Similarly to when I wrote this last post, procrastination is once again lending itself well to ensure that I’m somewhat productive in all areas of life except for that of studying. Here in Ireland, we’re about to enter week 5 here of the new academic year and while I feel like it’s still the start of the semester, things are once again moving at an alarming pace. Last time I wrote an entry, I was sitting in the sunshine in Copenhagen looking at the spring flowers wondering how time manages to move so quickly. Five months later and it’s a pretty similar story, except this time I’m looking out into the garden watching the leaves turn red.
Between studying (read: procrastinating) for six exams and trying to fit as much in before everyone moved back home/went away for the summer, unsurprisingly the final three weeks of last semester passed in somewhat of a blur. Truly embracing the pass/fail nature of being on exchange, a highlight was definitely when a bunch of us booked flights to Germany and ended up at Frühlingsfest, the smaller, more localised version of Oktoberfest in Munich. With beer in litre steins and lederhosen and dirndls everywhere, ‘smaller and more localised’ definitely didn’t equate to less fun.
Frühlingsfest – Munich, Germany
Five days later and back on Irish soil, things a lot less happy and merry as May kicked off along with the start of exams. Group mentality was fairly prevalent, given that here for some reason that completely escapes me, you take your exams with 3000 other students in the room. Except you’re not in a room, you’re in a freezing cold, barren hangar, off campus somewhere that requires taxis home if you’re unlucky enough to have an exam finishing at 8pm. A truly bizarre way of doing it if you ask me, especially when 600 people up and leave because they’ve only had a 1 hour exam. Seldom fun in the eyes of anyone, I’m going to skip over the rest of exam details and fast-forward to end of them and the beginning of summer.
If I’m honest, finishing exams was a bit of a weird and melancholic experience. While I, along with every other student, was absolutely stoked to be finished the semester, there was a sad feeling in the air as we packed up our things and moved out of where we considered “home” to be for the last four months. On our final night in student accommodation, we all assembled for a last hurrah among the exchange students. Rules were put in place – shed a tear, finish your beer. A lot of beer was consumed. And a lot of tears were shed – myself included when I waved off my beautiful housemates as they left for the airport to fly back to the US the next day. As I’m sure most exchange students can attest to, you tend to bond the quickest with other exchange students. Maybe it’s because you’re in the same boat and fast friendships are necessary to feel some sort of grounding when you’re in a new place, or maybe because you hold what’s familiar close. Or it could just be because you literally always see each other. Regardless, the group of students last semester were a truly weird and wonderful crowd who made the end of the semester exceptionally hard, despite knowing we were free of assignments, exams and, best of all, group work for a whole 16 glorious weeks.
Like most students that have found themselves on exchange in Europe, travelling has slowly etched its way more and more into my exchange as the time ticks by. Whether it be over weekends, mid-semester break, swotvac, during exams (yes, embrace the pass/fail nature of exchange! Any spare time is time to travel), before/after the semester or between semesters, travelling is a massive part of being on exchange. Domestically or internationally, I feel like that’s what constitutes an extremely large part of the whole experience: seeing new places, experiencing new cultures and meeting new people. Coming on exchange for our academic year (i.e. backwards to here) meant that I had four months holidays in between semesters where I was fortunate enough to backpack around Europe – ohh my, what a treat it was having summer holidays mid-year!
The summer kicked off to an incredibly wet start. There’s no other way to put it. My parents came to Ireland to visit and it was possibly the worst 10 consecutive days of weather I’ve seen here to date.
We went to the beautiful Cliffs of Moher that
usually look like this if you’re lucky enough with a sunny day – as my housemates were when they went.
Cliffs of Moher, Ireland
And we, on the other hand, were instead gifted with this: a much more adequate representation of Ireland’s temperamental weather patterns.
Needless to say, we didn’t see much. Or anything at all really.
While wet for the most part, the weather does change in the drop of a hat here (so they say), so we did manage to get a few scarce hours without rain over the course of two weeks.
Killary Fjord, Ireland
Three Castle Head – Schull, Ireland
And of course it was still beautiful even when it wasn’t sunny!
Kylemore Abbey, Ireland
Leaving Ireland behind for the summer, I spent a few weeks travelling through Wales and Scotland…
Isle of Skye, Scotland
Before venturing to Norway to go hiking for 3 weeks. I’m extremely lucky in that I’ve travelled a fair bit and seen some pretty amazing places over the years but Norway absolutely blew my mind. There really are few words that I can write to describe how incredible it was, so I’ll let photos do the trick instead.
After delaying leaving Norway for a week longer than I had initially planned, I finally got to Sweden and Finland before flying to Greece.
Wet weather well and truly behind me, I hopped around the islands before heading up into the mountains in Northern Greece.
Vikos Gorge, Greece
I realise how picture heavy/long this is getting, so I’ll race through the next little bit – there were just so many amazing spots along the way. From there I spent three weeks travelling through Albania, Macedonia and Serbia before heading to the largest music festival in Eastern Europe, Sziget Festival, in Budapest, Hungary.
Lake Ohrid, Macedonia
Sziget Festival – Budapest, Hungary
(If you get the opportunity to ever go to Sziget, do it. And go for the 8 days – it’s incredible)
After 8 nights of camping with perfectly clear skies, on the final night the sky opened up and it poured down on the 80 000 tents on the island, ours included. Overnight the temperature dropped from 32 to 13 degrees and the rain marked the start of a cold front that hit majority of Eastern Europe, even though it was only August. Firmly deciding I wasn’t ready for 13 degree weather just quite yet, I hopped on a plane to Spain to check out the world’s biggest food fight…
La Tomatina – Buñol, Spain
La Tomatina – I really don’t know where to start. For one, I certainly didn’t know where I, or the tomatoes, started or ended. I remember looking at my watch thinking at least half an hour had passed and we’d only been at it for 12 minutes – after an hour and I was wading in a sea of squished tomatoes up to my shins. It was mental. Seriously, I washed my hair 8 times in 2 days and still found chunks of tomatoes days (weeks?) later. I haven’t eaten bruschetta since.
San Sebastián, Spain
After a few weeks travelling around Spain after la Tom, reality set in and it was time to head back to Dublin for the start of college – something that feels like it was a few days ago, not over a month ago. I guess what’s happened between then and now probably warrants a new post because this is well and truly long enough (and I have class in 3 minutes), so I’ll leave it there for now.
Until next time!
Tabhair aire 🙂