is beautiful, and there is a lot of it to explore. We decided to do one of those day tour buses, which I have mixed feelings about because I despise the idea of “photo stops” which feel like the epitome of tourism, but at the same time, I love being able to see so much of a place in just a day. We saw several castles, of which there are 70 in Scotland, and got to explore Doune castle where they filmed some of Monty Python’s Holy Grail. I really enjoyed being able to openly explore that castle and have the audio guide to get more information where I wanted. I tried to imagine living in that castle, sleeping in those cold stone rooms and navigating the narrow spiral staircase in a big dress, being short enough to comfortably fit though the small doorways, and looking out at the gorgeous fall scenery. Two of my other favorite places in Scotland were these two small towns on lochs (lakes) called Inverary and Luss. Both were neat, quiet, and beautifully serene. I would love to stay at either on holiday, twenty minutes at each was not nearly enough.

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London, I learned, does not quite meet the idolized standard everyone seems to hold it to in America. Like Paris or Rome it is endlessly romanticized, and so especially after getting there from our nine hour bus ride, it would have taken a lot to meet or exceed my expectations. It wasn’t bad though, and I’d certainly give it another chance to go see more that may interest and impress me. While there we saw two excellent plays, Photograph 51 with Nicole Kidman, and The Woman in Black. Not only were they both excellent shows but they were very reasonably priced. After Photograph 51 we talked with a writer from the New York Times looking for Americans to get insight into differences between European and American theatre. He might use some of our conversation for his travel section article in mid-December, so that was fun. We saw some of the sights in London, the London eye and Big Ben, and those were neat, and found a beautiful park and went to the Natural History Museum. The museum, which was huge and really interesting and where I got to see dinosaur fossils for the first time, was free, and we thought that was wonderful. Museums have always seemed like such a strange thing to pay admission for, and I wonder if that’s just a common American practice.
So, we cut our trip short and headed back to Dublin to relax and watch a lot of the X-files before getting ready for our program trip to Belfast this Friday. Even though we don’t get to go to France and Italy, at least we’re getting to see more of Ireland just like we wanted, and thank goodness this trip is already planned and paid for. Traveling is exhausting.

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Dublin, Ireland Week 4 – Classes and adventures

I haven’t talked much about classes here, so I thought I should. I’m a communications major at WOU, and here at DCU I’m taking Press & Public Relations, Issues in Multiculturalism, New Media & Society, and Ireland Sex & Text, which are all working great toward my com/social science degree. I’m enjoying the content of all my classes, so that’s going really well. Classes are less often than at WOU, many are a single two hour session per week, and they all have less assignments throughout the term, usually just one final project, essay, or exam at the end of the term. This seems to give students less incentive for attending class, or, more incentive for grudgingly attending class, and then talking, texting, arriving late and leaving early, and sighing loudly and disapprovingly throughout. Lectures are fairly normal, always led by powerpoint, and involve group work and class discussion (though much less discussion than at WOU). Overall, classes have been easier and allowed me more free time than any I’ve taken since freshmen year, and this is both wonderful and dangerous. I’m struggling to make sure I don’t fall behind with the work I do have, and to not overbook myself later in the term when I have much more work to do in all my classes. Something each of my classes have done is teach me, indirectly, more about Ireland, about its current political and social issues, its organizations, and its role and position within Europe and the larger world, among other things. At the same time it’s brought attention, sometimes directly to issues, similarities and differences with the U.S., and has at times made me feel a bit ashamed to come from the U.S. This was a surprise, because in the U.S., we tend to think we’re pretty great, but because of where I am and why I’m here, and because of recent news and the ongoing presidential campaign, more attention has been brought to the fact that that just isn’t true. The realization of the sheer number and magnitude of educational, social, and political issues faced in the U.S. today was first brought to my attention when I began community college four years ago. In the last few weeks I’ve been given a new perspective on it all, and more importantly something to compare the U.S. situation to. I don’t want to get into it too much, that’s not what I intended my blog to become and it’s a bit depressing besides, but I needed to bring attention to it. I think this national reflection, if that’s what you want to call it, is one of the most important and impactful outcomes of my sojourn so far.
So, anyway, about my fourth week here in Dublin. I went on a few adventures during the week, small and large, and I’d like to talk about those.

First we went to one of the many Dublin parks, St. Stephens Green, and had ourselves an unexpected pigeon adventure! We walked by a man feeding dozens of pigeons on a bench and when I stopped just to take a picture he told me to come over. I said no because they kind of freaked me out, but I felt myself walking over at the same time because I told myself before coming here to do things I normally wouldn’t. He showed me how to hold my hand out and gave me some bird seed, then all of the sudden pigeons starting landing on my arms and eating from my hand. It was so weird. I had the phone in my hand and thought “Take pictures! Take Pictures! There are birds all over you!” and I watched as they flew on to Nathaniel too, and I felt them pinching my hand as they grabbed some seed, and one tried to land on my scarf, and I tried to pay attention as Daniel (the pigeon man) told us about the pigeons and how he nursed many of them back to health. The whole thing was very surreal and ended all at once as the several dozen birds, including the ones still on my arm, flew off in a loud and beautiful flurry that blew my hair back and made me literally gasp. Daniel said they warn each other and flock like that when they see a falcon around. The whole thing was strange and fun and taught me to be more okay with making unexpected decisions. I loved it, and the park by the way, was beautiful.

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The following day, I got lost. We had tickets to see a play, Dancing at Lughnasa, and Nathaniel was out of town late for a class trip. He got dropped off at the city centre and I had to get there by myself, which I hadn’t done before. I should have just taken a taxi right to the theatre since it was getting late, but I wanted to save some money so I decided to take the bus instead. I don’t have a smart phone and the Dublin bus app though, and I forgot which bus number to take. I tried to call and text Nathaniel but my phone ran out of minutes right then, figures. So I walked to the bus stop and guessed which number and got on the right one. I was already worried about time, the show was at 7:30pm and it was a quarter after when we got into the city centre, and I still had to walk from my bus stop. I got off at the wrong stop, as far as I could tell, but close enough to my marker, Trinity college, and I thought I should be able to find my way to the theatre on Grafton street if I’m quick. But I walked down the wrong road, still in the right general direction, but I didn’t exactly know what I was doing and it had just gotten dark which complicated the issue. I saw some signs toward the pigeon park and knew I could get where I needed to go if I just got to the park. So I kept walking down small busy streets I’d never been on, walking in no particular pattern, so that I was definitely going in circles, and walking past dozens of people all of whom I thought I should ask directions, but I think I must be close, and they look busy and I don’t want to ask, etc. I stopped on one corner and rubbed my head, sure I wouldn’t make it, and an elderly man asked if I had a head ache, and said to leave the suffering to the saints, so I told him I would and kept moving. After another circle around a block, at least I think it was a circle, I stopped in a small clothes store that was still open and asked where Grafton street was. To my surprise, she said turn right outside and walk all the way down, that’s Grafton. I was close, somehow. So I walked as fast as I could down that street and then on Grafton, shooting past people and trying not to trip and fall, and I noticed it was 7:29pm, no way I’ll make it now. But I turned the corner toward the theatre and saw Nathaniel who caught my eye and then ran toward the still open doors where other people were filtering in for last call. We made it. I was exhausted and frustrated with myself, but luckily the play was fantastic and did a perfect job of distracting me. From this fun little escapade alone in the city, I learned to trust my instincts more (after all I had the right sense of direction), especially if it means doing something I don’t want to like asking for directions, because it’ll make my life a lot easier. Also, I’m getting a paper map to carry with me before I go out alone again.
That weekend, we went on another adventure to Northern Ireland all on our own. Planning this fairly simple trip was surprisingly complicated, and took me two weeks to finally do and our originally two night trip turned into one night and a lot of travel time. We wanted to go to Giant’s Causeway on the coast, a beautiful and popular area I had heard about before. Nathaniel knew nothing about it so I was really excited to show him. So Saturday morning we caught a bus to the airport where we (after a lot of searching and running) found our booked bus to Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland. After a two hour drive we had just enough time to catch a train from Belfast to Coleraine. So far we were doing great, it was only 11am and we didn’t need to be at our hostel by the causeway till 4pm, so we should have plenty of time for exploring. But, once we got to the small town of Coleraine we were slightly disappointed to find that, because the season was over, bus ran infrequently to Bushmills and the causeway, and the next bus that day was at 3:45. So, we waited. We ate at a cafe in town, and walked all over and asked three different people in town where we could find an atm. We finally got to one and took out pounds, because we were now in the U.K. I thought euros were interesting, pounds are even cooler. They have many interesting people, the bills are nice colors, and the coins are so many different shapes and sizes. American money is going to seem so boring to me now. Eventually we caught the bus to the even smaller coastal town of Bushmills. Now, we still had to get to our hostel and weren’t sure how, but with the help of some nice locals, we got a taxi in twenty minutes and arrived at Finn McCool’s hostel, recommended to us by our program coordinator. It was now 5pm and we had just enough daylight to go explore the beach. There were still other late tourists out walking the trail down to the grassy hills and beach below where they gazed and awed and snapped photos, and we joined them. It was still pretty warm out, and the tide had come in around the big boulders where waves crashed. It was lovely. We stopped at a sandy area for awhile, Nathaniel drew a picture of the beach in his little notebook that goes everywhere he does, and I took some pictures and sat and looked around, listening to the ocean and the conversation in different languages as people walked past on the path. We didn’t get to the famous hexagon-shaped rocks of the giant’s causeway because the sun set, it started to get cold, and we headed back up the trail to The Nook restaurant that promised hot food, just halfway between the trail and our hostel. It was delicious and there was a cozy fireplace, a great end to our long day. The next morning after breakfast in the hostel, we headed back down the trail and just a little farther till we got to the great, geologically-puzzling rocks. They were so impressive in person. We wandered around, amazed, and wondered at how the rocks were formed, how long ago, how many more are hidden in the cliffs or washed away by the sea, and how they will one day be gone long from now. We realized to our amazement, that we were in view of the rocks the night before, and had no idea. They are entirely different from a distance. So, we spent a few more hours there and finally headed back up to The Nook for lunch, and got ready to catch the bus and start the long and tiring journey back home. We left Bushmills at 4:30pm, and eventually arrived in Dublin at 12:30am. Even though it was complicated and short and stressed me out, I was so glad we went on this little trip on our own. It showed me that we were capable of traveling without someone holding our hand, and I think the next trip we plan will be easier. I was also just so happy to see more of the country and experience how close so many lovely and interesting things are in Ireland. I can’t wait to see more. At the same time, I’m getting more of an urge to explore home when I get back. I love Oregon, it is such a gorgeous state and I live so close to so many great places that I’ve never explored. This is helping show me that I can go explore them more easily and cheaper than I thought before.

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Dublin, Ireland – Week 3: Homesickness sets in

Week 3 : Homesickness sets in

This week was rough for classes, insofar as I felt behind in them even if I had no work to be done, and felt generally not in the right mindset for school. I’m getting back into it now though and I think next week will be better.

I realized some things during my classes this week too, primarily that the students are remarkably similar to home, and just as if not more generally apathetic towards learning. In every class, of 20 or 200 people, many students are on their phones and this has become extremely distracting and frustrating for me. I haven’t got much else to say about it, other than I’ll have to focus on staying even more engaged in the lectures myself if I’m going to get what I need out of them, because it doesn’t seem to be bothering anyone else. Classes are otherwise very similar to home and involve roughly the same amount of lecture, discussion, and group work, and I’m at least thankful I don’t have to adjust to a dramatically different system of teaching.

This week DCU had clubs and societies days and Nathaniel and I perused the over 100 booths to see what we might be interested in. This was important for me, because I’ve been told from several different sources and my own experience in school, that getting involved positively influences your college experience, especially abroad. I know this will probably be my best avenue for meeting and connecting with local students, which is one of my big goals here. I may have a bit of social anxiety about it, but I don’t want that to stop me from joining some of these societies. So, I’ve started out with Book society, which I joined with Nathaniel, and Harry Potter society. I had to pay to join so I hope that’ll keep me invested in actually going. Things start to happen next week so I’m excited about that. Nathaniel also joined the Drama society, so I’m glad we each have our own thing to do and be forced to spend some time apart, because I’m sure it’ll be good for our social lives.

I started to have some weird homesick feelings this week that were different than what I expected I’d feel. At one point I would think about the fun things I’d been doing in terms of, oh I can’t wait to be home next week and tell everyone about this. And then I’d remember I’m not going home yet, but maybe wished I were. I’ve done so much and it’s only been a few weeks and it feels in a way just like a fun and short vacation. Time to wrap it up and head home. And part of me is okay with that and excited to be on a plane again, because I think traveling is kind of fun. Then I’ve been getting excited, thinking, wow, if this is all I’ve done in two weeks think of what I can do in three months! And especially once I’ve met some people, it’ll be fun in a whole new way. Then I worry it’ll go by too fast, the whole thing will be over before I know it and I’ll be so sad, after all, I’m only here three months. Then I think about my friends, my family, and my three year old nephew Kole, who is changing all the time, and think there’s no way I can do this, three months is so long! And so it goes in circles. It’s since passed, but this was strange for me. It may be an indicator that I’ll have some new feelings here that I hadn’t anticipated.
I got a bit homesick this week for other reasons too. Last week was new student week and that got me missing PLUS Team. I was on it last year and had applied to be a returner this year and had to drop out to pursue this study abroad opportunity. That was hard to do, PLUS team was really important to me and I made some great friends from it, some of whom returned to it this year. I thought about them all a lot during the week, mainly how much fun they’re having and how exhausted they must be. I still haven’t been able to talk to most of my family at home and when I have it’s been through email, and even though I never planned to keep in constant contact because I’d be so busy, I expected to connect with them more by now. That’s especially hard because so many people studying here have had family already come and visit them and I’m just a bit bummed that my family are unable to make that trip. Then, the shooting in Roseburg happened yesterday, and that was hard. It stirred up a lot of feelings and I’ve been both sad and frustrated since I heard, which has made it more difficult to focus on my experience here, especially when it’s made Irish news as well. I don’t want to forget about it, but I need to not let it bother me too much. I’ve been struggling with all of that this week.

Some other things from the week: I’m getting more comfortable crossing the street like people who live here, trusting my own judgment, I’m making an Austrian friend, the beautiful weather will soon be gone so I need to get myself outside more to enjoy it, I need to stop buying so many clothes or I won’t have any way to take them home and might spend all my money, I’ve been craving a diner like Dennys where I can get every breakfast food, but that doesn’t exist here.


The theatre (the Helix) on campus is very nice, and has a cafe and a great view of campus.


There a lot of great trees on campus and I love trees!


The river Liffey


One night we went out and saw Arthur Miller’s “A View From The Bridge.” It was excellent! One of the best shows I’ve ever seen!


The Gate theatre, Dublin.


The set of “A View from the Bridge,” a Brooklyn dock in the 1950’s.


A night on the town. Bruxelles bar and restaurant.


One day I went shopping and picked some flowers on my walk home. A final reminder of summer as the weather starts to cool off here and the leaves begin to fall. I’m excited about the changing seasons, it’s just as beautiful here as home!


Dublin, Ireland – Week 1: Why Can’t I Sleep Like a Normal Human?

From my first journal entry in Ireland:

“I could have talked about going to Ireland, dreamed about it, even planned it and backed out. But I didn’t just think about it or talk about it. I’m there (here), right now, and it’s scary and unbelievable and exhilarating and I’m doing it, and that’s the best part.”
My first week in Ireland was filled with tiny inconveniences, minor confusions, physical orientation, physical exhaustion, and luckily, no doubt or regrets about what I’m doing here. Nathaniel and I arrived late Saturday afternoon, September 12 and Sunday was for rehabilitation and relaxation, though we went with our roommate Zach to a shopping centre (of which there are many) to buy a few things like towels, for the apartment. We learned a few things on our short trip. We started to learn how to use the city bus transit with lots of help from the Dublin Bus app and realised just how necessary coin purses may be here since European currency involves a lot of coins. There are 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent coins, as well as 1 and 2 euro coins. So far, 2, 5, 10 and 20 cents all seem fairly useless, much like our U.S. penny. Malls seem very much the same as in the U.S. and nothing there struck me as overtly unusual or unique.
We did find an American 50’s style diner that we ate at (not very exotic for our first foreign meal I realise). There we heard only American music, and we came to find over the next week that American music is pretty much what you hear no matter where you go, mall, restaurant, pub, taxi, etc. Also, this diner, Eddie Rockets, is also not a single unique restaurant as I first suspected. They are everywhere, I’ve seen probably twenty in Dublin since.
We also got our first lesson in tipping in Ireland, which we hadn’t thought about yet, though I knew tipping practices varied in Europe. We left on our table what we’d consider at home to be a reasonable tip, but were surprised when the staff seemed so shocked by it and wondered whether we meant to leave so much money behind. We later looked up tip etiquette in Ireland online to see what was said about restaurant and taxi tipping. Neither is common, but rounding up taxi fare a euro or two will not usually be met with any argument.
Tipping instigated my first real cultural reflection about the U.S. and how it’s sad and strange that we have so many jobs where people rely on tips because their pay is not sufficient for their work. It’s just one of the many factors that result from “poverty-wages” in the U.S.
On Monday we toured Dublin with our program coordinator, John, and the other ten or so people studying at DCU from the U.S. through CIS abroad. He pointed out many of the good areas for shopping and dining, which bus stops we’ll use often, which areas are “sketchy” or “dodgy” at night and where we should “taxi in, taxi out,” (of which there are many, being a large city), and of course, all the neat places we should check out, the more touristy sites. This included The Guinness Storehouse (which we already, or rather Nathaniel already planned for us to visit), Trinity college, St. Stephens Green, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and more.
After our tour, which got me excited for exploring the city, we had our introduction at Dublin City University. Throughout the week they held some events to, much like New Student Week at WOU, get us acquainted with the campus, each other, and student life at DCU. Orientation was not rigorous and I didn’t end up meeting anyone new during the week, but I did start to get used to the campus, which is small and even more condensed than Westerns, but very modern, and it is only a five minute walk from our apartments, very handy.
During the week Nathaniel and I explored a bit, found some shopping centres, went to our first pub The Back Page and had our first pints of Guinness, watched The Visit at a movie theater close by, saw our first play “Vernon God Little” at the Mill theatre–the Irish/Texan accents were quite amusing– toured the Guinness storehouse and had our pints in the Gravity bar overlooking Dublin and it was beautiful.
Unfortunately, we didn’t do or see as much as we might have liked that first week, partly because we slept for most of it. It was difficult to get our bodies used to the time difference and caught up on the sleep we’d lost. Every day we’d plan to get up by a decent hour, maybe by 8 or 9am, but found it almost physically impossible to wake up earlier than 11. This is an aspect of traveling I’d considered before, but one that I never thought could be such a interference. Besides that, our power went off every night in our apartment which meant important navigational devices would not get charged and we’d have no hot water for showers, I waited to do laundry and then the laundry room was out of commission for the better part of a week, and then we learned that buses don’t always come when they are supposed to. Luckily those were the biggest issues we faced here, but at the same time we were dealing with some difficult news from home we got the day after we arrived, which I won’t discuss, but definitely made the start of our adventure more psychologically challenging.
Some things I learned from this first week were: making friends will be difficult and I’ll have to learn how to put myself out there more, I have to use the crosswalk signals because I don’t trust myself to look in the right direction for cars when crossing, there is no root beer in this country so I’ll have to do without for three months, Dublin is a city I think I could really like, despite not really liking cities ever, and classes and schoolwork are going to be hard to do because I only want to explore.
Ireland is new and different, but I’m fairly comfortable already and I’m so excited for my time here.


Streets of Dublin


The Spire on O’Connell street


First pint at The Back Page


The set of “Vernon God Little” at the Mill theatre


On DCU campus


At the Guinness storehouse, Nathaniel’s favorite place


In the Gravity bar overlooking Dublin from the Guinness storehouse



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

Ireland Bound

Hi everyone!

My name is Shannen Brouner and I’ll be quite honest about my first post, I am technically behind in my blogging and am writing this first introductory and “pre-departure” post from my room in Dublin, but using my personal journal entries and memory as reference.

So, I’m Shannen, a fifth year and transfer student at WOU. I started my first two years at Central Oregon Community College near my small hometown of Prineville, and am now attending Western, soon to graduate with a BA in Communications. I enjoy reading (primarily fantasy), watching movies and television (Parks & Rec and The X-files are two of my favorite shows right now), geocaching, watching theatre, crafting, taking photos, eating, and sleeping, among other things. I’m characteristically studious, shy and quiet, I never learned how to ride a bike, I was on PLUS team last year, and I’ve never traveled to another country (and only a bit around this one).

I’m sojourning in Dublin, Ireland with my partner of over three years, Nathaniel. Just like him, I’ve wanted to travel to Ireland for a very long time. I know embarrassingly little of the country’s history and culture, but, like many, am drawn to it’s stunning beauty and (what I hear of its) charming and friendly people. I’ve got Irish blood in me somewhere and am a bit of a sentimental heritage traveler because of it. I’d like to go to the river Shannon which I’m (obviously) not even named after and find some link in either region, pub, or person to my mother’s maiden name Mahoney, we’ll see how it goes. I’d really like to get the experience of traveling across the world (and an English speaking country seemed a good place to start), make new friends from all over, learn about the country from the country, photograph Ireland, enjoy a pint, have fun, explore, learn something about myself, and go on an adventure.