A Travellerspoint blog

The Queen awaits...

Not really, but I'm heading off to England anyway.

View Studying abroad in Leeds, England on lmckenn6's travel map.

In about 6 hours, I will either be leaving my house for the airport, or I will most likely be there. I figured I would write a little something before I left, to do a mind-dump, if you will.

Every step of this trip has been different from my last. A lot of it resulted in some form of stress. However, I have persevered, and now am at this point: departure. The best way that I can describe my feelings are by reflecting back to my first year of college. It was an experience I had never had before, but it was something for which I was excited. There were a lot of things that made me nervous…Will I make friends? Will I get lost? Will I survive my classes? How will I react to being away from my family for so long? DID I PACK ENOUGH? There is also this huge sense of aloneness, as this is a personal experience. Yes, many people are doing studying abroad and leaving their families, but each experience will be unique to each person. However, no one from my school is coming with me, and none of my support system will physically be there for 4 months. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed by this big picture.

So, this is what I am doing to try to re-analyze the situation. I tell myself that just because no one will physically be there with me, I have Skype, endless e-mail, this blog, and a calling card to contact my loved ones whenever I choose. I also tell myself that I will be surrounded by people who are not from England and who are likely going through the same things as I am. I reassure myself that I love international people, that they excite me, and I already got over my nervousness of meeting new people when I was in Ireland. As far as school, I just say, “Pish, this is a huge school. I would be shocked if I didn’t get lost! But that’s what orientation week is for.” And as far as classes go, I am trying to get it in my brain that I know how to be a good student, I am a good student, and I don’t need to do things perfectly. That will probably be one of the toughest. Oh hush, it’s what we perfectionists do.

It’s all a perpetual cycle of nerves, teary eyes, calming down, saying that long mantra, then circling back around. Right now, I am just trying to take one step at a time. In my immediate future, there are 2 things I need to worry about (well, maybe not worry): making sure my luggage isn’t going over the weight limit, AND making sure I am allowed to enter the country of England. Seems pretty manageable. I hope.

Posted by lmckenn6 02:46 Archived in England Comments (1)


Lauren virtually ripping her hair out!

View Studying abroad in Leeds, England on lmckenn6's travel map.

If only obtaining a travel visa was as easy as obtaining a Visa credit card, life would be much simpler. The credit card companies will basically stalk you, begging you to get one. The embassies, on the other hand, will make you jump through fire then be chased by venimous dinosaurs out to steal your limbs, just to enter the country.

Am I frustrated? Beyond it. I JUST WANT TO STUDY ABROAD, Y'ALL!

I feel my ulcer forming. Not really, that was more of an exaggeration. But I will say my butt is feeling a rather large pain right about now.

Bah hum bug.

Posted by lmckenn6 04:51 Archived in England Comments (0)

The Pre-Packing Jitters

Which is before the Pre-Travel Butterflies, of course.

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It is officially September 1st, 2009, which means that I have 15 days before I leave for England. Two weeks, one day. I know that I will be fine once I settle in. I consider myself to be fairly independent, and I do a lot of things on my own. Heck, I have mastered going to the movie theater alone... on date night! So what's going to another country for 4 months? Nothing!


No, but seriously, I know things will be great. I am freakin' excited to share a house with 11 other people from around the world. My love for international students will be definitely satisfied. Am I excited for homework? Definitely not, but I am very curious about what classes will be like. Two major differences from my college:

  • 1. There are about 2,000 students at Naz and about 50,000 where I will be going.
  • 2. I am in another country! Which means different rules, different professors, different classes!

I will also be walking and/or taking the bus to school every day, which is a 2.2 mile journey. I haven't figured out if I am looking forward to that or not. Being the silly girl that I am, I figured out the equi-distance here in Rochester. It seems lonnnnnnnnnnng. My first week, I will be collapsing in my classes, konked out on the person next to me. Or, I will lock myself in my room when I return and my neighbors might think I am in a coma. Nah, it won't be THAT bad.

So what's worrying me? THE FREAKIN' PACKING. I thought packing clothes for 4 months would be the issue, but that problem was easily solved: just pack everything you wear and squish it all in. No, the difficult part is packing for LIVING in the UK for 4 months. I have debated whether or not I should bring cooking supplies, bed supplies, shower totes, how many SHOES I bring. Seriously, shoes will kill me. Then I have to pack COATS. It is very difficult thinking about coats when it is still t-shirt weather.

I know, I know, I have the option to buy a lot of the hoopla when I get to Leeds, but the exchange rate has practically given me an ulcer. Not only do I have to watch what I spend because I don't know if I'll be working there, but I'm also on a tight budget because the U.S. Dollar is about half as much as the British Pound. I am preparing myself to pay the equivalent of $5.00 for a freakin' onion. Oye vey, I sometimes amaze myself for 2 reasons:

  • Out of all the things I could worry about, I get myself in a tizzy over a produce item.
  • No matter what the topic, I can always relate it back to food.

... And returning back from that digression... I have almost finished venting, I promise. The other stuff that is mulling over in my brain is all of the official document stuff. I still don't have my Visa yet. I still have some time to get it, but I just hope there aren't any issues. I also have no idea what my class schedule is like, nor what my e-mail and password are. Those last 2 things are freakin' important. You need them for everything (i.e. getting your schedule, uploading your ID photo).

But alas, I stay focused and continue to try to fish this information out of people. I've started my lists for packing and for what else I need to buy. It's just a matter of time. With all of my upcoming pre-departure appointments, I have a feeling that these next 2 weeks will go by really fast. I better fasten my belt.

Posted by lmckenn6 05:48 Archived in England Comments (0)

So I was mistaken: Part 2 addition

View Volunteering in Ireland on lmckenn6's travel map.

OK, remember how I said, “I hope I didn’t forget anything!” (or something like that)? Well, I did… 3 things as a matter of fact. I will try to explain them in the most efficiently as possible since I just wrote that epic entry.

1. On the list of stuff that I learned/did, I forgot to include that TWICE I helped with cooking a meal for 15 people. I love cooking dinner, but never in my life have I had to cook for that large of a party. I’ve also never had to cook lamb or a big leg of pork. That was definitely a unique experience. Oh, and speaking of lamb, I just reminded myself of another thing (making it 4 things I forgot, instead of 3).

2. I had lamb for the first time, and I also tried snails. I tried to experience as much as possible, but I drew the line at trying rabbit, seeing as I have previously owned 3 as pets. I don’t judge anyone for liking the animal as food, but all I could think about was Abby, Todd, and Jeremiah.

3. My last day in Ireland, Francy took Anna, Anne and me to see his ponies. He promised me this from the moment I told him that I owned horses and LOVED horses. I wondered if he would actually take us, and sure enough he surprised us with a visit on Sunday and told us to get ready to go. He drove us to this random field, and when we arrived, we still had to hike for about a half hour to find them. All I can say is that they are GORGEOUS. It was the perfect end to my trip. He named his first 2 ponies (Sprit the stallion, and Puka the mare… Puka is Irish for fairy). After that he stopped naming them, and now there are about 12 ponies, which are all results of Puka and Spirit, or Spirit and some of his babies. Yes, incest. My thoughts exactly. Besides the creepiness of that, whoever made the babies did a fantastic job. They were breathtaking. I still have to add the pictures. I named one of the ponies Bridget. She was the only one that didn’t act like a wild horse because she was all over us. Then there was a mule-donkey mix that was 29 years old. He let us pet him and cuddled in our chests. I named him Dibello. Don’t ask me why Dibello because I just thought he looked like one. I love naming things.

4. The last moment occurred on my way home and started when I was in the London Heathrow airport. I received the U.S. Customs card that I had to fill out before I entered the States. It asked me how many gifts I was bringing back and how much they cost in USD. I was freaking out because everything was priced in euros. THEN, I was asked if I had been on a farm. Yes. Have I touched livestock? Another yes. Freak out moment #2 occurred when I was anticipating a quarantine. I called up my dad in a panic. My mom hadn’t answered and I was truly thinking I might go to jail. Once again, don’t ask me why. It was a moment when I felt immensely guilty when I know I had done nothing wrong. When I arrived in the States, this is what happened: I approached the desk with my palms all clammy, yet trying to appear calm. The guard only glanced at my passport and Customs card and stamped it, but he walked away right after. I said to myself, “Oh, here goes. Time for the interrogation! He’s going to ask me if I have the Swine Flu!” Five minutes later he returns and asks me why I didn’t leave. I tell him that I didn’t know I could. He replies, “Oh yeah! I told you that you could! I mean, you could hang around here and talk to me if you want.” I declined gracefully, finally took a breath, and made my way out of the JFK airport. All of that hype and worry for nothing. Yes, I learned my lesson not to spazz out… well, sort of.

OK, so I definitely lied about keeping things efficient, but this really should be it! I won’t promise because there is a chance that I might break it. So I will promise that I will try not to randomly think of more stuff… unless I have requests.

Posted by lmckenn6 02:00 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Part 2: Journeys of Lauren

View Volunteering in Ireland on lmckenn6's travel map.

Although this entry is immensely overdue, I am finally writing my concluding blog for the Ireland summer trip. As you might recall, the last real entry (not about the people) took place shortly after the Spanish guys arrived. I will try my best to pick up from that spot, so here goes.

(By the way, if you haven’t read Part 1 of this, names might not make sense to you, so I would recommend you do that first. If you have, disregard this whole thing in parentheses.)

The following weekend was quite eventful. On a Saturday, Anna and I spontaneously decided that we would try to go to Killarney for the evening and part of Sunday. Seeing as we sort of partied the night before, we woke up late in the day, so this decision was made around 1pm. Dennis, a man who lives on the Leades House property, drove us to Macroom, where we took a bus to Killarney. After arriving, we walked around for the next hour and a half looking for a place to sleep because all of the hostels and pubs were booked. After an hour of pure desperation, we dared ourselves to ask a luxury hotel how much they charged for one night. When they told us 75 euro we thought not too bad… but then they said per person, and you could see both Anna and my eyes bulge out of our heads. NO WAY! Meanwhile, during this entire journey, we kept avoiding this one bed and breakfast because it looked beyond sketchy. It was our last resort at this point, so we knocked on the door. Turns out, the place was really cute, inexpensive, and the woman was so kind. And to think, it was one of the first places we spotted!

That night we decided to get food loaded with flavor, to take a break from potatoes and cabbage, so we found a Chinese place. I was dying for spices. Anyhoo, the food was good, but the soundtrack playing was another story. At one point, the song “Ya had a bad day…” by what’s-his-face played… Alvin and the Chipmunks style. Then the remainder of the songs were either sappy, cliché wedding songs or miserable breakup songs (i.e. How Do I Live Without You). Vomit.

The most exciting part was hitchhiking home. Since Anna and I were both American, we had the engrained U.S. fear that we’d be stabbed or kidnapped, but apparently in Ireland hitchhiking is for the most part safe. At one point, we were going the wrong way. We know this because someone offered us a ride, and when we told him where we were going, he said it was in the opposite direction. My bad. Eventually a woman picked us up, and all was well. I felt like a rebel.

Another weekend, Francy took us up to Sheep’s Head Way… well, down to that part actually. It was one of the southern most penisulas of Ireland and it was GORGEOUS. We drove all the way to the end of it, and there was a little café. I took so many pictures of the land, which you’ll be able to see in the photos! We also drove all around the coast of the peninsula to go fishing. A total of 3 different spots we tried. At the end of the day we only caught 2, but the places we went were magnificent. With one of the spots (the first, I think), we had to climb down a cliff to get to the fishing area. I was crapping my pants, mostly because I was scared I was going to fall and hurt my already hurt finger. On our way to all of these places, we drove through this small town. We were driving down the main road and we saw all of these people and no other cars. After getting to the center of the town, we realized that the town and the roads were closed down for a parade, but what did Francy do? He just kept on driving. Yes, we forced people out of the way and basically acted like the Grand Marshall of the parade that we were intruding. Embarrassing? Yes. Wonderful? Quite so.

Colin had gone out of town (on holiday, we think) for a few days. When he returned, he volunteered to take all of us (12 people at this time) to 3 different pubs. Apparently that is the tradition? I think 5 people piled into the front of his truck, and the remaining 7 sat in the bed of the truck. I had Ruma holding onto me as he dangled his legs out of the back. Juan was sitting on me. Luis was holding onto one of my legs so he didn’t slide out the back. And somewhere in all of that mess, my legs fit between Anna and I think Botho. It was so crazy, you couldn’t help but laugh. It helped distract you from the pain your butt accumulated.

The first stop of this adventure was not a pub. Actually, no one knows to this day why we stopped there. All I know is that we arrived to this house, and when Colin opened up the back of the bed, BAM, there was this massive Rottweiler waiting for us and growling. Scary? Uh, YAH! But what did I proceed to do? Jump out of the truck and try to pet it. I figured if it took my hand off, at least I got to pet a dog. Colin guided us around this house with a woman (whom owned it), and when we turned the corner, BAM, another Rottweiler. This one was even bigger, and it was attached to a heavy metal chain. That didn’t matter because it was jumping in mid air at everyone. I think everyone thought he was about to attack, including me. But what did I do yet again? I walked over to him and tried to pet him. Get this! His name was ZEN. And his brother, Mr. Growley was named Bruno. I’m still not sure why I had no inhibition when it came to approaching 2 dogs that could destroy me. Oh, the mysteries of Ireland.

When we got to the first ACTUAL pub, I ordered myself a Heineken. We found out that the 2nd pub on the list was actually closed, so from there we went to the pub closest to Colin’s house, the first one I had been to in Ireland. While we were there, I met this man, Patrick, who was in his 40s or 50s. He was this awkward, smelly, sorta adorable man sitting at the bar… you know, a regular local. He heard me speaking and asked me what part of America I was from. This turned into some discussion about life, what my goals were, the regular. He asked me my name. I told him Lauren, so he called me Maureen. As the night progressed, I had approached the bar once more and he was drunk by then. He proceeded to tell me how gorgeous and beautiful my hair and eyes were. On my way out of the pub, when we decided to leave, I had to walk by this Patrick. As I walked by him he grabbed me in front of all of his buddies (about 4 more men the same age and stature) and pulled me in to land a big kiss on me. Luckily I had turned my head just in the knick of time. I was so horrified, but I tried to remain calm. He yelled, “This is Maureen, my girl! I love her!” I just gave him a pat on the back and took off. Once I was outside I was yelling, “AHH I WAS JUST KISSED BY AN OLD IRISHMAN!” As uncomfortable as the moment was, it still is one of my favorite stories.

The ride home from the pub was just as eventful as the ride to it. Instead of going in Colin’s car, we went in one of his friend’s. Colin had gone home to sleep hours before. Rory had a sedan Audi, and miraculously we fit 10 people into it. 4 people up front and 6 in the back. I was sitting on top of 2 people’s laps, with Anna on my lap, as I was pressed against the ceiling. Breathing was less than impossible, but luckily the car ride was only 3 minutes long. How I fit into the car I will not know.

It was either the last weekend or the second to last weekend when 8 of us went back to the waterfall (me, Botho, Libby, Ruma, Juan, Luis, Anna, Pauline, and Ramona). All I remember was that the walk was soooooo long, especially since we had done a full day of work already… and the walk was over an hour and a half by itself. We decided to take the shortcut through the fields, but came across a big dilemma: a massive puddle… I mean pool. No one had the right shoes on except for Botho. Being the Prince Charming that he was, he picked up every girl and walked her through the water over to the dry land (see photos). It was the cutest and funniest thing. Ruma and Luis took a different route, so once the big group made it out to the road, we waited for them, camped out in front of someone’s house, haha. When all of us arrived at the waterfall, the mission was that Juan and Ruma would jump off it. I recorded the videos, which you’ll be able to see if you haven’t already. You could see how scared they were, which made us even more horrified as watchers! BUT, all was well. They survived and had a blast, and I documented it. Instead of taking the long, STEAP walk back up the hill path to the main road, we decided to do things differently. The alternative was a short, steep, CLIFF. It was one of those moments in your life when you have no time to be scared because you have to just keep moving. If I had a second to think about what I was actually doing, I might have cried. I must have survived because I am able to write this!

Onto the last big moment at Leades House… the weekend before I left, we threw a barbeque in front of the volunteer house and invited the French scout leaders to join us. Oh, I should say that a new group of scouts came about a week or so before I left. These ones were really cute. When I met them, I was speaking to one of them about America. I told him I came from New York, but not the city, the state. I started saying this to new people I met because everyone assumed that I came from NYC. When I told them I was from Rochester, you would see their face go from excited to confused, then to what seemed like disappointed. It was like telling a little child they’re going shopping and instead of taking them to their favorite candy store, you take them to buy socks. Yes, that is the effect you get from people when you tell them you’re from the state of New York and not the city. Trust me, telling them you’re about 6 hours away from it doesn’t help either. I tried. ANYWAYS, when I told this one scout that I was from the state, he said, “Oh, I only know of Rochester.” I gasped in pure amazement that someone knew my home city, especially a French native. I was so happy that I couldn’t contain myself and I gave him a huge slap of excitement… then I realized that I just slapped a complete stranger. Luckily he found me amusing and not offensive, but I was quite embarrassed.

WOW, did I digress! Back to the barbeque. So, the French scout leaders came and they actually made the barbeque for us! They set up the fire and cooked all of our food. They were quite spectacular. Despite their tremendously enjoyable company, there were several awkward moments, which all ended up being extremely humorous for me. First, this drunk man named Tony randomly appeared at the party. Did any of us know who he was? Nope! And the same number of people knew how he found out about it. All we knew was that he was completely hammered, he had a bag of wood, a bag of pork ribs, and a bottle of wine. He ended up staying until 1:30-2am either hitting on the girls, taking stabs at Americans, attempting to play the guitar, cook his ribs in the fire while walking in the fire, or drink wine. The second awkward moment was when I asked the scout leaders about their religion and thus caught myself in a discussion about Catholicism. That’s not the problem. The problem was when I explained that I was practically a non-believer. The poor guys were very polite about it, but you could tell I rustled their feathers. Annnnd the third awkward moment happened when everyone wrote the new scouts some notes. Ruma took the notebook and wrote a message in Spanish that said, “Haha, you have no idea what I am saying to you…” And I dug myself a nice little hole by accidentally saying, “You scouts should come to America and show our boys a good time!” I meant it in the absolute most innocent way, but after I wrote it in PEN there was no going back. I just left the message as it was and discretely passed it to the next person.

Soooo, those were all the big moments at Ireland (that I remember!). I hope I didn’t miss any! Just to sum up the rest of the stuff, this is what I learned how to do/did while I was volunteering:

• Learned how to drive a tractor
• Learned how to chop wood
• Touched a chicken’s butt
• Held a chicken
• Caught several chickens
• Built stone walls
• Helped make a mile of trail
• Herded 42 cattle down 2-3 miles of road (stopping traffic and all!)
• Milked cows
• Fed pigs
• Witnessed the castration of a bull

Well, I have been home for almost 2 weeks. First, I stopped in NYC to visit Bobby for a couple days. I stayed at his future brother-in-law’s apartment. During the 2 days I was there, I visited Central Park, saw a movie, and went to Union Square. I also went out to dinner with everyone and went to a happy hour one night. A really fun moment was when I helped Bobby buzz his hair. I was absolutely terrified that I was going to buzz off his ear, and Bob kept freaking out that all the hair was itching him.

And now I am officially home! I apologize for the length of the entry, but there was just so much to say. I have to admit that it was difficult for me to write this because it was the closing of the book on a wonderful journey. Now I have to prepare myself for another journey: Leeds, England. Wish me luck!

(… And the rest of the pictures are posted to the left if you want to see!)

Posted by lmckenn6 15:31 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

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