Saturday, October 18, 2014

"So, What Are Your Post-Grad Plans?"

Throughout my time as a college student, but especially now that I'm a senior, I constantly get asked what I want to do after I graduate.  It has simply become a habit to respond by saying that I want to be a school counselor.  This was my intent when I came to college - I chose Psychology as my major because I wanted to be "the next Brian" (Brian was my high school counselor).  Now that I'm getting closer to the end though, I'm not so sure.  This is partially terrifying, but it is also liberating to know that I'm not tied down to any one thing yet.

So, where do I go from here?  This semester I have been thinking a lot about what I might want to do next year, not in terms of specific job positions, but about what I might want out of my career.  If I know anything about myself, it is that I love connecting with people.  Even though I might be shy in some situations, I have come to realize that I do not feel fulfilled at the end of every day unless I've had meaningful interactions with the people around me.  A few weeks ago in my Practicum class, we took the Myers-Briggs Personality Test.  I was surprised to see that my results indicated that I was a slight extrovert - something I never would've classified myself as before.  But after having one of the wonderful career counselors, Chris Clary, come in to my class and help us further understand our results, considering myself a slight extrovert made sense to me.

Here are the different categories that the test rates you on. (Photo source here)
A few weeks ago, I got an email from Career Development about a workshop called "Right for You, Good for the World: Aligning Your Skills With Your Passion."  This could not have come at a better time for me and I was very excited to attend.  Career counselor Ingrid Peterson and Joan Wagner, Director of Community Engaged Learning, presented information they had learned from a conference they attended this summer.  The workshop centered around thinking about my "head" (the abilities I have/that others see me as having), my "heart" (what I care most about - people, issues, what I want out of life, etc.) and combining these two things to form my "hustle" (a job or position that I would get a lot out of).  While I didn't come away from the workshop with a solidified idea about what job might be best for me in the future, the diagram I filled out/notes I took definitely gave me some material to continue my thinking.

Last week, I had an appointment with my career counselor Aislinn Doyle.  Her office is in Klein, and it was the first time I'd been back since being in Ireland.
Here's Klein - home to Personal & Career counseling,
the Office of Study Abroad, Peer Tutoring, and Human Resources.
I was honestly a bit nervous to meet with Aislinn because I hadn't prepared anything concrete for her to look at or for us to talk about, but I walked away from the meeting feeling very successful.  She listened as I explained to her my thoughts about next year.  She agreed with my decision to take at least a year off before attending graduate school, especially because I'm not absolutely positive about what I want to do.  Aislinn also gave me a few websites to explore and suggested I start looking at job descriptions that might interest me.  Best of all, she reassured me that I was in a good space for the time being and encouraged me to come back at any time with questions I might have for her.  I was so happy I finally had an appointment with her (6 weeks into the semester...whoops!).

I am home this weekend because we had Friday off and I had to get my wisdom teeth out (this relates, I promise!).  Yesterday I was in the grocery store with my mom and we ran into my elementary school art teacher as well as a parent of one of my elementary school classmates who of course asked about my future.  Although I don't have a specific plan for after graduation, it was great to be able to admit this, yet also explain that it's not for lack of effort or thinking on my part.  I am so happy to be able to take advantage of all the resources Saint Mike's has to offer (including a GRE prep class, a graduate school fair, the Learn, Work, and Serve Expo coming up on Monday, the Career Symposium in November, and much more).  While I'm not excited to leave the SMC, I know I'll always be part of the community no matter how far I am from campus.  I'm excited to continue living with my awesome housemates, as well as after graduation, no matter where I end up.

Thanks so much for reading my blog, and have a great rest of the weekend!
~Merrill

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Home Away From Home

Hello everyone and happy Open House day! It seems like just a few days ago I was packing up and getting ready to head back to Saint Mike's for my final year (craziness!).  Although time is going by faster than I'd like, I'm keeping busy with my classes while also making time for some fun adventures with my friends. I will be giving my first tour after being back from studying abroad in Ireland in a little while, so I thought I'd write a post to get me even more excited to share all the things I love about SMC.

First of all, I absolutely LOVE my housemates.  I'm living a townhouse this year, which means I have my own room for the first time (in college, that is).  Downstairs we have a kitchen and living area complete with a big table as well as a couch and some of our favorite comfy chairs.  Upstairs we have a nice bathroom and each of our rooms.  This year I'm living with some of my favorite people on this campus: one of my best friends Caitlin, and my friends and fellow bloggers Alex (check out her post with some awesome pictures of our house) and Lauren (who has also blogged about our house).  I could not be more thankful to be living with these girls - they never fail to put a smile on my face, no matter how stressful my day has been.  Hanging out with my housemates is always a highlight of my day.
Cait, Alex, me, and Lauren
My housemates are more than just the people I live with.  They are there to support me in all that I do - on campus and off.  This semester I'm taking four classes, which have all proven to be a lot of work so far.  My weeks start off on Mondays at 9:45, when I have my Psychology Senior Seminar, called History & Issues.  I am really enjoying this class so far because I've never taken the time to look at how the psychology I know today has developed.  I have decided to write my senior thesis for this class on eating disorders and what causes them.  While I've written many papers throughout my time at college, I've never gone to the library specifically to have a reference librarian help me find articles relevant to my topic until this past week.  I was amazed at how quick, easy, and helpful it was and definitely plan on using that resource again.

The other psychology class I'm taking is called Practicum. While we meet for two and a half hours a week (on Monday afternoons), the majority of the work for this class takes place off-campus.  Each student in the class has an internship somewhere in the Greater Burlington area.  My placement is at the Winooski High School, about five minutes away from SMC.  I'm working in an alternative classroom helping children who, for a variety of reasons, work better when they are in a more individualized classroom environment.  Though I'm still getting used to the flow of things, I'm really enjoying this internship.  I love kids and want to eventually work with them in some capacity (related to psychology, of course)!

I'm also taking two classes for my Sociology minor this semester.  The first is Intro to Human Geography.  After having some practice reading maps during my traveling adventures abroad, I am much more interested in where different places are.  We have had two map quizzes so far (on Africa and Asia), and I'm amazed at how much more aware I now feel of places I've never been (though I know I still have lots to learn).  It is also really interesting to study the relationships between people and places, and how each of these affects the other.

My final class is called Race and Ethnic Relations.  I have to admit that I was pretty intimidated during the first week of this class - it seemed like it was going to require a lot of time and effort.  While I think that's true, it has also been extremely rewarding already.  Dr. Bhave has gotten me to look critically at how race has affected my life, especially in ways I wouldn't have considered on my own.  I am very much looking forward to the rest of the semester!

Here are some highlights of my semester so far:

One of the many beautiful trees around campus - I absolutely love red leaves!
Me, Cait, and our beautiful friend Sharon (who came to visit for Alumni Weekend)
Lake Champlain with the mountains in the distance; taken on
the way to St. Anne's Shrine in Isle la Motte
Sunset from the car (still pretty even through
the traffic lights!) on the way to El Gato to celebrate
Alex's completion of the LSATs!
As always, thanks for taking the time to read my blog. More to come soon!
~Merrill

PS Special shout out to all the prospective students and families that will be on campus today.  We're excited to welcome you!

PPS Since I listen to a lot of music (especially in the mornings - see Lauren's post about that!), I've decided to start a new feature at the end of every post: What I'm listening to now.  One of my favorite bands, The Script, released a new album this week.  I've had their song "Howl at the Moon" stuck in my head all week!

Friday, August 22, 2014

SMC Bucket List

Hello everyone! So sorry it's been so long since my last post.  Since the last time I wrote, I have traveled to Poland and Italy with Alex, explored different parts of Ireland with my mom, finished up my finals, arrived back in the US, and spent the summer home in New Hampshire.  Now I'm getting ready to head back to Saint Mike's for my final year there - I can't believe it!  It seems like barely any time has passed since the first day of freshman orientation.  I'm both excited and nervous to graduate...but more on that later.  When I was in Ireland, I started making a "Saint Mike's Bucket List" of things I want to do before my time as an undergraduate is over.  The list is fairly lengthy, but I wanted to share part of it with you.

1. Take more advantage of what Saint Mike's has to offer.  Although I have participated in MOVE (Mobilization of Volunteer Efforts) on a few different occasions throughout my time at SMC, I've never gone on any of their service trips.  I have heard only wonderful things about them and hope that I will be able to go on one this year!  I also want to do more with the Wilderness Program (in addition to getting a fantastic deal on a season pass to Smuggler's Notch).  Specifically, I want to go on a Full Moon snowshoe with them - I love winter and I think it would be an awesome experience.  My friends and I have gone hiking in Vermont before, but seeing Ireland's beauty gave me a greater appreciation for the outdoors and made me realize that I want to do more to appreciate Vermont's scenery!
mount philo friends charlotte vermont i was born ready to hike
My friends and me at the summit of Mt. Philo in Charlotte, VT
2. Explore the area surrounding SMC. I have loved Cabot cheddar cheese for as long as I can remember, so it seems only fitting that I visit one of the Cabot stores in Vermont!  I also want to try the American Flatbread restaurant in Burlington because I recently learned that one of my coworker's uncles owns it.  I was particularly excited to learn about this because it's just one more affirmation for me that so many people have a connection to either Saint Mike's or the Burlington area.  Plus, getting pizza is a great excuse to have more cheese! :)
pizza restaurant burlington vermont
 vermont logo
3. Take a picture with the whale tails.  Having been a student at Saint Mike's for three years now, I have driven from New Hampshire to Vermont many times.  Aside from the exit numbers getting closer and closer to fifteen, the whale tails on the side of I89 always let me know that I'm getting close to my second home. I've always enjoyed seeing them from a distance, but this year I want to make a point to see them up close.
reverence burlington vermont mountains
Thank you Google Images for the beautiful picture!

When I think about the fact that I'll be starting my senior classes in a matter of days, I get a little overwhelmed with how much I imagine I'll have to balance along with everything else I want to do this year. However, in this moment at least, I'm quite motivated.  In fact, I recently decided that my theme for the year is going to be "make it happen."  Now or never, right?

My SMC bucket list includes many more activities and places to visit, but for now these are some of my top priorities.  I will certainly keep everyone posted (no pun intended) on what I accomplish!

Thanks so much for reading my blog! Also, a special shout out to the incoming freshman Class of 2018 - I wish you all the best of luck as you begin your college career! Feel free to email me or contact me via Twitter with any questions you may have about SMC :)

~Merrill

Saturday, April 5, 2014

My Month in Pictures - Part 2 (Connemara, Dublin, & London)

Happy Saturday! I have just finished up my last week of classes here in Galway - so crazy!  On Monday, I'm leaving to travel with Alex for about a week, then returning to Galway for a few days to hopefully get some studying for finals in, then heading to Dublin to greet my mom at the airport.  From there, the two of us will get to travel around Ireland for about a week.  I'm so excited!  Once my mom leaves though, it'll be crunch time because I'll have three finals to study for as well as two fairly big papers to write.  Before I know it though, I'll be back to New Hampshire for the summer.  Honestly, I have mixed emotions about this.  I'm super excited to reunite with all my friends and family, but I'm also sad to be leaving what has been home to me for the past few months.  In any event, I'm going to do my best to pack in as much fun as I can in the next few weeks.  Before that though, I wanted to finish updating you on the trips I've taken so far.  

In my last post, I left off with my trip to Edinburgh, Scotland.  Two weeks later, API took us on our last excursion - a day trip to Connemara.  Technically Connemara isn't a town or county itself - it's part of County Galway.  In any case, it was absolutely gorgeous - exactly what I picture when I think of classic Ireland.  We spent a few hours at Kyelmore Abbey, exploring the castle as well as the gardens.  Then we ventured over to Connemara National Park for a short hike.  Along the way, my RD got the bus driver to stop a few times so we could take pictures, including the Church where her parents were married - probably the smallest Church I've ever seen!  Even from the window of my seat on the bus, the scenery was beautiful.  We saw a lot of mountains, water, and fields of sheep, all of which reminded me of Vermont and made me feel quite at home.  Although I love every picture I took that day, here are some of my particular favorites:
The beaming sun - a rare scene in Ireland!


I happened to capture this one when the
bus driver stopped for a split second - I love it!
The next day, I hopped on a bus to Dublin to go visit Alex for Saint Patrick's Day.  Needless to say, my trip was awesome!  We had Boxty for dinner the night I got there.  Boxty is a traditional Irish potato pancake and it's absolutely delicious! We went to bed early so we would be well rested for a full day of Saint Patrick's Day activities.  Unfortunately, I didn't actually get to see the parade.  However, I had a good reason - I had to leave to catch a hurling and Gaelic football match at Croke Park with Sara, who was also in Dublin visiting her friend Laina.  This was my first real experience with Irish sports, and it was awesome!

After the game, Sara, Laina, and Laina's friend Jordan helped me find Alex because let's be honest, I don't really know my way around Dublin!  We eventually met up in a pub and spent a few hours there dancing, meeting new people, and having a great time enjoying the company of our friends.
Matching shirts!
The following day, I got a delicious scone from one of Alex's favorite cafes, and then headed back to Galway.  Three days later, I was back on a bus to Dublin with my friend Kiersten.  This time, we were headed to England!  While by far the craziest of my trips so far, it was definitely my favorite.  Figuring out public transportation has always been a challenge for me, and this trip proved no different.  However, we made it everywhere safely, which is what matters!  Along the way, we got to take a trip to see my family crest at the Salisbury Cathedral as well as Stonehenge, both in Salisbury.  That night, we met up with Sheila and Maya, who each go to SMC and are studying in London and Spain, respectively, for dinner at a delicious Mexican restaurant.  It was awesome to be able to see some familiar faces and share some of our experiences thus far.  Kiersten and I also got to tour the Warner Brothers Harry Potter studios, which was a dream come true.  Before heading back to Ireland, we got to walk around a bit and see some famous sites like Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the London Eye, and the Thames River.  We also had dinner at a local market, which was delicious.  I tried Bastilla, which is actually Moroccan.  I was particularly excited to try it because my friend Lauren is studying in Morocco this semester.  Overall, it was a fantastic trip and left me feeling more independent and actually quite proud of myself for overcoming all the challenges we faced (for starters, we arrived at our hostel after reception had closed so at first we weren't sure how we were going to get into our room, but that's a story for another day!).

Me in front of Salisbury Cathedral

Stonehenge!

Me, Maya, and Sheila
Standing in the Great Hall - beyond excited!
In love with London
Apologies for the number of pictures -  it was so hard to choose my favorites! Anyway, as I mentioned, I leave Monday to go to Poland and Italy with Alex.  It should be a great trip!  But before that, I have a lot to accomplish, so I'm off to get some work done.  Thanks so much for taking the time to look through my blog - hope you enjoyed it!

~Merrill

My Month in Pictures - Part 1 (Paris, Copenhagen, & Edinburgh)

Hi everyone! Can't believe it's been so long since my last post! Guess that means I'm keeping busy though, right? Anyway, I wanted to take a few minutes to update you all on the trips I've been lucky enough to go on in the last few weeks.

As I mentioned in my last post, I was in Paris for Valentine's Day weekend.  To my surprise, the city didn't have quite as much of a romantic feel as I expected.  In any event, it was fun to travel to a new place with new friends!  I went with Sara, who also came to Galway through API, and Sara's friend Laina, who is studying in Dublin for the semester.  We packed a lot into the short amount of time we had there - we saw the Eiffel Tower lit up at night, explored our surroundings on our way to finding a Ferris wheel that overlooked the city, went to a fancy dinner, climbed the Eiffel Tower the next morning, saw the Lock Bridge, explored the Louvre (and saw Mona Lisa of course), in addition to figuring out the Metro system and eating some delicious gelato (thank you to my SMC classmate Peter, who's studying in France this semester, for the recommendation!). Here are some of my favorite pictures from the trip:
One of the first things I saw once we left our hostel to go
explore - it of course reminded me of Saint Mike's!


Me in front of the beautiful Eiffel Tower!


A cool picture of the Tower's shadow from when we rode to the top!
The following weekend, I traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark with my friends and SMC bloggers Alex and Lauren. Unfortunately, many of the things we had planned didn't actually work out (the market we wanted to go to doesn't run in February, we somehow misread the times that tours from City Hall left, etc.).  However, we still managed to have a ton of fun simply walking through the streets of Copenhagen and appreciating the beautiful architecture and each other's company.  Alex has a wonderful European guidebook that gave us some restaurant recommendations.  We even got to meet up with Bizzy, who goes to SMC and is studying in Copenhagen for the semester.  I had to leave a bit early, but after I left, Alex and Lauren got to meet up with another girl named Lauren, who is also studying there.  Getting recommendations from and meeting up with people from Saint Mike's this semester has helped take my SMC community to a whole new level, and I'm absolutely loving it!
From left to right: me, Alex, and Lauren


A square directly in front of the delicious sandwich place we ate at!


A little piece of home, all the way across the ocean :)
The following weekend, I went to Edinburgh, Scotland with API.  It was awesome to be able to go on a trip that didn't require any planning on my part!  Because Alex is also in Ireland through API, we were actually on the same trip.  I got to see some of the people from her program who I had met during my API visit to Dublin in early February.  Being the Harry Potter nerd that I am, my favorite part of the weekend was the Harry Potter tour of the city I got to go on.  Before the tour, I stopped by The Elephant House, which is a cafe where J.K. Rowling spent a lot of time writing some of the Harry Potter books.  The bathroom walls are covered with book/movie quotes and messages of love and appreciation for the stories.  It was absolutely amazing!  The tour itself was a lot of fun and highlighted many of the places where J.K. Rowling got some of her inspiration for the books - including gravestones with Professor McGonagall and Tom Riddle's names, a castle that looks a lot like Hogwarts, and Victoria Street, which looks a bit like Diagon Alley.  In addition to the tour, I got to tour Mary King's Close, an underground area of Edinburgh that was inhabited by members of the lower class in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, see Edinburgh Castle, and explore the city center - which included a visit to the market!  At the market I tried gluten free and dairy free chocolate, which turned out to be way more delicious than I expected!  Before heading back to Ireland, I also got to tour the Royal Yacht Britannia.  Everything was so luxurious - I think I could handle living at sea for a few months!
One of my favorite parts of the Elephant House bathroom

Alex and me after the Harry Potter tour with our awesome new wands!
Edinburgh Castle selfie!
Since this post is getting pretty long, I will save my next few adventures for my next post.  As always, thanks for reading! Happy April!

~Merrill

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

"Bits and Pieces" of Studying Abroad Thus Far

Hello everyone! So sorry it's been a few weeks since my last update - I have been extremely busy between going to class, trying to keep up with homework, making new friends, traveling, and participating in societies (or what we might call clubs)! I have been having a great time and would love to write about all my adventures, but in the interest of keeping this post readable, I've picked out some of the things that stick out in my mind when thinking about my time in Ireland so far.  As soon as I arrived, I noticed that one of my RDs, Kevin, uses the phrase "bits and pieces" all the time.  So, here are some bits and pieces from the last month or so:

1) Generosity - From what I've experienced so far, the stereotype is certainly true - Irish people are genuinely kind.  The very first weekend I was here, I was out exploring Galway with a few people from my program.  We were all taking lots of pictures of each other in the hopes of doing a good job documenting our time here.  A woman who happened to be walking by asked us if we wanted her to take a picture so we could all be included.  Not only did she take our picture, she also took the time to ask us where we were from, what we were studying, and how we liked Galway so far.  This was the first of my many happy experiences with the people of Galway and Ireland in general.  Small interactions like these remind me why I chose to study in such a wonderful place!

Myself, Sara, Meghan, Ellen, and Jacqueline
2) Grocery shopping - There are a few things to note here.  First of all, I was happy to find out that there are multiple grocery stores, all within a ten minute walk from my apartment. On the night of our arrival, Kevin took us to a store called Dunnes, which is quite similar to Walmart (although a bit more expensive, sadly).  However, before we left, he made sure we all had some sort of bag or backpack so that we could carry our purchases back because in Ireland, most stores do not provide you with bags.  While I usually try to bring my own canvas bags when I go grocery shopping in America (thanks for getting me into the habit, mom), I wasn't expecting to have to do that here.  There are bags you can purchase for less than a euro at the checkout, but it's much easier to bring your own (lately I've been trying to embrace "thrifty Merrill" so I have more money to spend when traveling).  During one of my first grocery shopping trips, I brought my backpack, but not everything fit in it, so I was prepared to carry the rest back.  However, the woman in line behind me gave me one of her bags without hesitation when she saw that I might have to carry some of my purchases.  I was so humbled that she so readily gave up her bag for me, and I was again reassured in my decision to study here.

3) Irish time - While I wouldn't say that I run quite as fast as "New York time" when I'm in Vermont or New Hampshire, I definitely feel like everything moves a bit more quickly at home in the States.  What I mean by that is that in general, the Irish seem to be more relaxed and less concerned about being right on time.  For example (sorry for another grocery shopping story), a few weeks ago I decided to go grocery shopping before class.  At the checkout, I was rushing to get everything into my backpack so that I would make it to class on time and so that the cashier could begin ringing up the next person.  The cashier could tell that I was in a hurry, so she said "Don't worry, no one's rushing you unless you're rushing yourself!"  I was a bit taken aback by this, but I smiled and took it as a reminder to slow down; everything would be alright and honestly, it wouldn't matter too much if I was a few minutes late to class.  After being here for just over a month, I think the concept of Irish time is starting to wear off of me, because I've been working on doing my best to take in and enjoy every moment.
Here's a picture of me taking a minute to soak up the beauty of the Cliffs of Moher:

4) Random Anecdotes - Back in January when I went on a Cliffs of Moher day tour, I was lucky enough to have an extremely entertaining bus driver.  One of the things I remember him saying is that in Ireland, there are two driving speeds: full speed and full stop.  Although I won't be driving while in Ireland (I don't know how to drive standard cars, not to mention I'm not sure I would be able to handle driving on the left side of the road without some serious practice), I have noticed that many people drive very quickly (I can't say I've noticed the slow ones yet).  One of my history professors constantly remarks how crazy the drivers in Galway are.
Something else the bus driver pointed out is the stone wall patterns.  He explained that while they might all look the same at first glance, each person had a different way of building the walls, having to do with the way the stones are placed (horizontally or vertically), the size of the stones, etc. Here are some stone structures:


One last story - a few weeks ago my program took us on an excursion that included a trip to Bunratty Castle.  We had quite an enthusiastic tour guide who was clearly full of knowledge about the castle itself as well as the time period in which it was built.  One of the the things that stuck out to me was his explanation of the origin of the phrase "sleep tight."  If I remember correctly, beds used to have ropes under them to support the mattresses, and they occasionally needed to be tightened.  Tighter ropes made for a more supported, and therefore more comfortable, mattress.
One of the beds in Bunratty Castle
5) Feeling at home - This past weekend I was in Paris (I still can't quite wrap my head around that!).  While I had a great time (more details to come!), I surprised myself at how excited I was to return to Galway.  Leaving, if only for a weekend, showed me that I have made more progress than I know in terms of settling in here and making Ireland a home away from home for the next few months.  I can't believe it's already the middle of February - time really is going by so much faster than I thought it would.  While I miss my friends and family (and everything about SMC), I am also so appreciative to have this opportunity to grow and learn about myself in a new place.  I am also grateful to be able to understand what it is that I love so much about Saint Mike's before I graduate, so that way I can take advantage of everything it has to offer when I return in the fall!
Entrance to my apartment village - home
for the next few months!
Apologies for the length of this post, but thank you for taking the time to read it! Happy Wednesday!
~Merrill

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Update on the Past Few Weeks!

Hello everyone! Apologies for not blogging sooner - I have had an extremely busy few weeks! The day after I arrived home to New Hampshire after finals week in December, my family went on vacation to Hawaii. We came back just in time for Christmas, then headed to New York to visit some family. Just over a week later, I left good old America to study abroad in Ireland.  Between deciding on a country to study in, picking a school, applying, booking flights, and packing, my preparation for going abroad was extensive to say the least.  I arrived in Ireland very early on January 8.  I can't believe I've been here for three weeks already!  Time is going by so quickly.
 
One of my favorite pictures from Hawaii.
So lucky to be able to go from one beautiful
place to another!
Many people have asked me while I decided to study in Ireland, and I always give the typical answer: because I am part Irish and wanted to see the beautiful country my family came from.  However, that's only part of the story.  When I was thinking about where to study, Ireland just happened to pop into my head and I decided to go with it.  After attending a study abroad fair at Saint Mike's, I decided to go through a program called API, which stands for Academic Programs International.  An API representative gave me the name of a girl who also goes to SMC and studied in Ireland last year.  After getting in contact with the girl (named Katie), I asked her some questions specifically about Galway because that's where she had gone and I was seriously considering it.  Katie had nothing but good things to say about Galway, which made me feel very comfortable that I was considering it.
 
As great as Katie said Galway (and specifically National University of Ireland in Galway, which is where I go now) was, what drew me to the school was the opportunity to take a class called Learning and Literacy in the Community.  This class is specifically for students from the US and is centered around service learning at a primary/secondary school homework club in Galway.  The course description reminded me of my first year seminar, called Horses & Healing, where a huge part of the course involved traveling to a horse farm each week to volunteer.  I love working with kids, so being able to do that while abroad seemed like it would be especially rewarding.
The school where homework club takes place!
I have now been to homework club twice and I absolutely love it.  Even better, I love my professor, which makes Learning and Literacy my favorite class here.  In addition, I'm taking: Ireland in a Global Context, Family in Modern Ireland (which combine to fulfill my Historical Studies LSR - Liberal Studies Requirement), Forenic, Abnormal, and Clinical Psychology as well as Applied Organizational Psychology (which together count as an elective towards my psychology major), and Social Issues & Policy Responses, which goes towards my sociology minor.
 
While I am technically here to study, I'm also planning on traveling in and around Ireland as much as possible.  Fortunately, I've met some great people who are just as excited to travel as I am.  My friend and fellow blogger Alex, who is studying in Dublin, came to visit me this past weekend.  We will have the opportunity to travel together as well, which I'm super excited about!  We'll also be meeting up with our friend and blogger Lauren, who's studying in Coleraine, Ireland.  It'll be like a mini Saint Mike's reunion across the world!  So far, I have trips planned to Copenhagen, Paris, and London, with my friends Sara and Kiersten, who are both American but met here.
 
Alex, Sara, and me. It may be rainy here, but it's never
too cold to enjoy some delicious milkshakes!
 
Kiersten and me enjoying a night out on the town!
When I was thinking about what to include in this first post about being abroad, something from freshman year orientation at Saint Mike's came to me: "You are not alone."  I don't want to give away the context that this message was presented in, but the point is that, especially during the first few days here, I was taking my time to adjust and I definitely missed my family (both nuclear and Saint Mike's).  However, even being here for a short time has shown me that although most of what I refer to as "my people" are across the ocean, they're always with me in my heart. I have become immensely grateful for technology and the ability it provides me with to communicate with the people I love (while also doing my best to live in the moment and make strong connections here in Ireland).  I can feel myself growing and learning every day, and knowing that I have a huge support system back at Saint Mike's allows me to feel confident in what I'm doing - whether that be academics or joining clubs (or "societies" as they refer to them here) in order to make new friends.  I know my journey here is just beginning, but I'm sure that everything that being at college has taught me will help me to make my study abroad experience one I'll never forget.
 
I will be sure to post again soon with more details on what I've been up to for the past few weeks.  Now it's time to go get ready for bed so I'm well rested for class tomorrow!
 
As always, thanks for reading my blog!
~Merrill