A reflection on studying abroad

I volunteered every week at Fighting Words, which is a creative writing program for disadvantaged kids. Prior to coming to Ireland to study and volunteer in fall of 2017, 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 of orientation, I realized it was a special place. The first session was a refreshing experience for me every following session, the kids had their own cliques or groups that talked a lot, especially during the initial story portion of the session. 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. 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 and 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, President Trump and what we thought about him. The session ended before we could talk more, but that boy is still stuck in my mind. In future sessions, I acquired better communication and smalltalk skills with not my students, but also with kids my age and adults. Volunteering at Fighting Words has been a breath of fresh air. It provided me with an entirely new set of skills when I returned to America, talking to my friends. It has been a great semester. On a fun note, I was the king of the throne! During my Ireland stay, I ventured to Belfast along with many of the Dublin IES Students. It was the best trip I have ever taken.

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 more different. One night, my friends and Iwent out to a bar called Crusty Onion near our hotel. 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. The next night was an adventure for me. Some bars and clubs in both Dublin and Belfast prohibit joggers/sweatpants because they are “tracksuits.” A friend and I were preparing to go to a bar, but 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 downtown, which was probably a 2-3 mile trek. 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 a.m. 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 one to three. We took a bike tour and then headed back to Dublin. I sort of dread my early day Monday, but Belfast was great!

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