By Brittany Tedesco
The first time I ever left America was my Freshman year at Arcadia University. One of the reasons Arcadia is ranked the number one school for study abroad is due to its Spring Preview experience. Freshmen and transfer students all have the chance to apply for this week long excursion that takes place during spring break for a very small yet all-inclusive fee, as long as they take a two-credit course during the spring semester based on the country they are traveling to. I can still distinctly remember sitting in my dorm with my group of new best friends (who I now consider family) and discussing the places we wanted to see. We were allowed to pick our top 3 choices and write a paragraph on why we wanted to go there, and in a few weeks we would find out where we were going. We didn’t all pick the same choices, but a few of us picked Ireland as our top choice, and lucky for Alyssa, Matt, and I— we all got it!
I remember being so nervous about the flight because I hadn’t been on a plane since I was four years old, and I had only gone to Florida. Now I was about to travel to another country for the first time, and when we got our seats, I was nowhere near my two best friends who both got to sit next to each other. Luckily, I was next to a few of our Professors/Advisors and as soon as we were in the air and it was safe to take our seatbelt off, Alyssa found me to make sure I was doing alright, and I was! I left my nerves on the ground and was entirely full of excitement.
When we arrived in Dublin, the jet lag hit us hard. The first thing we did was get lunch as a class with our advisors at Gallagher’s Boxty House, and we could barely keep our eyes open (just our mouths) through our meal. I had some delicious seafood chowder and a veggie enchilada, and cheesecake for dessert. But even more importantly, I had my first legal drink. What better way to celebrate being in Ireland than with a Murphy’s Irish Stout.
After lunch, we stopped at the ATM to take out euros and went off to explore the city of Dublin! Alyssa and I got our first tattoos together. This was becoming a great experience of firsts. First time out of the country, first legal beer, and first tattoo! And it was only the first day.
We spent the rest of the day exploring and shopping, and stopped at Messers McGuire Pub to watch the Ireland vs. Scotland rugby game. For dinner we ate cheap American food (Papa Johns) for dinner so we could spend our money on more important things like beer, obviously. Plus it was nice to see familiar places in an unfamiliar place.
The next morning we had breakfast and our hostel, then Alyssa and I went to a cafe with our hostel roommates. I ordered a caramel macchiato and it was not at all what I was expecting. It was so small! All the portion sizes seemed smaller here. The tables and stuff too. I guess it’s made for leprechauns or something.
We went to Trinity College later that day with our class to learn and discuss the Irish history and stereotypes more. We learned some of the lingo like “fags” for cigarettes and “slag” for someone who is a little “loose”. Slag was probably our most used word of the week.
That night we went to Bachelor’s, a bar next to our hostel, where we got bracelets for half off our food. For a total of €5, I got a toasted tomato and cheese sandwich with mashed potatoes for dinner. This ended up becoming our signature spot. We did some souvenir shopping that night and then headed back to Bachelor’s to spend our money on the more important things I mentioned earlier. I got a Heineken, and then discovered my new favorite drink— Bulmer’s Irish Cider. (Was disappointed to find out they don’t sell Bulmer’s in America, but then found out it’s the same as Magner’s so all is well again.) The bar played a Bon Jovi song and Matt and I high-fived because we’re both from Jersey just like John Bon Jovi and I guess it was just exciting to hear him in another country and all be from the same place. We were also probably just a little tipsy…
Later that night I went to a pharmacy to ask for a pack of fags, but the cashier just gave me an irritated look and said “You mean cigarettes? We don’t sell those here.” I left a little embarrassed and didn’t bother asking for fags anywhere else. We decided to find some of our friends at Doyle’s Pub, but we got lost even though it ended up being a block away from our hostel. Alyssa, Matt, Brandon (who became one of our close friends during the trip), and I started singing the Beatles and we magically found Doyle’s. I drank a Smithwicks and a shot of Malibu. On our journey back to the hostel we met some Irish kid who played Hurling and we all got delicious ice cream.
Woke up and had breakfast at the hostel again. Our class then went on a guided walking tour of Dublin. We got to learn a lot and see the sights.
We had lunch at Luigi Malones, where I had a BBQ Chicken Pizza and a Toblerone cheesecake. I don’t know why I was always ordering cheesecake to be honest but it was delicious. We continued on our tour, and one of my favorite parts was the Writer’s Museum.
When we finished our class tour and got some free time, Matt, Alyssa, Brandon and I all took the Dart (bus) to Howth, a port village outside of Dublin, where we got some beautiful photographs of the bay. We returned to Bachelor’s for dinner again, a toasted cheese sandwich and mashed potatoes again, and the waiter made fun of our usual, saying that must be an American thing. I had a couple of Bulmer’s and then we headed to O’Sullivans where I had one too many “Baby G” (Baby Guinness) shots.
Coffee liqueur and Bailey’s Irish cream is dangerously good. The bartended joked that he would cut me off unless I could walk in a straight line, so I got my shit together and nailed it. Another Baby G shot and a Bulmer’s please.
Another hostel breakfast before my favorite day of the whole trip. We went on a hop-on-hop-off bus tour so we could get on and off this bus pretty much whenever and wherever we wanted. We went to St. Stephen’s Green (so pretty), St. Pat’s Cathedral, and the Guinness Factory.
We got a free pint at the end of it but I ended u giving mine to Matt because I discovered dark beer wasn’t really my thing. We also went to some prison but I don’t remember the name of it. I was too hungry at this point so I went to the cafe with one of my other classmates while the rest of our group explored the jail’s museum. I had a quiche with a surprisingly really good side salad, some coleslaw and this delicious apple and celery thing.
After our bus tour was over I treated my friend Brandon to the leprechaun museum for his birthday. I also wanted someone to come with me and no one besides Brandon had even the slightest interest (their loss). Brandon and I had done a little shopping beforehand and my camera died from taking pictures of all the Euro hipsters so I bought a disposable camera to take photos at the Leprechaun Museum which ended up being really fun. We basically got the experience of being leprechauns and learned about the history of these mythological creatures.
That night, our class saw ‘Da’ at the Gate Theatre, and we ended our night at the pubs yet again.
Today was a long day spent getting on and off a bus with our class. First we stopped at Bayne Valley. Then Battle of the Boyne. Brandon got me a hot chocolate there because it was so cold. We stopped for lunch at a little place in Trim before going to see Trim Castle which was absolutely stunning. Then we visited Hill of Tara which was so fun and pretty, and then we headed back to Dublin for another night at our favorite pubs O’Sullivans and Doyle’s where I continued to quench my obsession of Baby G shots and Bulmer’s. I also added some Bahama Mama’s to the mix tonight.
Our last full day in Ireland was spent on a long bus ride to Belfast. Our class had been based on the split between Northern Ireland from the rest of Ireland, so our trip wouldn’t have been complete without a trip to the capital of Northern Ireland. It began with a lecture at Queens College, followed by a bus tour of Belfast with some fascinating political murals and graffiti. When we returned to Dublin, we spent our last night shopping and buying more souvenirs, and ended at our two favorite pubs one last time. After some Bulmer’s, Baby G shots, Woo Woos, Bahama Mamas and White Russians I had somehow run out of all my money— €400 well spent!
We left bright and early for our flight home. I’ll never forget that post-travel depression when I arrived back home and thought to myself how the grass was literally greener in Ireland. It was the experience of a lifetime. I left with crazy memories, new experiences, lifelong friendships, and the ever-so-contagious travel bug.