Allison – Ireland

July 4, 2022

We started off our morning bright and early, we had breakfast starting at 8:30, and out lecture at 10. Surprisingly, this was our latest start of the entire trip, the other days we had to be up and ready much earlier. Our lecture lasted around an hour, and we finished up learning about Irish history, and the history of Donegal. We learned about the O’Donnell family, and their part in the defense of Gaelic Ireland. Then about their defeat, and colonization within Ireland afterwards. As you can probably start to tell, our days are pretty jam packed here. We are learning so much about Irish history and culture and seeing so many amazing sites, and I am so glad to be on this trip and learning about Ireland in this way. I feel as though I’m getting a sort of behind the scenes look at Ireland, and a lot of information that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.

Although, today was a Wednesday, and as we from ECU would end up calling it later on, GOAT day. I don’t know if you have ever heard of that, but it’s basically just a bad day, Wednesdays are notorious for being bad days. Though we still had a great time, there were some things that were not so great about this day that I will go ahead and share with you. At one point, someone in our group lost their wallet (we did end up finding it a few days later, but you could probably tell how stressful it was). Many of us did not sleep well the night before. We had 6 of us from ECU staying in a room with one bathroom. How the hot water works in the shower in these bathrooms, is that you have to turn on a switch in the other room, they say 15 minutes before you want to shower. Well, we learned that it needed to be on at least an hour beforehand with so many people using the rest of the electricity in the room. I had to sleep on the couch, which eventually got way more comfortable. But the mattresses on the bunk beds were so thin that I didn’t think my back could handle it, so the couch seemed to be a better option. However, we were all still not completely over jet lag either, so it was just rough all around. Though we had a great time this day, and for most of us the best meal that we had on the trip, it had its ups and downs, which I feel like is bound to happen over 10 days. However, let me tell you about all the great sites that we saw today.

Day 3: Pagan Sites, Abbey, and Donegal Castle

Our first stop was to Pagan sites and Assaroe Abbey. Here, we saw so much history. We visited St. Patrick’s Well, and Catsby Cave. We even met a dog friend that Niamh and John see every time that they take groups here and have named her St. Patrick. You will notice in my photos throughout this blog, that you see a lot of St. Patrick (the statue and person not the dog). According to Niamh, he just kinds shows up everywhere, so keep an eye out! We took some amazing pictures, saw some beautiful scenery, and just relaxed and got to know everyone in our group. We even almost caught a common brown frog! Crazy I know. I’m sure you are just as excited as me. However, just keep in mind, we are all science people, and apparently the common brown frog is the only species of frog in Ireland, due to them being an island and all. So it was actually really exciting. Also, for one of our assignments for SCIE 6100 before going on this trip, we each got assigned two species of plants and animals for us to write a species report on, and throughout the trip we were trying to identify those species. Someone had the common brown frog as their species, so we tried to catch it, but were unsuccessful. You’ll see that we were successful in a few days though!

At the Assaroe Abbey, we went to St. Patrick’s Well. This was an absolutely beautiful site, and there was a tree that they call the Wishing tree here. What people do, is tie some sort of cloth, scarf, sock, or other item of significance (people even had tied masks up here during Covid) to the tree, and it is done in honor of St. Patrick during a prayer. They dip it in the water and then tie it to the tree.

We then continued our way to Donegal town. This was where we were going to do most, if not all, of our shopping for the trip, they had some great souvenir shops and restaurants. Although, before we could do that, we walked over to Donegal Castle. This castle was built by Red Hue O’Donnell in the fifteenth century but was eventually taken over by the English during the colonization of Ireland. When walking through this restored castle, you can see the part of the castle that O’Donnell built, such as the basement, and the parts that the English had to put their touch on, such as the ginormous fireplace that they used as a statement that they had taken over.

After our tour of the castle, the ECU group all went to eat at a restaurant right outside of the castle, called ironically enough, the Olde Castle Bar and Restaurant. We chose this place because of all the awards that they had outside of their door for their food. We choose right too, because wow was this one of the best meals that we had so far. While we were eating it started raining, which we expected. You get rain in Ireland almost every day, but because of how fast the wind blows, especially on the coast, it is usually gone quickly. Either way though, the food was amazing, I got a BLT and some ravioli with garlic bread. I wasn’t feeling fish because I had just had it the night before, but everyone that got seafood from here raved about it.

When we finished eating, we decided to go shopping and we all kind of split up and went our own ways. I went to a few gift shops and got some stuff for my family and myself. Once we were done, we headed back to the center of Donegal town to go on our walk to the bus. While we were walking to the bus, we stopped by a statue of O’Donnell and took a group photo. We then stopped by an Abbey Graveyard, and then got on the bus to head back to our hotel.

For dinner, we got food from the Food Truck that was in the Garden of the hotel, I got a sausage burger with apple that he was known for at this food truck, which was very good. Then afterwards we went to a presentation about Traditional Cures and Folklore of Healing. Once that was done, we went to go see some live music in the 51 pub that was owned by John, and was attached to the Apartotel, that he also owned. Then, called it a night at around 11:30.

Overall, this day was great, even with the rain. Though it was the GOAT day, thinking back on it, there were a lot of good moments throughout the day too. I feel like there is always that day on any vacation where it is just rough, and this was the day. However I can say that we didn’t have another one of these days until much later in the trip, so I am glad we got it over with early!

–Allison Schaefer

June 28, 2022

We woke up the next morning at around 8:00 to get ready for breakfast and pack our bags. We had a very long drive to Donegal county today, with some stops along the way. We had a great breakfast this morning, honestly probably the best one of the trip. I personally loved the hashbrowns. I didn’t get any, but a breakfast staple here is baked beans which I found interesting. Another breakfast staple here is something that they call white and black pudding, you can see it below on my plate. I am not going to tell you what it is, but you are welcome to look it up. Let me just say it was not very good, and I did not get it again.

We then got on the charter bus and left for the EPIC museum in Dublin. Here at the museum, you get a passport that you can stamp, and you are able to go through multiple rooms that people are able to interact with. You really go through the full experience that Irish immigrants went through. I found it interesting, and I loved all the interactive elements that were within. EPIC stands for Every Person is Connected, and I really saw that through this museum. We also had our lecture here at the museum, where we continued to learn about Irish Immigrants and history.

Once we finished at the museum, we had some free time to go find something to eat for lunch. We ended up eating at a Mexican restaurant. I know what you’re thinking, why are you eating Mexican food in Ireland. Well surprisingly enough, Ireland has a little bit of everything, even though they are known for their seafood, we knew we didn’t want to have that for every meal. So we went to a small little shopping center down the road from the museum and ate at a Mexican restaurant called Salsa, where I got some really great nachos, and then we headed back to the museum to explore a bit more. Outside of the museum they had a replica of a Viking boat, as well as a beautiful bridge that overlooked the River Liffey. We waited for the bus here, were almost late because we had to get Starbucks, but we made it, and then we headed to our next destination on our drive to Bundoran in Donegal.

Our second stop was the Hill of Tara. This was filled with beautiful scenery and history. We first viewed a ceremonial burial site that had been excavated. There were some carvings within, and one of those carvings is a spiral, which is recurring in much of Irish history. Although, no one really knows what it means. Pictured below is just one of many of the burial sites on this hill. There were many passage ways and tunnels below the ground as well that were also associated with these burial sites. These sites have only recently started to be discovered and researched, so there was still much work to be done, but they also wanted to keep the natural beauty of the landscape, so they are slowly trying to find ways to do both.

We then walked to the Coronation Stone (or Stone of Destiny) here at the Hill. We thought that this was interesting, because the stone had been so weathered. However, as you can see by the roses and feathers at the base of the stone, there are still many people who use it for ceremonies. So, they leave the stone there, to be weathered, but it just helps show the natural beauty of this area instead of putting it in a museum somewhere. It is said that if you touch this stone, it will cry out if you have royal blood, we tested it, and it seems that none of us from ECU have royal blood. We also saw many gravestones and a graveyard at the bottom of the hill, along with a church. The scenery here was beautiful and you could really feel the history behind this area.

Once we were done at the Hill of Tara, we then drove the rest of the way to the Apartotel (a mix between an apartment, and a hotel) that we would call home for the next week or so. This was located in Bonduran, which is a coastal town on the Wild Atlantic Way in Donegal county. Ireland is split up into a total of 26 counties (and then an extra 6 in Northern Ireland). We were actually able to drive through a bit of Northern Ireland on our drive to Donegal. When looking at a map of the counties of Ireland, you can easily see that Donegal is separated from the rest of Ireland because of Northern Ireland. However, there was no clear border, you could only really tell the difference because the signs were only in English instead of in Irish and English, different license plates on the cars, and the speed was in mph instead of kmph. I will say, I was asleep for most of the drive due to car sickness, however I was told that the scenery was beautiful on the way, and there were lots of cows and sheep and hills.

Once we got to the Apartotel, we were able to unpack, unwind, and even head down to the beach right across the street to explore! We also went to dinner at a restaurant called McGarrigles. We ended up going here at least three times, but the menu changed each time. I got the Cod and chips (but forgot to take a picture of it, I’m sure you can imagine what it looked like though) which was delicious, and then had a strawberry cake like dessert, which honestly wasn’t very good. They don’t use any flavoring or sugar in their whipped cream, which kind of ruined it for me because it had almost no taste. Others did like it though.

We then had some time to explore on our own before heading to bed, and we decided to go out to the beach that was right across the street, and of course take some pictures. I even found some sea glass! That is something that I collect from the beaches here on the coast of NC, so I was so excited when I found some on the beaches of Ireland! Then we headed in for the night, to be up super early the next day for our lecture and breakfast.

–Allison Schaefer

June 26, 2022

Once we got to Dublin, we were all tired and exhausted, but glad we made it. Ireland is 5 hours ahead of NC. So, the jetlag was hitting hard once we got there, however, we new that we had to push through the day so that we could get used to the time change.

I can say the first kind of culture shock that hit us all was driving. I don’t think any of us realized that even though Ireland was its own Republic, they still drove on the opposite side of the road and the cars were opposite. This was crazy to us, and for me, I don’t think I ever ended up getting used to it. I’m usually not one to get car sick, but for some reason I constantly felt car sick while we were traveling by bus to our destinations. I spent a lot of time sleeping on the buses because of this.

Day 1: Exploring Dublin

We couldn’t get into our rooms right away when we got there because they were not ready yet, so one of our tour guides Niamh (pronounced Neeve), instructed us to put our bags in a big conference room, and then we got a tour of Dublin from her. She showed us some key checkpoints that could help us get back to our hotel (although we ended up just using google maps in the end). Once we got our tour from Niamh, we were free to go where we wanted. Our first mission, was of course, coffee. We stopped at a coffee shop that Niamh had recommended to us. I am not a huge coffee drinker, so I just got a cherry pastry, however, everyone else said that coffee was delicious. Although, ordering coffee in Ireland is way different than what we are used to in America, they don’t have as many options as far as flavoring goes, and they usually give it to you black/dark, and then you have to add your own sugar, creamer, etc.

Once everyone got what they wanted from the coffee shop, we continued to walk around. We saw some beautiful scenery and architecture. The buildings in Dublin are built in a Georgian style, kind of like townhomes. They are all attached, and usually have bright colored doors as the centerpiece of the building. It really made for some beautiful pictures.

Once we walked around town a bit, we then found a park that we walked around. It had a beautiful pond with ducks, geese, swans, pigeons, and…. Seagulls. It was very odd, and I honestly still can’t get over it. The two most common birds here in the cities and beyond are pigeons and seagulls! This is a pair of birds that I never thought to see together in such abundance. It was definitely odd waking up to the sound of seagulls in the morning. There was even a guy out feeding and petting the pigeons, I did not go over to him, but the people that did, he would put the pigeons on you and they just wouldn’t mind, kind of reminded me of New York in that way.

Once we got the text that our hotel rooms were ready, we headed back to the hotel with the help of google maps. I will say, Dublin is a very confusing city as a tourist to walk through, because honestly as beautiful and unique as everything seems, it all looks the same, at least in the area around our hotel. Once we made it back to our hotel, it was around 4:00. At this point we had been up for almost 24 hours straight, and we were tired. So we were able to take a quick nap in the hotel room and chillax for a little bit before heading to a conference room in the hotel for our first lecture before dinner.

We had a big meet up in one of the conference rooms, where we learned about the groups that were here with us. We had a group from Utah’s Snow College, and two groups from community colleges in Hawaii. Niamh and John sat us at tables randomly with our Irish names on place cards (mine was Ailís, pronounced A-lish). We were sat at tables with people from the different colleges, and were able to mingle and talk about our travels. We then were introduced to all the faculty on the trip, and learned a bit about Irish History and how the country of Ireland used to be split up into four provinces. There were Connacht, Leinster, Munster, and Ulster. Each table was then assigned a province, and we had to each choose who we were in the tribe that was living there. I ended up being the musician. Overall, it was just a fun and interactive was to learn about Ireland and its history. We then finished up and headed to dinner at a restaurant across the street called Monto. We were able to get a starter or dessert, and a main course. I ended up getting the fried brie as my starter and the Atlantic salmon as my main course. It was delicious.

Once we were done with dinner, which took a while considering there were 43 of us in total, we had complete free time until whenever we wanted to go to bed. I, along with two other girls from the ECU group, decided to go out and explore some more before heading off to bed because we were surprisingly not tired. I am not sure if you were aware of this, but it doesn’t get dark in Ireland until around 10:30/11:00, and then gets light outside again at around 4:00 in the morning. So, it took a while for us to get tired since it was bright and sunny outside. However, we went to bed at around 10:00, and were up and ready bright and early the next morning to head on our next adventure of the trip.

–Allison Schaefer

June 24, 2022

Flying to Dublin!

Flight → Chicago:

Our flight was at 5:25 on July 21st, so we all got to the airport to meet up at 2:30. I had never been in RDU by myself, and honestly didn’t even know where we were supposed to meet, but I was hoping for the best. My parents dropped me off at around 2:20, and someone was already there! I was kind of stressed at first, because none of us going on this study abroad had ever met each other. I had seen them on computer screens during our meetings, but that was about it. Other than Dr. Lee and Mrs. Glass, I didn’t know anyone. However, when I got there, I met up with one girl that was going on the trip, and then, everyone else slowly started following in after. We all ended up there on time, and those of us that had bags to check checked them (but there’s more to that story later on) and then we went through security! There was no line at all, so we went straight through with no issues, and had plenty of time until our flight. We all split up to grab something to eat, and then met back up at our terminal.

When we met back up at our terminal, we finally had a chance to get to know each other. We went around and told each other a little about ourselves, and then just talked about how excited we were for the trip, how difficult it was to pack everything in carry-ons, etc. It was a great time to bond and get to know each other. I think it definitely put everyone a bit more at ease. We all kept checking the time on our American Airlines app, because the flight before ours had been delayed, so we wanted to make sure ours wasn’t delayed too. After waiting for about an hour, we heard them start calling people and making announcements in the intercom in the terminal.

They said, that they only had room for 22 roller bags max on the plane in the overhead compartments!

This came as a huge shock to us. We were all so proud of ourselves for putting everything we needed for the most part in our carry-ons, and now they can only fit 22 of them on there? It was crazy. We were group 7 to board, so there was no way that our carry-ons were going to make the cut. So, we quickly grabbed a few changes of clothes and stuck them in our bag that was considered our “personal item” and got our bags checked at the terminal as we were walking in. We were all hoping that our bags would make it to Dublin. They had to make it through a plane change and everything. The only positive thing about this was that we didn’t get charged to check them, which was good. However, we didn’t have a choice, so we just went with it and hoped for the best.

When we got on the plane, it was pretty small, but thankfully we were all sitting near each other so we could still talk and get to know each other more on the hour and 40 minute flight. The time difference from Chicago to NC is 1 hour, so we arrived at around 7:20.

When we got to the airport, our first idea was to get food because we were all starving. We decided to go eat at Macaroni Grill. If you have never been to ORD, you should. They have a huge amount of food options. Our layover there was around 3 ½ hours, so after we ate we had more time to explore. We were planning on going to some shops, but unfortunately they had all closed by the time we finished eating. So we all just chilled in the terminal until our flight at 10:15.

Flight → Dublin

Then… we had the long flight. 6.5 hours. Not a fun time. However, the plane was a lot bigger, and I got a window seat which was amazing. We were provided dinner and breakfast in the morning. I slept a good amount on the plane in between meals.

We arrived at Dublin International Airport at around 10:00 (Dublin time, keep in mind that we crossed into a different time zone, so we are now 5 hours ahead of NC)

When we landed, we had to wait on the tarmac for around 30 minutes until our terminal spot opened up to unload. We actually got there earlier than they expected us to, which is why we had to wait to unload. When we were finally able to unload though, we all got off the plane, met up at the top of the escalator, and headed to customs.

After making it though the long line at customs… it was the moment of truth. Did our bags make it to the airport. We waited at baggage claim for around 10 minutes, and then, we saw our first bag. They started showing up quicker, and eventually, we all got our bags!!! We were so happy, the one thing we were stressing about the whole time was that, and it was all good. All our bags and clothes were there safe and sound.

Once we picked up our bags, we headed to the lobby where we met up with our tour guide John. He then brought us to the bus, and we headed to our hotel in the center of Dublin City. Which is where I will stop for the day.

Overall, my second experience on a plan was not that bad. Definitely could have been worse. I think that it helped that it was an overnight flight where I could sleep most of the way. They also had entertainment like movies and things like that on the screen in front of us. The dinner and breakfast was really good and helped the experience as well. The first flight was a little bumpy because it was a smaller plane and I couldn’t sleep in the isle seat, but overall I think that the experience was a success with no hiccups. Hopefully our ride back will be just as pleasant. I will say though, our plan is to check all our bags to avoid the issues we had on the way there.

–Allison Schaefer

June 21, 2022


Hello! My name is Allison Schaefer, and I am a rising Senior here at ECU majoring in Elementary Education with concentrations in both elementary and middle school science. I am going on a 10 day study abroad trip to Ireland to explore the Irish culture and study the Climate Change efforts and affects that are happening there! We have been working with our Ireland campus partner and going through 15 modules throughout the course of summer 1 to get prepared for the trip. Learning about Irish culture, their education system, social issues, climate change, etc. It has been an amazing experience already, and I cannot wait to share all of my experiences with you! This is my Predeparture post, where I am just writing about the process of packing and what I am feeling leading up to the trip. I love that I get to share this experience with you! I apologize for the lack of pictures for this post, but I promise once I get there, I will have many pictures and videos to share!

1 Week Before:

So, I’m going to be honest, I am a very last minute person. I do my best work last minute, so starting this blog post a week before I leave is very against what I normally do. I haven’t even started packing yet! However, I did make a list of what I need, which I feel is progress. So instead of writing about my packing experience since I haven’t gotten to that point yet, I’ll write about my current stressors and excitements, because we all have those.

To start off, I was told during our meeting in the beginning of my summer term that I couldn’t bring my hairdryer abroad, because it would blow the outlets and possibly break it. That has been stressing my out ever since that meeting. I wash and dry my hair anytime I am going out somewhere. After doing some research, I realized that I technically could bring my hairdryer, but I still didn’t want to make that mistake of blowing the circuit for everyone that is staying in the same room as me. However, then, I got word from our contact in Ireland that hairdryers are provided! I know that sounds like such a first world problem, but it really was stressing me our because without drying my hair, it does not look very good and gets very frizzy, which just makes me uncomfortable. Anyway though, that crisis was avoided.

We also got word from one of our contacts in Ireland, that we shouldn’t check any bags because people that are on the same trip as us, are not receiving their bags for an extended period of time after they get to Ireland! I came to the conclusion after thinking it over that I am going to try and pack everything I need for 10 days in a carry-on and backpack, and see how that works out for me. I am hoping that I can do it, but this is something that is stressing us all out that are going on the trip. It has been a hot topic of conversation in our groupchat, so I guess we will find out if I can do it in the next couple of days when I actually start packing. On the plus side though, at least I can prevent myself from overpacking!

We also got word this week that we do not have to test negative to leave or come back into the country!! That is so exciting because that was also something that was stressing me out, as much as I think I would love Ireland, I didn’t want to possibly be stuck there by myself at the end of the trip if I by chance tested positive to come back. It seems like things are getting back to normal as far as travel goes!

I am really excited and nervous to go to Ireland, I know that I am going to learn a lot and have a lot of fun exploring and trying new things, however, I think that it’s just pre trip nerves. Once I get there and get everything settled I think that I will feel a lot better!

Starting to pack!

Okay so, it is now 4 days before I leave. Not super last minute! I have completed so much laundry the past two days, and now I think I have everything laid out on my bed that I need for the 10 day trip. I went to Walmart today to get all my travel sized toiletries as well as a quart sized zip up bag to keep them in (since apparently that is the limit for that sort of thing). I have only flown on a plane once before, and that was to Disney with my sister, dad, and half-brother. From NC to Florida is not a bad trip at all, and we had a short layover but we got to stay on the plane and not even have to worry about switching. I have never been out of the country before though, so I hope that I have everything I need. However, my mom always says that I can buy anything that I can’t fit in my bags or that I forget there, which is true. I checked the weather for Ireland, and it is supposed to be cold and rainy the first week or so that I am there. The summers in Ireland are very different than the summers on the East Coast of the US. That means that I can leave almost all of my shorts and t shirts here! Which definitely helps me in terms of packing light.

I have tried many different configurations for how I am going to pack up my stuff, and I think I have a good plan. We can also do laundry when we get to Donegal so that also helps me be able to pack light.

I did it

I fit everything I needed into my backpack and carry-on! That is a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I ended up packing all my shoes and clothes in my suitcase. The hardest thing to pack was probably my rain boots because of how bulky they are, but I got them to fit! Then, my jackets, toiletries, passport, etc. I got to fit in my backpack. I started out with a small gray backpack that fit the criteria of needing to only be 18x14x8, but once I stuffed everything in there I realized that it was going to be too heavy and uncomfortable, and I don’t think that it will fit nicely under the seat due to that. So instead, I used my school backpack. It technically fits the criteria, but it is a little tall so it could not fit it. However, I definitely think it will work better since everything will not be too crammed in there where I can’t get anything out. I think in the long run it will work better.

I am really proud of myself for fitting everything. You can see in the picture that my bunny Cola was very excited that he was able to come in my room and join me while I was packing, he and his brother Pepsi kept jumping in and out of my suitcase, I guess they want to come with me!

I have a few other things to do around the apartment before I leave tonight. I have to clean up, do some dishes, and pack up the bunnies to go to Raleigh and stay with my boyfriend while I am gone. Then tomorrow, I will be hanging out with my family, and then Tuesday is the day! Thankfully I don’t have to get up super early, we don’t have to meet at the airport until the afternoon. I’ll have more interesting pictures and information in the next post. I’ll talk about the flying experience, what we did when we got there, and our first day in Dublin! I am getting more and more excited about this trip as everything starts falling into place. My first trip out of the country, I can’t wait! This trip was a year and a half in the making, Covid cancelled it last summer, so I have been waiting so long for this and it is almost here!

–Allison Schaefer