Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Castle Playing and Dragon Fun

A little while ago now my program threw an end of the semester party.  All three of my advisers got together to bring us to Penrhyn Castle for some fun.  My Bangor adviser, Maggie, gave us each a dragon to play with for the day and to keep afterwards too.  She named them all Deiniol for the patron saint of Wales and is going to start a facebook page soon about their adventures all over the world.  We spent the day creating his first album!

Penrhyn Castle is still in use today.  A family who works for Lord Penrhyn lives in one of the apartments in the castle while Lord Penrhyn lives in a cottage on the land.  It was cool walking around a still functioning castle.  I had such a blast sticking Deiniol in all these random places for photo ops.  Maggie didn't expect us to keep going with it but I did!
Amanda, Brad, Amy, Me, and Andrew
On his way up to the castle
Penrhyn Castle
Hitching a ride
They're multiplying!!  Amanda got weird stares all day!

At the entrance
Peek-a-Boo I see you!
Blending in
Can he fly?
Giving a kiss
Shh!  Don't tell her I'm here
Who wants dragon for dinner?
I'll get the wood!
After wandering around inside we went outside to play in the garden.  The gardens weren't in full bloom but it was still pretty to see everything starting to sprout.
Playing in the garden

After all the castle playing we were hungry so we went a grabbed snacks before dinner.  I know, weird right?  But we were waiting for those who had exams to come join us.
Scampi Fries, not too bad.
Hanging on the boardwalk
Sugar for dinner!
Dinner was a lot of fun because it was full of laughs and recounts of good stories.  The food was excellent too which made everything that much more enjoyable!  At the end of the night we even gave people awards for things that happened!  I shared my award with Emma since we both were "Enthusiastic Trip Planners."

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Ireland Take 2!

A little over a week ago now I went back to Ireland for some more fun.  I figured it would be one of my last weekends abroad where I went away for more than one day for some fun.  It was a nice 4 day weekend of some sun, relaxation and good friends.

I took the ferry from Dublin to Holyhead during a major storm.  Not the most fun.  The sea was rough and I got thrown over a chair when I got up to go to the bathroom.  It was just perfect timing that the boat lurched when I stood.  It was also very crowded since they cancelled a few of the ferries that day too.  But I made it safely to Dublin about 2 hours later then we intended but that was ok with me.

For my first full day in Ireland I took a tour through Paddy Wagon Tours.  They were a really great tour company because they had a hostel associated with them which wasn't expensive and the tour picked you up from the hostel door.  It worked out well for me with location too since it was near the train station and bus station.  The tour I did took me to Cork, Blarney, and Cobh.  We had a decent amount of time in each place and it only rained when I was on the bus which was just fine by me.
On the streets of Cork
Looking up at the Blarney Castle, going up there to kiss the stone!
Kissing the Blarney Stone
On the streets of Cobh, looking up at the Cathedral
In Cobh I got to complete a simple task.  I used to read a children's story about Annie Moore all the time.  In the end of the book they talk about her two statues, one located on Ellis Island, America and one located in Cobh, Ireland.  I got to see her statue on Ellis Island back when I was in High School.  I got to complete the task of seeing both statues during this weekend when I went to Cobh and saw her statue.
Oh my gosh!  Look how much I've changed!
With all the rain we got to see a ton of rainbows too!
A little rainy, but we drove through the end of a rainbow.
Where's the gold?
An Amazing Rainbow
It was a great day and I made some friends on the tour.  It was a nice day out and I was really excited to do and see some things I always wanted to.

The rest of the trip I saw some extended family and friends who live in Ireland.  I've only seen them on American soil so it was nice to see them once again on Irish soil.  Everyone made an attempt to come over and see me before I left which made me happy.  They took me out for a great dinner where I woke up still full the next day.  It was a nice relaxing time without a lot of hustle and bustle or running on a schedule.

Until next time!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Graduation and Fun

Well, the semester is winding down work wise but I still have a whole lot of adventure left to go!  The biggest difference between the end of the year at St. Mike's and Bangor University is the exam schedule.  Because Bangor University is divided up amongst different schools, each school's schedules are different.  This means classes end at different dates and exams are spread out over the course of a month.  I finished all my actual classes on May 3rd but my last exam isn't until May 30th.   I have handed in all my papers due and all that is left is that one exam...

To break up this long month, I have some events going on.  One event Bangor University did for us was a Mini-Graduation ceremony for all abroad students.  It was a condensed graduation held in one of the auditoriums on campus.  There were a few speeches by students and faculty members just like at a real graduation ceremony.  It was a nice event.  At the end of the actual ceremony they called every student's name out and we walked up, received our "diploma," and walked across stage.  It was just like I was graduating...but not.  They even had a light lunch and graduate school fair for us afterwards.  At least two people from my program already know they will be coming back for graduate school.
Walking across stage
A little blurry, but me and my friend Emma after recieving our diplomas

My diploma, it's in Welsh!!
Nope it's in English too!
Emma pointed this out to me when I got really
confused why mine was in Welsh and her's
was in English.
My program also threw ourselves a BBQ afterwards for some fun.  It was nice to just kick back and chill with everyone one last time before people began to leave and such.  I can't believe this is actually coming to a close!  It is so bittersweet!  Here are some pictures from the BBQ before I get to bogged down with the idea of this all ending:
Getting caught at an awkward moment delivering food
Graciey and Brad chilling with the food
Our master chefs (after I got kicked out because they
were afraid I would burn myself)
Yummy food!  Emma, Me, and Kevin
Adrianna and Graciey deep in thought,
looking off in the distance, at the unknown
(...I really don't know what's going on here...)
Until next time with more of my adventures during this down time!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Llanfairpwll...or whatever you call it!


Try saying that!  If you need some help here is the pronunciation:
And if you are curious it means: The Church of Mary in the Hallow of the White Hazel near the Fierce Whirlpool and the Church of Tysilio by the Red Cave
It is also the town with the longest name in the world!

A little over a week ago, my friend Adrianna and I went to this town.  It is literally only one stop on the train and has the world's largest Welsh gift shop.  We decided to do some of our souvenir shopping there for our family and friends.

It is a nice little town and the shop was huge!  The shop has about everything from your tacky souvenirs to actual items that people in Wales would actually go in and buy.  We spent a good deal of the morning just walking around, picking out something, changing our minds, picking something else out, and actually buying some stuff.  It was a successful morning for me but my wallet wasn't too happy.

After our shopping we had a little over an hour until our train.  Even though it was only one stop away, the trains don't run as frequent as you would like.  The store had a nice cafe in it so we decided to go there for something to eat while we waited.  They had this delicious looking tea for two option that we decided to go for since it was less than £10!  It was well worth it since I was still full at dinner!
Look at all that food!!
The food was excellent and it killed enough time for us to wait for our train.  It was one of my simple trip days but it was filled with a good friend, laughs, food, and a new adventure.  The weather even held out for us which was nice!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Irish Step Dancing

Back at St. Mike's I participate in the Irish Step group called Celtic Knights.  I was sad to have left them this semester since most of my friends and I do it together.  Most of us are beginners and started sometime in a college life so it was kind of sad to be leaving them for a whole semester.  I didn't think I would be dancing at all this semester, but that all changed when I found the BU Dance Group.

I joined a little late into the semester (only 3 weeks) but it was at the right time because they welcomed me right into learning the routine for the Summer Dance Show.  The group is a lot like the Celtic Knights.  Most of the dancers are beginners or never really danced a lot.  One thing we all had in common was that we all wanted to Irish Step Dance.  It was a lot of fun getting to know them and dancing with them each week.  Our teachers knew other dance types too so they added in some ballet to our routine which was fun.

Sadly our time came to an end last weekend when our Summer Dance Show happened.  All the different dance groups that are apart of the BU Dance Group came out to perform.  The show was almost 3 hours long!  It was a lot of fun.  There was Jazz, Ballet, Street, Belly Dancing, Tap, and so much more! It was exciting to watch everyone perform their routines and get to meet even more people!  Irish Step was the final performance and  it was kind of exciting to close the show.

The entire Irish Group
Some new friends
The entire BU Dance Group
I'm going to miss dancing with them next year.  It was a lot of fun learning new steps and making new friends.   I am really excited for Celtic Knights next year because I was just elected President of the club!!  I have a lot of plans for next year which I'm really excited for!

UPDATE:  I was recently informed we won Dance of the Year!!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Host UK

Today marks the end of official classes at Bangor...

A few weeks ago now I participated in another program offered to students studying in the UK,  Host UK.  Host UK is designed for students spending the semester abroad away from family and want a weekend away from campus to spend in a home-like setting.   You fill out a simple questionnaire about yourself (allergies, how far you are willing to travel, dates, etc.).  Your application is then submitted to a Regional Advisor who then matches you with a family.  I originally signed up for the weekend because I thought it would be a neat way to learn more about the culture I was living in.  

I was matched up with a host who lived not too far outside of Crewe, England and had a dog.  My host also told me she was inviting another student from Japan who was studying in the UK to come visit the same weekend.  I admit, I was a bit nervous for this weekend because they both were complete strangers, but I'm so glad I did it because I now have some new friends!

I met my Host at the train station where we agreed to meet.  I was unfortunately the last to arrive due to train delays but I made it!  We then headed out to my Host's house for dinner and to get to know one another.  It was a nice relaxing evening.  My nerves slowly slipped away that night.

Our one full day we spent sight-seeing.  My Host took us to a part of Wales I had never been before for the morning.  We spent part of the morning driving around Llangollen.  We unfortunately couldn't find a place to park in town since it was such a beautiful day and everyone decided to come out for it!  However, we found one right outside of town near the Pontcysyllte Aqueducts.  It was cool to see an operational aqueduct which allows boats to use too!
Afterwards she took us around to see more sights between Llangollen and her house.  It was really nice just see more of the are where I'm living and to spend some time exploring.  In the afternoon she took us to Shrewsbury.  It was a beautiful town with a lot of history in it.  We walked through the entire town before getting a cup of tea at the movie theater cafe which was built inside one of the older buildings in town.
A memorial to Charles Darwin
One of the older buildings in town
After our cup of tea, we headed down to the park where a huge garden festival happens every year.  It wasn't going on during my stay but the gardens were still very pretty to walk around and see.

Reminded me of St. Mike's when I walked by
To end our wonderful day, my Host took us to a Jazz concert in her town.  I was by far the youngest person there (well other than my friend from Japan).  It was a lot of fun and the food was delicious!!  We even had a running joke that I made the waldorf salad which my host actually made.  Hey you gotta have a little fun sometimes!
The Jazz Band
We won the raffle!! 
It was sad when Sunday arrived because that meant I was leaving.  My host took us to Hawkstone Hall for mass.  Hawkstone Hall is a large early 18th century country mansion  which is run by the Sisters of St. Paul (I'm pretty sure, I can't find confirmation on this).   It was beautiful and the sheep greeted us upon arrival.  Even though we were just visiting we were welcomed right away.  We were even invited for tea and coffee afterwards!

The sheep
Hawkstone Hall
 I was sad when my time came to close but was glad I took advantage of this opportunity.  It was definitely worth while because I tried food I wouldn't have otherwise tried and made a friend I wouldn't have otherwise met!
My host, Poppy
My new friend, Mai
My actual host and I