10 Things I Learned in Ireland

As I mentioned in my previous post, I recently spent 3 months (well 89 days technically) interning in Ireland. I was the social and digital media intern for Sheppard’s Irish Auction House. While I was interning for Sheppard’s, I lived with an Irish family in Durrow, County Laois. Living with actual Irish people in a small village was a really good way for me to gain an understanding of the Irish way of life, so I figured I’d pass on a bit of my newfound wisdom.

  1. The Irish love tea. They drink it constantly, and I guarantee you that if you enter an Irish household one of the first things out of your host’s mouth will be “Would you like a cup of tea?” Since I’m from Florida, I’m not really a fan of hot drinks so I always turned down an offer of tea or coffee in favor of water. This almost always alarmed my hosts. I did learn to make tea though, and probably made hundreds of cups of tea for other people during my stay. Tea is to Ireland what Diet Coke is to me.
  2. Potatoes are everywhere. The relationship between Ireland and the potato is pretty well known. It was very rare that I went a day in Ireland without having potato in some form or another, and I’m pretty okay with that. Sometimes I even had meals that were accompanied by potato in 2-3 different forms. I once had a lunch at the local hotel/pub that came with roasted potato, mashed potato, and chips (meaning chunky french fries). I wasn’t mad about it. I actually laughed when I discovered that in the household I was living in there was literally a mountain of potatoes stored in the barn. Every few weeks one of us would take the potato basket (yes it’s a thing) that sat in the kitchen window out to the barn and refill it from the potato mountain. I love potatoes.
  3. Everything is green. I come from a pretty lush place. There’s plenty of green grass and trees in Gainesville. This did not prepare me for just how green Ireland is ALL THE TIME. I figured the green-ness of it would fade a bit as fall ended and winter began. I thought frost would drain the color from the grass, hedges, and trees but it didn’t. Everything stayed SO GREEN and it really surprised me. The greenness of it all is breathtakingly beautiful whether it’s against a backdrop of a clear blue sky, or a misty grey one.
  4. Addresses and directions are very literal. For example, my address in Durrow was just “Newtown House, Durrow.” Somehow the postman just knew what street we were located on, and the mail made its way to the house. I came down with strep once and when I called the health center to make an appointment with a doctor I was told to just “go through the village on the Old Cork Road, go past a field of cattle, turn left at the yellow post, pass 2 churches, and behind the graveyard is where the doctor lives.” Those are the real directions I was given. No house number, no street names. I did find it though, so I guess their system works well enough.
  5. Irish breakfast sausage is the best breakfast sausage. That’s really all I have to say about that.
  6. Garlic sauce is actually just garlic mayo. DO NOT BE FOOLED! I was once offered a slice of pizza in a pub, and the barman asked if I wanted some garlic sauce to dip the crust in. I love dipping pizza crust in garlic butter so of course I said yes. However, after the first bite I noticed something was off. It was garlic mayo. On pizza. I was horrified. What’s worse is I made the mistake again. I once went to Supermac’s (a thinly veiled knockoff of McDonald’s) and ordered garlic chips, thinking it would be fries with some nice garlic and herbs on top. It was not. It was fries piled high with garlic mayo. You only make that mistake once (or in my case, twice).
  7. Cheddar is the only cheese. (Sort of, not really) I once tried to find Parmesan cheese in a market in Durrow. I went to both grocery stores, and the only variety of cheese offered in the entire village was cheddar. I had to go two towns over to find a market that had Parmesan. If you go to the cheese aisle in any supermarket in Ireland you will be greeted with a WALL of cheddar. I never knew there were so many varieties. I’m not complaining though, I love a good cheddar.
  8. Alcohol is expensive. I am not a wine snob. I regularly drink $3 wine, and buying anything over $8 is what I would consider a splurge. The $5 wine I drink in the States is 10 euros in Ireland! The taxes placed on alcohol and tobacco products are extremely high in Ireland. Walking through Tesco and examining alcohol prices made me wonder how Irish teenagers (and adults) can ever afford to get drunk. They find a way.
  9. Dunnes Stores are the best stores. Dunnes is like the Irish version of Target, in my opinion. They have a great grocery selection, clothes, shoes, and housewares. If you are in need of anything, chances are you can find it in Dunnes. I love Dunnes.
  10. Irish Pubs are great. There is a reason you can find an Irish Pub in pretty much every major city across the globe. They’re fantastic. A real Irish Pub is nothing like the dive bars you’ll find in college towns across America. The pub is a gathering place for the entire community, and no matter where I am I will never pass up an opportunity to go to an Irish Pub.



New beginnings

I’ve been blogging on and off since high school, but I figured that since I’m an “adult” now I should probably make a few changes. My previous blogs have had cheesy titles, and equally cheesy themes so hopefully this new blog will be a bit more refined. Or at the very least, more aesthetically pleasing.

As a recent graduate with no definite plans, my entire life is up in the air at the moment. Before graduation I kept joking with the many [annoying] people who constantly were asking me “what’s next for you?” that my plans only went as far as April 30th, because that was the date of my graduation celebration dinner. I wasn’t kidding. The only thing I’ve had on my calendar since that date was a personal training session at the gym the other day, which I’m still recovering from.


Here’s a photo of me on my graduation day, before my hair was completely ruined by the massive downpour that began minutes after us graduates took our seats

When I was growing up I always imagined that I’d go to college, and have a job already set up by the time I graduated. As my college career was winding down I realized that this probably wasn’t going to happen. 12-year-old Caitlin would have been horrified at the thought that I don’t really know what I’m doing, but 22-year-old Caitlin has come to understand that life doesn’t always go according to plan, and that’s okay.

During the fall of 2015 I took a semester off from school to go to Ireland for an internship, and for a chance to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. School, as well as personal issues had been weighing me down, and the change of scenery was exactly what I needed. I learned so much during the months I spent in Ireland (enough to warrant an entire blog, but unfortunately I was too busy playing UNO and drinking Smithwick’s to properly chronicle my experiences. Live in the moment, right?) but I didn’t really figure out what my next step in life was going to be. I just knew I had to go back to Ireland in the future. More on that later.


Here I am in Heywood Gardens in Co. Laois trying not to look too hungover

My final semester at UF this past spring was pretty much a blur. In fact, my entire 4 years at UF went by a lot faster than I expected. For much of the spring term I figured I’d graduate, live in Gainesville until my lease ran out (or until I got an amazing job offer, but I figured my lease would probably run out before that…) and then move to Los Angeles to pursue my dream of becoming the next Anthony Bourdain (or more accurately, his show’s producer). That plan seemed fine, and I was relatively excited to move California, but I kept having this nagging feeling that there was something that I needed to do first before going to LA.

When I was in Ireland I met a girl from my hometown who was a couple of years older than me that had been in Ireland for almost a year. She was living and working there under this working holiday agreement between the US and Ireland. Under the agreement, any student or recent graduate from the United States can get work authorization so that they can legally live and work in Ireland for up to 12 months.  This seemed like a cool idea, but I didn’t know how feasible it was for me.


Everywhere in Ireland looks like it could be on Game of Thrones

However, as I got closer to my graduation I just couldn’t shake the idea of spending a year in Ireland. Every time I researched apartments and jobs in Los Angeles I also found myself searching for flats in Dublin. I broached the subject with my parents over margaritas on Cinco de Mayo, and expressed to them how serious I was about spending a year abroad before I try to make it in Los Angeles. I didn’t have any solid job prospects in LA, but I do have a strong desire to travel. I knew that if I moved out to LA and began working, it could be YEARS before I’m able to travel again. I will never be as untied-down (I’m making this a phrase) as I am right now, and the working holiday agreement between the US and Ireland is only for people who have attended university in the last 12 months. It’s now or (possibly) never for me to try to live abroad.

My parents were incredibly supportive about my idea. I shouldn’t have been surprised, after all they did let me take a semester off during my senior year of college to go live in a county where I only knew one person, but I fully expected them to tell me I was crazy. I’m incredibly thankful for all of the support they have given me, because there’s no way I’d be able to do this without them. With their approval, I immediately began working on my application for a working holiday authorization (or WHA as I will call it from here on out). As of yesterday, my WHA application has been submitted.

So this is where my adventure, and this blog, begins.


P.S. To the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, if you’re reading this then please approve my application and let me into your country. Thx.