Go Raibh Maith Agat, Eiré

Parting time always come sooner than I thought it would. After my last post, I had to immediately immerse myself into studying for the final exam of perhaps what’s my hardest class at UCD this semester that is worth 70% of my grade. After going over 8 chapters of materials, 7 tutorials and 6 years of past final exams, I find myself sitting down in my room at 4:30 AM in the morning finally probably getting what most of the tests are about. I took a deep breath and a nap and got up again at 6:30.

And the exam was surprisingly easy. There were a lot of repeats from the materials from years before that was easily nailable, and I finished an hour in advance. Despite a couple of definitions questions that I am not so sure of, my academic time at UCD has came to an end just like that. Not even at 11AM.

And the next 72 hours went like a whirlwind. I went down to Dun Laoghaire for one last time with Kathleen who was there for the first time! And then, I parted ways with the group that I travel everywhere to with by drinking some Irish whiskey and shouting Slainté till 4AM in the morning (I was already passed out since I got so little sleep during the day). Went down to Bewley’s Cafe for one last time with my friend Amin in choir, and down to Bray for one last time with Amin and Dredd, and then headed back to UCD for a nap before hitting the road again to see Mark and Annie (on the trip to Morocco). Went down to RIAM for one last piano lesson with Lance, spent a girls night with Michelle and Waki from our group in Information Ethics one last time (kudos for them for calming me down for dealing with last minute leaving things, making breakfast, giving me a lift and making me laugh through the night!).

It is scary to think that I might never see some of those people, ever, again. There are also a couple of people that I haven’t got to see because of exam arrangements (and me assuming that no one I know would have exams on the last day of exams). But hey, there are always imperfect things in life, and that’s what makes life life. By the end of the day, it’s all a matter of perspective and I will get to see some people back in the States after all 🙂

“Everybody is feeling warm and bright. It is such a fine and natural sight, Everybody’s dancing in the moonlight.” This song played as I boarded my flight leaving Dublin. It really captures what it has been like here this semester with all the people that I have came to meet. Looking back, coming to Ireland to study was not something that I was thoroughly researching for and was some kind of a whirlwind decision based on the fact that I wanted to live in Europe and take some time off from Holy Cross. Despite the imperfect things like I never got to travel Europe more than I actually did, I got to know a country that I would otherwise never have got to know except for Irish stereotypes. I have came to appreciate Holy Cross and UCD and maybe get an idea about what grad school might be like, met amazing people that I would have otherwise not got to know, saw breathtaking Irish landscapes, listened to amazing music and had amazing food, and caught a brief glimpse of the culture through the classes that I am taking here. Seriously, aren’t those supposed to be the most amazing things in life?

I don’t know when I will be back yet, as I am sitting down back in my home in Shenzhen, China, in the very same spot that I wrote my very first blog. It is a scary and unsettling thought, but I firmly believe there will be a next time, and those will be memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Go raibh maith agat (which means “Thank you” in Irish), Ireland!

Final Month

This past week turned out to be more eventful than I thought it would be. I was not expecting to say this, but the GREs are partly responsible for the final approval of my Schengen visa and this European adventure happening! I needed my passport for the test, so I had to call the Embassy to ask for what’s wrong with my visa and to ask for my passport back. But anyways, I finally found out what went wrong with my application. I didn’t give them the right stuff in terms of insurance, and they sent a note on April 6th (which I did not get and I check my spam folder all the time). Furious and frustrated, I provided all the relevant info and rebooked flights…but now, now that the GRE is behind me (and hopefully all sorts of standardized exams issued by ETS and the like), I was finally able to embark the long overdue European journey that I was looking forward to without much time left. We had an amazing outing for one last time with HC people before I flew out on Friday: we went to get Mediterranean food, saw a gig by Paddy Sherlock and his band at Whelan’s, and went to Woodshed baa & Grill to karaoke for a while before taking the last bus back to UCD. It was scary to think about it would probably be the last time that I see Fiona in a while, or maybe in 10 years (because god knows when I am gonna come back to Ireland?…).

There were two people that I really wanted to visit whom I was friends with for a long time (one I’ve known for 4 years and one for 8) who were in the Schengen region (and their names all happened to be Yang!). Their availabilities happened to align this way that I could make it back to finals at UCD with a day and a half to spare to study for my final on Thursday. Without further ado and the next thing I knew, I was jumping on O’Connell street with joy about finally making it to Berlin without thinking of my unfortunate suitcase that got left behind on the 145. After a full blown panic attack for 40 minutes I got back the suitcase and started to make my way to the airport and still somehow made it an hour and a half before the flight. It has been around a year and a half since I have last seen Yang probably, so I can’t help it but to hussle my stuff together and run for a hug 🙂

The next couple of days went like a whirlwind. We stayed up and chatted till it was 2am just to catch up about things, went to get brunch and saw two other friends who went to the same high school as us who were also in Berlin, and went to the Hamburger Bahnhof museum (where they display some really interesting contemporary art) for their exhibition.

After that, we went to hear a techno music show in Kraftwerk by Solomun and Michael Meyer. I personally is not the greatest dancer and I don’t really listen to a ton of techno music at all, but it was definitely really fun to be dancing from 12am to 4am. My feet will say otherwise, and I still have no idea how people stay up till after 7am (I passed out on the cab on my way back). There were a lot of people smoking cigarettes at the venue, and we were talking about it on our way to our uber. Three of us (Yudi, Yang and me) immediately thought of the song “Cigarette Daydreams”, and we all started singing out loud as we watched the sun rise. I would call myself a decent singer because I wouldn’t be out of tune when I sing, but I have the greatest fear singing with one or two people. With those three people though, it felt like the most natural thing and even comfortable to let the cigarette smoke out of my system. Coming abroad, it was definitely thrilling to meet new people, but friends from before college definitely brings me this sense of ease that I haven’t felt for a long time.

It was 12:30pm when we woke up and feeling slightly adjusted.  I still smelled cigarettes despite after a shower, which is why Yudi, Yang and I kept singing Cigarette Daydreams when we went out to lunch in this Mediterranean vegeterian restaurant while a family next to us stared at us with a smile on their face. Yudi spend the afternoon going to another techno show while Yang and I debated if we wanted to spend an hour in line to get tickets and eventually decided to surrender to our homework. The moment that we decided to go for the metro, we decided that the sun was too good to keep us inside with our homework, and immediately headed down to Treptower Park. We ended up spending about three hours there and finally headed back for homework (I had to finish up my project for computer science graphics that is due at 9AM the next morning, rip).

Treptower Park. Getting all the sun that I have been missing out on in Ireland

And then my last day in Berlin came. After taking a quick stroll in the more famous tourist spots here (Brandenburg Gate, Holocaust Memorial, parts of Berlin Wall, Berlin Cathedral and passed by Alexanderplatz for a bit), I went on my next journey down to Lausanne, Switzerland to visit the other Yang who goes by the name Jelita. I haven’t seen her for about two years so it was really great to finally see her because our breaks never really line up.

~~~~At last~~~~

I spent the next day walking around Lake Geneva in the Montreux region. It was another one of those super sunny and nice days over there, and the view was simply gorgeous.

This is the kind of getaway that I desperately needed
But wait – what happened to the UCD lakes? Why did you follow me here?

I am definitely already thinking about going back to Berlin to see all the museums and try German food actually, and this region of Switzerland in the future if I ever learn how to ski! But before I knew it, Jelita and I were on the train to the airport in Geneva – because time simply never waits on us. She is going to Beijing for a week or so, and I am back in UCD to study for my exam on Thursday.

Taking exams when you’re a UCD student is definitely different than taking it at Holy Cross. I only had two finals happening during the final exams period, and all of them happened to be in the RDS Simmonscourt, which is a huge venue about a 10 minute drive outside of UCD that could hold about 2000+ students taking exams at once, whereas at Holy Cross you would usually take your exams in the same classroom that you have class in. It was low key intimidating because it reminded me of the venue that my friends from high school and I used to take the SATs in – it’s called Asiaworld Expo, which is also a huge venue like RDS, and the proctor will announce everything in the thickest Cantonese accent (which is low key funny and hard to understand). The sheer hate and fear that I had for SATs is something that I realized that I still am struggling with when I took the GREs and the finals.

RDS Simmonscourt

But anyways, it has been a pretty eventful week. After getting a lot of sleep, watching some netflix during the weekend and seeing some friends, I am now recharged again for my last final exam for Wednesday. There is a lot to study for and it’s my hardest class this semester probably, but everything should be okay. I am leaving Dublin early on the 19th, and today marks the fourth month that I am here. As sad as I am to start packing (and getting a text from mom saying “take pictures of everything because you do not know when you’re coming back”), the next couple of days will be filled with studying and goodbyes with friends, and there is a lot of new beginnings at Holy Cross that I am super excited about, with International Student Orientation planning falling into place, being accepted as a senior interviewer (which is something that I have been dreaming about since sophomore year), and a preliminary planning for senior recital program. Now, a deep breath, and diving back to studying for my exam on Wednesday~

How much more 9:00pm sunsets will I see?

Finding a Third Home

It’s crazy to think about that I’m leaving home to China in three short weeks (I have secured an internship working for Tencent translating IT related articles from English to Chinese!), and already having housing in place for next semester (Find me on Figge 3)! UCD has really started to feel like home, with places that I have came to know so well and people that started to feel like family to me here, but also with new adventures that are never ending. I continue to meet people, and the weather for the last two weeks in Ireland has been better than ever – I have calculated and we probably only had about 2 to 3 rainy or cloudy days; although I do not particularly mind rainy days, I did not realize how much I loved the sun until I was literally dancing during my walk from my class back to my dorm! The adventures in Ireland, in particular South Dublin during these two weeks, continued. It was also funny to see how much Irish students are sitting on the grass once the sun is out (I don’t have a picture to prove it sadly), but one of my friends are joking that they are photosynthesizing finally!

Cheery blossoms here on campus are really pretty. The temperature has been around 70 degrees for a whole week or so – it is finally feeling like spring! Photo creds to Charlotte 🙂

For some reason, my Schengen visa is still taking a while somehow after 5 weeks. While I’m a bit insecure about my passport not with me in my room at all times, I am glad to stay in Ireland and make little adventures in Dublin and finish up final essays in the library. Last Friday, we made a trip down to Killiney Hill to the South of Dun Laoghaire. Killiney Hill is to the south of Dun Laoghaire. It’s about 500 feet tall so it wasn’t that much of a hike, but we got a great view of the whole Dublin in general – Mason is claiming that he saw the water tower in UCD and can see up to Phoenix Park and Howth.

Group photo!
Panorama on Killiney Hill looking down to Dublin

This past week has been pretty crazy in terms of papers and exams, so I was craving for a little getaway at the end of the week. Saturday, I woke up with this absolutely gorgeous weather outside. Having nothing particularly in mind to do for the day I messaged up Mason and Jessie, and the three of us ended up making a last minute decision of going to Bray! It is close up to the sea and there is also a little hill that we ended up climbing up, and we also ended up passing through a farm and saw several cows! Jessie is studying veterinary sciences at UCD, so she out of the three of us was the most excited seeing cows which is super cute to see 🙂

Yet another photo looking down to Dublin 
And suddenly we are surrounded by cows

We have officially finished classes this past week. It was really sentimental as I was talking to all my lovely classmates, some of them I honestly have no idea if I will ever get to see again. It’s definitely exciting to think about getting drinks with them before I leave, but I still have a significant amount of work that I need to get done and I won’t bore you dear readers with the details! Good luck to my HC friends as you guys step into the final weeks of the semester as well!

My view as I’m studying on the fourth floor of the library. It is about 50 degrees outside but does not affect my good mood 🙂

Post Spring Break Updates!

Spring break was two long weeks, but then also short. Getting back to school is definitely tough, but the reality of crafting a 3000 word essay due on Tuesday has definitely knocked me into schooling mode.

But still, some self-care definitely has eased me into this end-of-the-semester. Lately, while I still have some more time to explore Ireland, I finally went to the Guinness Storehouse and Howth, got together with HC friends during another outing organized by the amazing Fiona and went on a Literary pub crawl (which was super fun and will highly recommend!), sang the German Requiem by Brahms in the National Concert Hall with the incredible UCD Philharmonic Choir and the UCD Orchestra(I felt so lucky for this opportunity even when I was only here for the semester!), volunteered in the UCD Fashion Show and saw my friend Dredd modelling (shoutout to this queen), had an authentic English afternoon tea for the first time, and went to Tayto Park, a themed amusement park by Tayto crisps in the past three weeks after Spring Break. Enrollment happened on Monday (and yes, I am not ready to be a senior yet and I am not sure about where I will end up after that), I need to write two papers and a final project but all of them are on super interesting topics. UCD has also thrown a carnival event on campus and both of them made me scream me heart out and destress before getting back to piano practice. Here are some photos!

It’s like we own this place!
Sláinte!
Afternoon tea @ The Restaurant by Johnnie Cooke. Amazing friends, tea and food

The walk in Howth happened when Mason’s friend came to visit Dublin. We took a route that was supposed to take 2.5 to 3 hours to finish. It ended up taking 7 and we were all dead. But to the bright side, the sun did come up probably came up two hours into our walk, and we accidentally bumped into a tour led for an English professor to a house where W.B.Yeats used to live in!

Howth!
Mason challenges the road less travelled
Post Fashion show when Dredd’s Family first mistook me as Japanese and then adopt me into their family

It was refreshing to go to an amusement for the first time in probably three or four years or so! I am usually not the type that is all about roller coasters, but I have definitely took a leap of faith in there! That was the scariest 5 minutes that I have felt in a long time, but it was so fun and liberating to just scream out (despite the fact that long after I close after and feel that I am going to fall).

At Tayto Park!
Spinning wheel that spins 360 degrees brought to us on UCD campus! It definitely managed to make me feel dizzy for about three hours straight but it was definitely fun 🙂

It is hard to believe how fast this semester is flying by: the concert marks the end of the time that I am going to spend with the UCD Choir and I didn’t start to bond with a lot of people in choir till we had the super intensive rehearsal week, enrollment definitely marks senior year approaching upon us, and this carnival was called “the end of year carnival”. It has been three months that I have been in Ireland and I probably only have around one month left here. But hey, I am very excited about more adventures that UCD and Ireland has out there for me 🙂

Spring Break…Part 2

Hi All! It has been a while… After Spring Break that has lasted for two weeks, with the five day the snowstorm break and the four day Easter Break, we spent a dashingly 9 days in school for the entire March…! My brain has definitely slowly recovering and shaken by the madness to be striked by the published timetable of final exams, the impending GRE and the essays. But we left off at Spring Break in the last post, so allow me to reminisce the good times…

I found myself back in the Sahara desert again, fearing of losing all my snapstreaks because of a lack of Internet, and not being able to take photos because of a dead camera. The desert really brings what is important back to you – it takes out the technology in your life, and gives you the brightest night sky that you have ever seen, freezes you to death in night and burns you to barbeque (perhaps since we did not stay that long). Now, my snapstreak somehow survived this whole trip, and the camels led us to a little hotel nearby, where there is wifi and electricity (so I secured the streaks and revived my camera). We got a huge breakfast of delicious yogurt, bread, crepes and pastries, and there has also been a lentil soup with some kind of beans that were really delicious, and we also got our long overdue shower that washed off 99% of the sand on us.

Driving not too awfully away from the desert
Annie looking over Mid-Atlas region. The green stuff shoud be a local golf resort
All the veils sold in different colors in a local souvenir shop

We had a local Moroccan barbeque for lunch (when Syaid announced this when we had dinner the day before, Weiheng got so excited and had to bring up every hour or so when we were in the car). It was also around 3PM when we finally got to eat, and we were all starving! We ended up ordering what is in this next picture, a pound of steak and a pound of lamb. (That place also serves camel meat I believe – I am praying for Michael Jackson and hope he’s not getting slaughtered) It also only took 245 dirhams to feed all six of us – probably around 5 dollars if we average it.

Guess what kind of food this is? (hint: Mark was dared to eat one of the organs on there, and then hated life for probably a hot minute by chugging down a huge loaf of bread and an entire can of beer, and said he was fine.)
Moroccan Barbeque that definitely lived up to the hype

We then embarked our journey to the mid-atlas region, where it is famous of producing argon oil used in a lot of our skin and shampoo products, fed some monkeys, passed through Al-Akhawayn University located in Ifrane (where it was heavily dominated by the French and has the nickname of “The Switzerland of Morocco”.

Monkeys!
We loved feeding monkeys and taking pictures of each other

We finally arrived at Fes when it was around 7pm or so. It was really sad to see Syaid go and they have been great to us throughout the whole trip! But we were on our own in the old medina of Fes. The streets and alleies crisscross with each other – we definitely saw why even Google maps don’t really know how this place is structured. We booked an airbnb in what is probably a palace in the past for 80 euros and it looks dashingly amazing

“This is my palace” claims everybody
“Looking at this gorgeous palace that I own”
Blue gate at night

Due to limitations, we didn’t get to stay in Fes for too long, and we had to head to Chefchaouene, known as the blue city, in the early morning in the next day.

A cat in the Blue City

Chefchaouene, compared to Fes, lacks a deeper sense of historical accumulation. It is a town that developed because of this kinda “artificial blue” painted onto their city and the tourism effects that followed, and the town is very heavily populated with souvenir stores and kinda intentionally painted wall. Fes, on the other hand, had their development in the past in the Old Medina, and then there is also the New Medina that we passed through. I saw there is one of the shopping malls that looked really modern.

“the wall” that people take pictures at
Group pic! Both Yeng and I got some traditional clothing over there. Definitely trying to spread the purple pride there 🙂

After Chefchaouene, Casablanca was our last stop, where we got to see the Hassan II Mosque, passed by a local market and saw the cafe recreated from the film Casablanca. Hassan II is one of the largest Mosques in the world, and was definitely beautiful.

From there, we concluded our brief stops in Casablanca and our trip to Morocco, and got back to Ireland for St. Patty’s day. Because of a very late flight, I missed out on all the parades, but still caught the crowd in Dublin and had some ice cream! (Got to see everything on social media so eh).

Around the Temple Bar area on St. Patty’s day

On the following Wednesday we made a brief visit to Cork. We started off by walking to the English Market, and made our way to Cork City Gaol. The English Market is like the Milk Market that Charlotte and I visited in Limerick, except the English Market operates every day. There is also a second level with a coffee shop. It also looks like there is a larger seafood section and they even sell clam chowder! (Not sure about how that compares to the New England ones though)

English Market in Cork! It would really be great if Dublin have something like this regularly.

Cork City Gaol was also really interesting. There was an exhibition of examples of past prisoners kept here (including Constance Markievitz, one of the revolutionary nationalists in Ireland), and what their daily life is like. It definitely made me not want to go to jail in the future, but is sure interesting to see!

When everybody except Beven and Mason are excited to get into jail…
Oops… Still ended up being arrested and a mug shot is taken.

We ended the night with a trad session in An Spailpin Fanach, where Mason and I had our first sip of Jameson! The second day, we went on a trip down to Kilkenny and the Ring of Kerry, where the rule of being played by Irish weather is once again verified (whenever we travel it is rainy and foggy, and it gets all sunny when we decide to stay indoors). Still, the view is very gorgeous, and I could only imagine how good it would look on a sunny day!

At Ring of Kerry

 

Kilkenny National Park

It was amazing to come out to breathe a little in nature before we have to get back to all the schoolwork! But life has definitely been good during the two week Spring Break. And there isn’t much of the semester left – cannot believe how fast time is flying by!

Spring Break Part 1!

Hey parents… sorry I haven’t been completely honest about my whereabouts for this past week. So here was the thing: I am not the greatest at trying to figure out where the future lies ahead for me (changing my major in the middle of sophomore year didn’t help, and then even with a fixed combination my mind is still floating around quite a bit), and this is definitely something that the parents did not greatly enjoy. When I threw the idea of going to Morocco to the parents, they did some research online and found this article about why girls shouldn’t really travel to Morocco. One reason after the other, this turned into a fight for 10 minutes with two very strong headed person who are both unwilling to be convinced by one another, with me crying and being accused of inconsiderate of their feelings of being worried about me (which definitely makes sense and I could relate to, but I also promised to keep in touch and all that, and plus I’m not travelling alone so I don’t see the point why my dad got so mad). But anyways, enough about this nonsense about why I did not tell them about this; important thing is that even I’m still young, dumb and broke, I’m alive and well.

But anyways… this spring break has been an absolute blast. Mohan’s visit continues as we move our ways to Galway on Thursday, going around the wild Atlantic way. Friday, we visited the Burren, and of course.. Cliffs of Moher (as how everyone just kinda needs to). The Burren is a National Park that captures the karst landscape incorporating pavements of glacier-era limesone, which is quite cool. Currently, because Ireland is making its probably third attempt to transition into Spring (and keeps failing), the colors of the landscape is looking a bit yellow-green-ish, but there are a lot of colors like red and brown as well which makes it more unique than the usual greenness that you would see in advertisement photos. I’m definitely hoping to go back there in the summer perhaps just to see how everything has a different kind of outlook in different seasons. And then there are the Cliffs: it was not till a while ago that I realized that one of my favorite bands from middle school, Westlife, is an Irish boy band, and they shot the music video of what’s perhaps their most famous song “My Love” at Cliffs of Moher. The scene of the Horcrux cave in Harry Potter and the Half-Blooded Prince and the music video of Maroon 5’s song “Runaway” was also shot around the roaring waters around the cliffs.

The Burren landscape with roaming animals
Cliffs of Moher: “Over seas to coast to coast, to find the place I love the most, where the fields are green, to see you once again, my love”. Ireland would be the place to be if you’re trying to find fields of green 🙂

We continued our adventures to Connemara National Park the next day. It was a pretty large park, and what is even more astonishing is that one family, the Kylemores, once owned an estate that contained most of Connemara National Park. Connemara is also one of the regions that speaks Irish (Gaelic) predominately, and at one point there was no English on any of the signs at all, which I thought is really interesting.

A blurred view of Kylemore Abbey
A view of Connemara National Park with the Irish black faced sheep (that my friends playfully call the “Irish piglets”

We also passed by two shooting places of Ed Sheeran’s Music Video Galway Girl during our trip. We first passed by O’Connell’s bar, which is the bar that Ed went into at the beginning of the video. Later, during our last night in Galway we went to O’Connor’s Famous Pub, where Ed shot some darts with Saoirse Ronan and pissed off two dudes. There was also a great trad session going on in there that started at 10.

O’Connell’s
At O’Connor’s Famous Pub; somehow Mohan and I weren’t able to find any dart boards

Our short Galway trip came into an end a lot sooner that I thought, and then it was soon the bittersweet goodbye at the airport till I see her again  in the summer/fall. It was definitely great to catch up with her though, and it was so much fun to see parts of Ireland!

We headed to the airport in the morning, where Mohan has to catch her early flight to Boston and with me catching my flight to Marrakesh and embarking my next journey with Weiheng, Yeng, Annie and Mark to Morocco for five days. This whole trip was really packed because we were trying to do a lot in a short amount of time, and we ended up spending a lot of time on the road. After two meals of McDonalds and several naps, we settled in our hotels at 12AM in the morning. Each of the cities in Morocco has their own specific color, but then a couple that stood out are Casablanca (white), Chefchaouene (blue) and Marrakesh (red).

Waking up to Marrakesh
Marrakesh Menara airport

The next morning, we hoped on a car into the Sahara desert and then Fes. We first drove throught the high atlas region in Morocco. Our driver, Said, were saying that those roads are like the snakes because of how the geographics of Morocco with mountains made it so we need to take a lot of twist and turns before we could get to where we are looking for. The landscape was honestly so different than anything else (the color palette that nature used!) that I’ve ever seen before and the weather was so beautiful.

Altitude 1460m; approximately 4790 feet
Mountain ridges in high atlas region
Blurry Sunset
Traditional Tajine dish with lamb meatballs and an egg; usually it would come with a pointy top lid as well.

We spent our first night in the Sahara desert, where we had what is probably a variation of couscous (couscous has a base of crushed wheat while the dish that we had with had a chicken base) with a veggie stew of zuccini, carrots and eggplants on top, and we had some really amazing bread with tangerines. After that, we heard some Moroccan traditional percussion music and went to see the stars on a sand dune! We also went out of the desert the next morning riding on camels. It was quite the experience; it would be a smooth ride if you have learned to balance yourself in the right way, but would hurt your butt if not (you could definitely see where that is coming from).

I rode a camel called Michael Jackson. At the end, I decided never to ride camels again both because I almost fell when Michael Jackson was dropping me onto the ground and because I thought this was so cruel to all the Michael Jacksons out there…

Traditional drumming in the Sahara desert; the tourist made a circle, and I met a woman from Spain and her daughter; tried to practice some Spanish but I was simply too bad at it
Annie, Karen, Weiheng, Yeng and Mark; this is definitely a personality shot
Learning about photography as we go – I was never aware that my phone is capable of taking a picture like this; all it took was 80 seconds of a still exposure shot and sticking my phone into the sand
When the long exposure didn’t work so well but is still cool before the sunrise (and you could see Yeng’s ghost)
A successful selfie attempt
The leading man and a headshot of Michael Jackson

We were joking how we never left the Sahara desert because we still have sand in our shoes…. I also think that I am going to cut my Spring break adventures here because this blog is already getting way too long. But till next time 🙂

Snow Days, Dublin Tourists and Abbey Theater

Hi all! Little did I know, that the snow days in Ireland actually happened when I woke up to an email about two (then eventually 3, plus the weekend) days of school cancelled with 4 inches of snow outside of my window (Holy Cross students are like what…?) so I actually had time to work on some of this despite brief power and Wi-Fi shortage! It was something else. The snow days were really nice at first, given that I had a lot of work that I needed to do during those days, including applying to a ton of internships that is due at the end of February and my midterms and other forms of evaluation for my classes. I was able to sleep in for a bit, and one of the midterms that I was most worried about ended up being postponed.

But then things changed because I did not think that this snow is actually going to be this severe. On Wednesday (our first day of snow), I started to realize how transportation started to cut back, so I went into centra (our grocery shop on campus) and got some veggies (at the time they only had some salad greens left, not with a lot of other things) and some chicken having in mind that this along with the rice that I have and some leftover takeout will get me through Friday.  Things don’t always go as planned, as always, and I found myself trying to get more food in centra on Thursday, at the time the grocery shop is starting to run out of salad greens and chicken, and Friday, when there are absolutely no green veggies on the shelf, having only sausages left, and almost running out of regular pasta… And you know how grumpy I get when I am hungry. Feeling trapped in our residences and wanting to get out, our friend Mason had the idea of heading out of our rooms and taking snow pictures outside on Friday. And then, we ended up dancing to a song that is really popular in China as of the moment called “the seaweed song” in the snow and the wind (will dm a link if requested)! I also helped building my first ever snowman on Wednesday. Although we have a ton of snow in Worcester, I feel like so many people had grown up with snow around and just got so used to having snow around, and it wasn’t that big of a deal for them anymore. I did not grow up with snow at all, so it was actually quite exciting to have some snowball fights with my friends and to build the snowman!

Our snowman wearing a Irish souvenir hat, a red scarf, and eyes/buttons made from leaves
Swans on campus seems to have it together better than the Irish
One of the pics that didn’t make it to the gram
An okay-ish attempt when doing a close up

So snow days were fun-ish until we ran out of food and we had absolutely no means of transportation to get into the city since Dublin bus stopped operating. On Saturday the snow finally dwindled and Dublin bus was back up and running by noon. Mohan was supposed to fly in Friday night from Boston – up until now I still had no idea how she did it, with storms going on both at the Boston side and at the Dublin side – and she made it, only with sitting in the airplane for two more hours than she was supposed to. We ended up doing a fair bit of travel around Dublin and I felt like I was the tourist again from two months ago!

Mohan shaking hands with what is suposed to be a hand of Alfie Byrne’s at the Little Museum of Dublin

My friend Mark ended up tagging along with us for a bit, and somehow managed to convince Mohan to have half a pint of Guinness (for she’s not that into drinking) after we had some delicious Szechuan food! We also paid a visit to the Little Museum of Dublin (so this is the second tour that I went on in the museum but the tour was given by another guy Sam – giving him a shoutout here since I was too lazy to do it on their website – rather than Ronan, whom I had for the first time.), went to a cafe called Bewley’s on Grafton street (not the one that Ed Sheeran met someone at the side of the bar though), passed around the Dublin Castle, and headed to the Cobblestone to listen to some really great Irish Music (apologize in advance that I didn’t take any pictures, but I will definitely visit there soon in the future because they do give free lessons)!

Blurry pic of baby and her first half pint of Guinness!
After Guinness picture, featuring a huge ton of leftover Szechuan food

Oh how I wished that I could’ve gone to Cork with Mohan but I had classes, and my theater class was going to a play in the Abbey Theater. The play was called “The Unmanageable Sisters”, which is an adoption by Deirdre Kinahan on a play originally written by a Canadian author, Michel Tremblay. A large side to the adoption is that it was made really Irish, and it was really hard to imagine that it is not originally written in that way! It was a really interesting play in so many aspects, because it really was a hilarious play with many twists. The audience was laughing at jokes a lot! And this play only has women in it – which is really uncommon in Irish theater apparently, but I think it might not be only an Irish theater thing. It was also really relatable to nowaday Irish society issues such as how people are coping with the aftermath with the changes in how church power controls the society and about repealing the 8th (which makes abortion illegal in Ireland unless a pregnancy has grave consequences on the mother. It took its place in the Irish constitution at a time when the nation was heavily regulated by Catholicism) mostly. But overall it was a great experience – we got the cheapest tickets but then ended up sitting on some of the best seats because the show wasn’t entirely sold out, and I will definitely recommend going to see a play when you’re in Ireland.

A picture of the set in the Abbey Theater of the play The Unmanageable Sisters by Colin Richmond

I went into Burgh Quay to get my Irish Residence Permit (irp) a while ago, and I finally received my card today (the mailing process is also delayed in the storm). I also went into an appointment for my re-entry visa and it went really well, that I could leave Ireland to travel to a couple of places (I’m definitely hoping to travel in Berlin and Barcelona, and then maybe Iceland and the UK? I just don’t yet, there are so many possibilities)! The weather was also extremely nice today compared to the blizzard that we just had, so Mohan and I decided to walk around Dun Laoghaire for a bit. I’m definitely looking forward to being the traveller and explore this extremely diverse continent. But now, gotta spend the night with Mohan and try to get some work done before we head into spring break!

Dun Laoghaire today

Chinese New Year, Galantis, and Malahide Castle

Yes, I disappeared for two weeks…Sorry. But Happy belated Chinese New Year! Yes, it is only two days after Valentine’s day this year so I probably could’ve said it in the last post..but there you go. Work has most definitely started to pile up more since I have registered for a GRE exam in May, getting back to working on my summer project for the April H-CLEF (Holy Cross Laptop Ensemble Federation) concert, while also balancing impending mid-term exams, internship deadlines and piano practice before spring break. Apart from the daily grind that I carry with me from Holy Cross, I am also finally getting my GNIB card, which means that I will be able to get out of Ireland and travel around Europe finally (not that Ireland isn’t great, but I am also looking forward to travelling around Europe since it is my first time in Europe)! I’m also really excited for my friend, Mohan, to visit Ireland during Spring Break (her visa request just got approved and I am super excited about seeing her for the first time since our finals, showing her around Dublin and exploring Galway together before she heads back).

Anywho… Here at UCD, Chinese New Year is done really differently, just because of how much larger of a Chinese population that they have here. I can’t give you an accurate description about how large the population actually is, but definitely big enough to host a campus-wide event. The day before New Year’s, there was a livestream of the National Spring Gala in China, and there was a massive amount of Chinese food with performances from students playing traditional keyboard instruments. The entry fee was two euros, but you actually get a red packet of an euro plus the ton of free food! At Holy Cross, it was great in that we had a more intimate atmosphere to celebrate New Year’s since the Chinese student population base is pretty small (we usually just cook dinner together in a basement with a kitchen) and I really miss all of my friends as of now, but it definitely feels more “authentic” when everybody around us is celebrating it (even my Irish friends were like Happy Lunar New Year!). Even though my urges to celebrate Chinese New Year has kind of dimmed since I haven’t been celebrating it back home for so long, this definitely brought back good memories.

Chinese New Year Wall! Photo creds to Chinese Students & Scholar Association.
Set-up of Chinese New Year activities in Astra Hall: Look at the gift bags and the food! Photo creds to my friend Di.

The Confucius institute of Ireland hosted a similar Spring Gala show on Friday. They hired a group from Zhengzhou, China to perform a wild range of arts from music, dances and even Kungfu! I don’t think I have seen Kungfu performed live ever before, so that was definitely really cool to see what those people coming from Shaolin Temple are capable of doing. It was really impressive how the two hosts were so fluently and naturally changing back and forth in Chinese and English as well.

Spring Festival Gala Ireland
People were dressed up in the lion dance costume
The Dublin night sky that day was particularly pretty as well.

My friends and I kept the weekend pretty low-key celebration wise. We had a little get-together night for Chinese New Year Eve and ordered a ton of food, and then visited a bunch of museums for free on Saturday, and did a hot pot dinner later that night (it was definitely not as hard as I expected it to be!) that turned out to be delicious.

Part of our dinner for New Year’s Eve. Big shoutout to the people serving UCD students with this excellent takeout service!
Homemade hotpot. Set up and the cookery might be a bit complicated, but definitely was worth it and a lot cheaper than going to the 19 euro all-you-can-eat (not that that’s a bad deal though!)

I learned that there is a concert by Galantis on around Friday or so, but didn’t make up my mind to go until later on Sunday when there was only seats from the upper area left. But the impromptu adventure turned out to be great – I ended up going with two UCD students who are also studying abroad here, meeting two Spanish girls (one of them is doing an exchange semester in Trinity. I also tried to practice my rusty Spanish just a little bit but failed to understand all of the questions that they are asking – apologizing to my two poor Spanish professors) and having a great time! I wasn’t super familiar with their music, but it felt great to dance along. Their openers Pat Lok and DJ CID gave great performances as well. You really didn’t have to know their music in order to enjoy (and I didn’t know a ton of their music!).

Galantis with their Irish flag! (They also held out a #seafoxnation flag and a Dublin flag)

“Dublin friends.. you really think I will let you go that easily? … Would you RUNAWAY with me?”.. It was truly great even despite the run to the 145 bus immediately after the concert.

During the week, I received an email from Meghan working in Holy Cross communcations about filming a video for Holy Cross admissions aiming for accepted students. This definitely came at a great timing since I have came to realize a lot about what I appreciate about Holy Cross since my time away, and has been a bit homesick! I ended up filming the video in front of Malahide castle, where we visited on Saturday. Parts of Malahide castle was preserved from the 12th century, so it was definitely really cool to see the remnants. We didn’t end up spending the couple euros of entry fee but we took a pretty nice tour outside of the castle and around the gardens. The funny thing is that a really famous actor in China, Daniel Wu (吴彦祖) is filming the TV series “Into the Badlands” in Ireland, and a couple days ago he took a photo with his daughter at the exact gate next to Malahide castle (My friend even claimed that she ran into him in person!).

Photo of Daniel Wu with his daughter
Photo of Karen’s decent-ish attempt to walk like Daniel Wu and adding filters and all that. Photo creds to Mason
Pretending that we are the owners of the castle. Mason has become the default human selfie stick for the group now.

Later that day, we went around the Malahide beach a bit. It was a sunny day so the view was super pretty, but it was also freezing! We have been getting emails about weather warnings just because the temperature might get lower than 30 degrees Farenheit for a couple of days, and there is going to be snow and hail. A bunch of my friends who goes to school in more Southern regions relatively expressed a range of emotions from concern to excitement of seeing snow, but I guess Holy Cross has trained me well with the snow days happening only when you get six inches of snow and when it’s 15 degrees Farenheit out.

Malahide coastal walk view

Anyways, that sums up the second half of Feburary! It is crazy to think that we are doing things for Class of 2022, and it is only half a month away from them knowing if they are accepted to college or not. On another note though, I am definitely looking forward to my future adventures in and out of Ireland, but…just after I’m done with the papers and midterms! Next week is going to be a bit of a whirlwind, so I’ll probably blog again after Spring Break. See you then 🙂

HC Outing, The Script, Phoenix Park and Dun Laoghaire

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! Love is in the air… (or is it? We shall find out). Despite all that, It’s really hard to believe that it has been a month already since my arrival to Ireland! Studying abroad is definitely an experience beyond amazing and exciting for me so far. Besides a change in pedagogy and getting lost (yet again for another not once, but twice on Friday), it has just been so refreshing to be away from campus for a while and see things from a new perspective. My classes have been going well, and work is definitely starting to pile up, but it is also a fun time when trying to find study groups and get to know new people through this process!

I do miss HC from time to time though, and an outing with Holy Cross students studying in Dublin came just in time on Thursday for a good reminisce (Kudos to Fiona for organizing every outing!). We all headed to Pho Viet for dinner, and then went to see a play called “Look Back in Anger”.  Although I check campus Emails pretty regularly, it feels very nice to be updated and discuss things going on with those peeps!

With HC Students studying abroad in UCD!

There has definitely been some very cool things going on in UCD, and one of the activities from the societies that I have joined is a Q&A session with the band The Script organized by the Law Society. I have listened to music sang by the Script since high school, and their songs really served to help me with a difficult time of transition. They also had a lot of inspirational words to say about making a career out of music (which is something that I personally considers and struggle with), and they were just really humble and humorous too! It was a great time, and the line for the session was also insane (it filled up half of a lecture hall).

The Script in Q&A Session by Law Soc

As for the weekend, a couple of friends of mine decided to head to phoenix park on Saturday. That was really well needed after a long winded week of internship deadlines and all the work that I had. There are several attractions in Phoenix Park including Papal Cross, a deer Sanctuary, the Dublin Zoo and the Wellington Monument. Due to our time constraint and just how huge the park itself is (it’s one of the largest recreational spaces in Europe), we only got to visit Papal’s Cross and the deer Sancturary, and we passed through the US Ambassador’s Residence, and I already walked 18,000 steps that day!

The Cross, the cross, always the cross!
Deer sanctuary in Phoenix Park
Conversing with a deer here…
Picnic in Phoenix Park w/ my friends, some of them were also a part of the Glendalough trip! Kudos to Mason for being the human selfie stick.

We ended up having hotpot on the “Asian street” (Parnell Street – really close to the O’Connell Street area, and has great Vietnamese and Chinese food. They also have Indian, Japanese and Korean but I haven’t tried that yet) in Dublin after this long-winded day. On Sunday, three of us also planned a last minute, impromptu trip to Dun Laoghaire (pronounced Dun Leery and I had no idea till we planned the visit!). It was a very sunny day so the pictures are all gorgeous but it was also freezing (it was probably around 35 degrees, and with 20mph wind there that day). But then this happened…

Teddy’s Ice Cream – 99 reasons to smile! Well.. why not 🙂
And we wanted to smile!
Despite the wind was literally like that..
That view though!

And that would be a wrap for last week! For this week that is already well underway (#rip that I didn’t get to finish this on Monday or Tuesday), we have Chinese New Year coming up, and I am planning to see the Spring Gala in Dublin (which should be similar to the Gala that they do throughout China). There is going to be a lot of great food too. I am definitely still hoping to go to a hurling game as it didn’t happen last week. The actor Patrick J. Adams is also visiting UCD (and I am on season 4 for watching Suits, which is a show that he stars in) on this Thursday so that is something that I look forward to as well. Alright, getting back to coding!

Freshers Day, Settling In, and Limerick

I am definitely slowly sinking in to the daily differences that’s slowly becoming like familiarities in UCD. ife has been more exciting than ever though, and looking at the calender I realize that I have just a little bit left more than three months left in the semester – “Jaysus”!

This past week, UCD organized Freshers Day (which is similar to the co-corricular extravaganza at Holy Cross in mid-September), which gives the new coming student plenty of chances to see what UCD offers in terms of socities and clubs. I ended up splashing 20 euros or so (because joining each club costs 2 euros and it is a typical Karen thing to do to overcommit) and ended up joining the Musical, Drama, Spanish, Jazz, International Student and Law Socities and CSSA(Chinese Students and Scholars Association). The societies do present an impressive amount of activities though, including various debates to a vocal group to discussions with the Script and with the author for 13 reasons why, and I feel like I will at least try to go to 2-3 kinds of activities every week or so.

A picture of all the membership cards from all the societies that I joined during Freshers Day!

Classes wise, it has definitely started to feel more “real” since the last weeks. I am starting my tutorials/practicals (which are like TA hours and labs) this week, the reflection journals that I am writing after each music class is being graded now, I am reading a play for each theater class, etc. I also was working on applying to continue working for Gateways Orientation and a whole bunch of internship applications, and I’m also looking into my options for summer research (and refining my work from last summer). I also try to practice piano for at least two hours a day – Phew! It is definitely a lot of work, but fun work too.

For those of you reading after 10pm who doesn’t wanna shove down a midnight snack, skip this part because there are gonna be a lot of delicious pictures! For those of you who don’t know, I am obsessed with literally all kinds of food (and takes a lot of pictures of them!). Aside from the daily grinds of being a student, it was very fun to be tagged along to an impromptu trip to Limerick. On Thursday night, I was getting dinner with Charlotte (mentioned in the last blog) when I was asking her if she had anything planned for the weekend and she mentioned her plans for Limerick or Cork, and she invited me to tag along – it just so happened that all my classes on Fridays are tutorials and none of them had started last Friday. I have never really researched into either Limerick or Cork before – but all the more reasons to head on the trip!

When deciding between Limerick and Cork, it looked like Cork was raining for a more substantial amount of time – Limerick it was then! We booked an airbnb when we met up first thing next morning, and took the next bus to Limerick. The ride was about three hours – wasn’t too bad for crossing half of the country!

St. John’s Cathedral in Limerick, close to where Charlotte and I stayed. Still can’t seem to find a proper way to take pictures of large tall architecture..

Limerick is a very charming smaller town, and Charlotte got her inspiration for visiting from one of her favorite authors Frank McCourt. There was plenty to see over there, including several museums such as the Hunt Museum and the Limerick Gallery of Art, King John’s Castle, Adare Castle, etc. When we got there, we didn’t really had any plans in terms of what we are doing for the night, so we just went for a venue with free Irish live music, which turned out to be The Still House for us. When the two of us sat down and we both showed signs of our not-Irish-accents, we were approached by some Irish men asking if 9-11 was a government conspiracy (quite the interesting atmosphere); on the one hand it was very nice to have friendly people around (and that they don’t feel there are any strangers to themselves but the tourists), but it was also borderline scary for a bit. We then headed to the Glen Tavern because there wasn’t any food in The Still House, and there the famished two found the place to be.

Traditional Irish Lamb Stew at the Glen Tavern with Ruby Irish Red Ale. Charlotte is pescatarian and she got fish and chips. Yum!
Lots of Guinness ads

The next morning, Limerick has its Milk Market, which is like an a lot larger and diverse farmer’s market compared to the farmer’s market around Birchtree’s Bakery. They sell everything from everyday groceries to flowers, clothes, vinyl records. Ohh, and they make a good French raclette too.

Look at that cheese drizzling down to the raclette. Yummmm.
The Site for the Milk Market (in and out of the boundaries).
Milk Market Symbol
Irish kids playing “Let her go” in the Milk Market
Cheese selection

After the visit to the Milk Market and picking up an issue of NatGeo from 1975(Which is not that much younger than my parents’ generation!), we headed to the Hunt Museum, which holds a number of personal collection from the family of the Hunt Family along with some temporary exhibitions and college student work. Later, we also went to King John’s Castle (but only after it was closed since we spent a significant amount of the day in the Hunt Museum).

King John’s Castle in the sunset; picture taken from the other side of River Shannon
Pretense of Cliffs of Moher realness here?

Because of the short nature of our weekends, we headed back to Dublin later on Saturday. We definitely didn’t see all that we wanted to see during the weekend, but we already have plans to getting back over to the West Coast (travelling isn’t hard at all – 3 hours and you are on the other half of the country!).

A note to the Airbnb host, Claire, who treated Charlotte and I like her two granddaughters and provided us with all her warm water, tea, bread and love!

And that’s a wrap for my journey in Ireland for last week! For this coming week, a bunch of Holy Cross students in Dublin are going to get dinner together and I am super psyched to get to know all the HC people that I haven’t got a chance to know! I am also planning to see a hurling game this Saturday with my friend Mark (also mentioned in the last blog) as a possibility. Stay tuned!