One Month In…

I have been in Belfast for a month now!! Part of me can’t believe I have already been here for that long, while the other part of me feels as if I have been here forever; I have done so much and yet I still have so much I want to do.

So, school…lectures have continued on and tutorials began. The way most classes work here is you have two hour-long lectures and one hour-long tutorial in a week. So far, lectures have basically been the same as at home- typical professor stands in front of a large lecture hall and gives a lecture sometimes using a PowerPoint presentation. The tutorials however, were new to me, and so far not enjoyable. It is in a much smaller room with about 8-10 students and the professor or another leader, in one of my classes the tutorial leader gives us small discussion pieces to do in groups, another the professor from class basically just extends his lecture notes and each student has to write an essay one of the weeks and give main points to the class, in my third and final tutorial we have a reading to do ahead of time and then answer questions about it in the class with the professor randomly calling on you. I have a paper due for each class, one at the end of March, the other two at the end of April, and then a final exam for each class as well.

Tuesday, February 7th, the other four ISA girls and I went to the “UV Party” hosted by Queen’s in the Student Union Building, where highlighters and glow sticks were thrown all over and black lights were on, it was a lot of fun!

Elise and I ready to go to the UV Party!
All of the ISA girls going to the UV Party!

Then Wednesday, February 8th, the ISA girls, Paul (our ISA director), and I got a private tour of Belfast City Hall, and afterward got to sit in the SDLP (Social Democratic and Labor Party) office and have tea and biscuits and were each given a book about the City Hall and a nice pen. It was a great experience and we learned a lot of fun facts. We also got to meet the current Lord Mayor.

Inside beautiful Belfast City Hall
Elise and I ruling Belfast!
O'Neill - That's me!

The next evening, my floor in Elm’s Village had an “International Party” and invited a lot of Erasmus (European study abroad) students as well as Irish students, so we met people from all around the world, which was fun!

Sunday, February 12th, I went with my ISA group on a bus tour up the Causeway Coastal route stopping at many interesting places, including some castles, crossing the Carrick-a-Rede Bridge, Giant’s Causeway, and Bushmill’s whiskey distillery. It was so nice to see more of the typical Irish countryside, versus the city of Belfast, everything was so beautiful!

Driving along the amazing Irish Coast!
Elise and I nervously walking across the Carrick-a-rede Bridge
The Glens of Antrim - wow!
Me on the Giant's Causeway!
Old Bushmill's Wiskey Distillery
Old Bushmill's Distillery

The next night after class, my ISA group and I watched the film “Michael Collins” and ate pizza in a building at Queen’s. The film was very good as well as informative on Irish history and politics. The rest of the week, I was in my room sick with the flu, so not much to mention, except that I did go to the Queen’s Health Centre to see a doctor and she wrote me a prescription, and both the appointment and the medicine were free! Also, my mom and dad had sent me some care packages and they couldn’t have arrived at a better time than while I was in bed sick. I got some colorful cups and bowls, because they knew I hadn’t had a chance to buy any yet, and a pack of A&W Rootbeer, because it is my favorite and they don’t have it in Ireland! :)

Yay for A&W!

Tuesday night, February 21st, I got to be a part of the live audience of the BBC program called “Spotlight”, where local politicians are on a panel and answer questions about current issues and events, asked by the audience. It was very exciting and interesting and helped me understand more of the issues that my professors have been discussing in my politics classes.

The studios of BBC Spotlight where I got to be an audience member

This weekend was the ISA sponsored trip to Dublin; we took a train at 6:00 in the morning Saturday and spent all day Saturday and Sunday exploring the city before getting home Sunday night at about 8:00. After first arriving we went on a free walking tour of the city provided by our hostel, then had lunch in the Stag’s Head pub, we then walked around St. Stephen’s Green (and were lucky enough to have beautiful, sunny weather the whole time!) and Grafton Street and Temple Bar area. After getting ready, we went to the Brazen Head for “A night of Folklore, Fairies and Food”, where an Irish man told us stories of folklore and fairies from Irish culture, we ate a 3-course delicious meal and listened to traditional Irish music. Afterward, we went on a pub-crawl around the city to many of the popular pubs, including The Brazen Head, The Temple Bar and The Stag’s Head. The next morning we went on a tour of Kilmainham Gaol (jail), and a tour of the Guinness Factory which finishes with a free pint of Guinness in the Gravity Bar at the top of the factory which gives you an amazing 360-degree view of Dublin. Then we ate lunch at O’Neill’s Pub (my last name!) and walked around and shopped on Grafton Street until our train at 6:00pm to head home to Belfast. Overall it was a really fun (and tiring!) weekend and I definitely plan on taking at least another daytrip to Dublin while I am here!!

The River Liffey that runs through Dublin
Dublin is known for its beautiful, colorful doors
In the Guinness Brewery
Welcome to the land of Guinness!
The ISA girls and I in Dublin!
Out to a fabulous dinner in Dublin
The Brazen Head- where we got to enjoy a great night of Irish folklore
Elise and I in St. Stephen's Green
The famous Temple Bar
Great shopping on Grafton Street

I have had such an amazing time so far and can’t believe it is already March this week and I only have until June!!

Briana O’Neill
Classmates Connecting Cultures
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Spring 2012

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