Volunteering at Fighting Words

The social norms in Ireland are different than in America, even though there are still many similarities. For example, one thing I notice is that wherever I go there are numerous groups of individuals, whether Irish or of foreign descent, walking around. Many of them are tourists visiting the city, and when I pass by, I always notice the varying accents of the different groups. Moreover, when I walk throughout the city, I notice that individuals are casually strolling as they are talking, which is significantly different from what I experience in the big cities in America, where everyone seems to be in a rush.

More importantly, I see the different social interactions among children and adults at Fighting Words. Prior to coming to Ireland to study and volunteer, I did not really know what to expect from Fighting Words. I did some background research prior to starting, but when I arrived for my first day at Fighting Words for orientation, I realized it was a special place.

The first session was a refreshing experience for me. And every following session, the kids would have their own cliques or groups that talked a lot, especially during the initial story portion of the session. And then when they headed into their individual writing sessions, they would continue to talk, which is similar to my experiences being in class with my friends, especially in primary and secondary school, where I would always want to sit next to the boys and converse, even if I was supposed to be working.

The kids would always want to write the funniest, most outrageous stories to impress and make their friends laugh. It was hilarious sitting back and listening to the stories and reflecting on my own adolescence. I found myself being more interactive with the kids, talking to them, trying to get an idea of where they were coming from. However, since there is a new group of kids every week, it is hard to get to know them. I did have one interesting run-in with two boys in one of my sessions. It turned out that one of the boys was flying to America the next day and we talked about New York and President Trump and what we thought about him. The session ended before we could talk more, but that boy still is stuck in my mind.

In future sessions, I now have acquired better communication and small-talk skills to not only talk to my students, but also to kids my age, and also be able to adapt that conversation to speaking to adults. Volunteering at Fighting Words has been a breath of fresh air. It has provided me with an entirely new set of skills when I return to America, talking to my friends. It has been a great semester!

Accommodation in Dublin


So, guys, I have been on the move the past 5 weeks. I have adjusted myself to classes, friends, cooking, bar-hopping, and most important of all: my accommodation. I have 4 roommates (Peter, Ethan, Evan, and Pierce) in this flat. Each person gets their own room, and there is a kitchen that is separate from the rooms, and a hallway in the middle of the flat.

We are living in Binary Hub, an apartment complex in the Liberties, a neighborhood of Dublin city.  This is the place I come home to every night. The place is nice, with a bed, bath, closet, drawers. It is simple, yet practical for such a busy man. I will admit it is kind of on the small side, but that does not take away from its modern look and feel.

The bed does not feel half bad at night, especially after a long night out. I occasionally summon it for right-before-I-go-to-sleep study sessions, but the results usually end with me falling asleep. Actually, today, I snoozed my alarm like 10 times to get up for a 9:30 class. Because the bed felt so good, I almost did not get up. Bit I did make it on time to class! The bed can be a blessing and a curse. But getting my rest is extremely important, especially being abroad, because my body has only been used to Dublin for 5 weeks. Rest, rest, rest! Sadly I have a little cold right now but I am slowly working my way over it with rest and hydration.

So, this is a brief look into my accommodation for the next 7 weeks (it is crazy that I only have 2 months left). More to come next week!









Belfast, Game of Thrones, and Getting Lost

I am the king of the throne! This past weekend I ventured to Belfast, along with many of the Dublin IES Students. It was the best trip I have ever taken. On Friday, we visited the Northern Ireland Parliament (you might know a little bit about BREXIT, and if you do not know what it is, you should research it a little bit). Right now there is no border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, but the two areas could not be any different.

Friday night, me and my friends went out to a bar called Crusty Onion near our hotel. It was fun and we met a guy who was actually moving to Dublin to start working the next day. We had a fun time getting to know each other better. Saturday night was an adventure for me. Some bars and clubs in both Dublin and Belfast prohibit joggers/sweatpants because they are “track suits.” So me and a friend were preparing to go to a bar and the man at the front door did not let me pass. Then, to make things worse, my phone had just died so I had no navigation or means to get a taxi, since I was not carrying enough pounds. My friend made the tough decision to go into the bar, and I made the trek back to the hotel.

I got completely turned around, walking to the wrong side of town. I walked all the way back down town, which was probably a 2-3 miles trek all together. I was able to eventually orient myself towards the hotel. Then I decided to go to McDonald’s. There were many drunk people there, and unfortunately they were not able to read my card so I left empty-handed. It was around 2 am at this point, so I decided to return to the hotel. However, the next day was a better experience.

We had lunch at a seaside village, where Games of Thrones was principally filmed for seasons 1-3. We took a bike tour, and then headed back to Dublin. I am sort of dreading my early day Monday, but Belfast was GREAT!





Readying Myself for Dublin

I am so ready to leave for Dublin, approximately a week and a half away from September 3rd.  This is my first time traveling out of the country and I am looking forward to two things especially: meeting new people, and immersing myself in the Irish Culture.  I am also looking forward to seeing the sights of the beautiful Irish Hills and the scenic view of the Atlantic Ocean nearby.  10 days is all that separates me from my journey into a new Culture and a new World.

When Irish Eyes Are Smiling

On my last trip of the semester I fulfilled a life-long dream of visiting Ireland. I stayed with friends in a hotel in Dublin, but we also booked a day tour to Galway and the Cliffs of Moher.

Dublin is a smaller city but there are so many things to see. You can visit the Trinity College Library or take a free tour of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral (and see where politician and author Jonathan Swift is buried). There are plenty of pubs for lunch and dinner with specialities such as Guinness beef stew or a classic burger and fries.

Since we only had one day in the city, we had to miss some attractions with longer waiting times. I guess I’ll just have to make it back someday (what a shame…)

Around Trinity College there are many pubs to visit, as well as souvenir shops and hidden gems.
Look for the signs near the gift shop to meet a tour guide and learn about Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.

On the second day our bus tour across Ireland left at 7:00 a.m. The tour was only 40 euro (booked through Finn McCool’s) and took us to Galway, the Burren, and the Cliffs of Moher with smaller stops along the way for food and coffee. Galway is a beautiful town. The Claddagh ring, symbolizing love, loyalty and friendship, is believed to have originated here. The Burren is a region famous for limestone formations. The Cliffs of Moher are one of the most famous sights associated with Ireland and are featured in films such as The Princess Bride and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. 

Fall in love with a Galway girl, as the song says, or just fall in love with the city.
Sitting (and freezing) on a beach in the Burren.

Visiting the Cliffs of Moher is one way to get over your fear of heights…

If you even slightly enjoy great food, kind people, and a breathtaking countryside, plan to visit Ireland!

Irish Adventures & Deep Thoughts

I know, I know. It’s been a while.  But I have to be honest I have not have time!  I barely have time to sleep let alone take a few minutes to write about these beautiful experiences I’ve been having.

Ireland has been making me fall in love more and more with it as each day goes by.  I can’t quite put into words how incredible this experience has been.  I have been learning so much about myself, other people, and my art.  This country contains so much new history, culture, and language.  It’s fascinating to learn about, especially from the Irish themselves.  This is such a gorgeous place.  I mean look, just look!

Just a gorgeous rainbow I saw on my hike from Greystones
Just a gorgeous rainbow I saw on my hike from Greystones

Ireland beauty

Overlooking the sunset
Overlooking the sunset
The sea!
The sea!

It’s hurts me so much to know I only have 46 days left here, but I will have to make the best of it and be positive.  Today was an especially interesting day…

I got a free scone, was told my accent was lovely [wait… I have an accent?  what?],  and an older woman and man who both didn’t seem like their minds were all there stopped us while we were on our way walking home and apologized to my friend and I for September 11th while kissing our hands.  At first, we thought we had been distracted and then pick pocketed, but no.  They just wanted some conversation, I guess?

I also had a really great day at college.  In my manifesto class I had to write a short scene/sketch from the brief “The Call of Nature”. So I wrote a scene where I’m standing on the Ha’Penny Bridge taking a bunch of photos with my phone, selfies included.  Then, I just stop and put my phone away and tell myself and those watching to just breath in and out.  To just look at our surroundings and be present.  Breath in the air and listen.  Just listen.

This was inspired by noticing that I was taking way too many pictures of my surroundings without taking the time to really focus on where I am and the beauty that’s around me.  Yes, it’s great to take pictures, but we can’t keep looking at life through a lens.  I had to ask myself, “So why do I need to take these photos?  To remember?  Just to have?  Or am I just wanting to post these photos on Instagram and Facebook later?  It’s important to take a moment to soak in the moment and be present.  I believe being present is one of the most difficult things for human beings to do.  We’re always thinking about what to do next and where to go.  Where will be tomorrow?  What do I have to do now to get to the next place in my life?  I’ve found I worried about these questions much too often, and that I have to learn how to be more in the moment.  There was a moment during my trip to Northern Ireland where I didn’t bring my phone.  I just looked out onto the coast and let the wind whip against my face and I let myself feel everything I felt in that moment.  I let go of my thoughts and looked out at the ocean and huge hills.

Carpe Diem means seize the day, but maybe, sometimes we should let the day seize us.

Enough of my deep and internal thoughts.  Here’s more pictures.

Dunluce Castle
Dunluce Castle
Typical Irish weather - unpredictable and sometimes absolutely gorgeous
Typical Irish weather – unpredictable and sometimes absolutely gorgeous
Me inside Dunluce castle! A castle all the way from the 1500s
Me inside Dunluce castle! A castle all the way from the 1500s
The geological phenomenon that is The Giant's Causeway
The geological phenomenon that is The Giant’s Causeway
Dunluce castle- This used to be an oven!
Dunluce castle- This used to be an oven!

Failing and Singing

I am bound to fail and I am going to make mistakes, but that is absolutely okay.  This is something I’ve had to constantly remember during my first week of classes that began this past Monday.  Part of creating something or being artistic or just being a person even is failing.  We have to make mistakes and fail in order to get something right.  Then again, it’s not even about getting it right.  It’s about creating something that’s meaningful.  Something that will change minds and create interrogation or complete misunderstanding.  Something that isn’t afraid to be wrong.  Honestly, knowing that I will fail and make mistakes takes a lot of pressure off my shoulders and helps me clear my mind full of thoughts that won’t be helpful in my creativity.

The gorgeous castle from the front
The gorgeous castle from the front

So aside from these great introspective thoughts I’ve been having I also had a week filled with some tourist things that were pretty fun. I had an acting class where we started off our first class with some trust exercise. And what could possibly be a better trust exercise than blind folding someone and leading them into the street full of cars and strangers.  One person would be blindfolded while the rest of us would make the person touch weird things and go crazy places.  When it was my lovely friend Elena’s turn to be blind folded we decided to lead her to the gorgeous Dublin castle, which was a wonderful experience for those of us who could see.

“Do you feel fear and run from the bear or does the act of running generate the feeling of fear.”

Here’s what Elena missed:

A side view of this gorgeous building
A side view of this gorgeous building
Blindfolded proof
Blindfolded proof

Then, this weekend I had an adventure with Elena, her twin sister, and our other friend from the same program, Drew.  We went to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and took in all the gorgeousness and massiveness that it is.  We walked around the Temple Bar street market and drank some hot apple cider with a little splash of something extra.  Then, for dinner we went to the best fish and chips place in Dublin (oh my god so good), and for the night time extravaganza we adventured the famous tourist trap that is Temple Bar.

Some delicious hot apple cider with a touch of Irish at the Temple Bar Market
Some delicious hot apple cider with a touch of Irish at the Temple Bar Market
Salt and vinegar is a necessity for all fish and chip purchases
Salt and vinegar is a necessity for all fish and chip purchases
Delicious olives from the Temple Bar market
Delicious olives from the Temple Bar market

St Patrick's Cathedral

The gorgeous St. Patrick's Cathedral
The gorgeous St. Patrick’s Cathedral

The live music at Temple Bar was so fun!  At one point they played an Irish song called, “Tell Me Ma” and it instantly brought me back to when I performed in the Irish classic “Playboy of the Western World” at Hope College my sophomore year.  Thanks to that show I was able to sing along.  To anyone reading this who was in that play or saw it will know what I’m talking about!  Then, when the first live music performers left they just had some music playing from a stereo system of the bar.  Then, it was as if they knew there were American theatre majors in the bar because “Summer Loving” from the musical Grease began to play on the stereo system and Elena and I screamed with joy.  We then proceeded to fill the entire place with our loud, obnoxious, and happy voices and sang along to the entire song.

It’s a wonderful world here.

We are all fools

The area of my beautiful school of the next three months
The area of my beautiful school of the next three months….  absolutely gorgeous!!

First day of school is finally finished.  I can’t believe everything I have learned in the matter of 24 hours.  After meeting all the Irish students some of my classes will be integrated with I couldn’t be happier.  I felt an overwhelming amount of welcome and warmth from everyone.  Our first day we went straight into Theatre of Clown.  After some warming up, name games, and “Simon Says” with a wooden spoon we got into the nitty gritty of what Theatre of Clown truly is.  And it’s not what most people think it is.  So as a class we all took our first baby steps into understanding this beautiful part of theatre.  Here is what the activity we partook in as class entailed:

One person stands up in front of the entire class wearing a red nose and a hat of their choice. They can say no words; they can only be silent, walk around, and look into the eyes of their clown master and classmates in front of them. We have to create conversations just by looking into their eyes. We have to let go and show how we are feeling in that moment, and show people what we are most afraid of anyone seeing. Our eyes hold our soul, and we have to let people see it without saying a word.  By releasing tension and breaking down our walls we are creating an authentic presence.  We can’t have our walls up and we can’t expect anything or what will come of it.  Expectations will cut the experience.

The activity that was presented to us in class is absolutely beautiful.  It’s an interesting way to see people, especially when I only met them for the first time a couple hours ago.  I learned a lot about myself and about others in the matter of about six hours.  It was incredible.  People who really let you see into their eyes and let themselves feel what they were feeling were the most fascinating to watch.  Their eyes electrified the whole room sometimes because you could really see everything they were thinking or feeling.  I loved how unique each experience was.  Some people were sad, some were dark, and some laughed loud almost the entire time they were up.  Only a few showed us their underbelly or their darkness, but that’s okay.  It’s not easy showing strangers how you think.  But what’s also beautiful about this exercise is that I have learned more about how it’s okay to make mistakes.  It’s okay to be human.  Each individual I am in this class with has a story and has a darkness and light.  It’s okay if we don’t get it right the first time or if we screw up because we’re human.  We will mess up –  it’s part of life.  I also am beginning to learn more about how to not have expectations.  If I think about how I am going to walk, or share my eyes, or who I am going to look at before I even go up on the stage, then that will ruin the experience.  If I expect how much I am going to let people see within me, then that will also cut the experience.  So when I went up there today I just told myself I would be confident, I would be myself, I would be in the moment, and just be.  I would let myself feel what I do feel, which is usually what I do in my everyday life because I am a sensitive person.  As soon I as got up there and looked into Raymond’s (Our leader/teacher for the week) eyes he saw things I didn’t know he could.  I didn’t know a single pair of eyes would be able to see everything.  I could tell he was really going to see parts of me that are very private and deep within me.  So I began to cry.  I was showing someone a part of myself I didn’t even know I truly had by just looking into his eyes. I felt a crazy mix of up and down emotions of laughter, sadness, darkness, and happiness.  I thought I was going mad!  At first I thought people would probably think I’m crazy because of how many emotions I showed them within 15 minutes, but I am human.  And as soon as I remember how to be present in the moment, then all my thoughts ceased taking over my brain.  Then, when I made my exit I shrugged a little, but he stopped me and said, “You don’t have to apologize for nothing, girl.”  And he’s right.  I don’t have to apologize.  And I have noticed that my self-esteem effects how I present myself on stage.  If I am not confident then my body language will show that I am apologizing for being on stage.  When, really, I don’t have to.  I can’t apologize.  I need to love myself and believe in myself more to create an electrifying presence.  First day, and I’ve already learned so much, and I am craving for more.

Falling slowly for Dublin


Aside from jet lag and my most recent state of food poisoning, I’d say Ireland is working out well for me.  Honestly, I immediately fell in love with the lights and warmth of the city of Dublin.  As soon as I saw the city coming into view from my airplane window I knew this was exactly where I was supposed to be.  This is where I belong in this moment of my life.  There were a few unexpected road blocks on my way to Dublin, like an entire day long layover in New Jersey due to flight delays.  But that did not cease my growing excitement for starting this new adventure in my life.

I’d say I am most excited for starting class on Monday, but that’s also what I’m most nervous for.  It’s like the first day of school all over again…except in a new country and in a city I am completely clueless about.  I’m looking forward to my first week, and I think I just have to be patient with myself and let myself slowly get back into the groove of things.  I’m also pretty excited though because the first week of school we start right away with Theatre of Clown.  How sweet is that?  I have no clue exactly what to expect with that, but it’ll be an adventure.

I think what will help me most while I am studying abroad this semester is being completely open with myself and others.  I want learn how to jump into experiences and have fun without caring what people think and without inhibitions.  I want to learn how to take more risks with my acting and in my personal life as well.

I just have to keep telling myself that I can do this and to be strong.  Because I can do this.  I’m strong and I’m a warrior.

Going out and exploring the city
Going out and exploring the city with some new beautiful friends