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So, despite that I've been doing lots of sightseeing and traveling, and even though it often doesn't feel that way, I am, in fact, in Northern Ireland to study; that's what my visa says, anyway, so it must be true. So far, that part of life here has been, in itself, quite a different experience.

First, structurally, it's quite different from America, which isn't very easy to get used to. Each class has two hours of lecture and one hour of seminar  basically discussion of what we've been learning - throughout the week. Then the grading is primarily based on one 2,500 word paper and a final exam; I'm admittedly a little intimidated by that prospect. The credits are different, too, and so because of the way they transfer, I only take three classes. It's very strange for someone who's used to 18 and 19 credit semesters.

The content of the classes is really interesting to me, too. I'm taking an Irish government and politics class, Irish literature and society, and "Invented Traditions in Britain and Ireland." Despite being a history major and having taken many European history classes, there is so much that I've never learned about this country's history; there is just so much of Ireland's fascinating and tumultuous past that isn't covered in any of the classes I've taken in America. There are a lot of "basics" I've needed to look up outside of class, too, things that everyone here would already know, similar to how Americans just generally know things like who George Washington was; it's so interesting to me to see that aspect of another country, even if it does leave me feeling slightly confused occasionally during class.

I feel like I'm learning now, and I'm going to learn so much more. I'm being exposed to a view of the world unlike any that I've heard or studied before, because these people have such a different history and culture, and so therefore different ideas about things. Though I am absolutely loving seeing Ireland as a tourist, I'm also really excited that I get to experience it from an academic standpoint as well.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_resized.jpgThe first week here in Ireland, I and all of the other international students had lots of things to do. We had meetings to go to, classes to schedule, activities planned for us and shopping to complete. Meanwhile, we were all getting settled into our new home and conquering jet lag. 

However, after all of that, we were rewarded with the real reason we all really came to Ireland- a little bit of traveling.  Everywhere we've been has been incredible. There are artifacts in museums from B.C. that are really well preserved because of the boggy landscape of Ireland! There are artifacts from the 1600s and before, and it boggles my brain that the ones from the 1800s aren't as big of a deal here, when that would be the pinnacle of most American museums. 

Derry/Londonderry has a wall running through it that dates back to the sixteenth century! We visited a castle- a castle! And we were allowed to walk around and through it, to touch it and to take pictures. It was absolutely gorgeous and thrilled me through and through.  The history here is so well preserved and tangible and it's really easily accessible to the public, all of which has my little history-major-heart dancing. 

However, as stupendous as the history is, it manages to pale in comparison to the land itself.  One of our most amazing trips was to the Causeway; it's a place that is so strange, unique and beautiful, unlike anything I have ever seen before. The cliffs of the Irish coastline, too, are absolutely breathtaking; they are something that you could just stare at forever and never tire of their allure. 

The inland is full of rolling hills and mountains, and the colors on a sunny day- or, you know, sunny 20 minute spurts- don't really seem real. They seem like something that someone photo shopped to make more vibrant. This country sometimes seems unreal; it takes my breath away.

 That's the point, I guess.  The manmade things are wonderful, and I really can't get enough of the towns and their histories. But the things that aren't man made, the things that God etched onto the world for our pleasure, are infinitely more magnificent. These things that He made are an incredible reminder of how man can do amazing things, but even then God is so much more powerful and awe-inspiring. It's slightly terrifying, actually, but at the same time an amazing comfort. 

 

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So I started my study abroad semester in Northern Ireland this week at the University of Ulster at Coleraine. It's something I've wanted to do for as long as I can remember and I can't describe how thrilled and blessed I feel to have this opportunity. I'm not going to lie, when I realized last Saturday that I was leaving in a day, I was so overwhelmed that I was somewhere between crying for joy and throwing up. This didn't subside until I well into the flight - something else I've never done, flying. I was excited but at the same time sad to leave my family, and underneath it all I was a nervous wreck. I did all I could - followed my instructions and silently prayed for calm.

The view as we descended was spectacular, and I'm kicking myself for not taking pictures. It was totally stunning though.  I found out shortly before landing that I'd actually been sitting next to another International Ulster student the entire time. We were both relieved we had someone to share our feelings of excitement and exhaustion and support in the clueless-American department.  We got off the plane, met some other students, then onto the bus and headed to our new home; I was totally "knockered," as the Irish say. I had a little heart attack when I thought my power converter died on me, but other than that move-in went smoothly, and I passed out from 46-7:30, then 7:30-3AM, then made a shopping list, then 3:30-8. It was a weird little schedule that first night.

There's been lots of confusion and crazy and orientation and registration and running around and seeing and doing new things, and it's been overwhelming. Good, but overwhelming. I didn't realize how much I needed to be refreshed until I was. I finally got to speak to my family on Wednesday, then I spent some time reading 1 Corinthians. Verse 1:25 has always been a comfort to me, and especially here where I don't really know anyone and am far away from my comfort zone. "The foolishness of God is wiser than men's wisdom; the weakness of God is stronger than men's strength." I just like knowing that someone so incredible is protecting me.  After that, reading my Bible and speaking to my family, I felt renewed and ready to take on these next four months and whatever this gorgeous country has in store for me.

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