This Saturday, I had the opportunity to experience some of the attractions that really define Belfast and Northern Ireland for me. First, Queens led an excursion to the highest peak in Northern Ireland, Slieve Donard, and I was completely blown away by views. After seeing Giant’s Causeway and the Antrim Coast, I didn’t think this country could get anymore beautiful but even on a cloudy day, this hike served to epitomize the natural beauty of Northern Ireland. Read more
A few weekends ago, we went on our first all-Interstudy outing to the Touws River area. We spent most of our first day volunteering at an elementary school a couple hours away. We completely re-vamped their entire classroom setting – repainting the walls, cleaning the floors, and then putting everything back together again. When a break was due, we would go outside and play soccer or learn new handshakes with the adorable kids that went to school there. It was a very rewarding way to start the weekend away. Read more
Today is Human Rights Day in South Africa. On this day, 51 years ago, 69 people were killed when police opened fire on a demonstration in Sharpeville, a township not far from Johannesburg. It was this event that motivated the start of an armed resistance in South Africa as well as world condemnation of the policies established during Apartheid. Read more
It’s hard to say this is my favorite thing about London, because I have so many favorite things, but there’s something really wonderful about all the open markets on weekends in various neighborhoods. It brings a sense of comradery back to the fast-paced city life. There are so many weekend markets, too. There’s Borough Market, the best for cheeses and specialty foods, the Camden Markets for vintage clothes and shoes, and Portobello Road market for antiques. Read more
With St. Patrick’s festivities in full swing, there’s bound to be some craic around Ireland today. What is craic, you ask? No, it’s not a drug.
The funny thing about studying abroad is how much it makes you think about home.
After all, to immerse yourself entirely in another culture, you’ve first got to clamber out of the pool of thoughts, norms and expectations that was your home, and boy, is the view different once you’re out of it. As a girl who goes to a pretty competitive university in the United States of America, I can definitely say I’ve uttered a few of the expected “Woah, that’s not how they do things in the States”s while studying in the ultra-laid-back city that houses the University of KwaZulu Natal. This isn’t either a good or bad thing (usually,) just a different thing. I think to try to encompass every difference I’ve found here would just be too much for one little blog post (heck it might be too much for one little book,) so I’ll focus on one aspect of Durban culture that I’ve still not completely managed to wrap my head around: relaxation. Read more
After the last two Christmases, the Irish are in no rush to start wishing for a white one ever again. It’s not so much that the snow was particularly severe, it’s simply that Ireland is not at all used to it (The Irish government purchased its first snow-plough only eighteen months ago).
Ireland‘s dominant weather system comes from the Gulf of Mexico which ensures that the winters never get that cold – snow is so rare that up to recently the kids use to get a day off school to play in the snow if there was even just an inch or maybe two. The climate is usually mild and it is not at all uncommon (verified by one of our Horticulture students last year) to have palm trees across the South Coast. Read more
We joke a lot about classroom culture at Goldsmiths because comparatively for most of us, it’s rather laid back. Most seminar sessions start by asking “did anybody do the readings?” to which the professor receives a couple of scattered nods and many blank stares. But fortunately, this rarely stops us from having a successful discussion. Despite the fact that the students aren’t extremely concerned with following the syllabus word for word, I have found that they are quite knowledgeable, and always are able to engage in an appropriate and productive discussion. Someone mentioned this is because of A levels, where students focus on an area of academic interest before university. Also, I find my classmates are always acutely aware of relevant current events, which professors take just as seriously as doing the coursework. Read more
Being abroad is much harder than I had ever anticipated. There are the logistics to work out, places to adjust to, and people to meet and befriend. For me, particularly in the beginning, it was hard to become accustomed to my new environment, mostly because change is almost always difficult for me. However, now I am approaching the halfway point of my experience and I feel that I have fully adjusted to the Irish culture and thing things it has to offer. Although, some days are still difficult; I often miss my family, friends, and home institution but the things that I have seen and the people that I have met make it all worth the few struggles! Since embarking on my journey in Ireland, and having had the opportunity to see and meet new people and places, I have attained a better appreciation for home, as well as an improved insight about my own self. Read more
This is the most common greeting I’ve heard here in South Africa, short for “how is it?” It is said in passing to strangers, to friends, texted, scrawled on bathroom walls. Often it is followed by, what’s your name, where are you from, what year are you? And, much to my surprise, “Can I visit you at your residence?”
Call me crazy, but I’m not comfortable having someone whose name I barely know over to my room. But that’s just a cultural difference – while Americans enjoy and guard their privacy, South Africans are much more willing to open their homes to anyone. I’ve seen this in other situations as well; after only half an hour of talking to the manager of a local restaurant, she invited us to her home and was planning weekend trips for us, volunteering her son as our tour guide. Read more