Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Burren

Last weekend we did a little exploring in County Clare. API, the program I'm in Ireland with, organized a tour. We went to the Cliffs of Moher, Ailwee Caves, and the Burren. We were on the bus most of the day, but the country side is beautiful. I would love to go back some time, with more time to explore. The burren is an area of exposed lime stone, with rocky hillsides and fertile valleys. Ancient stone walls crisscross the landscape, cutting it up into small fields with a few sheep or cows in each.

A castle we stopped to look at:

Me at the Cliffs:

An excavated portal tomb:

A neolithic ring fort or "fairy ring":

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I've been living in Ireland for a week now. I'm studying abroad at the National University of Ireland in Galway. I ended up here almost by accident - I knew I wanted to study abroad, and I didn't want to take extra time to graduate. I had to find a place where I could take the three civil engineering classes I needed for my major, with a program approved by the UNH study abroad office, and in a location where I would be willing to live for five months (the last one was pretty easy).

I needed three civil classes, which meant I had to find a school on pretty much the same schedule as UNH. I needed Soil Mechanics, Structures, and Wastewater, all in the same place. Edinburgh had some, but no soil mechanics. Manchester only offered a more advanced structures class. Somewhere in Australia might have worked, but flights are so expensive and none of the schools I could find were quite right. NUI Galway wasn't quite the only option, but it was clearly the best. Now that I'm here it's hard to imagine being anywhere else.

I'm living in a student apartment complex about a 20 minute walk from the University, with three other girls from the program and a Spanish guy. Every morning I leave and head up the hill - away from the shopping center and the rotary. I walk by a field with ponies, old and new stone walls. If I look carefully between the houses across the street I can see Menlo Castle in the distance. I cut across a bit of marshy grass by the river, climb up to the road, hop the gardrail, and cross the River Corrib towards campus. It's a beautiful walk, misty or clear.