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Europe

Ireland is sick part three but this time it's November
This is a few days late but oh well, my bad. November started with me spending a few days with my parents showing them around Galway as they finished up their trip. That was great and super fun, we went to a couple of breweries/distilleries since my dad is a big ole’ beer geek himself. After they left, I had about a day or two to recoup, then my buddy Bryan came over from Alaska and we had a great week. We spent a few nights in Galway, then we took a ferry out to the Aran Islands, which holds the oldest sites in all of Ireland (and most of Europe) dating back to 1200 BC. Which was pretty epic. We rented bikes from this small town bike dealer, and biked around 15-20 miles in two days hitting every ancient fort and church on the way. We had some of the best weather they see all year as it was clear and sunny. It was absolutely nuts, we would ride bikes stop at a fort and check it out, grab a beer from the backpack, and stare at the massive ocean waves crash against cliffs a few hundred feet tall. We had a good little routine going by the end of the two days. We also had a stray dock dog follow us on our second day to all the stops. He was a happy old pup, he played fetched with rocks and loved lots of pets. After Bryan left, I had to really kick it in gear to get on top of my classes. I had to get all my classwork for the semester done early so I could skip class to go camping the last week of term with two more friends that were coming over. So the middle two weeks of November were spent writing papers, studying, taking some preliminary exams and all that other fun stuff. I played a few more rugby games on the weekends which was sweet. I earned a starting spot by the end of the semester so that was pretty cool. I’m looking forward to getting back and keeping up with it in MN. After those two weeks, two of my best friends from high school came over from Alaska. That was so fun, we enjoyed a few good nights in Galway catching up and picking up right where we left off. They were super pumped that it all worked out and they were grateful just to be here.  After finishing my only mandatory obligation for the week, (a final on Monday morning that I absolutely crushed but no biggie) we got on a bus and headed towards Killarney. Killarney is a small town south of Galway that is in a famous national park of Ireland. We stayed at a hostel called The Shire which was pretty sick because everything was Lord of the Rings themed. We woke up Tuesday morning and grabbed breakfast and started hiking into the national park. It was a pretty easy day, we only ended up going 6 miles in the day and it was flat for most of the hike. We found a sweet spot that harbored the lake and had a good view of the mountains and set up the tent. Much like in Scotland and Alaska, you can peel off just about anywhere and pitch a tent. The hike was super cool because it looked like the Murkwood in the Lord of Rings so we felt like hobbits the whole time which was a cool vibe. We hiked out the following morning, and got on the bus to go back home. Thursday was thanksgiving, so we had one last day of exploring Galway before they went home.  We splurged and had a 60 euro plate dinner to celebrate. Which was well worth it, it was amazing. After that we just watched football at my place and then they left the following morning. The Monday afterwards I got on a plane to Paris. Which was actually the first week of December but it was dope and I don’t want to wait another month to write about it. Paris was amazing. It’s big, extravagant and in your face just because it can be. It’s insane. Everyone says Parisans are stuck up and jerks and I think whoever started that rumor was a stuck up American tourist who brought their own culture to Paris instead of learning theirs. Because they aren’t if you just do things the French way and give some what of an effort. I don’t speak French but learning a few phrases goes a long way. People are much more willing to be friendly and helpful if you lead with “Bonjour, excusez moi, parlez vous anglais?”  instead of “WhErE’s THe EifFeL ToWeR?” French culture is very different and is not American  and if you come into it expecting it to be the same people are going to laugh at you and make fun of you, but rightly so. Tuesday I woke up, threw a bottle of wine and a baguette in my backpack and did all my tourist things and walked around the city a bunch. I had a cheese board with bread and wine in the Eiffel Tower and that was just wonderful. I’ve never tried the cheese and wine deal, and I didn’t really get it to be honest. But that experience changed that opinion for me. Cheese and wine are amazing together. After that I walked through the park across from the tower, sat on a bench and watched the sunset behind it and drank some more wine and ate more bread. That was a cool moment, I sat there for a good hour and just shut my phone off, prayed and thought about how incredibly nuts it is that I am here.  I am so grateful just to be here. Wednesday I didn’t have anything to do so I just walked around Paris for a bit and explored the city. I think that often times when people travel, they can become too obsessed with seeing all the sights and it can become more stressful than relaxing. I really like meeting people and traveling has provided some of the most unique opportunities for that. I have found, that by just having a rough draft and walking around and not having a set agenda you get a much more real picture of what it is like in that city. You get to experience the vibe of the city as it moves around you instead of you moving around it. I think that’s the way to do it personally. I could go on more and more about Paris because it was an insane 3 days. I met some sweet people in the hostel and at bars, I almost got stranded at 5 in the morning and missed my flight because of the strikes and ate a lot of bread and cheese. Actually, I only ate bread and cheese for three days. Which messed me up for a day or two but it was all worth it because it was the best bread and cheese I have ever had. I got home Thursday morning, had a rugby game on Saturday and church on Sunday. Advent in a 700 year old church is way cool. December is off to a pretty sweet start and I have no doubt it will wrap to be a lovely finish of my time abroad. I have exams all next week which should be fine and I’m not terribly worried for them. Then I spend 10 days in Germany for Christmas with the same host family I stayed with 4 years ago. Then fly out of Dublin Jan 1. It’s kind of surreal to think that this is already almost over. It doesn’t feel like that long at all, and I have just been happy to be here. Study abroad more. Get outside of your own head for a bit. It’s wonderful.   Alhrik Schommer          

 

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Ireland is still sick
I’m one day late but oh well. Second month in Ireland was epic. I am continually amazed by Irish culture. Life is so good. First weekend of the month I spent in Cork which is south of Galway and a pretty busy and bustling town. While there, a buddy and I went to the Blarney Castle and had a very cool day exploring the grounds as well as kissing the famed Blarney stone, which you have to duck under the outer wall at the top of the castle to get to. That was a splendid weekend. After that, I went to Scotland for 5 days with some of the best of lads which was very fun. Basically all our plans went out the window from the moment we touched down and we were left to hitch hike, take the bus, train or whatever else we could find to get to Loch Lomond. Once in Loch Lomond we hiked up into the mountains till we got tired and pitched a tent overlooking the whole lake. It was gorgeous. Scottish highcountry is incredible. Also, one of my buddies was planning on us having a rental car so he brought a roller suitcase, which we proceeded to hike up the mountain regardless, which was just plain hilarious. There weren’t any trails or anything so we accidentally ended up cutting through some public farm land and getting pretty close to lots of bulls and sheep. We spent two nights there then spent the last night back in Glasgow which is a very neat city. I ate haggis, which is the stomach lining of a sheep and black pudding, which is the pork leftovers ground up into a sausage soaked and dried in pigs blood. Both of which kind of rocked and would recommend eating if ever you are in Scotland.  There’s a lot more packed into that 5 days but those are the highlights. On weekends when I am not out of the country, I have rugby matches on Sunday afternoons and those have been very exciting. It works out pretty well and I usually just take a Thursday – Saturday to go somewhere. I am loving the sport and am the official second string backup for the NUIG B squad. I am now playing about a full half each game, and getting in the mix on plays more and more. It’s basically just a huge rush of adrenaline and you don’t feel anything until the next morning when your shoulders are all bruised up. It’s awesome. After Scotland I caught up on my school work and my parents came and visited. They spent the first week here touring by themselves while I was in class. I met up with them the second week and went up north to go to Connemara which is a gorgeous national park about an hour north of Galway. I went pub hopping with them a few nights which was very fun, they enjoy the live Irish music just as much as I do. The last night they were here was halloween and the downtown strip was an absolute zoo. It was very fun, very loud, very energetic, very rowdy and very safe. It was a great time. I also spent a weekend at a surf retreat with this student group called Agape. It is basically the European version of Cru in America. It was a blast, there was some great discussion, great people, big waves and lots of beer. That’s one thing I’ve really thought about here is just the amount of stigma around alcohol in America. It’s really not a big thing here, people go out and enjoy each other’s company and listen to music and good stories. Nobody is going out and compromising themselves and being belligerent. It’s a socially accepted and encouraged thing. It feels really refreshing to be treated like an adult and not have it be a big thing that you have to be baby sat over. Just don’t be stupid and know your limit. To be frank, I’ve found that there’s generally a lot less drama after a beer or two. Surfing was very cool, it was really cold. 32 degrees above with 15 mph winds but once you got a wet suit on and got in the water it was fine. The last two months have been jam packed full of activities and I have no doubt that the next two will be the same. I have friends coming over from Alaska for two separate weeks at the beginning and end of the month. Then I have finals and Christmas festivities the first two weeks of December. Then I am ending the semester spending 12 days in Germany with some friends that live there for Christmas. Ireland continues to amaze me. Everyday. The culture here is so fun, so relaxed, so approachable and so enjoyable. It is the only country I’ve been to that I really could see myself living here at some point. I am truly enjoying every day of this experience and am just thankful for the opportunity to be here. I am very fortunate to be at a place in my life where I can pick up and leave for four months. I can’t quite put it into words but it’s just very very very cool. I could go on and on about it but no matter how much I explain you won’t fully grasp it so I’ll just say you should go. Study abroad. Stop trying to control everything and just live in the present for a little bit. It’s a wild ride. Alhrik Schommer  

Kissing the Blarney Stone

Getting in the mix on the pitch. I’m number 11.

Downtown Glasgow

Hitch-hiking in Scotland

overlooking Loch Lomond

My parents and I pub hopping.

Sitting around the fire in Loch Lomond

our tent set up in Loch Lomond

Hiking in Scotland

 

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Ireland is sick and you should go
I’ve been in Ireland for a month now and it’s been just plain incredible. The Irish are some of the friendliest people I have ever met and they like to have fun. To be entirely honest, I’ve blown a lot of money but have also had an action packed month. I figure what good does money do sitting in a checking account. Win some, lose some. I’ve resorted to eating lots of rice and canned tuna, solely because the less money I spend on food, the more money I can spend on adventures. My first day in Ireland was spent getting lost in downtown Dublin with all my luggage because the uber dropped me off in the wrong spot and I didn’t have my phone set up yet. I met some new friends and eventually got it sorted out. I then spent the first two nights in a tent in a guy’s backyard in Dublin,(cheapest air bnb I could find) and that was a fun time. Got a little chilly at night but other than that it was plenty cozy for me. I spent the next day walking/wandering around downtown Dublin, going into the Guinness Brewery and the Jameson distillery, as well as seeing multiple castles. It was almost a 12 hour day of walking but it was worth every minute. Then I took the train to Galway and began classes. NUIG’s campus is right next to a pedestrian district called the Latin Quarter and there is always something to do. The night life is very cool, with lots of pubs to sit and listen to live Irish folk music every night! Since being in Galway, I have thrown myself into multiple new and challenging things, such as walking onto the rugby team. That’s been a hoot, and has kept me busy and active the last couple of weeks, as well as opened me up a very welcoming community that is the rugby team. I played for 15 mins in my first game last week and we have another match this weekend. It is also absolutely terrifying. I have also started playing Irish trad (folk) music on Monday nights at pubs and hotels. Long story short, I met a guy who knew a guy who said he could teach me how to play guitar for folk bands. After a little bit of practice they had me playing with them. That’s been a lot of fun and I have really enjoyed the experience. I went to the Cliffs of Moher a few weekends ago. That was truly an amazing sight, one of those must see places that Ireland has to offer. Absolutely gorgeous country, I could have used moher of that…………..sorry.  I have also joined the surfing club and plan to give that shot once that gets up and rolling. The church I started going to is celebrating their 700th anniversary in a few weeks and they are throwing a big festival. I am still trying to wrap my head around that. The Sunday morning services are filled with an amazing liturgy and some of the best choral music I’ve ever heard. I recently just got back from 3 days in Amsterdam with some friends. While there, I went to the Van Gogh Museum, Maritime Museum, Heineken Brewery and the Anne Frank house. I also met up with CSP grad, Holly Werning who was traveling around Europe and happened to be in Amsterdam at the same time. I also spent a lot of time biking around the many beautiful canals and streets of Amsterdam. I consumed a lot of waffles, the Dutch make dam good waffles………………..sorry again. Classes have been challenging but good, there are a lot of distractions being in an environment as culturally rich as this one but I know that I will be able to stay on top of my schoolwork if I continue to stay focused. I signed up for a class titled Kant’s Theoretical Philosophy because it sounded interesting, turns out it’s a senior level philosophy class that I am very ill prepared for. I simply Kant understand it……………….0-3 on the puns. However, it has been a very fun challenge and I am planning on sticking it out for the semester because I do enjoy the material while it is difficult. I have met some really cool people from all over the world in the last month and have increased the number couches in foreign countries that I can crash on for a night or two. I have also had a lot of time to myself to think, read and reflect on things, and that has been some superb solitude. I have really been thinking a lot about how often I self induce stress on myself and by getting out of my own head once in awhile, I can enjoy the now. I’ve found that usually it all boils down to little things that aren’t mission critical anyway. Along with this, I have felt extremely grateful just to be here and I think that gratitude is something American college students are generally pretty bad at, myself included. I think it’s often easier to focus on a small thing and turn it into a big thing and get bent out of shape over it. I have found that by just stopping for a minute and taking a step back, I can be content with being content. The next big adventure, is a trip to Scotland. While doing research, I found out that you can camp anywhere in a national park without a permit or campsite (much like you can in Alaska but that’s beside the point), so I booked a rental car and plan to spend 4 days of driving to a different national park, hiking till my buddies and I get tired, pitching a hammock and sleeping. Wake up and repeat. This way I don’t have to pay for a hostel! The locations aren’t set yet but so far I’ve been giddy with just the idea of sleeping on the shores of Loch Lomond and Loch Ness. It should be epic. I still think it’s incredible how cheap the flights are around Europe, it’s ridiculous. All in all, it has been unreal, and I feel blessed to be here every day. It’s hard to believe that it has already been a month. If you’re reading this and are thinking about traveling abroad, pull the trigger and just do it. The logistical work will all fall into place easily enough. Don’t stress about it, sign the paperwork and get on a plane and figure it out as you go. You won’t regret it.   Alhrik Schommer        

Cliffs of Moher

Wandering around Dublin.

This was on the shores of  Doolin, north of Galway

Moher cliffs

Canals in Amsterdam

This is the tent I slept in for 2 nights in Dublin.

Salthill beach, just about a mile south of campus

The side of my NEW 700 year old church

Christ Church in Dublin



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Herräng, Strängnäs, Stockholm and Me
Well, this sums up a lot of my trip. Beautiful dancing, singing, acting, and puppies. I spent a lot of my time in Herräng, but I visited Stockholm and Strängnäs, which Strängnäs has a beautiful cathedral with a giant organ system inside of it. Herräng Dance Camp is a literal camp, but it is the perfect way to get started, or even further your image as a dancer and human being. Confronting your irrationalities, and making them rationalities. Saying yes, and also really saying no. Becoming a better musician. Learning skills you never even thought you would touch. Also, just being able to fully involve yourself in something, knowing it will make you better.

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My Thoughts on Dublin
I would love to say that I learned so more about the differences between the approach to mental health in Ireland and the United States, but honestly I learned more about myself. This may sound cheesey, but I am far more resilient and brave than I thought I was. I know most of you are going to say, “Alyssa, you traveled to another country. Obviously you are brave.” But this trip put me so far out of comfort zone at times. I am proud of myself for sticking with it. I also learned that I have a way with people. A lot of the clientele at my internship had addictions, mental illness, or both. I was often able to help with calming down some clients when they were in the throes of a mental breakdown. They often later said that I had a patient way of helping them through it that some of the other staff members didn’t. I had a lot of fun learning while I was there. It is a lot easier to see the signs and symptoms of mental illnesses and distinguish between them when you are surrounded by them than just reading about them in a book.

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Herräng Dance Camp
A joy filled wonder that anyone who has studied dance should experience at least once. Vernacular jazz dancing at its finest. I have had a ton of fun, and took over 60 different dance classes, learning from some of the best in the world. The camp setting is great, and I am doing my best to stay afloat with all the social interaction, but I am thriving. This has been an amazing trip. The most that I have learned it to take care of myself, and work on the stuff that is keeping me from progressing.

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Snippets from Paros, Greece
I have been in Greece for a little over a week now, and it is hard to put into words just how beautiful the sights are. Each day has brought new experiences, bright friendships, and fresh food. Although I have been journaling every day, I wanted to take some time to publicly share a few snippets of what it is like to study on a Greek Island. First thing I noticed about Paros is that everyone is beyond friendly! The people in the shops along the waterfront smile and wave, thanking me for coming to their beloved island. These greetings make it easy for this place to feel like home. Along with the kind greetings, I have noticed that each body type is loved here. There isn’t pressure to be a certain weight or to look a specific way. Everyone is cherished. Class takes place in a tiny classroom in a nook off of a small cobblestone path. I am studying creative writing, so I write stories daily. Around 5pm, my class and I partake in a writer’s workshop for two hours, critiquing each other’s pieces. One of my professors kind of reminds me of Meryl Streep — which is making all of my Mamma Mia dreams come true. Meals here have the potential to last to two hours. Many dishes come out and are served family style. I have tried moussaka, mussels, octopus, calamari, fried goat cheese, feta, Greek salad, gyros, souvlaki, banoffee, baklava, and so much more! Something that has been slightly frustrating for my group and I is that waiters do not like splitting the bill. We now know that when we go out we should bring small bills rather than a card in order to pay. Another part of the studying is exploring the different islands and the archeology that takes place there. In Paros, I have gone to the marble quarries and small villages that are home to some stunning churches. I learned that the roads are so windy and curvy to fight off any piracy. Back in the day, the different towns would make mazes with their roads to confuse the pirates trying to invade. In Santorini, we explored the sight of Akrotiri, a place that was attacked with volcanic ash and stone greater than Pompeii.  I still have a couple more excursions to Antiparos, Mykonos, Delos, and Naxos, so there is more adventure to come! Here are a few snap shots:

This is the tiny street to my classroom.

This is where I am staying in Paros.

Having a blast in Greece!

This is my walk back home from class along the Aegean Sea.

A Santorini sunset

Thanks for following me on my journey around Greece! Kalynn Fuller

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Last Month of Class!

May was a busy month for me! We only had class the first week before our school’s exam period started. During this period, we have no classes as they want you to use the time to study. I had three classes with papers for our final and only one with an exam. The exam environment was also so different to the one I’m used to! They have it in a big hall and assign you a desk to take it. They have multiple proctors during it, and make you place your student ID onto the desk for them to check and sign a registry! I had to use the washroom and instead of just being able to go, I had to be escorted by someone all the way into the washroom and she then stood outside the stall! I was shocked that they take their exams this way. It was very stressful because the papers account for 100% of my grade! I had one paper that needed a word count of 6,000- I have no ideas how I pulled that one off! May was also the month of Ramadan, so on top of all of this, I was fasting as well! The fasts here were pretty long and averaged about 18 hours! I tried to visit some family to get good home-cooked meals, but I was only able to go twice since my schedule was so hectic. I also had a friend fasting with me for a portion of the month, so that was nice of her and made me feel less alone. One of my friends from Concordia also came to visit me during this time! It was so nice to have someone from home around. She also really wanted to go to Italy while she was there so after much debating, I finally gave in and we booked flights for the next day! It was definitely my most spontaneous trip, but we had the best time! I even got to recreate one of my Mom’s pictures from when she lived there! 

My mom when she lived in Milan.

Me copying my mom’s photo!

Me in Milan!

I’m sad the semester is done, but also happy that I’m done with all the work I had to do! I’m in Morocco again right now and will back in London mid-june and stay for another month. I’m excited to be able to explore without the stress of school! 

 

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Spring Break Abroad!

April was very packed for me! I started the month in Bordeaux, France with my friend Sophia. It was a very cute city and where we were staying was very French, complete with a cute little balcony. We ate baguettes and cheese and walked around a lot! We also went to this really good restaurant that made me start to think of food as an experience. It was truly gastronomic and I keep thinking about their lemon tart… 

Street in Bordeaux.

Statue of Alexander the Great in Greece.

I then went to Thessaloniki, Greece for a Gilman Summit! It was run by the US State Department in collaboration with Fulbright. I got to meet so many amazing, genuine people and it was definitely an experience I will always be fond of. We toured the city as well as some businesses there and met with a lot of local government officials as well as the US Ambassador to Greece! We were able to talk about a wide array of topics from the Syrian refugee crisis and the Greek economy to how to become an Ambassador to a country like Greece (Hint: You either put in 20+ years of hard work and luck out by handling a big problem or you donate a lot of money to a presidential campaign). 

Gilman Scholars at the event in Thessaloniki.

Gilman Scholars with Geoffrey Pyatt, the US Ambassador to Greece.

I then went to Marrakech, Morocco where I met up with my good friend and flatmate, Yasmine! She is from there so we stayed with her and she showed me and my friend around. It is really a different life there since the culture is so different. Everyone drives really fast and the only way to get to where you’re going is by knowing in advance how to get to where you’re going! We were so lucky to have someone to be able to drive us around and do the talking for us so we didn’t get ripped off at places like the old market. It was also so hot there! It was hot in Greece as well, but we were near a body of water there so there was a nice breeze. In Marrakech, there is no body of water and when the sun is on you, it is ON you! I could literally feel every degree of heat and it was only in the 80s! 

Market in the Old City.

Majorelle Gardens.

Old City Market.

Exploring was fun, but now I need to get back to reality as all my coursework for all my classes are due and it’s exam season! I am looking forward to that being over! 

Until next time. 



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Dublin: Who knew right?!
The first few days in Dublin have been absolutely amazing! I flew out on Tuesday evening and arived on Wednesday around noon. The time difference has been a little weird but I am finally getting over my jet lag. We spent a few days doing orientation and getting used to the city. On Friday, we wen’t out on our own to find our internship sites. I got a little bit on my way but the people around the city were so helpful and I eventually found my way there. Yesterday, the group went on a guided tour of Northern Ireland. It was absolutely amazing! We went and saw the city of Belfast which is still in quite a lot of conflict with the Brexit situation. It was amazing to hear about the situation the city is still in even though the Peace wall has been up for 21 years. I would be terrified to live there but the people are so confident in themselves. Our tour guide was alive during the conflict and has actually received a few death threats just for doing his job. We also toured the Giant’s Causeway, I’ll let you decide what created the Causeway, the Giants or science ;),  and walked over the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. It is 30 meters high and, yes, I actually did go over it. I may have freaked out the entire way across, but I didn’t let my fear of heights get the best of me. Was quite proud of myself afterwards.

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Ireland is sick part three but this time it's November
This is a few days late but oh well, my bad. November started with me spending a few days with my parents showing them around Galway as they finished up their trip. That was great and super fun, we went to a couple of breweries/distilleries since my dad is a big ole’ beer geek himself. After they left, I had about a day or two to recoup, then my buddy Bryan came over from Alaska and we had a great week. We spent a few nights in Galway, then we took a ferry out to the Aran Islands, which holds the oldest sites in all of Ireland (and most of Europe) dating back to 1200 BC. Which was pretty epic. We rented bikes from this small town bike dealer, and biked around 15-20 miles in two days hitting every ancient fort and church on the way. We had some of the best weather they see all year as it was clear and sunny. It was absolutely nuts, we would ride bikes stop at a fort and check it out, grab a beer from the backpack, and stare at the massive ocean waves crash against cliffs a few hundred feet tall. We had a good little routine going by the end of the two days. We also had a stray dock dog follow us on our second day to all the stops. He was a happy old pup, he played fetched with rocks and loved lots of pets. After Bryan left, I had to really kick it in gear to get on top of my classes. I had to get all my classwork for the semester done early so I could skip class to go camping the last week of term with two more friends that were coming over. So the middle two weeks of November were spent writing papers, studying, taking some preliminary exams and all that other fun stuff. I played a few more rugby games on the weekends which was sweet. I earned a starting spot by the end of the semester so that was pretty cool. I’m looking forward to getting back and keeping up with it in MN. After those two weeks, two of my best friends from high school came over from Alaska. That was so fun, we enjoyed a few good nights in Galway catching up and picking up right where we left off. They were super pumped that it all worked out and they were grateful just to be here.  After finishing my only mandatory obligation for the week, (a final on Monday morning that I absolutely crushed but no biggie) we got on a bus and headed towards Killarney. Killarney is a small town south of Galway that is in a famous national park of Ireland. We stayed at a hostel called The Shire which was pretty sick because everything was Lord of the Rings themed. We woke up Tuesday morning and grabbed breakfast and started hiking into the national park. It was a pretty easy day, we only ended up going 6 miles in the day and it was flat for most of the hike. We found a sweet spot that harbored the lake and had a good view of the mountains and set up the tent. Much like in Scotland and Alaska, you can peel off just about anywhere and pitch a tent. The hike was super cool because it looked like the Murkwood in the Lord of Rings so we felt like hobbits the whole time which was a cool vibe. We hiked out the following morning, and got on the bus to go back home. Thursday was thanksgiving, so we had one last day of exploring Galway before they went home.  We splurged and had a 60 euro plate dinner to celebrate. Which was well worth it, it was amazing. After that we just watched football at my place and then they left the following morning. The Monday afterwards I got on a plane to Paris. Which was actually the first week of December but it was dope and I don’t want to wait another month to write about it. Paris was amazing. It’s big, extravagant and in your face just because it can be. It’s insane. Everyone says Parisans are stuck up and jerks and I think whoever started that rumor was a stuck up American tourist who brought their own culture to Paris instead of learning theirs. Because they aren’t if you just do things the French way and give some what of an effort. I don’t speak French but learning a few phrases goes a long way. People are much more willing to be friendly and helpful if you lead with “Bonjour, excusez moi, parlez vous anglais?”  instead of “WhErE’s THe EifFeL ToWeR?” French culture is very different and is not American  and if you come into it expecting it to be the same people are going to laugh at you and make fun of you, but rightly so. Tuesday I woke up, threw a bottle of wine and a baguette in my backpack and did all my tourist things and walked around the city a bunch. I had a cheese board with bread and wine in the Eiffel Tower and that was just wonderful. I’ve never tried the cheese and wine deal, and I didn’t really get it to be honest. But that experience changed that opinion for me. Cheese and wine are amazing together. After that I walked through the park across from the tower, sat on a bench and watched the sunset behind it and drank some more wine and ate more bread. That was a cool moment, I sat there for a good hour and just shut my phone off, prayed and thought about how incredibly nuts it is that I am here.  I am so grateful just to be here. Wednesday I didn’t have anything to do so I just walked around Paris for a bit and explored the city. I think that often times when people travel, they can become too obsessed with seeing all the sights and it can become more stressful than relaxing. I really like meeting people and traveling has provided some of the most unique opportunities for that. I have found, that by just having a rough draft and walking around and not having a set agenda you get a much more real picture of what it is like in that city. You get to experience the vibe of the city as it moves around you instead of you moving around it. I think that’s the way to do it personally. I could go on more and more about Paris because it was an insane 3 days. I met some sweet people in the hostel and at bars, I almost got stranded at 5 in the morning and missed my flight because of the strikes and ate a lot of bread and cheese. Actually, I only ate bread and cheese for three days. Which messed me up for a day or two but it was all worth it because it was the best bread and cheese I have ever had. I got home Thursday morning, had a rugby game on Saturday and church on Sunday. Advent in a 700 year old church is way cool. December is off to a pretty sweet start and I have no doubt it will wrap to be a lovely finish of my time abroad. I have exams all next week which should be fine and I’m not terribly worried for them. Then I spend 10 days in Germany for Christmas with the same host family I stayed with 4 years ago. Then fly out of Dublin Jan 1. It’s kind of surreal to think that this is already almost over. It doesn’t feel like that long at all, and I have just been happy to be here. Study abroad more. Get outside of your own head for a bit. It’s wonderful.   Alhrik Schommer          

 

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Ireland is still sick
I’m one day late but oh well. Second month in Ireland was epic. I am continually amazed by Irish culture. Life is so good. First weekend of the month I spent in Cork which is south of Galway and a pretty busy and bustling town. While there, a buddy and I went to the Blarney Castle and had a very cool day exploring the grounds as well as kissing the famed Blarney stone, which you have to duck under the outer wall at the top of the castle to get to. That was a splendid weekend. After that, I went to Scotland for 5 days with some of the best of lads which was very fun. Basically all our plans went out the window from the moment we touched down and we were left to hitch hike, take the bus, train or whatever else we could find to get to Loch Lomond. Once in Loch Lomond we hiked up into the mountains till we got tired and pitched a tent overlooking the whole lake. It was gorgeous. Scottish highcountry is incredible. Also, one of my buddies was planning on us having a rental car so he brought a roller suitcase, which we proceeded to hike up the mountain regardless, which was just plain hilarious. There weren’t any trails or anything so we accidentally ended up cutting through some public farm land and getting pretty close to lots of bulls and sheep. We spent two nights there then spent the last night back in Glasgow which is a very neat city. I ate haggis, which is the stomach lining of a sheep and black pudding, which is the pork leftovers ground up into a sausage soaked and dried in pigs blood. Both of which kind of rocked and would recommend eating if ever you are in Scotland.  There’s a lot more packed into that 5 days but those are the highlights. On weekends when I am not out of the country, I have rugby matches on Sunday afternoons and those have been very exciting. It works out pretty well and I usually just take a Thursday – Saturday to go somewhere. I am loving the sport and am the official second string backup for the NUIG B squad. I am now playing about a full half each game, and getting in the mix on plays more and more. It’s basically just a huge rush of adrenaline and you don’t feel anything until the next morning when your shoulders are all bruised up. It’s awesome. After Scotland I caught up on my school work and my parents came and visited. They spent the first week here touring by themselves while I was in class. I met up with them the second week and went up north to go to Connemara which is a gorgeous national park about an hour north of Galway. I went pub hopping with them a few nights which was very fun, they enjoy the live Irish music just as much as I do. The last night they were here was halloween and the downtown strip was an absolute zoo. It was very fun, very loud, very energetic, very rowdy and very safe. It was a great time. I also spent a weekend at a surf retreat with this student group called Agape. It is basically the European version of Cru in America. It was a blast, there was some great discussion, great people, big waves and lots of beer. That’s one thing I’ve really thought about here is just the amount of stigma around alcohol in America. It’s really not a big thing here, people go out and enjoy each other’s company and listen to music and good stories. Nobody is going out and compromising themselves and being belligerent. It’s a socially accepted and encouraged thing. It feels really refreshing to be treated like an adult and not have it be a big thing that you have to be baby sat over. Just don’t be stupid and know your limit. To be frank, I’ve found that there’s generally a lot less drama after a beer or two. Surfing was very cool, it was really cold. 32 degrees above with 15 mph winds but once you got a wet suit on and got in the water it was fine. The last two months have been jam packed full of activities and I have no doubt that the next two will be the same. I have friends coming over from Alaska for two separate weeks at the beginning and end of the month. Then I have finals and Christmas festivities the first two weeks of December. Then I am ending the semester spending 12 days in Germany with some friends that live there for Christmas. Ireland continues to amaze me. Everyday. The culture here is so fun, so relaxed, so approachable and so enjoyable. It is the only country I’ve been to that I really could see myself living here at some point. I am truly enjoying every day of this experience and am just thankful for the opportunity to be here. I am very fortunate to be at a place in my life where I can pick up and leave for four months. I can’t quite put it into words but it’s just very very very cool. I could go on and on about it but no matter how much I explain you won’t fully grasp it so I’ll just say you should go. Study abroad. Stop trying to control everything and just live in the present for a little bit. It’s a wild ride. Alhrik Schommer  

Kissing the Blarney Stone

Getting in the mix on the pitch. I’m number 11.

Downtown Glasgow

Hitch-hiking in Scotland

overlooking Loch Lomond

My parents and I pub hopping.

Sitting around the fire in Loch Lomond

our tent set up in Loch Lomond

Hiking in Scotland

 

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Ireland is sick and you should go
I’ve been in Ireland for a month now and it’s been just plain incredible. The Irish are some of the friendliest people I have ever met and they like to have fun. To be entirely honest, I’ve blown a lot of money but have also had an action packed month. I figure what good does money do sitting in a checking account. Win some, lose some. I’ve resorted to eating lots of rice and canned tuna, solely because the less money I spend on food, the more money I can spend on adventures. My first day in Ireland was spent getting lost in downtown Dublin with all my luggage because the uber dropped me off in the wrong spot and I didn’t have my phone set up yet. I met some new friends and eventually got it sorted out. I then spent the first two nights in a tent in a guy’s backyard in Dublin,(cheapest air bnb I could find) and that was a fun time. Got a little chilly at night but other than that it was plenty cozy for me. I spent the next day walking/wandering around downtown Dublin, going into the Guinness Brewery and the Jameson distillery, as well as seeing multiple castles. It was almost a 12 hour day of walking but it was worth every minute. Then I took the train to Galway and began classes. NUIG’s campus is right next to a pedestrian district called the Latin Quarter and there is always something to do. The night life is very cool, with lots of pubs to sit and listen to live Irish folk music every night! Since being in Galway, I have thrown myself into multiple new and challenging things, such as walking onto the rugby team. That’s been a hoot, and has kept me busy and active the last couple of weeks, as well as opened me up a very welcoming community that is the rugby team. I played for 15 mins in my first game last week and we have another match this weekend. It is also absolutely terrifying. I have also started playing Irish trad (folk) music on Monday nights at pubs and hotels. Long story short, I met a guy who knew a guy who said he could teach me how to play guitar for folk bands. After a little bit of practice they had me playing with them. That’s been a lot of fun and I have really enjoyed the experience. I went to the Cliffs of Moher a few weekends ago. That was truly an amazing sight, one of those must see places that Ireland has to offer. Absolutely gorgeous country, I could have used moher of that…………..sorry.  I have also joined the surfing club and plan to give that shot once that gets up and rolling. The church I started going to is celebrating their 700th anniversary in a few weeks and they are throwing a big festival. I am still trying to wrap my head around that. The Sunday morning services are filled with an amazing liturgy and some of the best choral music I’ve ever heard. I recently just got back from 3 days in Amsterdam with some friends. While there, I went to the Van Gogh Museum, Maritime Museum, Heineken Brewery and the Anne Frank house. I also met up with CSP grad, Holly Werning who was traveling around Europe and happened to be in Amsterdam at the same time. I also spent a lot of time biking around the many beautiful canals and streets of Amsterdam. I consumed a lot of waffles, the Dutch make dam good waffles………………..sorry again. Classes have been challenging but good, there are a lot of distractions being in an environment as culturally rich as this one but I know that I will be able to stay on top of my schoolwork if I continue to stay focused. I signed up for a class titled Kant’s Theoretical Philosophy because it sounded interesting, turns out it’s a senior level philosophy class that I am very ill prepared for. I simply Kant understand it……………….0-3 on the puns. However, it has been a very fun challenge and I am planning on sticking it out for the semester because I do enjoy the material while it is difficult. I have met some really cool people from all over the world in the last month and have increased the number couches in foreign countries that I can crash on for a night or two. I have also had a lot of time to myself to think, read and reflect on things, and that has been some superb solitude. I have really been thinking a lot about how often I self induce stress on myself and by getting out of my own head once in awhile, I can enjoy the now. I’ve found that usually it all boils down to little things that aren’t mission critical anyway. Along with this, I have felt extremely grateful just to be here and I think that gratitude is something American college students are generally pretty bad at, myself included. I think it’s often easier to focus on a small thing and turn it into a big thing and get bent out of shape over it. I have found that by just stopping for a minute and taking a step back, I can be content with being content. The next big adventure, is a trip to Scotland. While doing research, I found out that you can camp anywhere in a national park without a permit or campsite (much like you can in Alaska but that’s beside the point), so I booked a rental car and plan to spend 4 days of driving to a different national park, hiking till my buddies and I get tired, pitching a hammock and sleeping. Wake up and repeat. This way I don’t have to pay for a hostel! The locations aren’t set yet but so far I’ve been giddy with just the idea of sleeping on the shores of Loch Lomond and Loch Ness. It should be epic. I still think it’s incredible how cheap the flights are around Europe, it’s ridiculous. All in all, it has been unreal, and I feel blessed to be here every day. It’s hard to believe that it has already been a month. If you’re reading this and are thinking about traveling abroad, pull the trigger and just do it. The logistical work will all fall into place easily enough. Don’t stress about it, sign the paperwork and get on a plane and figure it out as you go. You won’t regret it.   Alhrik Schommer        

Cliffs of Moher

Wandering around Dublin.

This was on the shores of  Doolin, north of Galway

Moher cliffs

Canals in Amsterdam

This is the tent I slept in for 2 nights in Dublin.

Salthill beach, just about a mile south of campus

The side of my NEW 700 year old church

Christ Church in Dublin



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Herräng, Strängnäs, Stockholm and Me
Well, this sums up a lot of my trip. Beautiful dancing, singing, acting, and puppies. I spent a lot of my time in Herräng, but I visited Stockholm and Strängnäs, which Strängnäs has a beautiful cathedral with a giant organ system inside of it. Herräng Dance Camp is a literal camp, but it is the perfect way to get started, or even further your image as a dancer and human being. Confronting your irrationalities, and making them rationalities. Saying yes, and also really saying no. Becoming a better musician. Learning skills you never even thought you would touch. Also, just being able to fully involve yourself in something, knowing it will make you better.

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My Thoughts on Dublin
I would love to say that I learned so more about the differences between the approach to mental health in Ireland and the United States, but honestly I learned more about myself. This may sound cheesey, but I am far more resilient and brave than I thought I was. I know most of you are going to say, “Alyssa, you traveled to another country. Obviously you are brave.” But this trip put me so far out of comfort zone at times. I am proud of myself for sticking with it. I also learned that I have a way with people. A lot of the clientele at my internship had addictions, mental illness, or both. I was often able to help with calming down some clients when they were in the throes of a mental breakdown. They often later said that I had a patient way of helping them through it that some of the other staff members didn’t. I had a lot of fun learning while I was there. It is a lot easier to see the signs and symptoms of mental illnesses and distinguish between them when you are surrounded by them than just reading about them in a book.

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Herräng Dance Camp
A joy filled wonder that anyone who has studied dance should experience at least once. Vernacular jazz dancing at its finest. I have had a ton of fun, and took over 60 different dance classes, learning from some of the best in the world. The camp setting is great, and I am doing my best to stay afloat with all the social interaction, but I am thriving. This has been an amazing trip. The most that I have learned it to take care of myself, and work on the stuff that is keeping me from progressing.

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Snippets from Paros, Greece
I have been in Greece for a little over a week now, and it is hard to put into words just how beautiful the sights are. Each day has brought new experiences, bright friendships, and fresh food. Although I have been journaling every day, I wanted to take some time to publicly share a few snippets of what it is like to study on a Greek Island. First thing I noticed about Paros is that everyone is beyond friendly! The people in the shops along the waterfront smile and wave, thanking me for coming to their beloved island. These greetings make it easy for this place to feel like home. Along with the kind greetings, I have noticed that each body type is loved here. There isn’t pressure to be a certain weight or to look a specific way. Everyone is cherished. Class takes place in a tiny classroom in a nook off of a small cobblestone path. I am studying creative writing, so I write stories daily. Around 5pm, my class and I partake in a writer’s workshop for two hours, critiquing each other’s pieces. One of my professors kind of reminds me of Meryl Streep — which is making all of my Mamma Mia dreams come true. Meals here have the potential to last to two hours. Many dishes come out and are served family style. I have tried moussaka, mussels, octopus, calamari, fried goat cheese, feta, Greek salad, gyros, souvlaki, banoffee, baklava, and so much more! Something that has been slightly frustrating for my group and I is that waiters do not like splitting the bill. We now know that when we go out we should bring small bills rather than a card in order to pay. Another part of the studying is exploring the different islands and the archeology that takes place there. In Paros, I have gone to the marble quarries and small villages that are home to some stunning churches. I learned that the roads are so windy and curvy to fight off any piracy. Back in the day, the different towns would make mazes with their roads to confuse the pirates trying to invade. In Santorini, we explored the sight of Akrotiri, a place that was attacked with volcanic ash and stone greater than Pompeii.  I still have a couple more excursions to Antiparos, Mykonos, Delos, and Naxos, so there is more adventure to come! Here are a few snap shots:

This is the tiny street to my classroom.

This is where I am staying in Paros.

Having a blast in Greece!

This is my walk back home from class along the Aegean Sea.

A Santorini sunset

Thanks for following me on my journey around Greece! Kalynn Fuller

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Dublin: Who knew right?!
The first few days in Dublin have been absolutely amazing! I flew out on Tuesday evening and arived on Wednesday around noon. The time difference has been a little weird but I am finally getting over my jet lag. We spent a few days doing orientation and getting used to the city. On Friday, we wen’t out on our own to find our internship sites. I got a little bit on my way but the people around the city were so helpful and I eventually found my way there. Yesterday, the group went on a guided tour of Northern Ireland. It was absolutely amazing! We went and saw the city of Belfast which is still in quite a lot of conflict with the Brexit situation. It was amazing to hear about the situation the city is still in even though the Peace wall has been up for 21 years. I would be terrified to live there but the people are so confident in themselves. Our tour guide was alive during the conflict and has actually received a few death threats just for doing his job. We also toured the Giant’s Causeway, I’ll let you decide what created the Causeway, the Giants or science ;),  and walked over the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. It is 30 meters high and, yes, I actually did go over it. I may have freaked out the entire way across, but I didn’t let my fear of heights get the best of me. Was quite proud of myself afterwards.

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