These Minnesota college students get an A+ for adventure. Follow along as they explore the world while studying abroad.

Read about our contributors: Katelin Harned, Emily Atmore, Catherine Earley, Rachel Fohrman, Paul Lundberg, Andrew Morrison and Emily Walz.

Posts about People

End of one Chapter, Beginning of Another

Posted by: Paul Lundberg Updated: November 27, 2013 - 7:28 AM

I write this final post somberly knowing that my life abroad in the Emerald Isle is rapidly approaching its end.  My academic semester ends in the next few days.  I will be on a plane home December 12th after I do final travels with my family, which shall arrive shortly.  It feels appropriate to sum up what I have accomplished on this trip (Warning long list approaching!): I have hiked three mountains and reached the highest point in Ireland and hiked in the Alps, I have traveled to five different countries, learned 2000 years of Irish history, literature and theology, deep sea fished, recorded a music video with Irelands leading musicians, tracked down family heritage, experienced the hostel life, lived out of a backpack for ten days, met Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood), experienced several Irish pubs, traveled away from family for the first time, remained out of the States for over three months, gained new friends, had five different currencies in my wallet at one time, travelled via train, bus, plan, car, and foot in one day, ate a full Irish breakfast, learned how to cook without the microwave or frozen pizza, wrote this blog, tested myself on a ropes course, learned the words fortnight and penultimate, learned great card games, lessened dependence on electronics, wrote letters with a pen (mind blowing I know), mastered the Tube in London, became more sustainable, read several good books,went to nearly every corner of Ireland, tried several news foods, discussed the ramifications of a post-colonial society and neo colonialism, watched the sun set over Spiddal, and most of all I have had a most wonderful experience on this adventure in my life.

I look back on all that I have done and it is remarkable.  Three months ago I arrived on the island not knowing what to expect.   I had no idea what I was getting into, and I could not be happier about that.  Some advice to any who are thinking about studying abroad is, do it. It is an amazing experience and I know if I had not gone on this abroad experience I would be kicking myself.

 I have done things and changed in ways I may not fully understand.  What I do know is I have done many things over the past few months and I look forward to the future, and what can be accomplished with it.  While this chapter may soon be coming to a close, another is opening.  The question remains, where will it lead?  I am ready to find out.

Sunset in Spiddal

Sunset in Spiddal

The North

Posted by: Paul Lundberg Updated: November 7, 2013 - 8:11 AM

Northern Ireland, a place of former turmoil is where my most recent excursion has taken me.  !Warning! History lesson about to begin. Many people are familiar with the term “The Troubles.”  This correlates to a time where Protestant and Catholics hatred grew into great violence.  Now using the terms Protestant and Catholic is a very loose and not fully representative term for the true nature of the violence, but it is a simplistic way of describing the sides.   During these times it was not uncommon for there to be deaths and shootings daily.  There was a wide variety of strikes and protests.  Cities became greatly segregated, and remain so.  Walls were put up to divide the two distinct sides of the conflict.

 In the current time Northern Ireland has enjoyed a state of grace for the past few years, however it is still rich with tension.  This tension can be felt in the air as you walk down the street and seen in the elaborate murals painted on walls and buildings.  The murals range from aggressive opinions to future prosperity.  It is an unique experience to stand on the wall of Derry and see Irish flags on one side and British flags on the other.  Additionally there is a mural saying “Free Derry” and on the other it reads “still under siege, no surrender.”  These aspects alone create a tense atmosphere.  This same tension can be felt in Belfast.

The Free Derry mural

The Free Derry mural

The opposing sign on the other side of the wall

The opposing sign on the other side of the wall

Now despite these tensions it did not hinder thee great experience.  Fellow students and I were fortunate enough to be in Derry for Halloween.  This is a big event in Derry as it draws crowds well over 50,000.  It contains a parade which presents spectacular floats and displays.  After the parade there is a fireworks show which was an impressive spectacle.  I sported a purple morph suit this year for Halloween.

The end of this excursion signifies the near end of my study abroad experience.  My academic semester officially ends November 26th.  That is 19 days.  I have one more excursion which will take me to Cork and Kilkenny.  It is with this final experience that I will say farewell to the Emerald Isle and be bound for home.

Beyond the Emerald Isle

Posted by: Paul Lundberg Updated: October 22, 2013 - 4:10 AM

While it may be hard to believe it, I am actually in Ireland for school.  This entitles me to a fall break right?  That is correct, ten days of traveling Europe.  My travels brought me to London, Prague, Interlaken, and Geneva.  London ways spectacular, Prague was full of surprises and Switzerland (Geneva and Interlaken) were absolutely splendid.

I arrived in London at night allowing me to see instantly the night life and lit up building such as the iconic Big Ben and impressive Westminster Abbey.  The first day I went to the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace.  People were crammed into tight spaces in hopes of getting the best picture possible. After attending the Changing of The Guards I continued to Westminster Abbey.  This was one of the top experiences for me in London.  Westminster is full of such a rich history.  In addition the architecture present was absolutely staggering.  After ending my visit at Westminster a walk around the city was needed.  It unfortunately rained most of the day, but I managed to stay relatively dry.

Big Ben

Big Ben

The next day consisted of mastering the Tube (subway).  After an initial blur of lines and which color to take mastery of the tube was found.  I went to the British museum, Kensington Palace, the famous Abbey Road, and many other sites around London.  To end the day myself and those traveling with me went out to dinner to celebrate a birthday.

The next morning it rained again, but it was the departure day.  After an early visit to the Tower of London I hoped on a train to the airport.  The plane was bound to Prague of the Czech Republic.  This was one place I did not know what to expect.   London I knew Big Ben, Westminster, etc.  It was to my great delight that Prague was one of the most beautiful sites.  The easiest way to describe it is a giant palace.  To further add to the delight is the low cost of living.  To put it in perspective I was able to buy two large meals for about three dollars.  That is because the currency exchange rate. Prague itself consisted of a tour of the city, visiting the largest castle in Europe, and night life in the Old Prague Square.

Overlooking Prague

Overlooking Prague

Soon my time in Prague expired and I began the trek to Switzerland.  I arrived in Interlaken, Switzerland in the evening as I did in London.  The difference was the Alps were not light up.  It was not until the next morning that I saw the splendor of the Alps.  It is quite strongly a saw dropping experience.  The first day in Interlaken a few traveling companions and myself walked the city of Interlaken.  We walked to the lakeshore which presented an incredible view with mountains as a back drop.  We even managed to stumble upon a 13th century castle.  It was a day which can best be described by the motto “We should do that!”

The adventure continued the next day as the same group of us hiked the Alps.  We ascended roughly 1500 meters summating one of the lesser mountains in the Alps.   It rendered one of the most spectacular views I have ever seen.  It was most rewarding after a near 4 hour ascent.  The hike back down was filled with amazement at what had been accomplished, but was bitter sweet as our departure was the next day.  Before my departure I went to a ropes course.  The easiest way to describe this is a playground 20 meters up in the trees for adults.  It consisted of over 20 sip-lines and countless obstacles pushing a person to the limits of balance and strength.  It was further enhanced with the Alps in the back ground.

The Alps

The Alps

Once the ropes course had been completed it was time to travel to Geneva.  The 3 hour train ride was stunning as the whole ride consisted of the beautiful landscape of Switzerland.  I did not get the opportunity to do much in Geneva as it was simply a stop point before our trip back to my home away from home, Spiddal Ireland.  The trip consisted of a train, plane, bus, and a cab.  It was a welcoming experience to once again step foot in the cottages that I have come to know and love.  Now back to that thing known as school…

A New Pinnicle

Posted by: Paul Lundberg Updated: September 26, 2013 - 6:10 AM

The prior weekend was the first long excursion weekend of my study abroad.  It took me to Glenstal Abby, Dingle, and Killarney.  It was without a doubt one of the most impressive experiences I have had. 

Glenstal Abby is a Benedictine order of monks.  One of my professors is a member of this community.  The trip to Glenstal consisted of an impressive tour of the castle like structure.  Inscribed on the main gate was the word PAX, meaning peace in Latin.  After our tour of this impressive castle some of us had the chance to celebrate mass with the monks.  It was an unique experience has they still use Gregorian chant music.  I must say it was incredibly beautiful.

This is the front gate showing PAX

This is the front gate showing PAX

Once we had said our good byes to the monks of Glenstal my group and I departed for Dingle.  It is a small town that is located on the scenic Dingle peninsula.  On our arrival the group got lost trying to find our hostel, despite the small size of the town.  Our living situation was a little cramped as we had four people in a room that was about 6x8 feet.

Our next day consisted of an unusual opportunity; we had a free day to explore Dingle.  This consisted of our group herding around the town looking around shops, going to aquariums, walking to the shore, and an amusing hurricane simulator.  The evening finished strong as our group received the news of the Jonnies beating the Tommies.  For those who do not know St. Johns and St. Thomas are rivals.  On hearing the news our group began chanting down the streets of dingle drawing stares of clueless locals.

Once our stay at Dingle was completed we boarded the bus once again and began our drive to Killarney.  Killarney is one of my favorite cities to date.  It presents an unique feel.  Additionally the tallest peak in Ireland is not far.  This of course enticed many of our group to go climb this.  We had already climbed one mountain (Crough Patrick) a week before.  Crough Patrick was about 2,500 tall.   The mountain we climbed was named Carrauntoohil.  It is a little over 3,400 feet tall.  This mountain creates and impressive shadow on the landscape.  I distinctly remember our initial descent still in disbelief at what we were about to climb.

Carrauntoohil from a distance, where we started

Carrauntoohil from a distance, where we started

What we had just climbed

What we had just climbed

View from the top

View from the top

We were lucky on the day we decided to climb as it was the clearest day of the week.  Once our group was together we began our walk to the base of the mountain.  After a decent walk one of my fellow students asked own of our guides about how far we were and the guide replied, “Oh we have not even started.”  Not long after that comment he pointed at a jagged wall and said “alright we are going to climb up right here, this is the first level of three.”  At this point many of us became giddy with excitement, and anxious about what was in store for us.  It took about three hours to complete the hike up to the top, six hours round trip.   Our descent down took us to a path known as the devils ladder.  It was aptly named as it consisted of sheer drops with jagged rocks jutting out.  In addition a small stream poured into the path making it wet and slippery.  Luckily for our group there were no major issues on our way down and we all made it back safely.

At this point the group and I were exhausted and ready for the long bus ride back, hoping to grab some shut eye.  The bus ride back must have been the quietest bus as a good 80 percent of us were fast asleep.  It was a fitting end note to an excursion of new heights.

A Weekend of Adventures

Posted by: Paul Lundberg Updated: September 16, 2013 - 5:22 AM

This weekend I embarked on one of the loftiest hikes of my life; the location was Croagh Patrick.  Croagh Patrick is a 2,507 mountain found in County Mayo not far from Westport.  When our group was originally asked if we would be interested in going many of us did not know what we were getting into.  We did not understand why people standing at the beginning of the path were wishing us good luck.  It did not take long however for us to find out the meaning behind their remarks as the path quickly became steep and rocky. The path was wide at first, but narrowed as we made progress towards the top.  There were other hikers who were joining us on our way up and some who had made it to the top already and were coming down.  This caused problems as the path became so bottle-necked that no more then 2-3 people could pass at a time without being on the edge of a several hundred feet drop.  To make this scenario more precarious the incline was close to 70 degree slant.

The view at the top of Croagh Patrick

The view at the top of Croagh Patrick

The group that made the hike

The group that made the hike

Once we made it to the top the view was a letdown.  This was because we were so high that we were actually in a cloud.  We decided to wait to see if the cloud would pass and it did, rendering the most spectacular views I have ever seen.  One could look out for hundreds of miles.  The town where we started was all but a dot in the distant landscape.  After some time we reluctantly made our way down the rocky slants and arrived at our hostel for a much needed rest.

The next day we went to Kylemore Abbey, a Benedictine order of nuns.  It is more known for the castle which was built by a man named Mitchell Henry.  He built the castle for his wife who fell in love with the land.  It is a story not too different with that of the Taj Mahal.  It is a spectacular piece of architecture with a view  straight from a fairytale.

Kylemore Castle

Kylemore Castle

Once our time was done at the abbey we went to Connemara National Park.  This region of land is known for impressive winds and extensive bogs.  We hiked around the base of a mountain and again were rewarded with great views of not only landscape, but unique flowers as well.  One in particular is known as the Sundew.  It is a plant that eats insects as the bog land is not nutrient rich.  This visit to Connemara National Park ended our weekend and we began our way home, many of us passing out on the bus ride back.

The Sundew

The Sundew

The Burren and Beyond

Posted by: Paul Lundberg Updated: September 9, 2013 - 5:53 AM

 The Burren, a colossal limestone landscape found in the County Clare, is where my most recent jaunt has taken me.  The endeavor started long before my group and I arrived at the Burren as the roads were not generous.  Imagine a standard road that is a single lane; now draw a line down the middle and presto it is now a two way road!  This created several a circumstances of close calls as our sizable bus would skim the edges of the road and the oncoming car.  Needless to say the drive consisted of sudden braking and swerving, which in turn caused those prone to motion sickness not happy.

 
One of the roads we took to the Burren

One of the roads we took to the Burren

Once we arrived at this impressive rocky expansion we were all very ready to hike after being confined to the bus for a little over a hour.  Our group was met by some Burren experts who kindly informed us about various aspects of the Burren.  For example the Burren is the most diverse location for flowering plants in Ireland.  They represent about 70 percent of all the flowering plants in Ireland in a space that is one percent the land mass of Ireland.  Unfortunately it was not flowering season, but it was still a remarkable view.  It did not take long for me and the remainder of our group to traverse Mullaghmore, a large rocky mountain found in the Burren.  Once at the peak we ate the lunch we had packed and hiked back down the other side where our bus was waiting for us.
Mullaghmore in the Burren

Mullaghmore in the Burren

 
After this near 6km hike our group moved on to yet another impressive landscape, the Cliff of Moher.  The Cliffs of Moher created an impressive view with sheer drops of 300-400 feet.  These drops went straight into the frigid ocean below.  Looking part way down the cliffs one could see birds flocking to the crevices created over generations of geological abuse.  The Cliffs of Moher created an eye popping few which further built upon are already busy day.
Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

 
After this busy day our group was pretty tuckered out, but we kept going as we went to see the national championship for hurling.  We stopped at a pub on the way back in County Clare and watched the spectacle unfold.  The event was something similar to the Super Bowl in America; fans painted with their team’s color and shouting with excitement.  The teams that were playing were Clare and Cork.  It was an amazing game as both teams played very well.  The ending could not have been any more spectacular as Cork was winning by one with only seconds remaining.  Clare fought back getting the equivalent of a buzzer beater to tie it up.  The pub exploded with energy as we were in County Clare.  Interestingly enough they do not do extra time to settle a tie, instead they reschedule and play again until there is a victor.
 

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