MIC Samantha Allen-Craig 2

Making the most of a small country

Samantha – Semester Exchange to Mary Immaculate College, Ireland   

Semester 1, 2017

I am coming toward the end of my four wonderful months in Ireland and what a time it’s been. Something I am going to miss dearly upon my return to Australia is the ease with which one can travel through this small little country. This has been such a blessing for making the most of my weekends – aided by not having any class on Friday or Monday!

So far my weekend trips have included England and Wales, Galway, Cliffs of Moher, Cork twice, Dublin twice, Blarney Castle, Killarney National Park and Belfast. And I’ve still managed to have multiple weekends in my hometown of Limerick. As I write this I’m on my way for a 2 week Europe stint for my Easter study break.

Something I will always remember from this trip is spending St Patrick’s Day in Dublin – I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people out in the streets wearing green, not caring at all about the pouring rain! It was such a wonderful atmosphere – the Irish are a happy bunch at the best of times but this was a whole other level. People were wrapped in Irish flags, wearing leprechaun hats, my friend requested I give her the full face paint deal – see the photo attached for my handy work! A surprisingly common outfit was the full green shamrock suit – pants, waistcoat, jacket and tie – the whole works. These tended to be worn by big groups of people who you could see coming from a mile off! We spent the day in the Temple Bar District and the pubs were packed to the brim with people spilling out into the already crowded streets. You could hear traditional Irish music coming from within – loud enough to cause a few people to start doing a bit of Irish dance in the street – they were really good actually! As for the parade marching its way through the main streets, this we couldn’t see at all as people had been lining the road for hours prior to it beginning to get a good spot. All in all it was a day full happy people, lots of green and lots of music – what’s not to love!?

Belfast was another particular favourite weekend trip of mine – it was with the whole international society (so about 30 of us – it’s a small university!) and we were there for three days. Belfast being the capitol of Northern Ireland and therefore a part of the UK is a fascinating fusion of England and Ireland. They have the classic double decker buses – although these are pink not red – a lot of the buildings are very English in style but its like they’ve been merged together with the Irish style and its quite unique, I liked it a lot. In addition there’s the Northern Irish accent which is a bizarre and wonderful mix of Irish, Scottish and British so that was fun to listen to – although it’s so thick a lot of the poor Erasmus students had a tough time understanding anyone. On our second day in Belfast we went on a Game of Thrones tour, which was a nine hour trip along the iconic Northern coastline, stopping at a number of film locations for the show. This trip included a stop at the Giants causeway and the Carrack-a-Rede Rope Bridge, both breathtakingly beautiful locations. It was a stunning warm day – the sun was shining all weekend actually, which was a lovely special treat for Ireland!

I could write pages and pages about the weekend adventures I’ve had whilst on exchange but I’ll leave it with just these two or I’ll never be able to stop. My advice to students studying abroad is to make the most of every spare minute you get. It’s important to see the town you’re living in sure, but especially in Europe, everything is so incredibly close together, and all it takes is to book a bus and maybe a nights accommodation if you’re going a little further afield and its amazing how much of your country – or others surrounding – you’ll be able to see. The trips I have done have been the highlight of my exchange, and I encourage you with all I have to make sure you go on as many as you can during your semester.