The opportunity to study abroad is in itself incredible and life-changing, and something I will highly recommend to all over and over again, but having a program to go through has made this time of my life even better. I don’t know how my experience would have differed had I not chosen to study abroad in Galway through CEA, but what I do know is that I wouldn’t have wanted to spend my four months here any other way.
My CEA housing placement not only secured shelter for me, but gave me friends and adventures that have made me feel more alive than ever. In early January, 14 college students arrived to Shannon Airport, nervous and unfamiliar with our surroundings, and now we are nearing the end of our program, when we once again will have to leave the familiar that we've fallen in love with. The end of our time here also means we no longer have any trips to go on as a crew, but we do have memories that will follow us through the rest of our lives. Now, as a way to reflect myself and share with you some of my happiest times, I have decided to reminisce on my three favorite trips through CEA––which could become your own, too, if you decide this program is also meant for you.
Since the CEA crew and I were all just getting used to being away from home, it was so nice that our trip to Dublin was planned two weeks after our arrivals to Galway. This weekend trip was enjoyable and smooth-sailing, thanks in large part to the fact we were all together and had guidance from Thomas, our wonderful CEA program director for Galway students, who is greatly familiar with Ireland.
While there, we got to hit a few of the major tourist attractions, including Trinity College (and the Book of Kells!) and the Guinness Storehouse. We also took a trip at night, after devouring our own personal pans of pizza and frosted donuts, to the National Leprechaun Museum, where stories of slightly haunting and fascinating folklore were shared with us. Museum visits were a must the next day, including one featuring “bog bodies” (the National Museum of Ireland - Archaeology) and another that explained past-to-present Irish history in an enthusiastic and entertaining way (the Little Museum of Dublin). We also took a stroll through St. Stephen’s Green, where birds, statues and scenery were aplenty.
This trip is definitely one that I will remember for years to come, and I only wish that every day of life could emulate the fun we had during this weekend in Dublin!
2. Cliffs of Moher
This trip was ironically taken on––what I’ve since found to be––the windiest day on the Wild Atlantic Way, but the safety precautions given regarding the cliffs reminded us to be safe. It’s also typically windy near the coast, especially at the Cliffs of Moher, so this weather was to be expected. While it took awhile to get a pic satisfying enough to capture this scenic beauty, without my hair entirely blocking my face, this trip was one of my absolute favorites. The Cliffs of Moher are one of the most well-known attractions in all of Ireland, and possibly in the entire world, so to say that I was excited is an understatement. This trip was also taken in early February, when I wasn’t as familiar with this country as I am today, so it was one of the first to really deepen my knowledge of my new home. Also, our bus driver was fun and entertaining, and he made sure to play traditional Irish music for all on board. Bus trips are usually not entirely enjoyable, but whenever I even simply take the bus to the airport, I can’t help but find myself in awe of the beauty that is so casually right outside my window. Ireland is my new backyard.
It was really nice to be able to go with other CEA students to this, especially since you are bound to have someone there to be your photographer for the day (and vice-versa). I left this trip extremely eager to see even moher of Ireland, and I still haven’t reached every location on my list, which I suppose makes the perfect excuse for me to come back someday––soon!
I didn’t even picture this particular beauty of Ireland in my wildest dreams before coming here, but then the CEA crew and I discovered Dingle. We took our final weekend getaway to this town in County Kerry in late March, and we even had personal transport along the way. That’s right! Because we are CEA students, we got to see beautiful sights, landmarks and attractions in Dingle, all without the hassle of finding transportation and spending loads of euros just to reach each location. I wouldn’t trade the opportunities I’ve had through CEA for the world (but possibly for just one more weekend in Dingle!).
Upon arrival on Friday afternoon, we quickly dove right into the action -- spending our first hour or so trying to find Fungi, the famous dolphin here, and I am so happy to say that we were greeted with success! Unfortunately, our CEA crew had to split boats, since we couldn’t all fit onto one, but we made the most out of this and partook in some fun waving games, while we were on literal waves. (Anything to have some craic (fun) in Ireland!) I’d prefer to believe that our enthusiasm finally encouraged Fungi to make an appearance even more.
After this, we checked into private rooms at our hostel and made our way to dinner, which was graciously paid for by CEA, where I had the best salmon of my life. An ice cream stop at Murphy’s was also made, of course, where I ordered a flavor made from actual sea salt, and was later tempted to buy some more of it. (Pro-tip: There is also a Murphy’s located right in Galway City!) We were then free to roam the town as we pleased, which is something that I’ve really appreciated about CEA; even though we have planned excursions and activities, we are still always given free time to explore solo, or with friends, and create our own unique memories.
Now, I don’t even know how to describe the beauty we saw on the following days, which were spent exploring mountaintops and waterways covered in splendid mixtures of blue and green. The scenery of Dingle itself makes this a must-see location, which was made possible for us all through CEA. This weekend trip was not only one of the best experiences of my time abroad, but of my life. From climbing to the westernmost point in all of Europe, to feeding goats and holding baby lambs in the mountains, this weekend was jam-packed with tons of adventure and pure serenity. Nearing the end of our trip, Thomas even played a trivia game with us on the bus and gave out prizes based on what we learned. I won a small art print of the Dingle Peninsula, which I will cherish forever––just like these trips.
Ireland has captured my heart, and I'm bound to return here as soon as possible. How awesome is it that I was able to not only explore this magnificent country, but to live here too? I will truly miss Ireland, but I am grateful to be taking pieces of it home with me, both in the form of souvenirs and memories.
Even though these places are ranked as my top three favorite trips through CEA, I am only scratching the surface with all this program provides students. For instance, we just had our final meal as a crew (much like our welcome dinner on our second night in Galway). We also had a couple movie nights during the semester, which were super casual and a fun way to relax. Also, by coming to a foreign country through CEA, there is always someone here to check in on you, which is just all around a comforting feeling to have.
When I first arrived in Galway, I suddenly felt distraught by the idea of not spending the semester at my home university; however, had I not decided to come to Galway, and study through CEA, I would not have discovered all these new and exciting pieces of both Ireland and myself. I'll be upset once I have to make my way back to New York, but will also be thankful for all the time I was able to spend here. I will leave Galway anxiously awaiting my return one day, while I reminisce on all the joys and memories of my yesterdays here.
Kelsey Fredricks is the Spring 2019 CEA MOJO Blogger in Galway, Ireland, and is currently studying at State University of New York at New Paltz.