April 23rd is a symbolic date for world literature. It was the date of death of Cervantes, Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega. April 23rd is also the date of birth or death of other prominent authors such as Maurice Druon, K.Laxness, Vladimir Nabokov, Josep Pla and Manuel Mejía Vallejo.
We now celebrate it as World Book Day, a celebration of authors, illustrators, books and a celebration of reading. In fact, it’s the biggest celebration of its kind, designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading, and marked in over 100 countries all over the world.
The first Earth Day, 42 years ago, marked an awakening of environmental awareness. Much has been done to reverse the damage decades of irresponsible behavior has had on out planet. What that being said, there’s obviously a lot more work to be done.
TreeHugger asked some of the Web’s best environmental writers to share their wishes for Earth Day. Responses varied, some said renewable energy, changing the human brain, or simply that there is no silver bullet that could solve our endless environmental problems. But if there was one response that I couldn’t agree with more, it would be that of professional race car driver, environmental activist, and frequent contributor to TreeHugger.com Leilani Munter.
"If I could change one thing about the world, I would have everyone adopt a plant based diet. Many people associate their carbon footprint with the fuel in the car they drive but they don’t associate it with the food on their plate.”
This is a large part of the reason why I am a vegetarian myself. The meat industry is very hard on our natural resources, polluting our land and water, cutting down rain forests and slaughtering billions of animals annually. Even Albert Einstein was a vegetarian! He once said:
"Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet."
As we’ve learned in Finding Nemo, sea turtles are the friendly hippies of the ocean. But there are seven kinds of sea turtles, all of which are endangered. And sea turtles aren’t able to hide in their shells for protection, that’s why they need our help! Since mother turtles leave right after they lay their eggs, sea turtles never meet their parents. So tiny baby sea turtles are left orphaned on beaches throughout the world. These little guys deserve to be saved, and loved!
But in all seriousness, sea turtles are greatly affected by warm water temperatures caused by climate change. Residential and tourist use of beaches can result in disturbance to nesting turtles. Their eggs are sill considered highly desirable, which continues to be a serious problem where ever sea turtles nest (including the United States.) Human attempts to exploit offshore oil and gas reserves pose a serious threat to marine turtles, resulting in the incidental injuring or killing of the turtles and destruction of their habitats. The most serious marine environment treat to turtles is commercial fishing where incidental taking of turtles during operations has seriously affected the population.
Believe it or not, even on the commercial streets of China, little turtles are found packaged as souvenirs. These little tortoises are still alive and swimming inside an herbal solution. They costs 5 RMB a piece, or $0.79 USD. Cruel and unacceptable…Is this really what our world has come to? Small as they may be, they are still lives, and someone needs to put an end to this uncivil act. In China especially, you can’t depend on the government to stop animal cruelty. What to do, what to do…
Personally I enjoy my food slightly charged. Weird but true. Burnt toast with butter, a little char on my grilled BBQ chicken (before I stopped eating meat). But there’s evidence that suggests that eating all that burned food could actually be bad for you.
Back in 2007, a Dutch study found an increased risk of cancer in women who were exposed to the chemical acrylamide. This chemical forms on fried or baked foods, especially when those foods are burned. The study found that women who ate 40 micrograms of acrylamide a day (equivalent to say, a bag of potato chips) had double the cancer risk of women who ate the lowest amount of the chemical.
The Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, a coalition comprised of large-scale manufactures of plastic bags, recently sued the city of San Francisco for expanding their law on banning plastic bags. The extended ban now includes single-use bags at most businesses, including restaurants. It also imposes a 10-cent fee for any other bag handed out at the checkout stand or takeout counter.
The Save The Plastic Bag Coalition’s reasoning to take this case to court is that “paper and compostable bags are significantly worse for the environment than plastic bags.” They also claim that “the 10-cent fee that the city wants businesses to charge for a paper or compostable carryout bag is, or may be, far too low to act as an effective incentive to promote the use of reusable bags.”
Personally I’m all for the ban. Plastic bags are obviously a bad idea for the environment and must be banned. Paper bags are not much better, but really people just BYO Bag! It’s not painful at all to keep a few reusable shopping bags in your car. It would be a shame to see this ban go away. And although it makes sense to keep the ban, The Save The Plastic Bag Coalition is funded by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) so you never know what kinds of string$ they can pull.
So I’m pretty distubed by the idea of plastic, how it comes from oil, the chemicals involved in processing, and all the technolical know how that I wont get into. But mainly the fact that it’s sprinked over our entire planet, acorss coast lines, lineing roads and highways, and floating in the bodies of water that we drink from #northpacificgarbagepatch. It’s even scarier that plastic is here to stay, out living most life forms here on earth, including us.
Below is a picture of my reuable waterbottle, I’m slightly obsessed with it. The company that makes them is called Kerplunk. I found it in City Market, a Co-Op 2 minutes down the street from my place in Burlington for about $12. Now that might not sound incredibly cheap, but if your a big water drinker it certainly pays for itself. They’ve got some pretty cool designs as well, making the whole reuable water bottle idea a bit more fashionable and chic, not just outdoorsy and eco-friendly for granola crunching hippes.
It’s made of glass so it is pretty fragile, but I’m generally pretty careful with my most treasured belongings i.e. iPhone, MacBook, etc. so it works for my lifestyle. Something about the glass design makes you really thirsty. When it’s filled with cold water and the outside gets frothy, it’s almost like drinking glacier water. Of course I really have no idea what drinking water from a glacier is like…but I feel like it would be something like this.
To Recycle Or Not To Recycle, That Is The Question.
The world’s largest bottle-to-bottle recycling plant opened in California last week. The plant, owned by CarbonLITE, is expected to recycle roughly two billion PET plastic bottles a year for customers like Pepsi and Nestle. CarbonLITE specializes in processing used plastic bottles into bottle-grade PET pellets that can then be used to manufacture new plastic beverage bottles. This conserves virgin resources, reduces landfills, and capitalizes on the energy already invested in making existing plastic products.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about recycling. But I can’t help but wonder if there is a more sustainable way to recycle plastics? After all, it is made from oil and your basically just melting it down to make the same thing over again, using the same chemicals, and emitting the same toxins back into the environment. Can technology even save us? And speaking of Pepsi and Nestle, check out what’s happening to the people living in Corpus Christi, TX. There’s some pretty scary stuff going on over there. If you enjoy learning through film, I would also highly recommend watching the documentary Tapped or Bag It.
Prepared Foods CSA is a subscription based meals delivery service with share term periods as short as one month. They work with local farms and use as much local, organic and sustainable product as possible. The packaging is compostable and made from GMO-free wheat fiber or sugar case waste fiber. They also use glass mason jars for soups. The food sometimes includes local meat, but is never meat-centric. Vegetarian and gluten free options are available. Delivery is on Wednesdays to homes or workplaces in Charlotte, Shelburne, South Burlington and Burlington, Vermont.
Chemicals used to prevent or dampen fires in electronics, furniture and upholstery are showing up in our food chain.Yumm…
Researchers at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Dallas found high levels of the flame retardants known as PBDEs in a sample of butter.
The scientists say the contaminated sample was just one of ten samples tested, but the levels were so high the researchers are calling for government health officials to begin inspecting and investigating food samples at all stages of processing.
Plankton Vs. Plastic: How Garbage Impacted The Health Of Our Ocean
In humans, BPA, which is found in plastic, has been linked to obesity, prostate cancer, breast cancer, diabetes, low sperm count in men, brain disorders, and a slew of other diseases. But did you know it can also affect fish?
Studies have shown that BPA can affect growth, reproduction and development in aquatic inter vertebrates, amphibians, and reptiles, with fish being the most sensitive species reported at very low exposure levels. Releases of BPA to the environment exceed 1 million pounds per year, and evidence also indicates that it can currently be found in municipal wastewater. Now you might be asking yourself, how does BPA from plastics get into the ocean?
The answer is garbage, literally. BPA can contaminate the environment either directly or through degradation of products containing BPA, such as ocean-borne plastic trash. Ever heard of the North Pacific Garbage Patch? It’s a mass of plastic, twice the size of Texas, floating in a current between San Francisco and Hawaii. In this area, there are 46 times more plastic than plankton. The plastic eventually breaks down into particles so small that fish mistake them for food. And the debris that wash ashore has created miles of coastline coved with plastic instead of sand.
Right now we can’t take back the garbage we threw out there. Maybe technology can help us out with this one. But until then we can stop using so much plastic. Try a reusable glass water bottle, or bring a cloth bag with you to the grocery store instead of plastic bags. Love Bottle makes glass water bottles with some really neat designs. And most grocery stores sell reusable bags for less than a dollar, or get a customized bag at Custom Grocery Bags, made from Eco-friendly materials. It’s easy to do your part, start a trend. A little goes a long way.
I’m sure you’ve all heard of the scandals behind the chemical BPA, also known as Bisphenol-A. It’s in the lining of cans and bottles, baby bottles, dental sealants, water coolers, sports equipment, household electronics, and just about everything else that is mass produced. It has been linked to obesity, prostate cancer, breast cancer, diabetes, low sperm count in men, brain disorders, and a slew of other gloomy diseases we hope to never contract. But if this stuff is so bad for us, then how on earth did it end up in almost everything we come into contact with?
Back in the day, 1936 to be exact, a paper was published in Nature declaring that the chemical BPA was considered for use to be an estrogenic drug. The idea is already starting to sound pretty darn questionable…Well then in the 40’s and 50’s, the chemical industry began to use BPA to manufacture the plastics and epoxy resins (used as linings for metal food cans) that we are familiar with today. But according to the FDA, low dose exposure is harmless to humans. It’s also pretty cheap, so they decided… why not use it in everything! The legitimacy of BPA was based on only 2 studies, which were ironically funded by the chemical industry, who also just so happens to profit from BPA (a measly $7 billion a year industry.) However, over 200 independent peer reviewed studies have show concern for our exposure to this venomous chemical. Pretty frightening, right?
So what can you do about this? Canada has already outlawed the use of BPA completely, Minnesota and Connecticut have banned it from reusable food and beverage containers, and Chicago and New York Suffolk County have applied similar bans. So why not join the movement? Write to one of your local officials, or better yet all of them! Here in Vermont we have Peter Welch, Patrick Leahy, and Bernard Sanders.
The website for the documentary Tapped has a great tool that gives you all the contact information you need. It’s also an excellent documentary and I would highly recommend it.
Simply go to the Take Action tab and select Ask Congress To Fund Our Water Infrastructure in the left column. Enter your zip code or select your state and your ready to go!
So now that you know your computers, cellphones, and other unsuspecting electronics contain an array of nasty chemicals that can harm your health, as well as the environment, where does all this stuff go when your done? Well if you didn’t dispose of all your old electronics properly, as advised with the new electric waste law in Vermont, it will actually end up halfway across the world!
50,000 tons of e-waste is imported to India from developed countries every year according to Manufacturers’ Association of Information Technology, and the German Agency for Technical Cooperation in India. I know some of you may be thinking, “Oh, thats kinda cool. All my old electronic crap made it all the way to India, maybe ill go there one day too.”
Little did you know however, that men and women in small groups burn the wires they dig up from e-waste, and soak them in open acid baths (which is illegal) to retrieve the copper inside. They then sell what they can retrieve, where only a few kilos can earn about $3 to $5 a day. There are also high health and environmental risks of their methods of material recovery. Extracting metals like copper in open acid baths releases toxins, heavy metals, and brominated flame retardants. These acid and chemical residues then contaminate the water and soil where local people drink and eat.
I know this is pretty heavy stuff to associate with something as simple as how you choose the throw away your old electronics. But hey, I think it’s time to wake up and pay more attention. We owe it to the planet and the rest of the world to make that extra effort for being as lucky and privileged as we are. So next time think twice about how you choose to get rid of your old stuff, and remember that it may end up in the place you least expect it to be.
Things You Didn't Know About Your Favorite Electronics: E-Waste
Did you know that some of your electronics contain substances that are considered dangerous to the environment and human health when disposed of improperly? Any appliance that runs on electricity has the potential to cause damage to the environment, even your precious laptop computers and portable music players. Arsenic, lead and mercury are only some of the hazardous substances hidden in your electronics. These nasty substances can then leach into the soil and groundwater, which we then drink. Sounds pretty gross right?
Luckily there is hope here in Vermont with the new electronic waste law. It bans the disposal of certain electronic devices and provides convenient collection. Some of the various devices include computers, monitors, printers, computer peripherals, and televisions. The best part about it is that they are all accepted for FREE. Other electronic devices are accepted, although there may be a fee to dispose of those items.
We all know the iPhone 4s and the Kindle Fire is going on many Christmas lists this year. So just remember when you’re chucking your old junk away, that all the nasty stuff used to make it is harmful to our fragile environment and to your health! Take a second or two out of your day and find the most convenient collection location. It won’t cost you a thing. You can even sell Grandma’s ugly sweater she gave you again this year for some extra cash to dispose of those pesky items that require a fee. Go ahead and get a jump start at a more environmentally conscious new year.
Picking up the garbage is expensive. Public trash receptacles typically cost around $500-$1,800 each. But the real expense associated with waste collection is the cost of sending crews in trucks around to empty those containers and take the rubbish away. Garbage trucks get really, really bad mileage – typically under 3mpg. A city may spend anywhere from $1,000-$4,000 each year on collection operations per receptacle.
Trash is piling up. Have you noticed the ever increasing wall of trash lining city streets, while walking to school, work, or even just a day in the park? Or trash cans that are so full that the garbage is overflowing? Citizens in developed countries throw away an average of about 10 pounds of trash a day.
The folks at BigBelly Solar may have the answer. They created a garbage can with a built-in compactor. And get this, it’s powered by solar panels. Very cool. It’s also has an alert system that notifies the sanitation mucky-mucks when the unit is filled up.
Each BigBelly compactor can hold up to five times the volume of ordinary trash receptacles, reducing collection demand up to 80% and eliminating four out of five collection trips, saving time and money on gas, as well as preventing those overflowing garbage cans you often see (especially here in New York City). By eliminating the demand for collection by garbage trucks and using solar power trash cans to compact trash, the BigBelly system can cut CO2 and other vehicle exhaust emissions by as much as 80%. Companion recycling bins can also be integrated with the trash compactors.
The BigBelly Solar program pays back pretty quickly. It’s been successful in cities, parks, beaches, zoos, arenas, and college and university campuses in 48 states and 30 countries.
It seems that BigBelly has created a real game changer in the way we look at waste management. It’s something that everyone should be thinking about. What can you do as a consumer in your community? Our world is changing and the environment needs our help. Step up and make some noise about this. Seriously. Reach to your local politicians, school and office sustainability managers.
Sharing a cab with Cabcorner’s app can make traveling in the city much easier and more affordable.
CabCorner connects people located in the same general area who are headed the same direction around the same time. It allows you to split the fare, offering a more affordable and greener transportation option than solo taxi travel. CabCorner’s most popular feature is the “Fare Calculator,” which forecasts the cost of both solo and shared taxi rides. Also included is a comprehensive listing of local cab companies, to ensure that a nearby taxi is just a phone call away.
To use, simply select your city, enter the departure address, desired time, date, and destination. Keep in mind that cabs can also make multiple stops along the journey if you have more then one destination. It is recommended to post your journey in advanced to allow others to get the chance to join your ride, and to give you more options of rides to join.
The tool will then search for rides that meet your input criteria, connecting you with riders that leave on your desired day and near your meeting point. It will display the estimated shared costs, and show you the route of each rider. You can then click to join the ride, review details, and message the rider to get to know them if you prefer. Finally meet your “cab companion” and hail a taxi at the nearest “cab corner” or simply hail you’re own cab and pick them up on the way.
If you’re looking to meet people in an interesting way, decrease your environmental impact, or simply save money, visit CabCorner.com or download the application from the iTunes store.
Does sharing cab rides mean less overall cab activity on the street and a way to reduce our carbon footprint? Could ride sharing be another angle on increasing fuel economy? Perhaps. Let us know what you think.
"There are no mistakes. The events we bring upon ourselves, no matter how unpleasant, are necessary in order to learn what we need to learn; whatever steps we take, they’re necessary to reach the places we’ve chosen to go."
Physorg.com Americans are exposed to hundreds, if not thousands, of suspected toxic substances every day, substances that affect the development and function of the brain, immune system, reproductive organs or hormones.
When did September, October, November, and December happen? The past four months went by faster then any point in my life. Although Ireland was not much of a culture shock for me, I’ve learned so much about life and who I am while living here. Things started off rocky when I tried to pop the Champlain bubble, and escape from the nonsense that seemed to suck everyone in like a black hole. My first couple trips abroad to Belgium and London really helped me gain a lot of confidence, as I was traveling completely on my own. Although this had not been my original plan, it had the potential to turn into a very upsetting a lonely experience. But somehow I was able to dig deep inside myself and appreciated nearly everything that was going on around me, from delicious piping hot waffle, to a young couple reuniting at a train station. I learned not to focus on the nonsense that everyday people get tangled up in.
I’ve completely surprised and impressed myself on all of my independent traveling adventures. While in London, I was invited to stay with an acquainted friend, who was very close with a student from Champlain. Have official confirmed phone calls and conversations from both parties, everything was set up. However, when I was scheduled to meet with them, nobody showed up or answered my phone call. I was left completely stranded in London by myself. I had not scheduled any place to stay since I was under the impression I was staying with, who I thought was, a friend. However I was able to be completely positive, looking at the situation as a challenge rather than moment of panic. Being that it was about 9:00 at night when i found out I was ditched, I went to a bar and had a pint to relax and talk to people for hostel suggestions. I was able to meet some really nice people, one guy in particular who knew of a really good place to stay and found me directions on his iPhone, and I was able to get a hostel later that night.
I don’t know what this person was thinking just casually brushing plans aside, leaving someone stranded alone in a foreign city, and I never got an answer either. But it’s these situations that I value, that I learn the most from and grow. I felt empowered after handling that situation, and continued traveling independently to Amsterdam, Switzerland, and Germany for thanksgiving break. I took 6 hour train rides with 5 different connections, one of which involved taking a boat. I stayed at 15 hostels in 8 different cities. I’ve met so many interesting people, from Australia, Russia, and Argentina, to China, France, and the U.S. I learned so much interacting with them about the world at large, and I don’t know if I would have been able to get that chance if I was tangled up with a bunch of people traveling with me. My last trip to Norway however was my first group trip. I went with my roommate Megan and Lindsay. Being that they are very relaxed, the trip was not stressful, and we were able to enjoy our time there.
From the logistics of booking flights and hostels, learning to use foreign transportation systems, navigating with maps, figuring out currency and measurement conversions, and learning basics of the language spoken in each country, I have learned so much from travel.
In school this year I had the best professors I’ve probably ever had. I’ve never been as engaged in class as I have here. Maybe it’s the Irish accent, or I’m just finally getting into what I’m studying. But this semester I’ve had such great opportunities to work within the business world of Ireland. I had the chance to pitch a marketing campaign to the Energy Supply Board (ESB) of Ireland to find new ways to get people to save energy at home. This project has been by far the most challenging I’ve ever experienced. To sum things up, our group collectively just had no chemistry, and were unfortunately not able to get a proper presentation together at the standards to be presented in front of ESB. I was honestly very upset to have that opportunity taken from me because I am genuinely passionate about the sustainability, and the potential to make some amazing connections. Thankfully, our professor Lucy was extremely encouraging and really pulled me out of the dumps. She has accomplished some great things, and has a great attitude towards life. I really admire her and hope that what I’ve learned from her can one day take me as far as she has gotten. In the end, we represented to the class and I was able to learn a very valuable lesson about leading a group of people who are radically different.
I also had a great opportunity to work with Mark Sexton of Froberry Frozen Yogurt. We had a similar objective of pitching a marketing champaign to him where we tried to improve digital presence. This project ran a little smoother, and we were able to make a really great report for him with some ideas that I think will really benefit his business. Our professor Paul really taught us well what’s important when getting a job in the marketing world. I am pretty confident now that I can take what I’ve learned about digital marketing and potentially apply that to position in the near future.
Living in Ireland, I have grown so much as person as well. Being on my own, so far away from home, I really learned how to take care of myself; budgeting my money, handling my own meals, cleaning my apartment. I’ve learned how to be tolerate of people as well. Coming into this program, I opted out of living with some of the people I knew from Champlain and decided to live with people I didn’t know from Emerson. It ended up being the best decision I ever made, living outside of my comfort zone and becoming good friends with all of them. I also made great friends with our new neighbors who moved in about half way through the program. For most of the trip I kept to myself and did most things on my own. I really didn’t spend a lot of time with anyone other then my roommates until Justin, Evan, and Eric moved in next door after their apartment downstairs had been robbed. They continuously harassed for never coming over to hang out, since their was no excuse living ten feet away from each other. After all the annoyance, I started poking my head in there every once and a while, until it eventually evolved into a daily habit. Now I don’t even knock, and I’m sad to leave our little neighborhood corner of room 38 and 39 in St. Augustine Apartments.
However this was just the warm up round for me, as I will be traveling again this spring semester in Barcelona, Spain. I have yet to even think about what it’s going to be like, since i’ve been so busy here. I hope I can take away as much, if not more, as I did from Ireland. There is so much I still want to do and see, and I’m excited to embark on a completely new adventure. I encourage everyone who reads this blog to follow me through Spain, I’m sure it will be quite the ride!
Hearing of all the terrorist threats across Europe, I was a little freaked out to think of traveling to countries who’s primary language wasn’t English, and having to potentially face a serious crisis. I also found that my friend from Champlain, who was suppose to go on a trip with me to Belgium, was no longer coming with me. Although given these unfortunate circumstances, I had to do it. I realized this is a once and a life time opportunity that I just couldn’t let pass by. As quoted anonymously:
"The only way to make your dreams come true and to live at your highest potential is to go toward the things you fear to do."
So that Friday I was up at 4:00AM to first catch the Air Coach on O’Connell Street. I arrived at the airport and went through security in a breeze. The flight was very short, roughly an hour. At the Charleroi Airport I noticed a vending machine outside that had bouquets of flower in it. What a cute idea for welcoming friends and family home! However, little did I know what Ryan Air had in store for me. Given that flights are so incredibly cheap with this airline, they fly you into the most bizarre airports. From Charleroi, located on the outskirts of Brussels, I took a 20 minute bus ride to the train station where I wondered around in daze trying to figure out which train I needed to get on. The train ticket I had purchased at the airport only said from Charleroi to Bruge, but did not give any information about the time, connections, or platform I need to be on. Thankfully I found a nice guy who spoke some English and he helped explain to me what route I should take.
After 3 hours and two connections later, it was about lunch time and I desperately needed to refuel. I got my first Belgian waffle at a little stand in the train station. No crazy toppings, just dusted with some powdered sugar, but simply the most delicious breakfast confection I’ve ever had. Kellogg’s Ego Waffles mean nothing to me anymore. I then took my last train into Bruge, arriving at about 3:00PM. At this point I had no patience to walk in the rain to my hostel, so I bought a bus ticket instead. The same confusion came about when I was on the bus and had no idea when to get off. There was no map pasted inside the walls of the bus, no signs at the bus stops, and no load speaker announcements. I ended up just getting off at a random street with this girl who looked about my age carrying a suitcase. I figured we might be going to the same place.
Unfortunately she was not, so I attempted to navigate to the hostel on my own. I had the address but no map. Feeling like a wet dog lost in the pouring rain, I started to question myself for going alone. My French skills were butchered, making it difficult to communicate, as well as being too suborn to ask for help. It was lonely, wet, and cold, not quiet the picturesque experience I had hoped for.
Suddenly however, I walked by a store that seemed as if it were literally glowing, so I turned back around a went in. It was a little chocolate shop, privately owned by one woman and her family. Not only was the outside glowing, but so was everything on the inside! Being a a huge chocolate fan, this place defied my imagination, it was heavenly. It smelled amazing, the chocolates were too pretty to eat, everything was wrapped and decorated beautifully, and there was an array of delicious jams and chocolate spreads. I told the woman behind the counter I was just looking, and complimented her on how beautiful the store was. Finding this wonderful place helped me realize that I need to embrace everything around me, and even though I felt very alone, when would I ever been back in Belgium again eating the worlds best chocolates!
Ironically as I proceeded to find my hostel, it just so happened to be a few blocks down the street from the chocolate store. Called the Scuffle Backpackers Hostel, it wasn’t too bad. The guy running the front desk was pretty nice, access to the kitchen was available, Wifi connection, sheets included, and a good bar downstairs where a featured band comes to play once a month. Since I was going alone, I figured I might as well meet people and chose to stay in a six person dorm room. As I settled in, my roommates came in gradually. Two of them were Australian, and the other was Romanian, all of which were traveling alone as well. The two girls from Australia apparently quiet their jobs and had been backpacking for the past four months, what I would later learn is a common occurrence. That night I went out to eat Belgium’s famous “mousels and frits” which were amazing, but very filling. I chatted a bit with my roommates about various topics, some typical questions they had about American stereotypes, and went to sleep for a long day of sight seeing in the morning.
The day began with a visit to the best pancake house in Bruge. I had a crape with fresh bananas and whipped cream, with a little sugar sprinkled on top. Then I took a tour of the Chocolate Museum, where I got to learn about the history of chocolate and sample pralines at the end. One sample was certainly not enough, so I went back to the chocolate shop I had stumbled upon the day before to get myself box, and one to bring home. I also took tour of the bell tower in the city center, climbing up around 300 stairs!
That night I went out with my Australian friends to try the Belgian beer. We went to a place that had over 250 different flavors. I sampled mango, peach, pumpkin, passion fruit, banana, and coconut. They were all delicious, but you could only really drink one since there’s a decent amount of sugar in them.
On my last day in Bruge, I walked to the Janshus Mill and climbed to the top of the hill to take some pictures. After that I headed to what they call the Golden Triangle. Its an intersection with Bruges best flower shop, cutlery, and bakery that only the locals really know about. I attempted to use my French skills, and got an eclair and a chocolate croissant at the bakery. From there I headed to the train station to go to Brussels. Back at home, I had been doing some volunteering with ADT Fourth World, an anti-poverty organization that engages with individuals and institutions to find solutions to eradicate extreme poverty.
The day I had arrived in Brussels was the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, which ADT celebrates world wide. Originally I was suppose to volunteer at the commemoration in Dublin, but since I was traveling I offered to attend the one in Brussels. After walking around for about an hour and a half, I finally found the celebration in park area of the city of Brussels. There I documented the event, taking pictures and videos for the team back in Dublin. Unfortunately my stay was very short, and I spent my last night in Charleroi to be close to the airport for my early flight in the morning.
The trip to Northern Ireland to me did not seem quiet as appealing as Galway and the West coast of Ireland. From what I knew before coming here, and have since learned more about in Modern Irish History, Northern Irelands is widely known for its violent and controversial past.
"The Troubles" in Northern Ireland began when the British granted independence to the 26 of 32 counties in 1920, dividing the Irish people and imposing a different British identity on the North. This involved political (Monarchists/Loyalists vs. Republicans/Nationalists) and religious (Protestant vs. Roman Catholic) dimensions. Thousands of people lost their lives in the conflict between the two deeply divided loyalties, one of the most notable events being Bloody Sunday. This was where a march organized by the NICRA (Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association) in Derry. In order to ensure that the march was peaceful, the IRA (Irish Republican Army) had promised to stay away. British soldiers had put up barricades to prevent the marchers entering the city centre square. A section of the marchers and some observers confronted soldiers manning the barricade. British paratroopers opened fire killing 14 and injuring 13 others.
Although the horrific past of the North was a slight turn off, I thought it would be an educational and interesting place to visit, where people fought so hard and passionately for what they believed in. We boarded the bus early Saturday morning, ready to go back to sleep until we reached our first stop in Belfast. By early afternoon we finally made it, and started our adventure with taxi guides who took us for a political tour of the city. We all got split up into groups of five or six for each taxi. My taxi included Marisa, John, Brittany, Josh, Kirsten, and our tour guide Nigel. Nigel was the most entertaining and spunky taxi driver out of the bunch. He even gave us nick names based on his first impressions of what we looked like. I don’t remember them all, but Marisa was Rhianna because she looked slightly exotic, John was Simon because he looked simple, Kirsten was Ashley because of the blonde hair, Josh was Luigi because of his facial hair, and I was Jemima because I looked like I was from the 18th century. He wasn’t afraid to crack a joke or make fun of us, but at the same time he was very informative.
We were taken throughout the city to learn about “The Troubles.” We got to see firsthand the division that exists today, passing by several commemorative murals of prominent figures who had died fighting for their freedom. We also visited the wall dividing the Catholic and Protestant sides of town. The wall was about a mile span, and was covered in graffiti where thousands of people signed their names, drew beautiful artwork, and wrote inspirational quotes. We all even had a chance to sign the wall ourselves and feel like we were a part of their epic history. After the slight information overload, we stopped for some food and to exchange our Euros into Sterling. The square that we got lunch in was similar to Grafton or O’Connell Street in Dublin with lots of little Cafes, restaurants, and shopping. Then we headed back onto the bus to drive to Ballintoy in the Antrim Coast.
We had a bit of a hold up at the hostel when we first arrived. No one was at the reception desk, so we waited for about thirty minutes to see if anyone would show up. With still nobody to check us in, Claire had everyone drop off their bags in the lobby and go explore for an hour or so until she could figure everything out. My roommate Patrick and I were buddies for the trip and walked around the little town until we could get into our rooms. We realized there really wasn’t much around the hostel other then two bars and a convenient store. We ended up stopping into one of the bars so that Patrick could get cigarettes, which I highly disapproved him of the entire trip, and to get a drink or two. The Sterling’s were kind of confusing to use with larger coins being worth less than smaller coins. I may or may not have been ripped off at the bar because I just handed the lady serving me whatever I had for change in my pocket.
After about an hour or so, Claire had figured out the hostel issue. We all went back to find our rooms and get ready for dinner. We had a great home cooked meal of pasta and sauce, garlic bread, and cheese cake for desert, complimentary of the hostel. That night I wasn’t feeling so well and went to bed early, but several of the students decided to go to the pub down the street for karaoke night. From what I’ve heard about that night, it was quite the show. I’m not sure if I would have been able to handle that much talent in one room, but I’m glad I got a good night’s rest because the next day was packed with activities for us to do.
The next morning we went down to Ballintoy Harbor. It was a beautiful sunny day out and the views from the ocean were amazing. I was really excited to see all of the sheep, and they were everywhere you turned on the walk down to the harbor. Before coming to Ireland, I had always associated the country with sheep on rolling green hills (as well as Guinness, leprechauns, and four leaf clovers.) I also just like sheep because I think they are a funny animal, and one of my favorite childhood movies, Wallace and Gromit: A Close Shave, features a sheep as the main character.
After a bit of exploring we moved onto the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge. I really wasn’t planning on going across; I thought I would just watch everyone else. I don’t have a horrible fear of heights, I just don’t like them, and would rather opt out of having the feeling of my stomach in my through while crossing over an 80 foot high, windswept bridge. But Patrick kept bugging me, and made me feel guilty for not wanting to cross.
As I watched everyone else go, except for myself and one other remaining girl, I decided I should probably just do it. I slowly walked across, holding on to the rope railings for dear life. It wasn’t too bad until I looked down and the wind started blowing, then I sped up until I got to the other side where my cheerleader Patrick was waiting for me. It was worth the moment of terror to see the view. Since it was such a clear day, you could even see Scotland in the distance.
Our next stop was Giant’s Causeway. It’s renowned for its polygonal columns of layered basalt, resulting from a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago. The Causeway also appears on the cover of the Led Zeppelin album Houses of the Holy. Once again the weather was amazing and had held out for most of our day. Patrick and I were each other’s models for the trip, taking pictures in “natural” poses or “pondering” the scenery. As we climbed up to top of the mountain of blocks to get the best view of the Causeway, an elderly woman seemed to be struggling to get down. I told Patrick to go over and help her since she seemed in need. He went up to her and asked “Excuse me Mam, do you need help?” She angrily responded saying “No! Leave me alone!” We quickly started climbing up in the opposite direction, slightly stunned by the woman’s response, and took pictures of the gorgeous views at the top.
After that we took a walk around the cliffs for more breathtaking scenery, followed by a quick stop at the gift shop. I still had all my Sterling since I didn’t go out to the pub with everyone the night before, and had to get rid of it before going back home. I ended up spending it on a sheep pen, some liquorish, and a white chocolate teddy bear for Patrick. We then ended our tour a Dunluce castle by the seaside where Patrick and I opted out of the tour and explored the grounds on our own. Walking around, it almost felt like being on a playground. It was unbelievable to see how much of the castle was still in tact after all the years of abuse endured. As the day came to a close, the Champlain crew boarded the bus one last time to head back home to Dublin.
While constantly traveling around Europe every other weekend, it has been hard to find the time to see more of what Ireland has to offer. Fortunately enough, the staff here at Champlain has done a good job of providing us with information and suggestions of how we can emerse ourselves. Our weekly newspaper called The Craic (meaning fun) provides us with unique entertainment options, places to eat, and shop around Dublin. Lilly and Claire also send out emails periodically about activites to sign up for where we can recieve a student discount.
Most recently, I went on a horseback riding trip in Bray that was set up though Champlain. The day I went ended up being with a smaller group of people which was nice, a little less chaotic and more relaxed. Lilly meet Nate, Ted, Alicia, and I at the DART station in the morning. I was first to arrive, other then Lilly, and we started to become curious after a while as to where everyone else was. It was about 15 past and still only the two of us were standing. We called one of the boys, and they had all apparently took the train already, leaving without us! A bit flustered, Lilly and I proceeded to get on the train and meet everyone in Bray. Once we got there, we waited about half an hour at a little fish and chip place for a bus to come and take us to the stables. The bus picked us up and when we arrived, the weather still seemed to be holding up very well. The forecast had called for rain, but it seemed pretty clear out with some clouds in the distance. All the leaves around the property were glowing reds and oranges against the stonewall pattics and dark wood of the stalls, a very classic Irish countryside scene.
We started by filling out paperwork and trying on helmets and boots. I had to try on about 5 different helmets because my head was too small, and ended up wearing the kids size. We then were paired up with horses based on riding experience and confidence. There was one really big horse with an attitude, a really lazy slow horse, a really hungry/distracted horse, and a very laid back horse. My horse was Levi, the easy going one and the prettiest one out of the bunch. He was a dark chestnut color with a dark brown main and tail. He was very slender and elegant, probably a show horse a some point in time. He appeared to be a bit lame when I first got on him, and the instructors questioned whether he would be rideable or not. After walking him around for a few minutes, he seemed to be fine and we proceeded with a short lesson in the ring outside before going on the trails. We all took turns trotting and posting around the ring. When the trail leader felt confident enough in us, we headed out to the woods for a trail ride.
It was a beautiful day, a bit chilly, but the sun was shining, the grassy pastures were bright green, and the vibrant colors of the leaves were glowing. We started slowly, walking along a trail through the woods. The terrain was slightly rugged with the sound of horse hooves being suctioned into the mud and clanking against the rocks. Occasionally we had to duck for branches, which became some what of a challenge when we started trotting. A few times I was hit in the face when Levi didn’t respond to me directing him. He didn’t really listen to any of my commands, but followed everything the horse was doing in front of him, hence why he didn’t turn away from the branches when I asked.
Being trail horses, they do the same routine and are familiar with exactly where to go and what to do. They tend to ignore the people riding them, especially because most people on trail rides have no experience. The horses know exactly how to take complete advantage of this, like stopping for periods of time and eating grass when they aren’t suppose to. Ted was on the horse behind me who kept stopping to eat the grass and was purposely being slow. Unfortunately for the horse, Ted wasn’t afraid to give him an extra kick to get his butt moving. I could heard Ted in the background every so often talking to the horse saying things like “Hey, you got legs. Use them!”
Levi on the other hand started to get a little crazy. He had been very relaxed for most of the ride until we got to a large pasture with jumps set up. When we were trotting along around the field, he got a burst of energy and all of a sudden broke into a canter passing the instructor in front of us. Apparently he wanted to lead the way and didn’t care if I wanted to come or not. Luckily he wasn’t hard to settle down, I just had to be a little aggressive with him so he didn’t take off on me. We stopped again at a beautiful pasture where a rainbow appeared in the distance. The trail leader also told us about a circle of trees we passed by that legends say is protected by fairies and leprechauns. That story says that if anyone trust passes in the circle of trees, then a curse will be cast upon them forever. By the time we headed by to the barn it began to drizzle. We said goodbye to our horses, returned all of our gear, and headed to the bus to take us to the DART station.
On the walk back to the apartments, we all slightly wobbled as our legs felt like jello from riding. I forgot how much of a workout it can be, even though your sitting the entire time. As we took a short cut through temple bar, it suddenly started to flurry. We were all excited and shocked, getting us into the mood for Christmas. Walking deeper into the street, we realized there was a production crew with lots of cameras and lights. Apparently the snow wasn’t real, and we has stumbled upon the making of a holiday commercial. It was pretty cool to see everything in action as we walked by, except the fake snow mixture was overwhelming. We couldn’t figure out how those actors were breathing and keeping their eyes open. Shredded paper and fog machine smoke it not so comfortable to inhale.
That night I went home and took a power nap before getting ready to go out. This would be one of my last weekends to go out with my roommates since we were all traveling separately in the next few weeks. We went to The Globe, which has three floors, several different bars, and a dance floor. It can be a little much for some, but ever time I have gone I’ve always met really interesting people. While at the bar waiting to be served, a guy randomly started talking me about my cowboy boots, asking where I was from. I responded saying that I was American, obviously! -the accent is pretty distinguishable. I think he was just trying to be polite, but he had a good sense of humor. We had a good chat about Ireland and America, and at the end of our time he asked me for my number. I didn’t have a phone on me that night, and to be honest I still don’t even know what my own number is. I told him he could add me on Facebook if he wanted, so I gave him my name to search. I found that this works way better then potentially giving away my number since I can always delete or block him as a friend, as horrible as that sounds. The next day I saw his friend request and scanned through his page. He seemed fairly normal so I decided it wouldn’t be a bad idea to accept the request. After taking noticing a few posts and taking a deeper look into his photos, it turns out that he is apparently on TV series and is also a host for a show, similar to our version of E! and TRL. He had pictures with all different kinds of celebrities from Sean Kingston, Rhianna, and Akon to Jerry Springer, Johnny Knoxville, and Paris Hilton. I guess you really never know who you’ll encounter life.
Our Digital Marketing class has been assigned a project where we work with a start up organization or company to create a digital marketing plan. We are to evaluate their “digital” presence via social media, search engines, etc. and creating a report with recommendations as to how they can improve. My group was assigned Froberry, a company that sells:
"Beautifully whipped Frozen Yogurt packed with natural goodness. It’s light but creamy, tart but tasty and strangely addictive. Our Signature flavors are uniquely non fat and low calorie, they don’t just taste good they are ‘Good For You’."
As you read on, the website says: ”We like to give you choice - it’s your FRO and you can top it or shake it. Mix it with fresh fruit or berries or throw on those naughty toppings, if you fancy it ‘au natural’ just go topless!”
We really weren’t sure what exactly we were getting into. Froberry had a cute and quirky presence, but Frozen yogurt in Ireland didn’t immediately seem like a match made in heaven, not to mention the website seemed to be experiencing some image perception problems. Our first assignment was to contact Mark Sexton, the man in charge of Froberry. We set up a meeting to go over their business objectives, and to find out a bit more about what they are doing now. In the beginning, we experienced some technical issues when I exchanged numbers with Mark and realized I desperately needed to top up.
So after playing phone tag and calling Mark from three different phones, we were finally able to set a time and meet up at his stand outside the farmers market in Dun Laoghaire. Unfortunately, the entire group could not assemble so I went on everyones behalf since I had been sending all the e-mails and making the phone calls with Mark. I didn’t realize either that it was a 30 minute walk to the Dart, a 10/15 minute train ride, then about 10 minutes from the station to his stand. It was a bit of a hike, but it helped to prepare me for train travel in Belgium for the following weekend. When I first stumbled upon the Froberry stand I was a bit surprised at what I saw. It appeared to be a mini-truck, which I’m not exactly sure is drivable. In the bed of the truck was a frozen yogurt dispenser of the original flavor surrounded by containers holding several different toppings, from fruit to chocolate. It also had a tip jar and a cup of pins to give out with various Froberry catchlines on them, such as “Go with the FRO.” Everything was organized and clean, the banners and logos seemed professionally made, the truck/stand itself was appealing and welcoming.
Mark was a bit of a character as well. When I first met him, he was wearing a fedora hat with a feather sticking out of it. It was quiet windy out so the feather in his hat kept flickering around as he explained and presented the essence of Froberry to me. He also gave me a complementary sample upon my arrival, with chocolate topping of course. It was actually pretty good, even though I don’t have much experience with frozen yogurt. It had that greek yogurt taste to it. As I was eating, Mark told me his story of wanting to bring frozen yogurt popularity to Ireland after seeing its presence in the U.S. He also explained his plans to expand the brand to be distributed in grocery and convenient stores around the country. After seeing Froberry live in action and hearing the story behind the brand, we scheduled a group meeting for later in the week and I headed back to the apartments.
The group finally assembled at Champlain’s academic center where we discussed with Mark his current web presence. We told him what we felt needed to be worked on, such as updating his Twitter page, creating a 4square account, and possible search options including SEO or PPC. He seemed very excited and enthusiastic to be working with us, as well as having a great sense of humor and a positive attitude. Later that week our Digital Marketing class discussed what happened in each of our meetings. When we went over Froberry, Paul (our teacher) pulled up the website, and although a bit jumbled, it seemed that Mark had already begun making changes less then 24 hours later. It was quite funny to see all his excitement splattered on the website, but also satisfying to see our suggestions were applied seriously, as if we were professionals or something.
Currently, we are learning more about Digital Marketing techniques, and slowly compiling a report to present for Froberry at the end of the semester. As for Mark, he has been busy popularizing his yogurt, where he was recently featured on a cooking show using Froberry in a desert recipe.
Ever since arriving in Dublin, I have continuously seen posters and pamphlets advertising this Culture Night event. The night was said to involve entertainment, discovery and adventure in Dublin and across 20 towns, cities and counties in Ireland. Arts and cultural organizations open their doors until late with hundreds of free events, tours, talks and performances to enjoy. Originally, I had not been interested in attending at all since I go to museums and write review papers every week for my art class. But my roommate Patrick convinced me it would be a good idea to check out, mostly for the potential of free food!
We decided to go to a few of the art galleries down the street from the apartments. As we approached our first stop at the Ugly Art Gallery, a marching band suddenly emerged playing their instruments loud and clear, leaving behind a trail of streamers and confetti. There were lots of people lined outside the exhibits with balloons and all sorts of signs decorating the sidewalk.
We received a complementary Heineken upon our entry into the gallery. Walking around, my roommates and I casually observed the paintings and critiqued the ones we liked best. We then noticed that these paintings were worth thousands of dollars! I quickly attempted to be as sophisticated as possible, seeing that the people around were much older and very serious about the artwork. It was almost like being in an episode of Gossip Girl or something, I felt kind of cool and really important for a second. We visited a few other galleries and called it a night. The experience was definitely interesting, but we didn’t want to seem like obnoxious kids just playing around and trying to get free food and drinks.
Later that week it was back to reality in art class to see another boring museum. Surprisingly, we got more than we asked for and encountered a massive protest right by the gallery our class was walking to. It was apparently the international day of protest that has been called by the European Trade Union Confederation. All over Europe workers were protesting against austerity policies which placed the interests of bankers over citizens - destroying jobs and jeopardizing economic recovery.
Through my history class, visit to Northern Ireland, headlines in the news, and events like these, I’ve noticed how much passion the Irish have for their country. I don’t know if it has to do with being smaller in size, but countries in Europe seem much more united and devoted than in the states. The United States is so large in comparison, it’s hard to know about everything thats going with issues varying from one coast to the other. Between our massive size and time is money attitude, getting people to unite and fight for a cause on a local level is hard enough, let alone on a national one.
Anyways, we made it through the mass of people, we meet up with our teacher outside the museum. After she finished describing the exhibit and objective for the homework assignment, she told us how one of our fellow students was featured in the news paper. She told us how Patrick was on the front page of the Irish Times at a Culture Night gallery, and how after viewing it closely, you could see my other roommates and I in the background! I definitely felt semi-famous for a second there, it was pretty cool to be almost recognized on the front cover of an Irish newspaper.
Speaking of being famous, my roommates and I had an unexpected encounter with some Irish Reality TV stars. We were originally on our way to find the farmers market on Saturday, but somehow ended up walking in circles and getting lost in the process. The market was closing in less then an hour, so we decided to just go to the grocery store on the other side of the Liffey. On the way, we got distracted by an array of October Festival inspired tents with tons of delicious smelling food, enormous mugs of beer, and people dressed in old school German clothing. We couldn’t say no, and since we weren’t about to go to the real October Festival in Munich because of the crazy prices, this was the next best thing.
We got beers in oversized mugs and posted up at a table outside. While absorbing the unique culture and trying to understand the very traditional yet obnoxious German music, my roommate Lindsay grabbed my arm and in a surprisingly calm manner, told me to look over by one of the tents. As I scanned the area, I spotted two people that I recognized, but I couldn’t think of who they were. At first I thought they were teachers I had, or maybe the people who worked at the front desk of the apartments. I kept filing through faces in my head, and then suddenly it hit me. I said to Lindsay “Wait, is that who I think it is? No, its not. Wait, holy crap!”
It was two of the contestants (Louise and Paula) from the Irish Reality TV show we had been watching in our Social/Non-Profit Marketing class called Do The Right Thing. Lindsay and I couldn’t contain our excitement and debated going over to talk with them. She was really enthusiastic about it, but I wasn’t too sure of the idea thinking to myself A. what are we going to talk about/how do we even approach them without seeming like crazed people; and B. they technically didn’t really do anything and aren’t actually famous. Before we had a chance to even try, they walked out as fast as they walked in. In the next marketing class, we proudly told our teacher how we spotted some of the cast at the October Festival event. As usual, Lucy responded with an enthusiastic “thats brilliant!” The encounter made us feel slightly important for a second, we were pretty much almost famous after that.
Organizing a weekly schedule has been one of my biggest challenges so far. Having classes only on Tuesday and Wednesday, I have found it to be extremely hard to manage my time. Although I have ample opportunities to travel, things feel very off when I don’t have to start my week on a Monday. At times it can be really hard to focus in the apartments, and I can hardly get anything accomplished, so I started coming to the academic center on Monday and Tuesday mornings to get some homework done.
I really enjoy the atmosphere in the building. A restored Georgian house, it feels warm, welcoming, and very at home. Subtle details like the moldings on the ceilings and the hanging chandeliers in the classrooms give off a historic Irish vibe. The bright colored chairs and stools contrast against the white walls, making everything brighter. The desks in the classrooms are quiet small. They feel similar in size to a pull down try on an airplane, just big enough to cover the tops of your legs. However, it does force me to sit up straight and pay attention more since I can’t really lounge or get into a lazy position. It is very practical European furniture, reminding me of how I miss the over sized luxuries in American culture.
With that being said, my favorite room is on the top floor with the gigantic beanbags that comfortably form a mold around your body. I have been going there to get my work done early in the week while everyone else is either at home sleeping, or in the music class downstairs. Being stocked with tons of cozy fleece blankets, students including myself often go up there to take naps or doze off and listen to music. The basement is also a great spot to lounge with a bunch of couches and sleek nice flat screen TV. There are two kitchenette areas on the top and the basement floors with all kinds of mugs, plates, cups and other utensils. It’s nice to have when there is a break between classes to put a snack in the refrigerator or heat up some water to make hot chocolate or tea.
On a different note, something that has often been a concern for me throughout my college education is the small population and classroom size at Champlain. In this sense, I have felt that I could possibly be missing out on opportunities, educationally and socially, presented in larger academic settings. I was even skeptical about coming to a Champlain abroad program knowing this would apply more intensely with 50 students studying in one small building. Sitting in class, traveling, and living all in one unit, everyone knows a little too much about each other. I have personally felt very restricted being in this kind of environment, often times question myself and the decisions I’ve made that brought me here.
To deal with this confusion and feeling of uncertainty, I have spent a lot of time walking to school, shopping, getting groceries, grabbing a coffee, and doing other routinely chores on my own. Instead of chatting away with a friend about what is going on in Joe Cool’s love life on the way to school, I gave myself a chance to absorb everything going on around me. I watched the people that passed by me, noticed the changing leaves walking through St.Stephen’s Green, saw the array of colored doors on Lower Leesen Street, and laughed at how funny the men dressed in business suits looked riding bicycles to work. It’s too easy to get caught up in the chaos of everyday life, and sometimes we need to temporarily remove ourselves and appreciate the little things to gain clarity. I’ve learned there’s more to life then chasing down the answers to everything, and that I need to appreciate where I am and what I have been given thus far, letting things fall into place on their own.
Something I also feel is very important in my life is to take advantage of every opportunity given. Coming to Dublin, I feel that I have lost track of this concept in some areas. I have been focusing only on taking advantage of the opportunities to travel and try new things while being abroad, and not opportunities in my social or academic life. I let myself get stuck in the drama of the same people, and have negative feelings of regret about being “stuck” where I am. Pulling myself out of this mindset has not been easy, but I come to fully understand that the only person in control of my life is me, and that I am making these decisions and writing my own story. I am taking advantage of the opportunities around me, meeting people from other schools and making new connection with teachers. And if there’s one thing Champlain does better than any other college, its giving students the opportunity to make important connections.
Our operations manager Lilly has done a great job setting us up with other study abroad students through notifying us about events at local universities, as well as providing tips in Craic, our class newspaper. We have also received invites to meet volunteer organizations such as ADT Fourth World. They work in partnership with governments and NGOs to create the conditions necessary for people in extreme poverty to become active partners in the development of modern society. These kind of opportunities I feel are very important to take advantage of to meet new people and make connections that could really help out in the future.
I am also very impressed with my professors this semester. My cultural communications professor, Rotimi AdeBari, was the first black Mayor in Ireland. Born in Nigeria and currently immersed in the culture of Ireland, it’s a bit difficult to understand him when sometimes he sounds African, and other times he has an Irish accent. He has a lot to say and has many experiences to share with us in class. His perspective on culture is unlike any of our own, making him a suitable teacher for the class.
Paul Dervan teaches my Internet-Based Marketing class, and is currently O2 Ireland’s Brand and Marketing Manager (a European cellphone company). He really accentuates the importance of having hunger, knowledge, and curiosity in the field you study and is ultimately giving us the secrets to marketing ourselves to future employers. I feel that his class will play a huge part in helping me find a job after college. But other than being the scholarly man that he is, Paul has perfected the art of public speaking without showing a single tooth in his mouth. Having a full set of braces at the prime age of 30, he didn’t hesitate to inform us of this slight embarrassment the first day of class. I enjoy his sarcastic sense of humor, yet he is so nonchalant about it that I can’t tell if he is trying to make us laugh, or if I just find the way he says things to be entertaining.
My favorite class so far, Non-Profit and Social Marketing, is taught by Lucy Masterson. Having spent 16 years working in the advertising and brand consultancy industry, she has some very impressive marketing experience. She is a bit intimidating at first, and is very firm with students if she feels they are disrupting her class in any way. If you have your laptop open on Facebook or fall asleep in class, you can be sure that she will make it known that she doesn’t appreciate it. At the same time, she is very encouraging and has a lot of good knowledge to share. She tries to keep us as engaged, and has a good balance of teaching using lectures, movies, and projects. I like how anytime myself or other students speak in class discussions, she always respond with “thats brilliant, fantastic!” It makes me feel really smart, even if I say something that doesn’t make sense.
In the end, life is what you make of it. And no, Champlain is not this horrible place where you feel like your living on the island in Lost with no way out. Yes, it can get a little cliquey and some forget that we graduated high school three years ago, but there are endless opportunities surrounding you to be taken advantage of. You can choose to let things get to you, and feel down about yourself or where your at in life. But if you make a positive change and take advantage of the opportunities you are given, you never know where you might end up.
Having been in Dublin for three weeks now, I feel that I know it like the back of my hand. The Temple Bar area and Grafton Street have become the center of everything for the Champlain group so far, from shopping to partying. It’s convenient location makes it hard to resist. Being that it is a large tourist area, things are generally pretty expensive. I spent some time researching cheap places to go shopping for clothes, food, shoes, supplies, etc. and went out to try and find the best deals.
A great way I found to save money on groceries was to start shopping at the farmers markets. I went to the Moore Street Market near O’Connell Street and got tons a fruits and vegetables for nearly nothing. They have deals like 10 tomatoes for 2 Euro, 5 apples for 1 Euro, and 15 plums for 2 Euro. This can save you a TON of money. Normally I buy a packet of tomatoes for 2+ Euro, and it only comes with about 6. I recently read a book about the food industry and nutrition that made me give up meat, but there are also a bunch of butcher shops that sell fresh meat and seafood on the same street.
There is a lot of good shopping right around the same area on Mary Street. The Jarvis Shopping Center has some good stores like Bershka where you can get really cheap clothes. They have lots of basics like cardigans t-shirts for around 8-15 Euro, and really cute jackets and light raincoats that range from 15-45 Euro. If you go right around the corner to Henry Street, I found a lot of cheap shopping there as well. Awear is a British clothing store that has really good sales. Pull & Bear is another reasonable store. It’s a like mix between Abercrombie and Urban.
I also checked out the Soda area, which is all the little shops between Great George’s Street and Grafton. It has that Boho Chic feel to it, with lots of little cafes, vintage clothing stores, and vegetarian restaurants. I went to the Asian Food Market there and got tons of stuff for really cheap. You can get a huge bag of peanuts or cashews for only 7 Euro, when normally a very small bag is around 3 or 4 Euro. They have lots of fun Asian stuff like bubble tea and all the funny candy with little asian characters on the packaging. They sell tons of frozen seafood in bulk too. You can get a big bag of medium sized shrimp for 8 Euro. Tons of exotic fruits and vegetables are also available.
While on my money saving spree, I also booked all my trips for the semester. Ryanair and Aer Lingus had the best deals. A lot of the other site I found were very cluttered and confusing. But so far I’ve booked a flight to Belgium from October 15th-19th for 47.58 USD, round trip. Chocolate is my main priority while I’m there. Viator.com has a bunch of chocolate tours you can do where you can get free samples. I also booked a flight to London from November 5th-10th for 35.66 USD.
For Thanksgiving Break, were all going to Amsterdam for a fews days, and then I’m going to Germany. The flight to Amsterdam was 54.99 USD through Aer Lingus, and my flight home from Munich was only 31.53 USD through Ryanair. I haven’t figured out all the details with hostels and train rides yet, but I’m hoping to meet some local people to give me some advise as to where the best places to go are. I want to see all the big cities like Berlin and London, but I would like to travel outside to get more of a local/cultural experience.
Recently our group went to Western Ireland and stayed in Gallway and Doolin. We visited the Cliff’s of Moher first and the views were amazing. It was a bit rainy out, but the visit was still worth it. I really felt like I was in Ireland seeing the country side, and being out of the city congestion was very relaxing.
We did how ever go on the boat ride from hell to the Aran Islands. The water was extremely rough and people were throwing up everywhere! One lady on the ride back didn’t get a bag in time, and made a mess all over her sweater and dress. By some miracle of god I was able to hold it together, but it was definitely not easy seeing and hearing what was going on around me. Other than the excessive vomiting, the Island was beautiful. We climbed up to a castle and found a really old cemetery. There were horses grazing randomly throughout the island in stonewall pastures. A local woman was telling us about how everyone knows everything about each other on the island. One day her son apparently hurt his foot at school. Later that day, before she even found out about it, someone had asked her “so how is your son’s foot doing?”
Our last stop in Gallway was very short. We stayed at Snoozies Hostel in a room with 10 Champlain girls. It was a little overwhelming, but at least I know now when I book my trips to get a room with 4 or 6 people. The city reminded me a lot of Burlington, with college students roaming around everywhere. At the restaurant we ate at I got muscles which were delicious, and a hot brownie with ice cream on top for desert. After we went to a bar with live music and had a few drinks. I was too stuffed from dinner to stay out all night drinking with everyone, so we called it an early night.
Since arriving in Dublin about a week ago, it has been pretty easy to settle in. I’m generally a relaxed person, so I can’t say that I’ve experienced much culture shock since I’ve been here. At first Dublin seemed enormous, and nearly impossible to navigate around. After a few days of exploring, getting around got a lot easier. I found the smartest way to navigate is remembering landmarks, and to guide yourself around the “Liffy” (the river).
The local people have all been very friendly, and seem surprisingly interested in where I’m from and why I’m here. It’s a great conversation starter that usually leads into a few free drinks for me! I have although received some negativity from the people regarding the US. From what I’ve experienced, it seems that Europeans think there is a lot of corruption in the states that the people are ignorant of. I can defiantly agree with the lack of knowledge Americans have regarding the dynamics of our country. But when I get into these types of discussions, I try to explain how much of an impact our media plays in our culture, and how it is all interconnected from government agencies, to the food industry, to the multimillion dollar corporations that control everything. It isn’t that American’s are completely blind and don’t care, it’s just easier to recognize from the outside then on the inside.
One “culturally shocking” experience for me has been getting used to the traffic and driving. I never really know which way to look when I cross the street since they drive on the opposite side of the road, so I just look both ways a bunch of times. I noticed that they don’t really care either when you’re crossing the street, and won’t slow down, if anything they speed up!
Living in the Augustine Apartments has been a good experience so far, although it took three days for my roommates and I to move in. Inconveniently enough, the guests staying in our apartment prior to our arrival decided to stay a few extra days. It was a little disorganized living in my temporary room, and not being able to unpack was frustrating. In the end, it was worth the wait for the gorgeous view of Dublin, and to get the only apartment to have a window in the kitchen with a roof you can walk out on. Unfortunately for me, I cannot cook so I haven’t been able to enjoy the kitchen as much as everyone else. I actually tired making grilled cheese the first night for my roommates and ended up burning myself with hot oil.
Champlain’s academic building is bigger than I had thought, with 4 floors and a basement. There is lots of room for students to relax and do homework between classes. The desks are a bit small, but they are practical, which seems to be the trend in Europe. Bigger isn’t better and time isn’t money here like it is in the US. The walk to school is a bit of a trek, about 1.5 miles. Personally I enjoy it because it forces me to get some exercise and to experience more of the city that I may have not noticed if the academic center was right next to the apartments.
My first day of walking to class was an interesting experience to say the least. I was on time with about ten minutes till class, but about half way through the walk I started to realized that I was going completely off track. Traffic was stopped for the work rush, and I spotted a police car to ask for directions. When I told they I needed to be at Lower Leeson Street by nine, they said I wasn’t going to be able to make it, and that it was about 25 minutes from where I was. I acted really frantic in front of them, even though I really wasn’t that worried about being late, and asked them what to do. The policemen said they weren’t allowed to give me a ride unless I was arrested for some reason, but if I had money I could try to get a taxi. I told them I had no money and played up being upset about not making it to class. Eventually they caved and said “just get in the back.”
Although I can use my irresistible charm to get free rides and drinks, it is still dangerously easy to spend money around here. Groceries don’t seem too expensive, about the same as back home. If you really hunt down the good spots, you can get food for really cheap. I found a small Mediterranean store where I bought a package of pita bread for only 0.80! The majority of my money keeps disappearing on the weekends when I go out (sorry mom, sodas are really expensive here). Between club entry fees and buying drinks at the bar, it adds up very quickly. I’m starting to make a budget sheet to track my spending so can save it for traveling. Limiting myself to $100 to spend a week on groceries and entertainment, I hope by my next blog post to keep within the budget, and have some travel arrangements planned for the upcoming long weekend.
Reflection: Preparing for Champlain College Dublin theses past couple of weeks has made me realize how potentially life changing this experience could be. It has opened doors already to new connections with people in the most unexpected ways. A man I waited on at work started a conversation with me that lead into my upcoming trip. I reconnected with an old friend from high school who spent a summer in Ireland and gave me tips on things to see and places to visit. I even made a new friend with someone who grew up in my home town, yet we never officially met. He too had spent some time in Ireland and gave me good advice to help me get around the busy city.
This summer I have dedicated myself to work in preparation for all the money I will spend in Ireland. Working three different jobs, I haven’t had much time to really grasp the concept that my world is going to be completely flipped upside down. I’ve just been keeping focused on making enough money to take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way. Generally, I’ve been feeling pretty relaxed about the up coming semester abroad, and I am anticipating all the changes that are about to occur.
Interesting Facts To Know About Ireland: * The Irish consume in average 131.1 liters of beer per year - the 2nd highest per-capita consumption after the Czech Republic. * Famous Irish breweries include Guinness, Smithwicks (Kilkenny), and Harp Lager. * The three most famous symbols of Ireland are the green Shamrock, the harp, and the Celtic cross. * 88% of Irish citizens are nominally Roman Catholic. The Republic of Ireland has one of the highest rates of church attendance in the Western World (around 45% of regular Mass attendance). * The ancestral language of Irish people is Irish Gaelic. Nowadays 1.6 million people claiming a self-reported competence in Irish, but only 380,000 fluent speakers remain. * Ireland is one of the world leader for pop music, with singers and bands like Horslips, U2, Thin Lizzy, Boomtown Rats, The Corrs, Clannad, Boyzone, Ronan Keating, The Cranberries, Gilbert O’Sullivan, Westlife and Enya. Add to this artists of Irish descent like Paul McCartney, John Lennon and George Harrison of the Beatles, Liam Gallagher and Noel Gallagher of Oasis, Bruce Springsteen, or Johnny Rotten (lead singer of the Sex Pistols). * Notable Hollywood actors from the Republic of Ireland include Barry Fitzgerald, Maureen O’Sullivan, Richard Harris, Peter O’Toole, Pierce Brosnan, Gabriel Byrne, Daniel Day Lewis (by citizenship), Colm Meaney, Colin Farrell and Cillian Murphy. * Other actors or actresses of Irish descent include : Ben Affleck, Alec Baldwin, George Clooney, Macaulay Culkin, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Heather Graham, and Bill Murray. * Many Irish family names start with “Mac” or “O’…”, which means respectively “son of …” and “grandson of …” in Gaelic.
I stumbled upon this great website called menupages. It gives you reviews on restaurants, cafe’s, farmers markets, and more in all the different areas of dublin. Since I am on a budget, I wanted to find places that weren’t too expensive. The site rates how affordable the dining is, so I complied a list of a few places I want to try while I’m there.
Rotana Cafe: Lebanese -South Richmond Street, City Centre South -Soup, Falafels, Hummus,
Boojum: Mexican (A Boloco for the Irish) -Millenium Walkway, City Centre North -Burritos
The Steps of Rome: Italian -Chatham Court, City Centre South -Pizzas, Calzones, Salads, Omelettes, Pasta
Wagamama: Japanese -St.Stevens Green, South Kings Street, City Centre South -Noodle Soup, Rice Dishes
Traveling is something I really want to take advantage of during my stay in Dublin. I’ve been doing some research on interesting places to visit for students my age studying abroad. I made a list of the most frequently reccomended travel destinations in and around Europe with a few notes about each place.
*Amsterdam, The Netherlands -canals, parks and museums -scarce housing in the city
* Copenhage, Denmark -pricey -lots of cycling
*Bern, Switzerland -second safest city -lots of shopping
*Frankfurt, Germany -beautiful architecture -beware of heavy traffic
*Munich, Germany -1.3 million people -october fest
*Dusseldorf, Germany -fashion capital of germany -infrastructure, international transport connections -thriving economy, large companies
*Geneva, Switzerland -50% have foregin passports, international population -extensive international schools
*Vienna, Austria -excellent infrastructure -high quality housing
*Zurich, Switzerland -around 375,000 people -over 2,000 bars and restaurants -views of the apls and lake zurich -mediocure weather
*Other Intersting places to see in Switzerland* Interlockin, Luegano, St. Moritz
Some things I’ve experienced and learned since the start of my trip Ireland:
Packing -My bag was 70 lbs. (20 lbs. over the limit) and I was never charged -Used space bags from Wal-Mart for $5. Saved me about 10 or so inches worth of space. -Everyone was pretty jealous/amazed that I fit everything into one bag -I also got all of my toiletries before hand. It took up just enough space so that I have room to bring home souvenirs.
Airport -A lot of highway traffic coming from 95 South -Aer Lingus at Logan is easy to get through. -Security was pretty quick -The security guard made fun of me for shoving a jacket into my already overflowing bin of carryon items: “you really think thats gonna fit?”
Airplane -The flight attendants are really Irish -Tons of entertainment on the plane. Everyone has their own TV at their seat with video game options, movies, TV shows, music, and more. -More snack food options than normal: Pringles, chips, various sodas, liquors, energy drinks, etc. (although you are charged extra). -Passengers get a complimentary pillow, fleece blanket, and some kind of sanitation cloth velcroed to the head rest.