Overall, I have had a fantastic first experience in Northern Ireland back in the Fall of 2013. The first few days really tried my survival skills (for lack of better phrasing) and my communication skills with the local Irish. Here’s a riveting recap from my first few days there…
Day 1: Wednesday Sept. 11/2013
Took a cab from campus to my off-campus flat in the Gelndun Courtyard right after I got my key from residential services. I found that there was no electricity, bedding, dishes, toilet paper or any necessary household items. I was the only person in my flat, and it didn’t seem like there were any other students living in the courtyard yet. If I didn’t enjoy camping as much as I do it might have been terrifying! I received an electricity card from the groundskeeper that I had to take down to the local mini mart to buy a code that I then had to type into a box in my flat and the electricity turned on. Then I walked up the shore to another store and bought some tp, realized I was lost and called a cab. The cab driver took me to Abbey Centre, which is a large shopping complex a few miles away. I told him the story of my first couple hours in Northern Ireland and that I desperately needed a UK cell phone. He was very understanding and he not only dropped me at the shopping center, but he actually came into the mall with me and haggled with the cell phone salesman, who was speaking in thick Irish slang, and found me a cheap local phone. The RAs came into my room later that evening, made a call about the Internet, and told me that I had to pick up my bedding from campus. So I eventually got everything sorted out and spent my first night conversing with the RAs…didn’t get to bed until 2 a.m.
Day 2: Thursday Sept. 12/2013
Slept through my orientation events today – not surprising after an 18 hour journey and my hectic day yesterday, try again tomorrow. Today I met the few neighbors staying in various flats around the courtyard. Only the international students have moved in so far because we arrive a week early for welcome events. I met two Spanish girls named Lucia and Sara who are also studying communication, a German fellow named Thomas who is studying mechanical engineering, and another fellow named Andre from Philadelphia, PA. The group of us went shopping for more groceries at the local shopping mart by the shore where I also got my electricity. Later on we explored the small shops, restaurants, and pubs near our flats, and we found another group of international students living on campus who had come into town to do the same.
Day 3: Friday Sept. 13/2013
Today after some short informational lectures, we went on a University organized trip to the city of Belfast for the international students studying at both the Belfast and Jordanstown campuses. We toured around the city in small groups of friends to have coffee and a snack, and then rejoined our group to have fish and chips in a restaurant downtown. Feeling a bit more settled in my flat, however there still isn’t working Internet here!
Day 4: Saturday Sept. 14/2013
Another University organized trip for the international students today. This time it was to Giant’s Causeway, and a bus tour of the Northern coast. Never travel along the coast of Northern Ireland – without your camera! It was very beautiful despite the dull weather (which is absolutely unavoidable here.) A Northern Irish man who was travelling in the bus with us looked out the window toward the sea and said,
“Over there on the horizon is Scotland and the Mull of Kintyre. Now, around here we say, if you can see Scotland, it’s going to rain. And if you can’t see Scotland, it’s raining!”
We passed by at least three circa 13th century castles, including the stunning Dunluce Castle perched on the Cliffside of the North Antrim coast. We continued on to the Giant’s Causeway, which is a spectacular sight. The Giant’s Causeway was formed by an ancient volcanic eruption that created fantastic rock formations, which we climbed up and down and photographed for hours. Another SBU student named Kevin Cooley has already explained this area in great detail here on the bona blog, so if you want to read more about it I’ll refer you to his post –http://bonablogs.wordpress.com/2013/02/22/a-trip-to-northern-irelands-scenic-shores/