First half, Spring Break!

Hi all! I have returned from Spring Break and am ready to tackle the rest of this semester! This semester has been super exciting so far. I love all of my classes and am eager to learn more. We have started to brainstorm our final paper topics for my Harry Potter class as well as Senior Seminar for Music. I have also started doing the term project for my Computer Science class, which is writing Hangman at this point. We’re doing a VR project for my New Media class, and we have a Vespers concert held in St. Joe’s this Thursday for my Chant class. My Beethoven concert went well, and my prepping for my senior recital is also well underway. I got a 10 measure solo in a college choir concert, as well as some solo parts for the chamber singers concert. I have never sang solo before so that has been intimidating but also excited to be validated. It is very overwhelming all at once, but I am also blown away by how fast this semester is going by!

It is also really exciting that I have been accepted into two grad school programs, Music Technology at McGill University and the Interactive Telecommunications program at NYU. Funnily enough that both of these programs are the ones that I have spent time to visit – wonder if that actually plays a big role (from the perspective of a senior interviewer, it does play a role – I don’t know how much but it definitely matters, so if you’re a perspective student, wink wink). I know for a fact that I will not be staying in Massachusetts for grad school though, since I got turned down by the only Massachusetts institution that I applied to 🙁 but hey, a chance to see other parts of North America!

It’s weird to see things slowly starting to fall into place. Just weeks ago I was really agitated about where everything is going – especially the Monday nights before I have two of my seminars.  It’s weird even thinking about that I am a senior, and it still feels weird when people ask my plans post graduation, now I have actually gotten some concrete choices.

You may wonder what I’ve been up to for Spring Break. So I actually went back to Ireland, to Dublin, Cork and Galway! This time it is with my boyfriend, and it was a totally different experience since it is his first time to visit. I just didn’t really bother to do much homework (which is partly why I am still up). I got to see UCD on a bus ride down to Dun Laoghaire, visited Bewley’s (my favorite place to get breakfast), grabbed a couple of apple cider pints that I missed a lot about Ireland, got to catch up with my friends who are there right now, and did some more sightseeing for new stuff!

Around Clifden castle in Clifden, Co. Galway. The sheep are deliberating how the weather changes so fast (from sunny, to rain, to snow, to hail, all in five minutes).
Not the Cliffs of Moher but Aran Islands – was hella of a unique view without any other people around!
When I missed my orchard thieves and Dredd!
If you remember my blog from last year.. this is where I spent 7 hours on the whole loop, at Howth! This time I took a much shorter yet still scenic route and it was a ton of fun!

It is still super hard to wrap my head around the fact that I am a senior, let alone only having two more months on the hill. As I ran into three alumnus by chance in Boston, I will try my best to live it to the fullest, no matter how cramped my schedule is getting 🙂

Last One, Best One

Hey friends! Winter break ended in a whirlwind. It was good to be free from the stress from finals and grad school applications for a while, and travel back home as well as to New York for a little bit.  I also got to pay a visit to Providence to see a concert by Panic! At the Disco, a band that I grew to love only since April 2018 but I listen to them all the time now. Here are some photos from back home!

New Year’s Day at a bird Sanctuary in Shenzhen!
Art exhibit using laser of different colors. The pattern that the laser forms and the color changes with the elapse of time.
When I said I was getting my fill of bubble tea back home I meant it…

I got back the Friday before school started, so just in time before the storm started to hit, and just in time before the Panic! At the Disco concert on Saturday. Brendon Urie was amazingly killin’ it on that stage, not with those high heels, but still, after shouting for the whole night and trying to make it to some of his registers, I have the upmost respect with those singers truly.

Rainbow torch lights at the concert during “Girls/Girls/Boys”! Was really similar to my experience at a Troye Sivan concert three years ago.

We then came back for senior convocation. I am quite happy that Holy Cross has chosen for this event to take place before the semester started so we really could get an outlook and set up some expectations for ourselves for our last semester here. It was still quite crazy to think that this is going to be our last one, feeling like the Orientations that I have been through a while ago was still something that happened like a month ago. So for this semester, my goals are trying to start everything maybe a week or so before it is due, making time to practice, going to bed early, avoiding unnecessary snacking and coffee, as well as trying on some yoga.

This semester I am taking five classes – I know, I know. Why can’t you just enjoy the last semester? I just can’t seem to haha. I am taking Programming Languages, the last CS course in my major, and I will be doing a project on the programming language Swift with a group of three. We will be writing hangman as well as some other fun little games. I am also in a class about Harry Potter called “Defense Against the Dark Arts” where we are examining a lot about the central themes in Harry Potter. I am in two music classes, Senior Seminar, which is a culmination of the music major, and is the first time I get to take a class with the rest of the class of 2019 who are music majors, as well as Gregorian Chant, and our class is going to be performing in two services of the semester. I am also in New Media, after taking Digital Art last semester and really enjoying what I did.  I am already running a bit short on sleep as I try to slowly chew through all my readings, but I also managed to reduce some of the other extracurriculars that I am involved with. I sadly quitted college choir this semester, and I will no longer have as big of a time commitment to senior interviewer this semester.  I will be continuing with chamber music though, and I am also having my senior recital on April 8th at 5:30 for those of you who wants to join me in Brooks Concert Hall having a blast!

I am really looking forward to the semester as scary as it is. Next week on Tuesday at 7:30, there is a Beethoven Concert and our entire studio will be playing Beethoven’s piano sonatas. A group of us are also planning to get together for a meal for New Year’s this week. The entire studio sounds really amazing and I really hope if you have time, be there for part of it!

Our studio is looking forward to seeing you in the concert!

And Over!

Hi friends! Believe it or not, my semester is over. Somehow I have gotten a reminder of graduation being less than 200 days away, gotten my senior portraits, etc. I just finished my finals and all my grad school applications that are due on December 15th, and just got back to home in Shenzhen after a 17-hour-flight!

The Toronto sunrise I took in a blur

Speaking of next semester, I knew I was gonna get all of my classes so I slept through my last enrollment (lol)! I ended up being fine, and I will be in Programming Languages, Gregorian Chant, Senior Seminar for Music, and also a class called Defense Against the Dark Arts! I’m also looking into the possibilities of auditing a New Media class as that lines up with my interested for grad school.

As I was writing my last post, I was thinking how crazy things would be in November. Well, believe it or not, my time after Thanksgiving break has been a mixture of emotions and could probably be characterized by “pure madness”. I’ll provide a snapshot of some of the highlights of the rest of my semester!

Guess what I was most involved with? Singing in concerts. What a big surprise…. There was a collaboration between the HC college choirs with WPI. We learned a traditional Scottish song together and we performed half of our set that we did in our fall concert in this concert. It was an unprecedented opportunity and it was really cool to see when a choir gets bigger, how different of a sound we are capable of making.

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HC College Choir and WPI Choirs collab!

The second concert was yet another collaboration, between the Holy Cross chamber singers and Figures of Speech Theater through the arts transcending borders initiative at HC! We sang a piece by David Lang called “The Little Match Girl Passion”, which is retelling the fairy tale of little match girl trying to sell matches to keep her from being beaten by her father, and how she died from being frozen to death despite there were a lot of richer people that passed by her. The composer took the idea and paralleled it with Jesus’s suffering as both of these characters are innocent people suffering from the unjust. The piece is fairly different than anything I’ve sang before, but it was very minimalist as David Lang draw from a simple scale to create really powerful music.  Figures of Speech theater then created choreography for the puppet girl accompanying the music.

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Here’s a photo of the little match girl puppet used. Photo creds to Figures of Speech Theater

I also sang in the Christmas tree lighting ceremony and Lessons & Carols for the last time this year. It was definitely one of my favorite Holy Cross experiences singing traditional carols as well as other more modern works, including a piece by a music major in my year as well as one by one of our chaplains! The campus has also been decorated to be very christmasy.

Decorations at St.Joseph’s chapel for the advent season!

As our final for my Balinese Gamelan music class this year, I was part of the concert on Friday following Lessons and Carols. We did six pieces that we learned in class, which has a really rewarding experience. As a classically trained pianist I have been really used to learning music with scores. In Bali, however, the musicians never learn music with scores. Instead, they will listen to the music and memorize it, which has been one of the most challenging but rewarding things about this course.

In traditional Bali clothing for the concert!

It was really incredible to wrap up the year with so many concerts. During Thanksgiving break I also got to visit Montreal for a grad school program that I am applying to. Here are some pictures that I took! I also had beef tartare for the first time without previous knowledge that it is all raw.

Some really cool art in the montreal museum of fine arts!
View from an Observatory in Montreal

You might wonder how my life is so musically oriented and what I do in my computer science classes… well, in my AI class we got to write a machine learning algorithm to build a decision tree based on underlying patterns provided by the data. As for visions, we also did a research project and we were looking at what has been done in the past in order to realize object recognition through different methods. Those are the big projects that I was working on before the finals. I also made a final video for my digital art project. Sometimes I actually get a bit lost of where the time goes when I work on these!

After I am done with all my finals, I headed to New York for an interview at NYU. We were basically asked to introduce another person that you spend about 10 minutes talking to, and one of us will ask a follow up question. My boyfriend and I therefore decided to make that a weekend trip and we got to see MoMA and had some delicious food! It was really the perfect way to end the semester.

A pano of a work by Monet at MoMA
Looking into Manhattan through Astoria, Queens

It has been quite the ride this semester, with being involved with orientation again, doing senior interviewer, taking cool classes, learning a lot about new friends and about life, having excitement for the future and beyond. Although the fears that I face as a senior from time to time is quite real, I still can’t wait for what next semester brings! If anyone wants to find me, I would have limited access to Gmail, fb and snapchat, but I’ll get back to you 🙂

Post-Fall break madness, as promised

It probably did not come as a surprise to you, but I had two really busy weeks! Sometimes I am amazed at how Holy Cross was able to provide so much activities going on for us all the time. Although I miss being at Ireland and having more free time to relax and practice, I feel this has really realized my full potential, and sometimes I honestly have no idea about how quickly I could get things done sometimes!

So for the last couple of weeks, we successfully hosted Music Madness on Friday night, had a first rehearsal for Percussion Ensemble for the Christmas tunes that we are gonna perform in Cool Beans, and rehearsed a lot for the family weekend concerts. School work went on, grad school search went on, and I am slowly starting to get the hang out a future research project with Prof. Royden in the Computer Science department. We dug out some code written in 2011 and we’re gonna brush it up for our new projects!

Music Madness happened on a fateful Friday night, where the instrumentally talented, but no so much, has gathered together in Brooks Hall. We had pizza, got paired into six random groups, and I was with students who played the guitar, ukulele, and the kazoo, and I sang (in front of people and not in a group) and played the kazoo! We decided to do the theme song from friends, since we are doing a theme of music from TV shows or movies. Other performances have included a rather dramatic rendition of Let It Go, a group of students who never touched the instruments they are playing, an arrangement for Bet on It, Dancing Queen and the Star Wars theme, and so on. It was quite the fun and relaxing evening, and I got to discover the powerful kazoo!

Here’s a video of the highlight of me playing the kazoo and singing! Just to warn you though, I am not a huge fan of my recorded voice. The kazoo sounds good no matter what though.

That was the kind of fun and silly evening that I needed! The week after, we had some long rehearsal days, and prepared for two family weekend concerts. We sang a concert on Friday called “Milestones” featuring music by Leonard Bernstein, music dedicated to MLK and a couple of folk songs from different parts of the world including but not limited to US, China, Ireland and Scotland. My favorite songs from the selection are probably Best of All Possible Worlds, If I can Help Somebody, a Chinese folk song called Fengyang Song, and Carrickfergus, which is an Irish song. Best of All Possible Worlds is by Leonard Bernstein and is from his operetta Candide. The protagonist, Candide, has a teacher who expounds his famous philosophy, to the effect that all is for the best, and that is what the song is about. It was a very bouncy and silly song, having lyrics as “pray classify, pigeons and camels – pigeons can fly, camels are mammals”. I really enjoy the musical qualities that reflected the different actions going on in the song too. If I can Help Somebody has got a swing kind of rhythm to it, and we had an amazing soloist singing with us. I really enjoyed Fengyang Song because I got to sing in my native language and also got to do some research about the background of the song! And Carrickfergus reminded me of my times in Ireland – the first time I sang it I was very tempted in doing the song in an very Irish accent. “I would swim over the deepest oceans, only for nights, in Carrickfergus (or maybe Dublin in this case). But the sea is wide and I can’t swim over”. Lol, it would be hard to swim across the Atlantic ocean.

It turned out to be a successful concert, and I finally got to take concert pictures with my friends Joanna, Lauren and Michelle, now all four of us are in the US at the same time! I also hanged out with my boyfriend and my friend Teresa’s family afterwards. Although it is a bit of a stretch for my family to come over from China to see me in a concert, it still felt like home here plenty much. I also will be sending them recordings from the concert so they won’t miss out!

with Michelle, Lauren, our choir director Prof. Martin and Joanna!
with David at Casino night 🙂

Apologize for the photo spam if you had already seen it on my social media!

Chamber Singers, which is another choir group that I am involved in, also participated in a concert on Saturday. We sang selections from the Little Match Girl passion, a piece written by David Lang which intersects the story of little match girl with chorales written in the format of St. Matthew’s Passion by Bach, substituting Jesus’s suffering with the little girl’s, from a perspective of both of them being innocent people who are suffering. We also closed the concert with “O Quam Gloriosum”, which is a Renaissance piece meaning “Oh, how glorious the kingdom”, and forms quite the contrast with Little Match Girl Passion. We will be doing the full piece for Little Match Girl in mid-November as a collaboration with Arts Transcending Borders, and we will incorporate puppets in the show, which is something that I am really looking forward to see how it works out!

It was also really heartbreaking to see how events related to hate unfolded this weekend. If you’re reading this blog right now, I hope you’re trying to support one another, and trying in continued effort to educate yourself and others on those issues.

But that was a really basic recap of my prior two weeks. Next time, stay tuned for a new piece that we are learning in Balinese Gamelan Music that is not as much instrumentally related, an art project that includes drawing that I am currently working on with Illustrator (I really fear drawing but I am curious about how this will turn out!), and more about Little Match Girl Passion perhaps! I am also excited to see my piano teacher conduct the orchestra playing Beethoven Symphony No.2 on next Wednesday as it will be my first time watching him conduct!

New Beginnings

Hello, to whoever is reading this blog post right now! It’s been a while since I bid the sad goodbye to dear Ireland, spent some time back in China, and now I have been back on the Holy Cross campus for four weeks now. During the summer, I worked an internship at a headhunting firm, decided I wanted to take some cura personalis time and therefore had two weeks off – which was planned to be dedicated to reading, but turned out to be dedicated to Netflix and seeing old friends mostly. Afterwards, I have worked a job that I have previously worked for, which is being a tutor for kids who needs a bit of extra help for their TOEFL and SAT exams.

I got back to the Holy Cross campus during late July, and started doing some planning and preparation for International Student Orientation. This year, we had 6 amazing teammates leading Orientation, and we eventually had 23 international students joining us. Here are some highlights!

Team dinner in Bollywood Grill!
Post Laser-tag!

Returning back to campus was pretty weird and wild after being gone for a semester, a lot of things are still the same despite it feels a bit different. It mostly definitely felt weird to be the oldest ones on campus. It felt weird not living in Loyola after living there for a year and a half. It also felt weird that I cannot bear to carry on with some of my extracurricular, but it also rejuvenates thinking about all that I ended up doing.

This semester, I am finally taking four classes (back to a normal courseload, finally, phew) again. I am taking Artificial Intelligence, Computation Visions for my computer science higher level electives, Balinese Gamelan music for cross-cultural and music elective, and then a digital art class for fun. All of the classes has been intellectually challenging in their own unique ways, and it is definitely so good to be back in HC taking classes that are just below 20 people and sitting in office hours for 2 hours sometimes.

Outside of class, I am continuing with College Choir and Chamber Singers, and we will have our first concert of the year in St. Joseph’s Chapel next Friday! I am involved with Student Advisory Council for both Music and Math & CS. For Music SAC we are planning a Music Madness concert for this Friday – each person who signs up plays some instrument that they are amateurish or not very good at playing, and they get paired into ensembles of about 4,5 people, practice a song (from a TV show or a movie since this is our theme for this year) for 30 minutes and perform it in front of judges and audiences! So that is definitely something else that I look forward to. I am also involved with Senior Interviewer Program by the Admissions office, and we interview prospective seniors who are looking into Holy Cross.

I still can’t believe that fall break and a third of the semester is over already! During fall break, I got a chance to get out of campus and admire the beauty of fall in New England for a short while. I also just took a lot of time to rest up from the two midterms that I had before break and did just enough homework to leave me not so stressed post-break.

Fall in Acadia National park

Now I am feeling more rested and plenty recharged for post-fall break craziness, as the concert and everything starts to hit. I am also excited for this year and what it brings forth for me, as scary as that is. Stay tuned!

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!