Arriving in Ireland – by Allison Brennhofer. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports
It took eighteen hours of travel, over two planes and one bus that hurtled quite precariously through the narrow lanes of Irish roads, but our group of sixteen students and two professors made it to Ireland unscathed.
The first flight, Minneapolis to Newark, raised my hopes that I wouldn’t experience the pain I’ve likened in the past to being stabbed in both ears by screwdrivers. I shouldn’t have been so optimistic because the descent into Ireland made me think my eardrums were slightly away from rupturing the entire 40-minute descent. Other than that, the flights were rather fun. The man I sat next to first was the perfect seat partner, we exchanged a head nod when he sat next to me and we didn’t speak for the rest of the flight. I was lucky enough to have the middle seat of my row empty for the longer flight to Ireland, with myself by the window and an older gentleman on the aisle. He was a good seatmate as well, only chatting at the end of the flight when everyone was anxiously waiting for the doors to open. The only hiccup in that was my hearing was affected by the landing and I could half hear everything he said. I was also worried I would be unable to hear the questions the man who had the power to deny me entry to Ireland would ask me, but luckily he didn’t say much of anything.
By the time we got off the plane and onto the coach bus taken, we were all exhausted. We made a stop at a gas station where we bought food and some got coffee. The narrow, winding roads made me regret trying the black pudding the women in the gas station gave us a free sample of. Black pudding is a traditional food that is not pudding like at all. The woman who gave us the free sample wouldn’t tell me what it was made of until I tried it. It’s typically made of pork fat, pork blood and oatmeal, although I’m not entirely sure what was in the one I tried. Surprisingly, I didn’t think it was terrible but I hadn’t been feeling the best after the flight so I just tried a tiny piece. Our bus driver had absolutely no qualms about our large bus on the two-way roads that I considered tight for a one-way. From what I’ve observed so far, most people in Ireland like to drive fast, many would risk the tight space and overtake us when they found themselves stuck behind the bus.
Driving through Ireland was incredibly surreal. This is going to sound cliché, but it’s honestly so green it surprised me. Perhaps it’s just because I came from the white snow and brown grass of Minnesota, but it really is amazing. The fields go for as far as your eye can see and the mountains in the distance rise out of the ground and disappear into the clouds, except for the rare moments the sky is clear. There are also sheep everywhere, every time you turn your head there are more sheep. As soon as we drove close enough to some sheep, we noticed that the sheep have blotches of color on them. Our bus driver informed us that the farmers let their sheep roam so they each have a color (or pattern of colors) that they paint across either the right hip, left hip, back, or back of the neck of their sheep to distinguish them.
In what was probably an attempt to help us overcome the jetlag with minimal problems, we had arrangements to have drinks and food at one of the local pubs in town that night. The board members of the cottages we’re staying in bought all of us a round of drinks and we drank those and ate sandwiches provided by a local shop. The outing turned out to be a great idea. If we hadn’t gone out, I can guarantee I would have been asleep by six that night. Instead, I managed to stay awake and social until about nine which I deemed a perfectly acceptable to head to bed.
If my first few experiences with the people and atmosphere of Ireland are any indication, I would say I am in for a fantastic semester here.
Allison serves as an editor for The North Star Reports.
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39 responses to “Arriving in Ireland – by Allison Brennhofer. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports”
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I wish I was able to travel more but its hard with my busy schedule! Traveling on those super narrow roads would be frightening to me because you never know what’s gonna happen or something could go wrong. It’s also cool to see how other people live when you get the chance to travel and I always think to myself I could never live here. Its so different from the place we were raised. That was a great article! Thank you.
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I have always wanted to travel to Ireland myself, but can never bring myself to stay across seas for more than a few weeks. I say this because I have anxiety and an extremely sensitive stomach and not knowing how I am going to react to the foods and the places abroad scare me from staying for an entire semester, but I would love to travel for a few weeks. The importance of traveling though is experiencing the culture and trying new things- this author talks about even though she was scared of her ears on the flight- she got through it. She didn’t feel well after the flight, but she still tried the “pudding” and talked about where it comes from, which many people would never have known about if she wouldn’t have tried it. Traveling is about the culture and letting yourself be open to try to live in the way that the people of that culture do- if you do not do this, you are not truly experiencing your travels- you are just taking in the views before your trip back home.
Having traveled a lot my self I can related to a lot of those experiences! Honestly, a bad neighbor on a flight can make the whole thing seem endless! Did you experience any culture shock right away or is life in Ireland pretty similar to life in America? I know that’s a pretty loaded question! hahaha!
I enjoyed reading your article very much as I have not been anywhere out of the country, mind Minnesota [except California]. My family do not like to travel much, so I have not gotten the chance to go abroad or tour the world. I definitely envy your opportunity to be able to go overseas! Also, when you mentioned the narrow roads, I was on the edge of my seat, excited yet nervous for you as I was reading. I too, thought it was pretty cool how the sheep’s wool were colored to help differentiate them.That was something that I did not know before, it also makes them look a bit more amusing. It seemed like you had an amazing first impression of Ireland and I hope for myself to visit there one day! Thank you for sharing!
Ireland seems like a fascinating place. I always get the impression that places like Ireland and England are very drab and gray, but seeing the photo of the hills changed my mind. I think it would be incredible to see land like that. Also, I can’t imagine being on a plane for such a long time! The longest I’ve ever been on a plane is 3 hours. From what it seems, you definitely lucked out on your trip! I would have a hard time sitting next to a stranger. Overall, it seemed like you had a great time traveling. Thanks for your cool story!
That sounds like a long and exhausting trip! I am sorry you had trouble with your ears and the pressure of the flights, I really enjoy your side notes about having the ‘perfect’ seat partners who didn’t talk much. When I was in New Zealand the roads were windy and narrow and I think I can relate to what you were saying about being a little fearful during the driving. That can be very scary especially at first. Will you ever have the chance to drive a little bit in Ireland or other places in Europe? I was surprised to hear that the sheep farmers in Ireland let all of their sheep roam and eat together. That sounds nice as you wouldn’t have to worry so much about fences, but on the other hand you would have to sort your sheep from someone else’s sheep. The small things can be really interesting when traveling, especially to a place that is relatively similar to home, same language and some cultural aspects. Enjoy the rest of your trip and I am looking forward to reading more of your articles!
Thanks for sharing, Allison! I have also been to Ireland and was advised by my grandfather not to try the black pudding. I was young at the time, and he knew I would not like it. I would be interested to see if I actually do like it now that I am older. I also remember the sheep being painted different colors. I was fascinated by that as a young child. I do not remember being nervous about how narrow the roads were since I was too young to realize, but I bet I would be very cautious about it now. The people there are very kind and welcoming. I hope you have a fantastic trip! Make sure you see everything you can, and take lots of pictures because they are great to look back on!
Thank you, Allison, for sharing your story with us! I have always wanted to travel to Ireland, mostly to explore the highlands and learn about the culture. I found it really intriguing that they have certain colors on the sheep’s wool, having some sort of unique features, to tell them apart. Black pudding sound really interesting, I kinda want to try it, just to taste the flavor of the ingredients, even though it might make my stomach upset. I hope, one day, I will have the opportunity to travel to Ireland in future, experiencing new foods, culture, and people.
Thanks for sharing your story about black pudding, I understand why she made you try it before telling you the ingredients. I know if I was offered that and knew the ingredients I probably wouldn’t try it! I’ve always thought about traveling to Ireland when I’m older and hearing about all the green there makes me excited. I hope you have a good experience there!
My favorite part of the article is the perfect seat mate who didn’t talk, just gave a head nod. That is funny to me because my friends who fly often tell me about the people they have had to sit next to on planes and they usually like the less talkative ones also. Getting to Ireland sounds like a very tiring journey from the way you explained it. I would imagine it being nice to look out and see fields of green instead of all the white snow we have here in Minnesota that is starting to melt with the temperatures warming up a little bit. After you explained what is usually in the black pudding I’m not sure if i will be daring enough to try it, if ever offered to me. Lastly it must have been hard staying up and going to socialize after so much traveling but i bet being in a new place and getting to meet new people made it a little bit easier. Enjoy your semester!
Allie! It is so great to hear that all is going well for you in Ireland. Your description of the black pudding made me laugh out loud. It also made me think about how different culture’s foods can be. You say it wasn’t really like pudding at all, but if an Irish person tried our pudding, they would say the same. I also think it’s interesting that you noticed why you were so intrigued by the green grass – because here in MN, green grass would be a sight to see right now. It’s good that you are opening yourself up and looking at Ireland with wide eyes. I can’t wait to hear more!
I would love to experience a unique opportunity like this one. It sounds like although exhausted, you’re still making the very most of every moment. From what you write here, distinct similarities and differences between our culture here and that in Ireland can be seen. Not only do we have snow on the ground here, but I don’t know if I could ever bring myself to eat that type of “pudding”. It would be interesting to experience the driving in Ireland because I think that many people drive fast here in Minnesota so it would be cool (but scary) to see just how fast and risky people drive there. Your description of your first day, though slightly chaotic and exhausting, sounds very fun and I hope that you have a great rest of the trip!
Thank you for sharing your story! I too can relate to experiences in Ireland. The pictures are true, like you said, that it is green and beautiful everywhere you look. I have traveled with a group of CSS students in Ireland when I was about eight-years-old, when my grandfather was the professor for the abroad trip. I do believe you are going to enjoy each moment of your semester, especially the castles. Oh boy the black pudding..I did not attempt to eat it while I was there. Congrats to you for trying new things, because that one is daring. Sometimes trying different culture’s foods can be quite the experience, but bad and good. But at least you can say you tried it. The sheep labeling is a very smart idea. This allows the sheep to roam freely and not so domestic. I hope you enjoy your time in Ireland creating loads of memories. They will stick with you for a long time!
Ireland sounds extraordinary! I have a few friends who have also visited this place. They also said it was cliche, but the grass is very green. Apparently people go to Ireland to see the grass? I think this is interesting because when you imagine grass you imagine it as green, but apparently this is the wrong green because it is, “green green.” I have never heard of coloring sheep before either, but it sounds very interesting. Do the owners let them wander for a certain reason? You’d think that letting these sheep wander wherever would be a pain to collect the right ones, but I guess everyone has their own rituals and that is what makes different places so fun to explore!
Ireland is definitely on my list to places of travel, and for good reason, as you mentioned how green the landscape is, it would be a nice change of scenery from this current blustery MN weather. I think transportation within a country is always important to compare and contrast to US standards. I am sure it was a bit of a shock when you and your classmates weaved throughout small streets at such quick speeds, and the fact that you had to get used to driving on the left side of the road! Is Ireland more regulated with regards to speed limits, number of street signs etc.? Also, I liked how you brought up how prominent sheep are to the area, because I did not know that farmers typically marked them was colors, as shown in your first picture, so as to decipher between different groups, etc. Thank you for sharing, I can’t wait to hear more about the places you go and people you meet!
This article was a pleasure to read! I am a little more than one fourth Irish, and my family hugely embraces the little Irish blood we have. Because of this, I have always wanted to visit Ireland and experience the culture that my family has come from. A few years ago, my aunt and uncle had the opportunity to travel to Ireland and spend four weeks overseas! It was very exciting to hear their stories and see all of the pictures! I hope to one day have this opportunity as well. I would never be able to travel abroad for a full semester, however, because I would be far too homesick and I would feel much more comfortable traveling with family. I am glad to hear your trip is going well so far!
The imagery in this article is fantastic. I can imagine the narrow roads and the greenery. Having never internationally traveled myself, I cannot even imagine the culture adjustment or the experience of jet lag. Hopefully it was a quick recovery process for you. I hope that you continue to try adventurous foods, go to beautiful places, and do things that surprise you!
This would be a wonderful opportunity to get to travel to Ireland. In fact, just today in class we read a poem about the Irish revolution that took place over 100 years ago, and all it made me want to do is travel to Ireland. Ireland is a country that is rich in heritage and traditions with many great landscapes that are wondrous to see. One sight that I want to see more then any other are the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. It is a beautiful sight where water meets the land. I am incredibly jealous of your travel to Ireland, and I cannot wait to get their myself.
I have very little experience being in Ireland, as I was only there for a layover on my way to England. However, I noticed much of the same things that you did. It is so incredibly green! When I was in my descent into the Dublin airport all I noticed was the green grassy hills and fields. I have never seen anything so green before! It is also interesting to hear of your other experiences in Ireland. It’s pretty similar to what England was like; crazily narrow roads, sheep everywhere, and sheep with specific markings on them! I was actually very sad when I boarded my plane to head to England, because I wish I could have stayed in Ireland longer as well. One day I will make it out there!
Your trip sounds absolutely amazing! Such a wonderful opportunity that you are able to have and experience. Ireland is such a beautiful country and I’m sure you will learn so much about the culture and the people. Your first few days already seem like you have numerous moments that will turn into memories. Ireland has always been a place I have wanted to see and tour, and I can’t wait for my opportunity to do so!
I bet that all of that green was the best thing that could have happened to you after that long flight! How interesting with the sheep too, but how cute it must be to see their white fur painted! I’m glad that you were able to stay out later on that first night, from my abroad travels I can tell you that staying out “late” your first night will absolutely help you out for the rest of your trip. Cheers!
the idea that they just let their sheep move around at their own pace is such a different idea, and i feel like one that most Americans would have a lot of trouble getting behind. I love the colored sheep though, the look so much better then the plain sheep have seen. I would say something about the driving, but i feel like i would try the same thing if i got stuck behind a bus, i wouldn’t mind the risk of going around. The idea of being in Ireland sounds amazing and I wish i was able to trivial. I never thought about the idea that the grass is greener, but i feel like that must look so nice then the brown grass i am use to seeing all the time.
It is amazing to hear about your journey to Ireland. Being Irish, Ireland has always been a place I wanted to visit. I am so jealous that you are spending the entire semester there. If I get a chance, I am definitely studying abroad there. I would love to hear more about your experiences in Ireland, and the differences and similarities in their culture from ours.
I am always so excited to read about different travels. Everyone has their own experiences and takes in everything differently. It looks like you had an amazing start and overall, a really good trip. I was really debating on also studying in Ireland, but because of personal issues, I don’t think I would be able to. One of the things that really made me smile was when you described the land, how people drove, and the animal. One of my favorite things about going abroad is seeing a different side of nature. It’s always so calming to me and it’s just simply amazing. Then when you were describing how people drove, it made me smile because I’ve also seen that kind intense traffic before when I went abroad also. Lastly, the animal description was really cute to me. Thinking about that and how we let farm animals roam around farms is kind of similar but also different. Thank you for such a nice article!!
Thank you for sharing your experience! I cannot blame you for trying to go to bed earlier than nine with the experience you had in one day I would have done the same thing. I feel like the idea of taking just a little bit of that pudding was the smart thing to do. After finding out what it is made of I don’t think I will ever want to try that. I found the whole story behind sheep and color spots to be really fascinating I have never heard of that before. This article was very well written. When reading it I thought that I was actually on the plane with you. I look forward to reading more about your journey.
Allie! To start off- I know how you feel when it comes to seat partners… nothing can mess with your wanderlust like a flight to Europe spent crammed between two sweaty bodies, the seat in front of you bent in full recline. When it comes to Ireland itself, I have to ask: Were you also overwhelmed by sudden outbursts of Gaelic? I know this took me by surprise when I made it! In regards to the pudding, it is interesting how food is always one of the first things that stands out to tourists in any area. We don’t think ‘Ireland’ and think of bizarre blood puddings (if anything, we think potatoes. Boring potatoes), so showing up and seeing something so out of the ordinary is extremely telling of the actual depth of the culture we’re immersing ourselves in. Cheers!
That sounds like such a fun trip! I have always wanted to travel to Europe but have not gotten the chance so far. I’m glad you had good seat partners, bad ones can make a flight miserable. The pictures you have on here look beautiful, I would absolutely love to go to Ireland. Even though it wasn’t your favorite, it’s still cool that you tried the black pudding! Trying different foods is such a fun part of traveling. I hope you had a great time on your trip and thank you for sharing your experience with us!
I am so happy your trip is going well. While reading through your experience in the plane, all I could think about was what you would think of me as a seatmate since I usually talk in most of the flights I have taken to the person sitting in my aisle, sometime even for the entire trip. I can imagine how nervous you were when you got there specially being unable to hear and having to face immigration, that is definitely my least favorite thing about traveling, people working there are just so intimidating. I am really glad to you tried traditional food, that is what in my opinion every traveler should do wherever they go, there is no better way to know a country than through their food. I am also really glad the woman didn’t tell you what the Black Pudding was as I don’t think none of you would have tried it in that circumstance. I am really happy you have been seeing so many sheep as I know how much you wanted to see one. It is really interesting that they are marked with colored blotches as I would believe more than one person might mark their sheep the same way. I am so happy you have been having such a good experience so far. I can’t wait to hear all about your trip when you get back!
Traveling is such an awesome experience that everyone should be able to enjoy. Seeing the world from different perspectives is important to being a human being. I love experiencing new cultures. I love the driving comment, because St. Thomas Island is the same way. They had super narrow roads and everyone enjoyed driving scary fast.
Thank you for sharing your story! I’ve always wanted to travel to Ireland because I have heard from so many people that it is absolutely beautiful. Your experience definitely reaffirms that! The narrow, winding roads on a bus reminded me of my high school trip’s tour bus in Costa Rica. The people who drive really don’t seem to care that they are right on the edge of cliff going faster than they probably should! It’s great to hear that you had such a fun time and also got lucky with your seat partner! That can really make or break a long plane ride experience!
Allison, thank you for sharing the experiences from your travels so far. It is amazing to hear about lands that are so far from home. I have been doing research about my family in World History I for an assignment we are working on, and I discovered that I have a lot of family from Ireland who left during the famine. It would be really interesting to go back and visit where my ancestors lived. It really does sound like beautiful country that has a very strong culture, and great national pride. Enjoy your travels!
I am glad to hear your flight went well, other than the fact that the descent took a toll on you physically. I would hope your hearing is back to it’s normal functioning for you! Where in Ireland did you land? What town are you staying in? I would love to see more pictures of the green hills and mountains! Is the weather there much warmer during this time of year than that of Minnesota’s? Have you tried other new foods that you did or didn’t enjoy? I would love to hear more! Thank you for sharing!
I can definitely relate to the windy narrow roads in Ireland. When my American friends have visited me in England, that’s usually the first thing they comment on! (or how fast my Dad is driving on the way home from the airport!). Every time I descent into England I notice how much greener the landscape is, as opposed to Chicago, or Minneapolis! Having traveled to Ireland a few times myself, I am glad that you get to appreciate the beauty of the countryside. Enjoy the local pub scene, it’ll certainly be an eye-opener! I miss taking long walks out in the countryside; it’s a little too cold here in MN!
Sheep are such cute animals, as long as you don’t rile up the ram. My ears suffered immensely on my last flight so I sympathize with your screwdriver-in-the-ear feeling, I hope they cleared up quickly. I am excited to read more about your experiences in Louisburgh! I know my roommate had a fantastic experience when she went 2 years ago!
Sharing your story was nice of you. I have never been out of the country so listening to this makes me jealous. I hope in the future I can visit somewhere in Europe. Ireland sounds like a beautiful place to visit. Hearing the small town story telling just is so fun to listen about. While i’m sure if I went out of the country I would have very similiar stories to share because every country works so much differently. I hoping I can study abroad and have a cool experience like you have.
Thank you, Allison, for sharing and I appreciate the optimistic feeling through the flight because I can only imagine how bad it may have hurt through the decent. Yes, that does not sound like pudding at all, but being open minded about new things in new areas are always encouraged, but I am still not a fan of that logic. I can live through your experience, which is awesome. The painting of the sheep is an amazing idea that I have not heard about until now and the description of the mountains remind a lot of Colorado, which was a beautiful place. The part about the drivers taking risks to overtake the bus just takes me back to Nigeria because people drive in that nature there as well.
Ireland sounds like a beautiful. We have corn and cows and they have green mountains and sheep! What struck me the most was when you were describing the colored sheep. I find it net that they let their sheep run free. It makes me wonder if there was ever away for the farms within America to do that. If there would do a difference in the animals health? I think there is a lot to learn from Ireland when it comes to animal farming. When you described the tight driving that makes me a bit nervous for when I study abroad in Europe. From what I keep hearing is that tight fast driving is the norm. Im not a fan because that makes me uneasy as well. Thank you again for sharing!