Ireland Until the End

After my trip to Israel with Kristen, I had to face the reality that I had less than two weeks left in my study abroad experience. I started applying for summer jobs and making appointments back in the U.S. rather than booking flights to new destinations. While I was excited to return home and see my friends and family, at some point I  had fallen in love with Ireland. There are so many places I wanted to go back to and even more I didn’t get to see. But my life and bank account said it would soon be time to go back home.

However, I wasn’t about to leave Ireland without visiting a few more of its historic sites. Luckily, Kristen hadn’t visited me in Ireland yet and decided to tag along for the last leg of my journey. After landing in Dublin, we visited the Hill of Tara, a site that I’d wanted to visit since learning about it in my Celtic Mythology class. The Hill of Tara dates back roughly 5000 years, with various modifications over its long history, and has long been associated with kingship in both mythological and historical contexts.

Kristen Huth at the entrance to Tara
Kristen Huth at the Banquet Hall, entrance to Tara

At the Hill of Tara, we followed the coronation path with which begins over the Banquet Hall and ends at the Lia Fail, or Stone of Destiny. In Celtic mythology, it is said that when a true king touched the Lia Fail at his coronation, the stone would cry out. Kristen and I both touched it, but sadly, it looks like neither of us will be the next king of Tara.

The Lia Fail, or Stone of Destiny at the top of the Hill of Tara, Co. Meath, Ireland
The Lia Fail, or Stone of Destiny at the top of the Hill of Tara, Co. Meath, Ireland

After visiting the Hill of Tara and Dublin, Kristen and I headed back to Galway, so I could give her a tour of where I’d been living for the past five months. Since she hadn’t seen the Cliffs of Moher, we had to go there again. We got lucky, as it was remarkably sunny and clear. I will admit though, I kind of missed the foggy, Irish aesthetic.

The Cliffs of Moher round two! This time O'Brian's Castle and further out, Hag's Head are clearly visible
The Cliffs of Moher round two! This time O’Brian’s Castle and further out, Hag’s Head are clearly visible

However, we didn’t only stop at the cliffs this time. Since I wanted to experience more of Ireland, we took a tour that also showed us a variety of other sites around the area. If I hadn’t already been in love with the Irish landscape, this trip would have convinced me otherwise.

Dunguaire Castle outside of Kinvara, Ireland
Dunguaire Castle (tower house) outside of Kinvara, Ireland
Poulnabrone portal tomb Co. Claire, Ireland
Poulnabrone portal tomb Co. Claire, Ireland
Galway Bay cliffs
Galway Bay cliffs

Saying goodbye to the place and people was hard. No way around it, I didn’t feel ready to leave and truthfully, I don’t know if I will be able to return, although I hope I will. Because of the latter, I felt more homesick leaving Ireland than I had leaving the U.S. However, it is comforting to think about the people I have back home and the opportunities I’m looking forward to upon my return to Linfield.

Now that I have experienced traveling abroad, I know that should there come a time when I can return to Ireland or travel to another country, I will be ready for it. I have already been planning to teach abroad after college, and this experience has just shown me how incredible an opportunity like that can be. This is not the end!

Goodbye Ireland!
Goodbye Ireland!
Oregon bound
Oregon bound

Spring Break – Spain

After departing London, Phoebe and I arrived at our Airbnb in Madrid, Spain, and largely spent the first day resting. Boring I know! But it was clearly what we, and especially Phoebe, needed, as she recovered soon after. We shared our Airbnb apartment with the permanent residents, so it almost felt like a home stay experience. Our timelines didn’t match up perfectly with those of our other travel companions, so we spent the first few days exploring and getting acclimated before we were joined by Kristen Huth and Sophie Stensvad, Phoebe’s friend from Pacific University.

Maybe the first day of sunshine went to my head, but we spent a little too much time shopping in Madrid’s gorgeous downtown. However, we also spent time at some famous sites, including the Palacio Real and Cripta de la Almudena.

Almudena Cathedral
Almudena Cathedral, Madrid, Spain
Palacio Real, Madrid, Spain
Palacio Real, Madrid, Spain

Traveling around a beautiful city like Madrid can work up an appetite, so after a day of exploring, we would try some delicious Spanish dishes like tapas or paella.

Too much paella for us to handle!
Too much paella for us to handle!

Unfortunately, I had to cram two English essay finals into our travel plans which was a challenge because I felt like I wasn’t committing enough time to either travel or study. Although the essays probably weren’t my best work, I did finish them, and I don’t regret the added challenge of completing them while traveling. There was no way I could miss out on all of the incredible experiences we had in Spain.

After we all met up in Madrid, we traveled to Barcelona. Navigating a country where you don’t speak the language can be difficult, but luckily Kristen played translator when it came to Spanish. Catalan was another story though! The language barrier wasn’t too much of an issue in our day to day activities since it seemed like most Catalan speakers also spoke Spanish. However, we did see a performance of El Despertar de la Primavera (Spring Awakening), the musical, that we thought would be in Spanish and ended up being in Catalan!

From the left, Jordan Keller, Kristen Huth, Phoebe Whittington, and Sophie Stensvad at Teatre Victòria for Spring Awakening
From the left, Jordan Keller, Kristen Huth, Phoebe Whittington, and Sophie Stensvad at Teatre Victòria for Spring Awakening

I will admit that I understood very little of the dialogue of the show, but it didn’t matter because the performance was incredible! A quick Wikipedia synopsis helped me get the gist, and the exceptional acting and singing made for a stunning performance. The fact that it was in Catalan just made the show more fun and unique!

Of course, no trip to Barcelona would be complete without a visit to the Sagrada Família. While we were unable to get tickets to go inside, it was clear why the cathedral is world renowned for its architecture.

Sagrada Família
Sagrada Família

From Madrid to Barcelona, with new friends and old, our trip to Spain was unforgettable. But with only half of my journey behind me, there are still many new places to see! While Phoebe and Sophie returned to York for finals, Kristen and I will embark on our first trip outside of Europe.

Jordan Keller

Traveling to Israel and a Global Family

One of the questions I’ve been asked a number of times since deciding to travel to Israel during my time abroad is, of all the places, why Israel? The short answer is that for me, Israel represents a part of my family and heritage that I want to feel more connected to. Much of my mother’s family is Jewish, and a significant portion, including many family members I have never met, live in Israel. Being only a four hour plane ride away, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to explore that part of my identity and have fun visiting a new country!

A glimpse of the landscape between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea
A glimpse of the landscape between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea

Luckily, my family was kind enough to let us stay with them in Tel Aviv. I’m so grateful for their help with accommodation and activities, and my absolute lack of Hebrew skills and a phone plan could have made things much more challenging without them. However, clinging to WiFi and my Hebrew speaking cousins, Kristen and I were able to navigate without much issue.

One of our first stops was to Carmel Market where they sell all manner food and clothes in stalls along the street. I had never been to such a large open market, so I was thrilled by the colorful array of products and bustling shoppers.

A selection of spices for sale at Carmel Market, Tel Aviv, Israel
A selection of spices for sale at Carmel Market, Tel Aviv, Israel
A produce stall in Carmel Market, Tel Aviv, Israel
A produce stall in Carmel Market, Tel Aviv, Israel

A fun fact imparted by a tour guide, shopkeepers use red awnings to make the produce appear fresher, so it can be better to buy from stalls with white awnings. The red seems to be working though, as everything looked delicious to me!

Since we visited during Passover, most shops and restaurants were kosher and weren’t selling any breads for the first few days of our trip, to observe the holiday. However, this didn’t stop us from trying a variety of tasty dishes.

Knafeh from the Carmel Market
Knafeh from the Carmel Market

One way to work up an appetite for all of the yummy food was to spend a day swimming in the Dead Sea. Everyone says the salt content makes you feel light, but the reality felt far stranger than it sounds. I stood straight up in the water and could float without sinking! It was a truly unique sensation. The mud of the Dead Sea is also famous for its nourishing exfoliating properties, so we made sure to lather up and take a bottle back as a souvenir.

Enjoying the sun and a swim at the Dead Sea, Israel
Enjoying the sun and a swim at the Dead Sea, Israel
Jordan Keller and Kristen Huth raising the travel bar at the supposedly Lowest Bar in the World
Jordan Keller and Kristen Huth raising the bar at supposedly, The Lowest Bar in the World at the Dead Sea. Photo credit: Romi Bibi

The Dead Sea may be iconic, but no trip to Israel would be complete without visiting Jerusalem. For the sake of time, we primarily explored the Old City, but even in limiting ourselves to that, we could have easily spent another day or two there. Old City is packed full of significant historical sites and monuments, markets, and people from all over the world.

Just outside the walls of Old City, Jerusalem
Just outside the walls of Old City, Jerusalem

Another way we explored history, specifically that of Jaffa and Tel Aviv, was through a culinary tour. Hopping from one spot to the next, we experienced the evolution of cuisine in Israel from hummus to shawarma to ice cream. This was a fun, interactive way to learn about the history of the city. Here is a taste of what we tried:

Hummus and masabacha with pita and assorted sides
Hummus and masabacha with pita and assorted sides
Phyllo wrapped potatoes and cheese make a delicious savory pastry!
Phyllo wrapped potatoes and cheese make for a delicious savory pastry!
Malabi, a milk pudding with rose water, coconut, and peanuts
Malabi, a milk pudding with rose water, coconut, and peanuts

It was so fun trying out a bunch of foods which may be common among the local culinary tradition but were completely new to me. My personal connection to the place and the time I was able to spend with my family celebrating Passover, traveling to the Dead Sea, and living together enriched the trip to something beyond another just another travel experience. I definitely want to go back!

Jordan Keller

 

 

Spring Break – London

As promised, I have finished up finals and begun my month-long spring break trip. The trip is still ongoing, and I’m writing to you from the airport now! However, I began in London to visit some familiar faces. My high school friends, Micaela Levesque and Phoebe Whittington are studying in England, so we met up to explore the U.K.

The visit began with a rocky start, as Phoebe got pretty sick on the first day which lasted throughout the duration of our stay in London. The long day walks and hostel living did not provide for the most restful environment, but she powered through, and we were able to make some great memories in between doses of cold medicine.

Micaela played tour guide and showed us many of her favorite haunts, including her campus in central London, Camden Town, and the British Museum. They keep Cleopatra in there! We also became proficient in “tube” travel, a necessity when navigating such a major city.

Micaela Levesque (left) and Phoebe Whittington (right) strolling through Camden Town.
Micaela Levesque (left) and Phoebe Whittington (right) strolling through Camden Town, London.

We hit many of the famous London tourist destinations to get to know the city and take advantage of photo opportunities. We followed Micaela’s favorite jogging route which takes her across the iconic London Bridge. Not everyone can say that!

London Bridge
London Bridge

A pair of guys set up typewriters near the bridge and offered to compose a poem on the subject of our choice for a donation. After careful deliberation, we decided to ask one of them to write a poem about a “spiky sisterhood of seagulls.” In moments, the man was typing away, and he did not pause until the poem was finished. I don’t think his composition skills were half bad!

A poem composed for us near London Bridge
A poem composed for us near London Bridge

We went on several additional excursions, including to Westminister Abbey (although it was closed, so we couldn’t go inside) and an ice skating rink.

Westminister Abbey, London
Westminister Abbey, London
Jordan Keller skating at the Alexandra Palace Ice Rink, London
Jordan Keller skating at the Alexandra Palace Ice Rink, London. Photo credit: Micaela Levesque

One of my favorite excursions in London, however, was to see Toast by Nigel Slater. The performance is somewhat autobiographical, and tells the story of an English boy in the 50’s, navigating the challenges and grief of his life through food. The interactive performance included a dynamic set, musical numbers, and most importantly, treats for the audience based on scenes from the play. We truly had a taste of English culture, as we tried what for many audience members were classic childhood sweets.

Preparing to see "Toast" at The Other Palace Theater, London
Preparing to see “Toast” at The Other Palace Theater, London

Our stay in London concluded with no shortage of memorable times. Despite having to balance lingering homework assignments and illness amongst our group, we were able to learn about the city Micaela has called home during her study abroad experience and have a great time! And the tourists that we are, we managed to take some London aesthetic photos to capture the experience in the meantime.

Jordan Keller posing with a telephone booth for the "London aesthetic" outside St. Paul's Cathedral
Jordan Keller posing with a telephone booth for the “London aesthetic” outside St. Paul’s Cathedral. Photo credit: Micaela Levesque

Jordan Keller

The Celtic Experience

March has been packed with travel and cultural experiences, kicking off with a trip to Edinburgh, Scotland. Another group of international students from NUIG took the same flight and happened to be staying in the same hostel, so it was fun to run in to some familiar faces. Kristen, Paige, and I stayed in Castle Rock Hostel which was super cute and right across the street from Edinburgh Castle, the first castle I’ve toured. We saved some money by making dinner in the hostel kitchen Saturday night, and it was bustling with other travelers. We bonded over shared cooking ingredients and a broken stove top, making us feel right at home.

Charming Castle Rock Hostel, Edinburgh, Scotland
A charming lounge in Castle Rock Hostel, Edinburgh, Scotland

The castle itself was also magnificent. We did pay to go inside which wasn’t my favorite part of the trip given that it largely felt like a war museum (not my thing), however, the chapel was beautiful, there were plenty of city views, and we watched the firing of a canon, so I suppose it was an explosive experience at the very least.

Edinburgh Castle, night
Edinburgh Castle, night
Outside the Edinburgh Castle Cathedral
Outside the Edinburgh Castle Cathedral

A museum experience that I thoroughly enjoyed was at the National Museum of Scotland. The museum is free, massive, and has a plethora of interactive exhibits. Not to mention, it is aesthetically stunning.

National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh
National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh

We also spent a good amount of time wandering, as we are prone to do. This led to several little adventures including an exploration of the University of Edinburgh, and my personal favorite, The Boy Wizard Harry Potter store. I will admit to exhibiting a little too much childlike enthusiasm and purchasing a cauldron mug (it’s so cool!). The employees were kind enough to let us borrow a few wands for a photo op too!

A rare shot with the Boy Wizard himself! From the left, Jordan Keller, Kristen Burke, Harry Potter, and Paige Phillipson
A rare shot with the Boy Wizard himself! From the left, Jordan Keller, Kristen Burke, Harry Potter, and Paige Phillipson

Amidst all of the sightseeing, the highlight was the ghost tour. We took a late night ghost tour down the Royal Mile, through Greyfriars Kirkyard cemetary and down into the vaults beneath the city streets. Our tour guide was absolutely hilarious and dressed in a ghostly period costume, adding to the immersive experience. The tour was a fantastic way to learn a little more about the city’s history and legendary characters, such as little Annie, who is said to appear in the corners of the very vaults we stood in…

A statue of Adam Smith and a street cone, passed on the ghost tour.
A statue of Adam Smith and a street cone, passed on the ghost tour.

The following weekend, we continued to get to know the modern Celtic world through the much beloved holiday, St. Patrick’s Day. This time, Paige, Kristen, and I ventured into Dublin to spend the day and see the parade. Luckily, Dubliners aren’t quite as inclined to camp out for parade spots, so we were able to get a front row view. A quick hop into a tourist shop, and we were decked out and ready to celebrate.

From the left, Kristen Burke, Paige Phillipson, and Jordan Keller, ready for the Dublin St. Patrick's Day parade
From the left, Kristen Burke, Paige Phillipson, and Jordan Keller, ready for the Dublin St. Patrick’s Day parade

The parade itself was a colorful collage of dancers, floats, and a surprising number of U.S. marching bands. We made friends with a group of international students beside us who were studying in Dublin, taking photos and sharing trivia answers.

Adorable parade performers stealing the show
Adorable parade performers stealing the show

Following the parade, we faced the madness that is the Temple Bar area and met up with Kristen’s friend who is also studying abroad and wanted to visit Ireland for the holiday. The rest of the trip was spent exploring the pub scene, enjoying the revelry, and taking a spin on a nearby Ferris wheel in a truly memorable celebration.

Paige Phillipson and Kristen Burke atop a Ferris wheel, Dublin, Ireland
Paige Phillipson and Kristen Burke atop a Ferris wheel, Dublin, Ireland

I hope you enjoyed the latest update, and the larger photos! I’ll try to go back and modify the size of the ones in my older posts for your viewing pleasure. Stay tuned!

Jordan Keller

Parents in Town: A Culinary Tour

I’m not suggesting I eat better when my parents visit, but let’s just say their pocketbook is a smidge bigger than mine. At least, that’s how it felt during the week they spent visiting me in Ireland and traveling to Paris. But between bites of baguette and macaroon, we made time to see some famous sites as well.

It is difficult to balance family travel time and school when it’s only a vacation for some of us (not me), but it was so worth the extra effort despite the WiFi hunting tours and desperate essay writing attempts made over the course of the week. Traveling with family is a completely different experience than traveling with friends, even though neither I nor my parents had visited Europe prior to this trip.  My parents, being the culinary enthusiasts they are, naturally began their travels in Galway with dinner.

One of our main culinary adventures took place right here in Galway at Aniar. Aniar is one of those small portion, big price tag places you go to once every ten years, but they specialize in local ingredients–they harvest and source all of their ingredients in Ireland and modify their menu based on the day’s harvest. It was great to be able to connect with the landscape of Ireland in a new and delicious way!

A taste of the ocean at Aniar
A taste of the ocean at Aniar

After introducing my parents to the sites and sounds of Galway, we ventured into a new domain, Paris, France. After a bit of a steep learning curve, we figured out the metro system which is so handy! We were able to get everywhere we needed to go via public transportation. Our first stop took us to the Palace of Versailles which is an almost impossibly lavish destination. I felt like a real princess walking past the golden gates into halls decorated with elaborate paintings and chandeliers. The immaculate gardens follow a clear waterway into the distance as though they go on forever. I was ready to move in.

Hall of Mirrors, Palace of Versailles
Hall of Mirrors, Palace of Versailles

Of course, what first timer’s trip to Paris would be complete without world famous tourist destinations like the Eiffel Tower? It is strange to imagine such a culturally ingrained landmark for so long and finally see it in person. It was quite grand!

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France
Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

We also toured the Notre Dame, my personal favorite landmark of the trip. I was quite surprised to find, upon entering, that a service was taking place. The contrast between the vast number of tourists and the actual service was a bit unsettling for me at first, but I’m grateful I got to hear a pair of boys sing for the crowd, and the experience on the whole was indeed heavenly.

Notre Dame, Paris, France
Notre Dame, Paris, France

As someone who is unfortunately not a museum person, I have to admit that the expansive collection at the Lourve is quite impressive. I also have to admit that I entertained myself by (internally and respectfully) making fun of paintings and statues. But in all seriousness, it is a truly remarkable collection of work and artifacts, and I envy the skill and patience it must have taken to create the world renowned works.

Classic art or a sassy family photo?
Classic art or a sassy family photo?

Last, but certainly not least, we took a break from the sightseeing and crowds of tourists to enjoy a picnic in the Paris sunshine at the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. The park was a breath of fresh air situated just outside the bustle of Paris, and features a temple atop a re-purposed quarry with a lovely view.

Picnic goodies
Picnic goodies
First steps into the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
First steps into the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont

As all things do, our trip came to an end, and my parents flew back to Oregon. But with one week of classes left, I’ll soon be off on my final and longest journey yet. I’m looking forward to meeting up with familiar faces in some spectacular new locations. Send good vibes my way, as I attempt to complete my finals in spite of the upcoming Spanish sunshine.

Jordan Keller

Capitalizing on Craic: Travel and Activities

With midterms and a plethora of activities underway, it can be difficult to balance travel too. Luckily, us Linfield students have managed to do a bit of everything. As promised, many of us have gotten involved with clubs and societies here at NUIG. I was cast in a student written one act, Catraz Park by Sinead Ryan, and we just had our performance this past weekend! Lexi Kerr and Carole Thomas have taken their soccer skills abroad and joined the women’s soccer team.  Lexi has gotten involved with the Mountaineer Club as well for some outdoor adventuring.

Spot Lexi Kerr and Carole Thomas with the NUIG women's soccer team!
Spot Lexi Kerr and Carole Thomas in the NUIG women’s soccer team!

Getting involved on campus has been a great way to meet Irish students as well as students from all over the world. I’m so lucky to have had the opportunity to work with such talented individuals during the one act performances. Nothing makes new friends like show lights and a murder plot.

From the left, Eoin Mullins, Jordan Keller, Alisha Finnerty, Megan O'Neill, Pauline Smith, and Noel Minogue ready to perform Catraz Park!
From the left, Eoin Mullins, Jordan Keller, Alisha Finnerty, Megan O’Neill, Pauline Smith, and Noel Minogue ready to perform Catraz Park!

I was also able to support some of my fellow cast members by attending the Musical Society’s production of Pippin along with Kristen Burke and Paige Phillipson. (Sorry, trying to be inconspicuous is not conducive to photo quality).

NUIG Musical Society's production of Pippin
NUIG Musical Society’s production of Pippin

Kristen, Paige, and I put aside the extra-curriculars for a weekend, however, to travel to Belfast, Northern Ireland. We took an incredible Black Taxi tour where we got a taste of the city’s vast collection of street art and learned a bit about the political and cultural history that has shaped Belfast into what it is today.

One of the numerous peace walls within the city of Belfast, remnants of 'The Troubles'
One of the numerous peace walls within the city of Belfast, a remnant of ‘The Troubles’

After the tour, we wandered through the city, enjoying the beautiful architecture including numerous cathedrals, landmarks, and art installations.

Belfast City Hall, Northern Ireland
Belfast City Hall, Northern Ireland
'The Spirit of Belfast' art installation in Arthur Square, Belfast
‘The Spirit of Belfast’ art installation in Arthur Square, Belfast
Crescent Church, Belfast
Crescent Church, Belfast

Taking the recommendation of a kind pair of women on the train, we took a break from the bustle of the city to watch the Ireland v. Scotland rugby match. Having never watched rugby, I missed some of the finer points, but the local restaurants and pubs were packed with people invested in the excitement.

Kristen Burke and Paige Phillipson strolling through a Belfast alley
Kristen Burke and Paige Phillipson on the hunt for a place to watch the anticipated rugby match

After the game, we took some time to explore Queen’s University. The campus was absolutely stunning, and the brick buildings reminded me a bit of our own campus at Linfield. We were also pleasantly surprised to discover its Tropical Ravine, a garden paradise within the Botanical Gardens.

Queen’s University, Belfast
Queen’s University, Belfast

Most importantly, throughout all of these activities and travel adventures, wherever we are, we haven’t forgotten to have a bit of fun, or as they say here, a bit of craic!

Kristen Burke and Paige Phillipson making room for silliness in Belfast
Kristen Burke and Paige Phillipson making room for silliness in Belfast

Jordan Keller

Friends Abroad

It has been wonderful getting to know the members our Linfield program, other international students, and Irish students while at NUIG. However, sometimes, it is also nice to see a familiar face, and I was lucky enough to connect with several friends who are studying abroad in other countries in the last few weeks.

My first trip out of Ireland took me to Alicante, Spain, where my close friend and sorority sister, Kristen Huth, is studying.

Sigma sisters Kristen Huth (left) and Jordan Keller (right) reunite!
Sigma sisters Kristen Huth (left) and Jordan Keller (right) reunite!

It was so much fun getting to hear about Kristen’s experiences and see first hand where she has been spending her semester.  Between catching up and her acting as my translator, we enjoyed the sights of the beautiful city, and I got to meet several of her new friends.

Strolling through town, Alicante, Spain
Strolling through town, Alicante, Spain

Not to mention, after several weeks of rain (think Oregon in the fall) the sunny Spanish beach was a welcome break. Although it was a little too chilly to swim, it was nice enough to spend the day on the sand, watching the sailboats and playing guitar.

An afternoon at the beach in Alicante, Spain
An afternoon at the beach in Alicante, Spain

During the trip, we also explored The Castle of Santa Bárbara, perched over the city. The castle has a long history and boasts a museum, restaurant, and most importantly, stellar views. Photos can’t do justice to the watching the sun set over the city.

Overlooking Alicante from the top of The Castle of Santa Bárbara
Overlooking Alicante from the top of The Castle of Santa Bárbara

Sadly, we had to part all too soon, but I’m looking forward to showing her around Ireland in April! One of the great things about studying abroad at the same time as my friends is that making travel arrangements with them is both simpler and has the added benefit of great company. Just ask Phoebe Whittington and Micaela Levesque, high school friends of mine studying abroad in England, who came to visit me in Ireland the following weekend.

From the top, Phoebe Whittington, Micaela Levesque, and Jordan Keller posing for a bit of silliness
From the top, Phoebe Whittington, Micaela Levesque, and Jordan Keller posing for a bit of silliness

Day to day life in Galway is great on its own. It’s a new city, my classes are great, and there is always something going on. But having visitors encourages me to try out the journeys I might not always think to take on my own. For example, Phoebe, Micaela, and I decided to venture out to the Aran Islands for the day.

We selected Inis Mór for our destination and decided to take a bike tour around the island. Now, I won’t say how long it’s been since I’ve ridden a bike, but let’s just say I was a little intimidated. I quickly got the hang of it though, and I’m so glad I decided to try it out! This trip provided the perfect blend of scenic views and outdoor exercise. I don’t hesitate to say it was my favorite adventure yet, a testament to what can happen when you try something new!

Micaela Levesque biking around Inishmore
Micaela Levesque biking around Inis Mór

Our target landmark for the day was Dún Aonghasa, the oldest stone fort in Western Europe. Dún Aonghasa sits at the top of a cliff and is a comfortable bike ride away from the docks. On the way, we enjoyed the beautiful coastal views, paused for some dramatic photos, and left a small mark on the island.

Our stone tower, one of many along this section of the Inis Mór coast
Our stone tower, one of many along this section of the Inis Mór coast

When we finally arrived at Dún Aonghasa, it was incredible. It was a clear day, so we could see the cliffs extend for miles around the island. The wind whipped at our clothes and whistled over the water, and in the distance we could just make out a bit of Galway.

The cliffs from Dún Aonghasa
The cliffs from Dún Aonghasa

The sun hid beneath and broke through the clouds in cycles, gracing the sea with light. It was truly a spectacular experience, and well worth the trip.

Phoebe Whittington at the edge of the Dún Aonghasa cliffs, or the cover of my next YA novel?
Phoebe Whittington at the edge of the Dún Aonghasa cliffs or the cover of my future YA novel?

Once again, the weekend came to a close, and I had to say goodbye to my friends. But even last year, I never would have thought I would get the chance to travel around Europe with them or share these experiences together. The memories we have created are what I came here for:  fun, educational, lasting.

Jordan Keller

I Want Moher!

The last few weeks we have been busy figuring out class schedules and activities. If I’m being honest, registration can be a bit of a mess, but as of today, I’m officially registered for all my modules. Yay! A few of us did manage to work in a reading session at Cafe Nero to combine fun with productivity and stay on top of our classes. They have a great atmosphere and the coffee is amazing!

Cafe study session
Cafe study session

What was even more fun though was visiting the Cliffs of Moher. There was plenty of wind, mud, and fog, but if you ask me, that just adds to the Ireland aesthetic. It also meant there weren’t that many tourists, so we could explore the cliffs at our leisure.

The Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland
The Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland

The trails make it easy to get a closer look at the cliffs and wildlife. There are some beautiful viewing points where it feels like being at the edge of the world! Seagulls perched on the rock face and would float up to say hello. One flew right up to Kristen, but sadly, this humble blogger wasn’t able to capture the moment on camera. 

Kristen Burke saying hi at the Cliffs of Moher
Kristen Burke on the edge of the Cliffs of Moher

Aside from our big adventure to the cliffs, we’ve also taken mini adventures across Galway. We visited the Galway City Museum and it was really interesting to learn about the city. Despite being a young independent nation, Ireland has a long, rich history. After all, NUIG opened its doors before Oregon was a state!

We’ve continued to check off the many, many places to go in the city by trying out an assortment of restaurants and shops. We even went to the Saturday market where I purchased two bags of produce for €4.50! Mind blown.

Griffin's Bakery, Shop Street, Galway
Griffin’s Bakery, Shop Street, Galway

Night life is also a big part of the culture in Galway. Luckily, there are loads of pubs to choose from, and many have live music and dancing. We stayed at one pub for over two hours because the band was so good! It’s a great place to strike up a conversation, but even taking a nighttime walk down Shop Street can be memorable.

A night on Shop Street
A night on Shop Street

The next few weeks are bound to include more traveling adventures, but since Club and Society day were just this week, we also have many new social activities on the horizon. Just today, I auditioned for the drama department’s one act series, so wish me luck on the results! Lexi Kerr is getting involved with the soccer team, and everyone is looking to try something new. I have no doubt that as the semester continues, our little Linfield crowd will continue to branch out into new spheres. Stay tuned!

Jordan Keller

The Journey Begins!

After a saying goodbye to Oregon and a few too many hours of travel, we arrived exhausted and elated in Ireland. During the drive from Shannon to Galway, we were immediately captivated by the beautiful Irish countryside. I’ll admit that as a native Oregonian, being surrounded by all of that green was like taking a bit of home with me abroad.

Countryside outside of Shannon, Ireland
Countryside outside of Shannon, Ireland

Once we arrived in Galway, we checked into our apartments at Cuirt na Coiribe and met our new roommates! We are all living with other international students, most of whom are also from the U.S.

Over the course of the next few days we had orientation and began to explore NUIG and Galway. A few of us decided to wander through campus to get the lay of the land and of course, take pictures of the iconic Quadrangle. Much like Pioneer at Linfield, the Quad began as the original college campus which has since expanded from 68 students to 18,000.

National University of Ireland Quadrangle opened in 1845
National University of Ireland Quadrangle opened in 1845

I still get lost downtown, but that was the goal of our initial trip exploring the city of Galway itself. We first found ourselves in the stunning Galway Cathedral, a historic landmark and great point of reference when exploring the city.

Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and St Nicholas, Galway, Ireland
Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and St Nicholas, Galway, Ireland

Galway has a youthful vibe from the plentiful cafes and shops to the many street performers that enliven the environment. It is impossible to venture downtown without running into other students, and everyone we met seemed friendly and welcoming.

Paige Philipson taking in the downtown
Paige Phillipson taking in the downtown

Our quest to get lost in the city took us across the River Corrib (home to a singular swan) and off the beaten path. I don’t know where exactly we were in the city, but the colorful wall art spoke for itself.

Kristen Burke rocking rainbow
Kristen Burke rocking rainbow

Having taken our first adventure around town, we felt ready to take on an exciting new semester! I can’t wait to find out what’s coming next.

Jordan Keller