“After an amazing three and a half months in Ireland, today marks my last day here”. For the past week, Jaymi and I have been cleaning our apartment, packing up our belongings, and saying our farewells to our fellow classmates. Yesterday, Adam and Jennifer, our two lovely Irish friends, drove Jaymi and I to Dublin as my flight was leaving the following morning, and we were to meet up with Jaymi’s grandma, Millie, that night. It took about three hours to drive from Waterford to Dublin, but the ride was entertaining as we were enjoying each other’s company while listening to Christmas music. Once we reached our accommodation for the night, Jaymi and Adam left to pick up Jaymi’s grandma, and Jennifer and I had a chance to relax. I used this quiet time to reflect on the highlights of my trip overseas.
The biggest change I noticed when arriving in Ireland, and after getting settled in, was the immediate sense of freedom. Other than schooling and volunteer work, I have been free to explore Ireland on my own time and, in turn, have absorbed everything that has crossed my path. When thinking about what I have enjoyed in particular, I’d say that overall, I’ve enjoyed learning about and experiencing a different culture firsthand. I’ve also really enjoyed getting to know the Irish as I found them to be very friendly and helpful. I found schooling in Ireland to be completely different than the Canadian school system, and at first it was hard to make the transition into the Irish curriculum, but after attending classes for a week or two, I got into the hang of things, and was well on my way.
Throughout my time here, I’ve appreciated the beautiful buildings and landscape. You can’t go very far without bumping into a historic building without thinking “wow.” The history behind most of the buildings date so far back in time that it’s truly remarkable to think that these buildings are still standing. The views surrounding the Irish coasts are truly mesmerizing as well; I could sit on the cliffs and look out onto the waters all day long.
Looking back on the past months, I’ve enjoyed so much about this trip that I could talk endlessly about my time here. I’ve learned so much about Irish history, culture and its people; it’s an experience that I’ll never forget. I’m also grateful to have experienced this trip with Jaymi, as she has made this trip all the more enjoyable. Over the past months, we have been each other’s support systems, through which, we have built a great friendship.
I would highly recommend the amazing opportunity of studying abroad to future LESD students as it has broadened my cultural perspective and I’ve learned a lot about the Criminal Justice System in Ireland. Before I left Canada, I remember feeling nervous about what to expect while in Ireland. A few questions that would come to mind were, “will I get homesick and will I do well in school?” but shortly after arriving in Ireland, I found my footing and my questions and fears prior to arriving dissipated. To the future LESD students who choose to take part in this exchange program, I would highly recommend to dedicate sufficient time to your school assignments, as the marking scheme is different than in Canada, and above all, to enjoy yourself and make the most of your trip by taking advantage of everything that Ireland has to offer.
December 17th rolled around quickly, and before I knew it I had completed my last exam. The relief I felt after walking out of the examination hall was overwhelming. Now, I just have to wait for my results, which will not be available until January 20th. As well, today I picked up my class hoodie from the students rep office, and it finally hit me that my time in Ireland has almost come to an end. I have a few days left in Waterford, then I drive up to Dublin with Adam, Jen, and Connie, for our last night out together. The following day, I say goodbye to Connie at the airport and head off on my adventure around Europe. The time has flown by, as it seems like just yesterday I was taking off from Vancouver on my way to Ireland.
Looking back at it all, there is not one thing I would change. My teachers have been fantastic and have truly gone out of their way to help me, and the friends I have made here hold a special place in my heart. It has been relatively convenient having everything as close as it has been, which made getting around easy. The weather has, for the most part, been on our side, however, I did experience a few days of floods which limited my options on going out. It is all about the experience though, just have to invest in an umbrella!
Most of all, I would like to thank Connie for being my rock while I have been here. I could not imagine this experience without her. It’s been exciting talking about our future career plans and what is in store for us when we return home. Although, at this very moment, I am still unsure but it sure is fun to think about.
This has been an amazing opportunity and has taught me a lot, and I have gained a lot of insight into the Criminal Justice program, here in Ireland. My advice for anyone who chooses to take part in the exchange program, is to take advantage of everything Ireland has to offer but provide yourself with balance. Adjusting to the curriculum was a bit of an obstacle, because the grading system is different but if you preplan your trips and make sure you dedicate time to all your assignments you’ll be “grand” (as the Irish say)!
Throughout my time at the Waterford Institute of Technology, WIT, I have gained a lot of insight into how Ireland works in terms of the criminal justice system, specifically gender equality and human rights in Ireland, as well as insight into the Irish prison system. Throughout each of my classes, I have constantly found myself comparing the differences in the criminal justice system in Canada and Ireland. For my essay in my Irish Fundamental Rights class, I wrote a comparative analysis on Canada and Ireland with regards to human rights and the refugee process. One thing remained prominent in my mind throughout writing this essay is the fact that Canada’s humanitarian and compassionate approach to resettling refugees is looked up to worldwide. It’s one thing to read about the differences between two countries in a textbook but it’s a completely different thing to experience it by actually living it in an Irish school, amongst Irish teachers and students. I knew that during my time in Ireland, I’d learn a lot about Ireland, but I was also surprised to find that I’ve actually learned a lot about Canada as well.
November marked a very busy month for Jaymi and I, as we both found ourselves immersed in case laws, studies, and statistics, all in preparation for submitting our final essays for December 1st. Needless to say, December 1st arrived a lot sooner than expected but luckily for us, we had started our essays well in advance. When the essay due date finally arrived, I found it to be a very bittersweet moment. On one hand, I was happy to finally have finished my essays, but on the other hand, I knew that my time in Ireland was coming to an end. The teachers at WIT have been so helpful and really helped in making my transition into an Irish school a lot easier.
From the beginning of the semester until December 2nd, Jaymi and I had been volunteering with an after school program. Our volunteer duties consisted of helping the children with their homework and then playing sports with them afterwards. After being with the children on a weekly basis, our final volunteer day with them was really sad as we knew that we wouldn’t be seeing them again. On our last day, Colm, the program coordinator, told Jaymi and I that he would be sending us graduation pictures of all of the children, which would serve as a reminder of our volunteer experience.
Now that my essays have been handed in, and volunteer work has come to an end, it’s time to study for my final exam.
Winterville has come to Waterford, and it is really putting me in the Christmas spirit. The streets are all glowing with lights, and there are a few trees decorated throughout the main part of town. A few local vendors have set up “pop up shops” that are open every day, so the town is beginning to always be full of people. They have put a carousel in the middle of the city square, and a Ferris wheel just down the road. I have yet to take part in either of these, but I have promised to make a night out of it after I finish my final exam.
My friend, Damir, took me to the ice rink that was set up for Christmas. It’s just a two minute walk from city centre, near the main bus station. It costs €13, and includes your skates and an hour of skating. The time slots start on the hour, and since we went midweek is was not busy. I believe the last time I had been ice skating was in high school, so it took me a little while to get the hang of it but after a few laps of the rink I did not feel the need to hang on the rail anymore. Although, one child passed me by about 50 times, skating backwards, forwards and turning, while I barely let one leg off the ice and had to stop by skating into the boards. To each their own though. Christmas music played in the background and in the middle of the rink was a Christmas tree glowing with blue lights.
The next day, my friend’s Adam and Jen, took Connie and I on an adventure to the Comeragh Mountains which are located about an hour outside of Waterford. I was surprised when I arrived, as I had imagined a hill, however I was completely wrong. The hike was stunning, the mountain was clear which gave a spectacular view the entire way up and there were sheep everywhere. The sky was clear, which was lucky as the weather has started to become quite wet.
The only problem that we encountered was the wind, which ended up knocking me over and taking me for a slide a couple of times. The hike took just over two hours by the time we had reached the lake. Of course, we stopped for a rest and photo shoots here and there. The lake was crystal clear and the land around it was completely untouched. It was absolutely breathtaking. After spending an hour looking around and trying to find a cave, we decided to head back down the mountain. That took a while as it hard rained a fair bit, and everything was excessively slippery.
On the way home from the mountain, Adam drove us to the Copper Coast so we could see another lookout point. The beach will always be my favourite place in the world, and this particular view reminded me a lot of Australia for some reason. The cliffs, however, are quite terrifying because it makes a person realize how high up they are and when the wind was blowing I found myself crawling on the ground for extra protection (one can never be too careful!). I even decided to take a plunge in the ocean, but only got half my body in. It only took a few seconds to adjust to the water, and it was not nearly as cold as everyone had me thinking it would be. If I had brought a towel I would have completely dunked my body, or at least that’s what I keep telling myself.
Back home, at Riverwalk, it was time to study. Although I was thankful for the adventures the last two days, my final exam for Incarceration and the Law was fast approaching and I needed to dedicate as much time as I could to studying. My final is worth 100% of my grade, and it’s broken down into essay questions. No multiple choice and no short answers. I know I will do well, but my nerves always take over. Wish me luck!
As the due date for two of my papers was fast approaching, I dedicated a lot of my time in November to perfecting them. Connie and I spent countless hours at Costa (Ireland’s version of Starbucks) researching and editing. The two topics I had chosen were “History of Women in Policing A comparison between Canada and Ireland” for my Gender, Crime and Criminal Justice course, and “Police Surveillance Violating Human Rights” for Irish Fundamental Rights. My instructors had really gone above and beyond, as they had allowed me to turn in my papers a few times so they could look over them and make sure I was headed in the right direction. As I had never had that option available to me, I took full advantage of it. These topics interested me the most, and I was so glad to have picked them. The due date for the papers was December 1st, and although I had been given plenty of time to work on papers, I felt a bit of pressure as I had never had a class mark be worth 100% based off of one paper.
Connie and I have been spending our Wednesday afternoons volunteering with the after school program at the Waterford Institute of Technology. We had signed up in September when we first arrived, and each week we were becoming closer with the children. Our afternoon always started out by sitting with everyone in the cafeteria while they ate, and it was always interesting to hear about the drama that had happened that day on the playground. After their meal, we would take them into a classroom and work with them on their homework which included Math, Science, English, and Irish. Of course, I was unable to help with that last one but luckily Owen, another volunteer, was fluent. After homework, we would head into the gym for sports which usually involved soccer and any other game they decided to play that day. It has been extremely rewarding working with each and every single child and I am thankful that this volunteer work was available to me.
As Waterford is relatively small, and Riverwalk (where Connie and I are living) is central to most things, walking around is very easy. We have two supermarkets within a 5 minute walk from us, and city centre is no more than 20 minutes. After school, and when not working on our school papers, we venture out with our friends from school. With the Christmas seasons fast approaching, we decided to have a preChristmas party at our friend Jen’s house. We all bought matching pajamas and watched Christmas movies. I bought a very small Christmas tree for our apartment, so Connie and I decorated that with some lights as well. We made hot chocolate and popcorn along with plenty of other snacks. Although, being away from family is hard near the holiday season, I am so lucky to be surrounded by friends who make it easier.
During reading week, Jaymi and I embarked on a five-day adventure to England to visit with my family, and friend, Nicola, who was my best friend from primary school.
On the day of our departure, we left Waterford at 9:15 am and arrived in Dublin at 1:15 pm. After a few hours of sitting around the airport, indulging in sandwiches and chocolate, it was finally time to board our flight. We arrived in Manchester within 45 minutes, which was great as it was the shortest flight I had ever been on.
Once at the Manchester airport, we got into a taxi and headed towards the Manchester Airport Inn, which is where we would be staying for the night. While in the taxi, Jaymi and I had a little bit of a scare as the driver drove extremely fast. I remember looking at Jaymi, who was sitting across from me, and she was holding onto the handrails for dear life. At one point, Jaymi and I clocked the driver’s speed at 137km/h through an iPhone app, which was rather concerning to us. After a long and scary taxi ride, we arrived at the hotel and settled in for the night. We slept soundly, to say the very least, after an eventful day.
The following morning, Jaymi and I decided to take full advantage of the English breakfast buffet, which was being offered in the hotel’s restaurant. The buffet offered eggs, sausages, ham, beans, tomatoes, fruit, toast, and a bit of everything else. I really enjoyed the breakfast, as it was a change from my usual breakfast of porridge in Ireland.
After breakfast, Jaymi and I began to get ready for the day, as we were to meet up with my aunty and uncle at 10:30 am. Upon meeting up with them, we went to the Warrington’ Marks & Spencer, a store that sells absolutely everything, and met up with my other aunty and cousin. I was really excited to see my family again as it had been such a long time. It was also really nice to see familiar faces, as I haven’t seen anyone that I know, outside of Ireland, in over two months.
An hour later, Jaymi and I left with my aunty and cousin to go back to their house in Bretherton, which is about an hour drive from Manchester. Along the way, my aunty decided that she was going to take us on a drive to see my old house and school. I was excited and very surprised to see how little everything had changed since I was last in England, over 14 years ago. On arrival at her house, we had a delicious dinner, and then it was time to go to my friend Nicola’s house. I was nervous to meet with her, after almost 14 years, but once I got there and started talking with her, the nervousness went away and I was overridden with excitement to spend the next few days with her.
The next day, the three of us, and Nicola’s son, Charlie, went out to Preston to explore the city. Preston is absolutely beautiful. The buildings are so old and different from anything I have ever seen and the streets are so lively. While in Preston, we looked for Halloween costumes as we were going to be going out later that night to celebrate my birthday. Jaymi and I couldn’t find a costume to wear, so we decided to just put on cat ear headbands, paint our faces, and call it a costume.
After finishing our shopping, we headed home, made spaghetti bolognaise for dinner, and got ready for our night out. It was then time to head out and see what the nightlife was like in Preston. Given that Jaymi and I don’t really “party” at home in Canada, we weren’t really sure what to expect. The nightlife in Preston definitely took us by surprise though as there was so much going on, from ‘old hits’ pop bars, playing S Club 7 and Steps, to clubs and pubs. Preston appeared to have it all and after a great night out, it was time to head home.
The following day, my aunty picked us up from Nicola’s house and brought us back to her house to see my uncle and cousins. I was so excited to see them as it had been years since we had last seen each other. On arrival at their house, I was happy to see my uncle and cousins, and also pleasantly surprised to meet my cousins’ girlfriends, Victoria and Hannah, who were really nice. We sat around and talked for a while, then unexpectedly, my aunty brought out a birthday cake which was accompanied by them singing “Happy Birthday.” I had a great time spending the evening with my family and the cake was delicious too.
On our second to last day in England, Jaymi and I said our goodbyes to my friend Nicola, and awaited my aunty who was picking us up. She then took us to meet with my other aunty who lives in Holmes Chapel, which is about 30 minutes away from Bretherton. After an emotional goodbye, Jaymi and I then left with my aunty from Holmes Chapel to meet with my uncle and two cousins back at her house. Later that night, we went out for dinner at a really nice restaurant called “Pizza Express.” The food was spectacular and we had an amazing time. After dinner, I said my goodbyes to my family, and then Jaymi and I went back to the same hotel we had stayed at the first night of being in England, before going back to Ireland the following day.
I had a great time in England and I really appreciated the break away from writing my papers. I enjoyed the experience of seeing my hometown again, and seeing how it has changed over the years. It was also really nice to spend time with my family and friends, but it definitely made me miss my mum, dad and sisters back in Canada. Now that I’m back in Ireland, it’s time to go back to the student life of writing essays and preparing for my final exam. With Christmas fast approaching, the city of Waterford is beginning to get festive with decorations and Christmas spirit. Jaymi has even bought a small Christmas tree for our apartment.
The past two months have gone by so quickly but I’ve had an amazing time and I’ve learned a lot about myself in the process.
After another week of classes, I was counting down the hours until the weekend. Connie and I had planned a trip to Cork, so when Friday rolled around I was ready to go. One of my instructors had given me a list of things to do while in Cork, and again, I was just excited to visit a new town. The three hour bus ride proved to be the most beautiful as we went in and out of small towns and drove along the ocean’s shore. I was starting to regret not buying a proper camera for this trip but my Iphone will have to do the job.
On arrival in Cork, I was immediately intrigued by how much larger it was than Waterford. There was even a Starbucks which was a friendly reminder of back home. Of course, I had to get my pumpkin spiced latte before I could do anything. Connie and I then set off to find our accommodation as we wanted to drop off our things and start exploring. Unfortunately, we ran into a bit of a problem with our guesthouse which resulted in us having to quickly find Wi-Fi and look for other accommodation. Luckily, I was able to find us a place that was a bit pricier than we wanted but it was more than worth it.
We wandered around the city for hours, walking down alleyways and stopping to watch the talented people of Cork, tap dance, sing, and play guitar. Most importantly, I did some shopping, as I was not able to pack much and needed to prepare for winter. For dinner we found a quiet little pub that had Irish stew which, once again, was so delicious. For the remainder of the evening, we walked around some more and went in and out of a few pubs. Since we had a full day planned for the next day, Connie and I decided not to stay out too late.
The next morning, we quickly went downstairs for our buffet breakfast and then headed out to the Cork City Gaol Prison Museum. Connie and I spent a couple hours touring the museum and learning about the history of the old prison, and some of its first prisoners (one as young as eight years old!). We decided to purchase the audio tour which took us through the prisoners’ daily routines including meals, yard time, and the punishments the prisoners used to face. It was almost unbelievable, and made me appreciate how far the criminal justice system has come, specifically the prison systems.
We continued to explore Cork, and ended up at the English Market which is located right in the middle of the city. There, they had everything you could imagine the perfect farmers market could have. I had to indulge in some of the pastries as the prices were amazing. It was packed with people picking up their food for the coming week and I got to experience people speaking Irish to one another. Made me wish I had learned another language growing up.
Finally, our weekend came to an end and it was time to go home. I was sad to leave, as I had fallen in love with Cork in the short time we were there but I needed to get back and start working on my papers again. It was a much needed break and I am excited to go back!