The First Week of School

The First Day of Classes (9/9/13)

I got my StudentTravel card. They take your picture on the spot. It was quite funny since I went with my Singaporean and Malaysian friends. They figured out that people can photobomb the background, so we had some fun with the last guy in our group who was getting his picture taken. We managed to get a head and a peace sign into his ID card picture. It was quite a laugh.

My delicious lemon & rosemary salmon with a bowl of pasta (covered in veggies).

Two words: infused water. It’s absolutely delicious with a little lemon and/or cucumber and herbs. I think I might start drinking water more because of it. For dinner, I had some fun pan frying some salmon with rosemary and lemon. It was pretty good, especially considering fresh herbs come cheaply here, at about €1.20 per small pack of herbs.

At midnight, our fire alarm went off when all of my apartment, other than our party girl, was in our rooms, in bed. We stood outside in the cold in our PJs for a short while before the issue got resolved. Our house was the last one, out of three, to go back into our apartments.

School Supply Shopping (10/9/13)

Ingenious magnetic Pringle can display!

I had my first class with someone I know, my fellow botanist! After our class together, we went shopping for things we needed for class. The most fascinating thing we had to buy, our Nature Study Books. They’re alternate pages of blank white pages and lined pages. It’s so ingenious! Also, they had this awesome way of advertising/presenting boxes of snack-sized Pringles. There’s a rack that hangs on the wall with magnets on them. Each magnet is in the center of a circle that is big enough for the bottom of a Pringles can. Love it!

Outdoor cinema for residents showing Up.

After we got all of our school supplies, we went to our housing community event: outdoor cinema. We got there and watched Up with many, many other students. There were so many students there that the seats provided wasn’t enough. Many students, at least half, ended up sitting on a grass area far, far behind all the plastic fold-up chairs. It was great to re-watch the movie. Thankfully, my fellow botanist and I were both totally there for the candy floss (aka cotton candy), because that popcorn line didn’t seem to ever end.

The Dreadful GNIB Day (12/9/13)

So, as an American student, I don’t need a visa to get into Ireland. However, I did need to register with the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB). It was loads of fun – not. We were told that we could come anytime after 4pm, so my Malaysian friend and I got there 10 minutes early. Despite getting there early, we had to wait for 2.5 hours before the GNIB was ready to take in the UCD students. Then, we spent 15 minutes at window, where they took your papers, passport and picture on the spot. They give you all your papers back, but they hold on to your passport for anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour and 30 minutes. After the window, you wait 5-10 minutes for a full set of fingerprints. The machines were quite cool, and they called them “finger slaps” not “finger prints”. I was one of the people with bad luck. It took them 1.5+ hours to call me to give my passport back, only to tell me that my fingerprints did not go through the system properly, so I have to come back another day. Other people were lucky and they got in and out within 45 minutes, after the initial wait period.

Shopping with an Italian (13/9/13)

The trolley (shopping cart) with this absurd, yet ingenious, coin-lock system.

My Italian flatmate and I went to shop at the Tesco nearby. It was quite an adventure, and boy was I glad to have her to walk with. She ingeniously brought a hiking backpack to shop. But the interesting part was the things I learned when I paid attention. Shopping carts are known as trolleys here and you can’t simply take them at the store. You have to put a large coin in, usually €1 or €2, and then it will be released from being locked to the one in front of it. The coin gets stuck in the slot until you lock it up again after you’re done shopping. Not only that, the chain that locks one trolley to the next is too short for you to try and cheat the system. This is so smart! If Americans did that, we wouldn’t have random shopping carts in random places.

Our lovely dinner of mash, veggies and “breaded” chicken.

On the road home, there was also a short discussion about how Italians also drive on the left side of their car and on the right side of the road, unlike Irish people. Then, at home, we made dinner together. There was some delicious mash(ed potatoes), some veggies, and some chicken my Italian flatmate had simply covered in flour and pan-fried them. It was a deliciously simple meal.

The Hunt for a Coat (14/9/13)

My Chinese flatmate and I went shopping for my winter coat and shoes. We had no luck with the shoes, but we certainly found me a coat at TK Maxx. She found me this lovely black peacoat, completely made of polyester, but it was rather warm. I found out that for tops, I’m EUR 8, UK 36 for the adult sizes. However, the sleeves tend to be too long for me, even if the torso area fits well. Thus, we searched and searched and found my peacoat in the kids section. It was a girl’s size 11, meant for an 11 year old child. Oh my. It is so girly, on the back the label says, “This gorgeous coat belongs to _____________”, in hot pink. There was also a short discussion with my Chinese flatmate about driving in China. The Chinese also drive on the left side of their car and on the right side of the road, as the Germans, Italians and Americans do. So which countries, other than Ireland and England, drive on the right side of their car and the left side of the road?!

Notes on Classes in General

  • The average of my level 2-3 courses (sophomore and junior level classes) had anywhere from 15-150 people registered. However, I do have on class where there are only 5 registered students. On the other hand, my level 1 course (freshman level class) has ~300 people.
  • Half the instructors here seem to lack professionalism. These instructors seem to lack the ability to create good PowerPoints. Some of them look like something I made in middle school, other just looks absurd, like using yellow text on a light-colored background. Also, they will stop in the middle of lecture when equipment goes wrong, and often do not know how to use it before entering the classroom. I don’t remember ever running into that kind of problem back home in America.
  • The teacher-student interaction seems slightly more casual. I had a teacher who sat on one of the lab benches with her feet on the stools while she was lecturing. Also, the tend to say “crap” out loud a lot, without hesitation.
  • Each of my science modules/classes has anywhere from 1-3 instructors, I haven’t dealt with any TAs yet.
  • Course registration is madness for the Science/Agricultural modules. They don’t put us in labs/practicals/tutorials before the first week of classes and are still messing with it until the Sunday before the second week of classes.
  • On another note, you don’t register for classes until a month before school starts. They don’t give you the times the course is offered, you just register for that class and they shove you in whatever time slot they feel like. This makes it hard, if not impossible, to get a part-time job during the week.
  • I don’t seem to have problems with my instructors’ accents as they’re from all over the world: Germany, Ireland, England, and Singapore, so far.

Word/Phrase of the day

  • Black Monday: the first Monday of the term
    Those of us living in the residences had to get some plastic bracelets to get into our gated residence areas just for Black Monday. Why? Because on Black Monday, “all” the students go out and party, get drunk, blackout, and all that jazz. This is some strange custom…
  • Candy floss – aka cotton candy
  • Trolley – shopping cart

Things I Learned “Today”

  • A StudentTravel card will be your friend when you want to travel around Ireland, including to city centre by bus and to other cities.
  • Realizing that toilet seat covers are NOT a thing here, nor are paper towels (instead, there are hand dryers).
  • Papers and binders are significantly different from back home:

    Left: the two different sizes of copier paper
    (Ireland size on bottom, 8.25″ x 11.5″; American size on top: 8.5″x 11″)
    Middle: my 3-ring binder from home with filler paper
    Right: my 2-ring binder from here with filler paper

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