Lass in Class

Tracking a Semester in Ireland


Peyton Sweeney is an English and environmental studies major from Bayside, Wis., who is studying abroad for the spring semester at the National University of Ireland, Galway. She will document her experience in this student blog.

January 29, 2014
Lass in class: Inspiration for a semester abroad

As a 20-year-old student navigating the channels of life, nothing could possibly provide more comfort than the guidance of the UW-Madison faculty, the Nelson Institute, and the wonderful people in the English Department. It is difficult to leave a place you call home, no matter what age, and if I were to regard Madison as anything but my home I would be lying.

Cardinal red runs through my veins. So then, why am I currently sitting in Galway, Ireland, contemplating the story I want to tell? Simple. I firmly believe the strongest aspects of learning occur outside of the classroom, and immersing yourself in world culture enhances human characteristics I deem most important.

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February 18, 2014
Lass in class: The wonder of Ireland’s water

Living in Ireland could quite easily be compared to walking slowly under a waterfall. One is neither warm, nor dry, in Ireland. It is simply a way of life.

The Irish have “eyes of the sea” because we are constantly bombarded by rain, mist, hail, fog and any other form water can take. Water is more present than the sun; therefore, one starts appreciating a raindrop more than a sun’s ray. Without it, the entire way of life that I am so enjoying ceases to exist.

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March 11, 2014
Lass in class: Change of "Titanic” proportions

When I was a young child, my father made the mistake of allowing me the privilege of watching the cinematography goldmine that was “Titanic,” soon after I was entranced by a digitally remastered “Jaws” on VHS.

Once the childhood tears subsided and I was properly scarred and terrified of big boats until my early adolescence, one thing did remain: I respected the power of the ocean. My most recent adventure in exploring the perpetually rainy Ireland brought me to the city of Cobh.

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March 27, 2014
Lass in class: Exploring Amsterdam, on two wheels

In the couple of months that I have been in Europe, I’ve done the most wondrous things. I’ve sled down the Snowy Alps, I’ve kissed the Blarney Stone; I have even witnessed the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace. Yet of all the places that I have been thus far, I can quickly say that my favorite city was the beautiful Amsterdam.

Amsterdam is known for many things worldwide, but what I was not expecting was the tulip market, the beauty of the red brick canals, the actual length of waiting time to visit Anne Frank’s house, and most especially: the way people traveled.

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April 10, 2014
Lass in class: The home turf of Ireland

When you travel from city to city abroad, it is actually surprisingly easy to forget that you are in a foreign country. The people wear the same clothes and drive the same cars. You become used to the accent and after awhile you begin to anticipate the different direction of traffic, looking towards your right when crossing the road rather than your left. You start to see tourists, instead of being one.

The only way I have counteracted this has been to befriend my fellow student and future roommate in Madison: Rachel. Rachel (pictured below) comes from Connemara on the western part of Ireland, about a 30-minute drive from Galway. She is half Irish and half English, but fully kind. Kind in the sense that she allowed me to stay in her home for a weekend and did not laugh too hysterically upon my excitement brought on by viewing the peat bog where her family harvests their turf.

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May 6, 2014
Lass in class: Reusable bags, disposable bottles and recycling dichotomies

One of the strangest transitions I have made while living in Ireland grew from one of the most inconsequential situations that I’ve encountered here. Unlike in the United States, Irish grocery stores provide no bags, neither plastic nor paper, upon check out.

If you want to take your groceries home easily, it will cost you roughly 15 euro cents for a single bag that can barely hold your Frosties. It was an uncomfortable change for me to get used to, but the idea behind this I can support.

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May 27, 2014
Lass in class: Escaping the city for pristine natural splendor

In an attempt to make the most of my experience abroad, I decided to spend two weeks after my classes were over to navigate three countries. I got sunburnt, encountered bed bugs, and faced a severe drop in my bank account. Yet I can honestly say that my experience in Rome, Kandersteg and Prague has left me with the most vivid memories of my study-abroad experience.

I’ve enjoyed having the challenge, through this blog, of connecting my experiences with environmental issues or thoughts. It has forced me to connect in different ways to my surroundings. I go out of my way to question and ponder things, even if it is as strange as asking my tour guides about wastewater management (which I actually do, to the embarrassment of my friends).

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June 2, 2014
Lass in class: Finding solutions – and yourself – through study abroad

Here I am back in Madison. Within the week of my return to this concrete campus, I have already gotten sunburnt at the terrace and spent the beginning of my summer nights watching the sunset fall over Lake Mendota. After months of exhausting travels, I relish the summer laziness. My first post seems forever ago, and it is a tad bittersweet writing my last. 

I’ve had a week to reflect on what my experience meant and what I have learned from my adventures. There are a few things that I can definitely relay in this post. The first being, I can tell every reader that he or she should definitely see as much of the world as possible, and that my opportunity has helped me grow in every way: emotionally, mentally, and even physically. The second is that now that I have witnessed firsthand the environmental aspects of more than six countries, I can assure myself that I still have a lot to learn.

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