Study Abroad Diary: A Day in Cork, Ireland
Study Abroad Diary is a new Snapshot feature in which students offer a glimpse into their study abroad experiences. Katie Sahlstrom is a senior history/pre-med major currently studying abroad in Cork, Ireland on the College of Arts & Sciences June in Ireland program, which runs May 29 – June 29.
June 22, 2019
Wow, so today was a fun-filled day. Every weekend we have “free days,” in which we get to plan what we want to do that day. A close friend I have made on this trip and I decided to head down to a small coastal town called Kinsale. It is known for its seafood and an English Fort called Fort Charles, which is massive and star-shaped, allowing soldiers to defend the coast better. Unfortunately for how impressive the fort is, it was not super successful. The fort suffered from only one siege and lost. However, it gives you some beautiful views of the ocean. One thing about Ireland that always leaves me speechless is the amazing scenery, whether it’s coastal or an interior landscape. After exploring the fort, we walked into the central town area to shop and grab something to eat. As I mentioned earlier, Kinsale is known for their fishery scene and is home to a famous restaurant called Fishy Fishy. Their fish and chips are amazing — I can personally testify.
Once we were sufficiently full, we decided to walk around town for a little more before heading back to where we are staying in Cork City. My friend and I were pretty tired, but knew that the day was not over for us yet: we had bought tickets to see a traditional Gaelic Football match around 7 p.m. To make sure we arrived on time, we left an hour early since the bus to the stadium takes about 40 minutes. This well planned-out excursion was thwarted, though, by the buses.
It is nice to have bus systems here in Ireland, but they can be unreliable which requires a certain amount of patience and flexibility. Sure enough, the bus we wanted was delayed from 20 to 30 minutes, and we had to take a different bus into the city. Then our second bus (we had to transfer) never showed up, and finally I had to order a taxi. At this point, my patience was running very, very low. Once the taxi arrived, I think both my friend and I were ready to give up on the whole thing.
Thankfully, we didn’t — and the taxi driver actually lifted our spirits. Taxi drivers here are super friendly and love to talk. In fact, it is considered extremely rude if someone does not sit in the front seat. Sitting in the front signals that you are friendly and welcome the taxi driver’s company. When we told the driver our story, he started going off about the bus systems here. Our taxi driver used to be a bus driver himself, so he knew exactly what we were talking about and ranted throughout the whole drive in colorful language! It was something we desperately needed in that moment, and we laughed about it for a long time afterwards. When we got out to go to the stadium, he told us, “You all have a grand old time and just forget about it” — which is exactly what we did.
Gaelic football is an interesting mix of handball, American football and soccer. At the match, we were able to stand next to some locals who helped explain the game to us while we watched. The teams playing were Cork and Kerry. Cork’s colors are red and white, so it was very appropriate for us Sooners (but seriously, the colors here are a Sooner’s dream, because Irish also hate the orange because of how William the Orange ruled Ireland). Cork lost, but people told us Cork is really known for a different sport called hurling, which is similar to field hockey and lacrosse. Regardless of their loss, I had a really enjoyable time. We then got a bus — and this one actually did come — back into the city.
To end the night, we decided to go to a traditional Irish pub called Sin E. Traditional Irish pubs do not usually have music and if they do, the music is live. As soon as we walked in, a small band was playing in the corner of the room and there were many people there. A couple we befriended from Germany told us that the musicians were playing in an open session. This means that the musicians come and go whenever they want. Much of the music is improvised. There was one time when an older man even started singing “Can’t Help Falling In Love.” Sin E had a lovely environment, even though another couple who are locals said that the pub is not completely traditional since they had a sound system. They also thought this because the pub has not been around for more than a couple hundred years. (Yes, I did say a couple hundred years — other pubs can boast being as old as a thousand years!)
After talking with the couple, we grabbed some McDonalds and headed back to our apartment for the night. We live in a nice apartment on University College Cork’s campus that is around 30 minutes from the city center by foot. Since it was pretty close, and we had been burned by the bus system enough for one day, we walked back. Cork has a lively nightlife, so we had plenty of light to guide us home.
Overall, despite some of the lows of the day, we had plenty of highs that outweighed them. Studying in Ireland is a dream come true of mine and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in going! If you have any questions about the June in Ireland program or need advice for study abroad, don't hesitate to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.