September 23, 2016
We are shortly coming to the end of our third week in Waterford, Ireland. As the days fly by, I have been making friends from all over the globe and am becoming more familiar with the Irish culture.
The first week of school was a bit of a bumpy road for Kyle and me, as we found out the first day that we had to change all of our modules. The way the school system works in Ireland is a lot different than in Canada. You attend each class four times a week for one hour lectures and tutorials. The timetable at WIT is also very different so Kyle and I were running in between campuses on the first day trying to figure it out.
I am personally settled into my classes now and loving them, and my instructors. The instructors we have, don’t have quite the same exhilarating law enforcement stories to share with us, however; they seem to be very passionate about their lectures. I am taking three classes which include Incarceration and the Law, Victimology, and Irish Fundamental Rights.
The way the grading system works is much too complicated to explain but there are no mid-terms, assignments, or homework. The first time I heard that I was relieved, however, finding out your whole grade is dependent on one final exam or essay at the end of semester, made me miss homework. So, as you can imagine, every day when I get back to my apartment, I go over everything I learned that day.
Last Saturday, Kyle and I went to Cork, along with international friends we have made here. We all hopped on a bus at 8:30am to the city. Our group consisted of two Canadians, two Dutch, two French, and two Mexican students. The experience was awesome as we got to share stories about our home towns with one another. Upon arrival, we explored the city for awhile and, of course, I found a Starbucks and had to have my pumpkin spice latte.
We walked many kilometers and burned many calories exploring churches on our way to the Cork City Gaol. The Gaol is an old prison which was in use in the early 1920’s and is now a museum. We got the whole experience of what is was like to be a prisoner back in the day (everything but the punishments).
After the prison, we headed straight to Blarney Castle and the Blarney Stone. All of us were blown away by the Castle grounds. There were 60 acres of pure magical experiences. The Blarney Castle was very open for tourists to explore. We climbed a tight spiral staircase through a 35 minute line to kiss the famous Blarney Stone. It was kind of like waiting in line for a ride in Disneyland. You have to hang half your body upside down while someone holds your legs while you kiss the stone. They say if you kiss the stone you gain the gift of eloquence. The experience at Blarney Castle was an unforgettable experience and I recommend anyone who is thinking about going to Ireland to visit Blarney Castle.
During the week, we held an international dinner with our friends from the Netherlands. We introduced them to poutine on Tuesday which ended in them licking their plates.
There is still so much more to explore, many more friends to be made, and much more to be learned.
September 12, 2016
On September 1st, 2016, I finally embarked on the experience of a lifetime, studying for one semester in Waterford, Ireland. I really didn’t spend too much time stressing about leaving to Ireland for four months, I guess I try not to focus too much on the future. I didn’t really want to stress out about what could go wrong, I would rather just go with the flow.
I left Vancouver at 1:40 pm and landed in Newark Liberty airport at 10:00 pm, where I had a 21-hour layover. I used that time to spend one night in New York City where I found a hotel in Times Square. I was able to explore New York that night and a bit the next day before I boarded a bus back to Newark. I didn’t get to see everything I wanted but I felt I accomplished a lot given the small amount of time I was there. At 7:20 pm, I boarded the plane and departed for Dublin.
At 7:05 am, I landed in Dublin and the real journey began. Getting from the Dublin airport to Waterford, was easier than I thought. I boarded a bus that took me straight through Dublin and to the train station that would take me to Waterford. I got a small glimpse of what Dublin had to offer and I can’t wait to get back and do some thorough exploring. After about a 2-hour train ride and a 5-minute taxi ride, I arrived at my accommodation where I was looking forward to unpacking and relaxing after the long trip. Unfortunately, it was the weekend and there is nobody at reception to check students in on the weekends, which was a disappointing surprise. There was a number on the door to call for emergencies, but they essentially said I was out of luck when I called, and there wasn’t anything they could do. It was 1 pm and I was stuck outside with my bags, waiting for security to arrive at 5pm to get me a key card.
As I waited out front, I met quite a few international students as they went in and out of the complex. I met two girls from the Netherlands, Melanie and Marieke, who were really nice and welcoming, and they live down the hall from me. They gave me some water, allowed me to put my bags in their room, and then they took me into town to grab supplies (bedding and etc) that everyone needs, which was really nice. I spent the first couple of days hanging out and exploring the city with the girls down the hall and a few of their friends, who are also Dutch. A few people have actually thought that I was Dutch as well because I’m often with them, its funny because we joke that I’m an honorary Dutchman now. I have met so many people from all across the globe in the few days that I have been here, from places such as: Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Mexico, France, Brazil, and Canada. Honestly everyone here is so welcoming and eager to get to know one another, it’s amazing.
The scenery and history of Ireland is unbelievable. Reginald’s tower, located in Waterford’s city centre, is actually the oldest civic building in Ireland, established in 1003, and the only building to retain its Norse (Viking) name. Just thinking about the history here compared to Canada is enough to make your head spin. It has been a whirlwind few days but has been everything and more than what I imagined. I can’t wait to share more of my experiences, so until next time!
September 9, 2016
Everything is not what it seems.
When I found out in April 2016, that I was going to be studying abroad in Waterford, Ireland, I was ecstatic. I remember when I told my mom that I was selected as one of the students to go, she started to cry. In April, it had never officially hit me that, “Hey, you’re going to Ireland,” until I got out of my taxi to my accommodation. To say nothing, but the least, this has been the hardest week of my life.
In the span of nine days of landing in Ireland, you could say I have done a lot of growing up. I have always considered myself as “mature,” however, this week has taught me that there is much more to that word. This week has been my first time ever leaving North America. Not only am I enduring the experience abroad, but I am without my loved ones for the first time in my life. No parents to hug when I come home at the end of the day, no dogs awaiting my return home at the front steps with their wagging tails, and no amazing boyfriend who has been by my side for years. I spent my first week in Waterford hiding in my room frantically phoning any family member to get that feeling of home.
Although, I still have those fearful days where I feel alone and have surpassed my comfort zone, I know that when I go home on December 23rd, I will be proud of myself. Comfort is what everyone seeks, and I guess my comfort is waiting for me on December 23rd back in Canada. This trip, however, may be just the experience that I need. The chance to grow up faster and learn far beyond what most students do at my age. I am grateful that I got this opportunity, I truly am.
My mom sent me a quote a few days back, when I felt like giving up, that read, “If you were able to believe in Santa Claus for eight years, you can believe in yourself for five seconds, you got this”-Rebel Circus.
When I go home for Christmas, it will be with the biggest feeling of accomplishment, and I will have conquered my fears.
“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!