One Month Down

I’ve been living in Ireland for one month now. I meant to update my blog a bit more, but the first few weeks were a whirlwind of sightseeing and apartment hunting that left little down-time for reflection, let alone writing blog posts. Today I’m just going to write an update of what I’ve generally been up to, and the next few blog posts I have planned go into more detail about certain aspects like finding housing and employment.

As I mentioned in my last post, moving to another county involves a lot of packing. My last week in Gainesville was spent packing up my childhood home, apartment, and my friends’ Aly and Trace’s house. I also went up to Atlanta for a couple of days to visit my friend Matt. We went to Six Flags. I dropped his sandwich. It was an exciting trip. So my last week at home was sort of just a rush of packing and traveling, and I wish I’d had a bit more free time to soak in my last few days of Gainesville. On my last morning at home my parents and I went on campus at UF to have one last look around and take some family photos in front of The Swamp. After my last lunch at Chick-fil-a we headed off to the Orlando airport. Saying goodbye to my parents was emotional and more difficult than I anticipated.

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Kennedy family photo before we all left Gainesville

My first few days in Dublin were not easy. Upon arrival at my Airbnb I immediately felt this huge wave of homesickness. I grew up and went to college in Gainesville, and last year when I was in Ireland for the fall I never once felt homesick so this was an entirely new feeling for me. I think the shock of realizing my parents had moved away from my hometown, and I had moved away from Gainesville hit me suddenly and I wasn’t quite sure how to deal with it. I was overwhelmed at the thought of finding a place to live, getting a job and meeting new people. I’m usually okay with being alone in a foreign city, but I found those first few days here in Dublin lonely and stressful which I was not anticipating. After being here for a month I can tell you that these feelings have subsided and I feel so much more comfortable here now.

Prior to moving here to Dublin I hadn’t spent much time here. Dublin was just sort of a place I’d fly in and out of, or come to for a bit of shopping or a concert. I spent the first couple of days doing various walking tours to get my bearings and create a mental map of the city. Sandeman’s is a company that markets free walking tours in many cities across Europe, so if you’re traveling I’d look them up to see if they offer a free tour of whatever city you’re visiting. I’ve done every Dublin tour they offer, as well as every Amsterdam tour, and the free tour of London. I’m always really impressed with the guides and I’ve also met some pretty cool people on the tours which is handy when I’m generally traveling alone.

When I wasn’t on a walking tour during that first week I was apartment hunting. The rental market in Dublin turns over very quickly, and is quite different to finding an apartment in the States. Since I wasn’t that familiar with Dublin I found myself looking at apartments all over the city, not really sure where was best to live. I finally found a place in Santry and was able to move into my new room a week after I arrived in Dublin. I share the flat with 3 other people who are all in their 20s, and I’m really enjoying my new place.

To celebrate finding an apartment I took a walking tour of the village of Howth. It was a gorgeous sunny day, and I got pretty sunburnt. Our guide took a group of about a dozen of us on an over 10 mile journey up hills and over cliffs. We saw a castle, some old ruins and some pretty amazing views. On the tour I met a few other Americans around my age and we all went out to dinner and the pub after the tour and it was nice to hang out and socialize after several days of exploring the city on my own. Howth is such a nice little village, and I would definitely recommend doing the cliff walk on a nice day.

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Howth Cliffs

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This is me pre-sunburn

The next week was spent job searching and doing more exploring in Dublin. I tried to get up early and apply to jobs, and then go out exploring in the afternoons. I also spent an entire day in the immigration office. The next weekend I took the DART up to Malahide to see the castle and gardens there. I ate in the Avoca cafe (which was good but expensive), toured the castle, and spent hours wandering around the gardens there. I enjoy getting out of the city during the weekends to do some sightseeing and see a bit of nature, so Malahide was a really nice place to visit that’s still super accessible from the city.

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Malahide Castle

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Over the next few days I did more job hunting, and on a particularly sunny day I set out for Phoenix Park with the intentions of renting a bike and cycling around the grounds. Unfortunately, I entered the park at the wrong entrance and ended up walking several miles (and getting more sunburnt) before finding the bike rental place at the opposite end of the park. At that point I didn’t feel like cycling anymore so I just got an ice cream and went to the pub. While at the pub I decided to get in touch with Tara about coming for a visit. I had held off on visiting Durrow for a few weeks because I wanted to get settled, but I was really craving something familiar so made plans to head down. After making these plans I finally got a couple of interviews for some jobs I applied to.

I frantically went shopping for some interview-appropriate clothes, had my back-to-back interviews and then headed down to Durrow. It was so nice to be back in a place that felt so familiar and homey. I enjoyed catching up with Tara, Jason and all the dogs, and it felt like I had only been gone for a few days, not 8 months. I’m really grateful that I have a home away from home that I can return to when I need it. I was supposed to just be in Durrow for the weekend, but instead ended up staying just one day shy of a week. On the day I returned to Dublin I got an offer for a temporary job! I started the job last Friday and I’ll be working this job for a few more weeks, then I have a few days off before I’ll be going back down to Durrow to help with Sheppard’s next auction.

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Newtown House, Durrow, Co. Laois

 

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The mill at Newtown

Last weekend I continued my tradition of getting out of the city by heading to Dun Laoghaire (which is still technically Dublin but whatever) where I walked along the pier and found possibly the cheapest beer in Dublin.

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Dun Laoghaire Pier

On Sunday I got on a bus with 50 Chinese people who were all guests of the Chinese ambassador to Ireland to go to the village of Graiguenamanagh where we went on a tour of the village. This tour was organized by Sheppard’s and I thought I was just hitching a ride on their bus so that I could go the book festival that was being held, but I ended up walking around on the tour and it was quite interesting. I got to chat to the ambassador about Florida, and I got a few free pints when we had a tour stop at the pub. I didn’t continue on the tour past the pub… I also got to see Phil who was fresh off the plane from Florida, and Tara showed up for a bit as well. It was a fun day, but incredibly long and exhausting.

The last few days I’ve just been working and trying to get into some sort of adult professional routine. This was a long post, but a lot happens in a month. I’m finally settled into my room, and a job (even if it’s temporary), and I’m beginning to feel like I actually live here now. I miss my parents, and my friends, and Gainesville but I’m feeling less homesick and more sure of myself in my new surroundings.

This weekend I’m hoping to go to an American football game. Boston College are playing Georgia Tech at the Aviva here in Dublin, and I cannot wait for some college football although I don’t think this game will compare to seeing my Gators play in the Swamp but whatever, I’ll take what I can get.

 

 

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Moving is stressful

I’ve only moved twice in my life. My first move was when I went from living in my parents’ house to my first apartment, and the second was moving 3 blocks from that first apartment to the one-bedroom I live in now. Both of those moves were stressful for various reasons, but packing up your entire life to move to a different country with only 2 suitcases and a backpack is MUCH MORE INTENSE.

In 3 weeks I will be in Ireland, yet I haven’t even begun to sell off my furniture or pack up my stuff. It’s hard to even know where to start. This process is made even more difficult due to the fact that my parents are moving from my childhood home to Park City, Utah at the same time that I’m moving to Dublin. Having to pack up my bedroom at home as well as my apartment has not been easy. I’m not sure what to keep, what to get rid of, and what to take with me to Ireland.

On top of all the difficulties of dealing with moving, I’m trying to sort out housing in Dublin, job searching and trying to hang out with all my friends before I leave. I knew that moving to a different country wasn’t going to be super simple, but I’m constantly feeling like I’ve forgotten something very important every time I update my to-do list.

I haven’t been posting much recently because my thoughts have mainly consisted of “WHAT AM I DOING?!” and “why do I own so many things?” and “how will I fit all of this into my suitcase?” Being an adult is hard, but at least it’s interesting.

Countdown to Dublin

It’s official, my WHA application was approved! My flight is booked, insurance arranged, and I even reserved an airbnb for my first week in Dublin. I leave Orlando on July 30th, and beyond that first week where I’ll be staying in Rathmines I have no real plan.

I’ve been doing tons of research on the best way to find housing and jobs in Dublin, but it isn’t the easiest thing to figure out when you’re thousands of miles away. It’s a strange feeling to be moving to a new country with little idea of what you’ll actually be doing when you get there. I’m excited but I’m also terrified.

What makes this move even more scary is the fact that my parents are selling the house I’ve lived in my entire life, and are moving to Park City, Utah pretty much the day after I leave for Dublin. This means that even when I return “home” from Ireland, I won’t really be going back to my home. Apart from the 3 months I spent living in Durrow I’ve never lived anywhere besides my hometown. Knowing that now I only have about 6 weeks left in Gainesville is very strange.

I’m not a fan of the unknown, or of change, but I think moving away from the people and places I’ve known my whole life will be a good thing for me. Or at least I hope so.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.