Some realizations and learning outcomes of the Covering Europe experience: J-Term 2016 with Columbia College Chicago
I spend a lot of time on my own. I’m not saying that to get pity, or as a statement of “I don’t have friends,” because I do. I sure do. I have some of the best friends in the world. The only thing is, they’re scattered around the United States, or in even worse cases, across the globe. When I registered for this trip, the last thought on my mind was how close I’d get with this group of strangers; but at the same time, I didn’t think about how valuable I’d find walking around in a foreign country by myself. I’ve always treasured the times I’m around people I love — that’s why I make a point to go to Georgia every year for New Years. I never realized how much I treasure some of the times where I’m alone, too.
Maybe this is crazy, but we live in a world where romance is overly-romanticized. There’s an entire film franchise for it, there’s a holiday for it, and one of the online communities I frequent (Tumblr), has an entire section of blogs dedicated to wishful quotes and pictures of couples doing random things together. If you’re not careful, it’s pretty easy to slip into a mindset that the only thing that matters is companionship. Likes on your Instagram pictures; followers on Twitter; photos of you and your life companion splashed across Facebook.
With only two full days left in Dublin, I decided to start to try and insert some more normality back into my life, and dragged my butt out of bed early to get a run in at 6am. All things considered (my ankle is still a bit sore, but definitely doing better), I was happy with my slow 10K. I haven’t really ran in about two and a half weeks, so I’ve gained a lot of my mile time back. As of right now, I am planning on running in the F3 Half Marathon this coming Saturday, and scheduling a doctor’s appointment as soon as I possibly can once I get back into the city.
After the run, we grabbed our typical breakfast, and then had class at Griffith College. The interesting thing about this school is that it used to be a jail, and I couldn’t help but imagine how many jokes the students there must make about it being a prison. The grounds were beautiful, though, and our speaker was incredibly inspiring.
After reuniting with the rest of the class, the day started out early with the hop-on/hop-off bus tour. We saw some more of the sights from the top of a double-decker bus, heard more about the history of Dublin, and hopped off at the jail in Dublin, Kilmainham Gaol (photo above). It was a very similar feeling to being in the Cathedral — minus the inner-conflicts I have with the religious side of things — in the fact that it was haunting thinking about how much history has happened there. So many lives lost, so many lives changed (for the worst), so many people thinking that it was their last chance to live… incredibly eerie. I’m glad we went though, because it offered a different look at Dublin.
Another day full of traveling and the last little bit of adventures in England before heading back to Dublin to finish up the story to round off my portfolio for the next big application. Woke up in Northampton, had my last crumpet for awhile, and bid farewell to Simi (who was heading back up to Liverpool later that day). It kind of hit that we had spent two solid days together, and now we didn’t know when the next time we’d see each other would be… it was like August all over again, but amplified.
Wow wow wow wow yet another city in Europe has stolen my heart, and I hope it’s not just the tourist inside of me talking on this one. The day started with a 3-mile run with one of my wonderful hosts and tour guide Orin, (especially happy about this because I’m supposed to run a half marathon in a week, but we’ll see how the ankle holds up), but it was so nice to feel some normality for a hot minute before diving face-first into the British culture.
I consumed what I’ve been told is a very British breakfast, which included: a crumpet with butter and jelly, tea, porridge, and orange juice. All of it was actually lovely, and as we took the Underground into London, it definitely felt like it was the beginning of a great day.
Instead of listing everything we hit (which is an overwhelming amount of things for one day), I’m just going to stick with the highlights.
By far, the earliest start we’ve had since we landed in Dublin almost a week ago, but totally worth it. Up before dawn, we started the day driving through the city, up through the countryside, (most of us caught up on sleep while on the bus), and finally into Belfast.
Most of the day was spent on the bus driving around the city with a tour guide, hearing about the history and the things we were seeing outside of the window. I had heard about the troubles in Belfast before, but it was never broken down to the extent that it was yesterday. Finally understanding the conflict a little more combined with seeing some of the bullet holes in buildings, murals, and Peace Wall itself made me really think about where we were and what we were doing.
Nothing but good intentions started this day out, and I think it paid off. The alarm went off around 8am, and I finally rolled out of bed around 8:30. A solid 6-mile “run” on the elliptical (and my ankle is still feeling great, even though it’s close to 1am now), and another hearty Irish breakfast.
A good chunk of the day was spent wandering around Dublin with my roommate, Christy, to find the most touristy gift shops we could. I grabbed some trinkets for friends and family, but mostly enjoyed the record store we stumbled on in a market in the Temple Bar area, Spindizzy Records. I scored on another album on vinyl — Chet Faker’s “Built on Glass” — for cheaper than I’ve found in the states (again). If we had more time, I would love to dive into the record store scene here in Dublin and figure out why I’ve been finding so many of these records I’ve been dying to get for cheaper here than in the US.