My Irish Adventure: The Final Chapter

Well, my Irish adventure has finally come to an end. I had the time of my life and am already missing everything about it! During my last week of school, I took off school on Friday to take a day trip to the Dingle Peninsula. I took a guided bus tour out to Inch Beach, Slea Head, and Coonenoole and Clogherhead. Here are some pictures from my trip:

The next morning, I took a train up to Dublin and met up with Sarah (the other American student teaching in Cork). We only had a few hours on Saturday, but we were able to go to Trinity College to see the campus and the Book of Kells, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Here are some pictures from our trip:

We only spent a short time in Dublin, so I definitely need to go back and see more! Overall, I had an amazing experience and am so glad I took the opportunity to complete part of my student teaching in another country. I learned so much about the Irish culture, how to adapt to unfamiliar teaching strategies, and all about what it’s like to be an American overseas. I sincerely appreciate everyone who helped me along my journey and will never forget this experience!


My Irish Adventure: Limerick and Storm Desmond

This weekend I took a trip up to Limerick, Ireland’s third largest city. There was also a devastating storm that hit Ireland this weekend called Storm Desmond. This storm dumped over 100mm of rain mostly in the south, west, and northwest parts of the country, causing damaging floods in several counties. I arrived in Limerick on Friday night, and it rained heavily and was very windy throughout the night. Saturday morning was still very windy and rainy, so I took tours of King John’s Castle, St. Mary’s Cathedral, and the Hunt Museum. King John’s Castle is a castle that was ordered to be built by King John of England in the thirteenth century.

The museum describes the early history of Ireland, how the major cities were gradually developed, and how Limerick became a well-known trading port off the River Shannon. St. Mary’s Cathedral is part of the Church of Ireland and was built in the twelfth century, also on King’s Island next to King John’s Castle. The Hunt Museum is museum founded by the Hunt family, which collects and displays artifacts that represent Irish history. Here are some photos from the tours:

On Sunday, after the storm had passed, I took a day bus tour to the Cliffs of Moher. There was still a lot of flooding in the area Sunday morning, so we had to take a long way to the Cliffs, but that made for a more memorable experience anyway! It was a gorgeous day, but VERY muddy. We also made a quick stop at Bunratty Castle following the Cliffs.

A very beautiful, but stormy, weekend!

My Irish Adventure: A London Reunion

This past weekend, I took a short trip to London to meet up with three of my friends I met last summer. We met working as camp counselors at Point O’ Pines Camp for Girls in Brant Lake, NY. This camp hires staff through and organization called Camp America. I was fortunate enough to meet Becca, Jess, and Silje a year and a half ago and reunite with them this weekend!

I flew Ryanair into Luton airport then took a bus and the tube to Hackney Central to meet them at a pub near out hotel. The flight was only an hour long and it was surprisingly easy to navigate central London. The next morning, we covered A LOT of ground and they took me to Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the London Eye, Parliament, and to Hyde Park. Here are some pictures from our sight-seeing:

Later in the afternoon, we went to “Winter Wonderland” which was an outdoor festival with carnival rides, games, craft booths, and food/drink from around the world. We walked around a bit, had a bratwurst and mulled wine, bought some souvenirs, and I felt like I just had to have a go at the archery game… And after Winter Wonderland, we got very cheap tickets to see Wicked the Musical!

And here are the people I am so lucky to call my friends, all the way from England 🙂p

It was so hard having to say goodbye to these three AGAIN, but I look forward to seeing them again soon! Can’t believe I have less than two weeks left here in Ireland!

My Irish Adventure: I swear, I’m actually teaching!

I know the majority of my posts have been all about my travels around Ireland, but I thought I should write at least one post about my actual teaching experience! So, here goes. I have spent the last three weeks working with a 2nd class (2nd grade) teacher and her students. Given that the curriculum and teaching style in Ireland is pretty different than it is in the U.S., my teacher taught most subjects but did have me teach about one to two subjects per day. In one week, teachers at St. Oliver’s will teach Gaelic (Irish), religion, maths (they add an ‘s’ on the end), English, geography, history, science, health, P.E., music, art, and drama. That’s a lot to get to in one week! Here is what I taught in my three weeks:


2D Shapes- We worked from students’ workbooks to learn about common 2D shapes, found some examples of them in our classroom and at home, and played “Quiz-Quiz-Trade” with some flash cards I made to practice the characteristics of the shapes we learned about.

Angles- We worked from students’ workbooks to learn about what angles are, found that they are in some of the 2D shapes we learned about, learned what a right angle is, and practiced making our own angles using popsicle sticks.

Symmetry- We worked from students’ workbooks to learn what symmetry is, how to draw lines of symmetry on objects, and drew half of a picture so that their partners could finish the drawing and make it symmetric.


Shops From Long Ago- We looked at the similarities and differences of shops in Ireland in the 1930’s and shops today. (They call stores, ‘shops’). We looked at a short video of what shops were like in rural Ireland in the late 1930’s.

John Barry- We learned about John Barry and how he was appointed commander of the American Navy but was originally from Ireland. We also learned about John Phillip Holland (the inventor of the first submarine to be purchased by the Navy) and Roberta O’Brien (the first woman to be named commander of an Irish Navy ship. Students then got to draw either the USS Holland (Holland’s submarine), or the LE Aisling (O’Brien’s ship).


All About Chicago- I showed a PowerPoint of the U.S. and Illinois, explained where I lived, and showed a few pictures of signature Chicago things (Willis Tower, Millennium Park, and the L). The kids were fascinated with the skyscrapers and how big the city is.

Water Conservation- We used a workbook page to find out exactly how much water we use during our daily routines (in liters). We then talked about different ways we could conserve water on a daily basis.

The Water Cycle- We used a workbook page to learn about the four parts of the water cycle. Students then created a flap book to illustrate and define the parts of the water cycle we talked about.


The Five Senses- We used a workbook page and a PowerPoint presentation to learn about the five senses, how we use them in everyday life, and why they are important to us.

Spring Bulbs- Tomorrow we will be learning about the different parts of the plant, what plants need to survive, and will be planting spring bulbs so students can take care of them and watch them grow.


Painting- We painted a scene from their poem they were working on, “Homework, Oh Homework.”

Cutting and Pasting- We worked in groups of four to cut and glue pieces of construction paper into 2D shapes to make one scene on a larger piece of paper.

Drawing- We drew the other half of a symmetrical picture from a magazine.

Tomorrow will be my last day working with my 2nd class, and on Tuesday I will be going into a 1st class to help out with their Christmas play and to do a little teaching and assisting individual students. I am sad to say goodbye to my 2nd class students but am looking forward to getting to know another 1st class, too!

My Irish Adventure: Exploring Killarney- Part 2!

I wanted to dedicate this weekend to finally exploring a little bit of my “hometown”, Killarney! I spent this morning horse trekking the Ring of Kerry, which was a half hour bike ride away from our house. Although it was very cold and lightly raining at first, it cleared up and there were stunning views of the mountains for most of the ride. The trek took us into the north side of the National Park, which was great to see because I had explored the south side (right behind our house) when I first arrived in Killarney. My tour guide was a girl my age from Germany. She came to Ireland after volunteering for a year in Australia. She is doing as much traveling as she can before she decides what she wants to study in University, which is very common for German students to do (apparently!). Her response to me saying I was 22 and a month away from finishing my degree was, “Man… you Americans really need to travel more! What’s the rush?” After hearing all of her exciting stories I can’t help but agree!

I really can’t put into words just how beautiful the National Park is. We rode RIGHT past so many deer I swear I could reach out and touch them. My guide told me they’re so used to visitors walking and biking the trails that they barely even notice you’re there. She also mentioned that the “rutting season” has just ended, which is when the male deer fight for dominance and rights to breed by making loud noises and slamming their antlers into their opponents. There were actually two stags doing this as we walked by! The combination of the animals, lakes, trees, and mountains are just breathtaking. Here is a picture of me and my horse, Ray!


After my trek, I rode my bike into town to look around the city center and do a little shopping. All of the shops are already decorated for Christmas and it was quite busy. I had lunch at a little café, tried Murphy’s ice cream (a recommendation from several people in town), and got myself a famous Aran wool sweater! The “in town” area was much bigger than I thought and it was really cool to go in all of the little Irish shops. Tomorrow morning, I plan to go to mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral, which is a beautiful church right in town that I have been wanting to see.

Had a wonderful weekend and am so grateful to be able to call Killarney my home for the next 3 weeks! (THREE weeks?! Where did the time go??)

My Irish Adventure: A Weekend in Cork!

This weekend I took a short trip down to Co. Cork, which is Co. Kerry’s neighbor to the east. I was able to take an hour and a half bus ride from Killarney to Cork City, which is actually the second largest city in Ireland (second to Dublin). At the Cork City bus station, I met up with another American student in my program named Sarah! She is from Michigan and working with a 2nd grade class in Cork City. From the city, we took about a 45 minute bus ride south to a cute little harbor town called Kinsale. Kinsale is known for their gourmet food, fish in particular. Unfortunately, it was a horrible and rainy day, but we made the best of it! We walked around a bit, had lunch, and went in a few shops (which were all adorable). Lunch was great and we found a chocolate boutique that was delicious.


In the middle of the town, there is a small harbor with a few boats in it, and in the summer I imagine it looks a lot better with all of the sail boats and a little more traffic on the water!

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From the town, we walked about a half an hour to see Charles Fort. Charles Fort was a military fortress constructed in the late 17th century built to protect the town and harbor of Kinsale. The fort was used as a British Army barracks for 200 years, after the Williamite War and the Irish Civil War in 1690 and 1922, respectively. It was wet, windy, and slippery but we somehow made it through!

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When Sarah and I returned to Cork, I checked into my B&B (which was lovely), then we went out for dinner and drinks. We met up with another American student teacher who goes to school with Sarah, and it was great to have a chance to share stories and compare classes with both of them. For dinner, we went to a signature Irish bar called The Oliver Plunkett. I had traditional Irish stew and a Murphy’s Irish Stout, clearly staying consistent with the theme. We enjoyed Irish music and dancing during dinner and were thoroughly entertained by the lively crowd!

Sunday morning, I took a half hour bus ride up to Blarney to tour the castle and gardens. Although it was another terribly rainy day, I tried to make the best of it. The gardens and forest trails were very cool to explore and area was much larger than I anticipated. The castle itself had open areas that were labeled as what they once were, such as the kitchen, entertainment rooms, and even an execution area. To get to the famous Blarney stone, you have to climb extremely narrow (and slippery from the rain) staircases to get to the top. The stone itself is located on the bottom ledge of one of the walls, just over a small opening in the floor. So, you have to lay down, grab hold of two handles, and pull yourself over to it as one man holds you so you don’t fall through and another takes your picture. Quite a long and scary process for a kiss that brings you the “gift of eloquence!”

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When I got back from Blarney, I met Sarah again for a late lunch and a little shopping in the city. They were preparing for Christmas in some of the shops and the window displays reminded me of what you would see on Michigan Avenue downtown Chicago. Seeing the city, Kinsale, and Blarney were all great experiences and I am so grateful to have had the chance to meet two other American students sharing my experience! Overall, a wonderful weekend and great end to week two of my Irish Adventure!



My Irish Adventure: The… language barrier?

You might be thinking, “But wait, I thought they spoke English in Ireland…?” And you would be correct. The predominant language spoken throughout Ireland IS English. However, the traditional Irish language (called Gaelic) is taught in all public schools across the country. Written Gaelic may appear in transportation stations, on informational signs, or on local shops and stores, but English is spoken almost everywhere you go. At my school, the first 45 minutes of each day are dedicated to learning Gaelic. Students practice reading, writing, and speaking Irish using a workbook organized by language topics. Aside from the actual difference in the language being used here, there are so many different commonly used sayings that are pretty funny when you’re not used to hearing them all of the time! Here are a few examples:

American:                                                                           Irish:

Fries                                                                                  Chips

Chips                                                                                 Crisps

Supposed to                                                                      Meant to

Checkout counter                                                             Till

Angry                                                                                Cross

Planner/Calendar                                                            Diary

Sidewalk                                                                           Footpath

Shopping cart                                                                  Trolley

Trunk (of a car)                                                               Boot

Rain boots                                                                       Wellies (Wellingtons)

Check mark                                                                     Tick

Exhausted                                                                       Wrecked

Funny                                                                               Gas

Gas                                                                                   Petrol

Toasted sandwich                                                           Toasty

Eraser                                                                               Rubber

Yell at                                                                               Give out to

Cheeky                                                                             Sassy

Movie theater                                                                  Cinema

Cabinet/Cupboard                                                          Press

Cookies                                                                             Biscuits

I have also learned that it is completely acceptable for anyone, children included, to say the word “ass” (or the Irish version, “arse”) in conversation. If you want to go to the bar, you “go for a pint.” If you want to try something new, you “have a go.” If you are entering or exiting a train, signs will tell you to “mind the gap.” If someone wants to know how you’re doing, they ask “how you’re getting on.” If you find you really like something, that thing is “FAB (fabulous).” And if you’re at a Gaelic football match, be prepared for some very colorful language as well.

When I am teaching a lesson or am at home with the boys, they are very quick to correct my “silly American language.” To the kids, I might as well be from another planet. They ask me all sorts of questions. I think my favorites are, “WOW, you’re so lucky you live in America, you get to go to New York and see Eminem as much as you want,” and “Hey, my auntie just visited from America. Her name is Tracey, and she has short brown hair. Do you know her?” Never a dull moment, I swear!

It truly is the little things you notice when you are living in another country and experiencing the culture that make the biggest impact! 🙂


My Irish Adventure: Exploring Killarney National Park

Today I went on a 30km bike ride through the Killarney National Park (aka my backyard!). I started by going out to the main road and hopping right on the bike path that leads straight into the National Park.

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After a few kilometers on the trail, I came to Muckross House, which is a very popular tourist destination. It is a nineteenth century Victorian mansion that was built in the early 1840’s for Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife. The Herberts further developed the gardens in preparation for Queen Victoria’s visit in 1861, and it was purchased from Lord and Lady Ardilaun in the early twentieth century. Unfortunately, the gardens were closed, but I was able to walk around the grounds and take some pictures.

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After exploring a bit, I had a fantastic lunch at the Garden Restaurant and looked around the gift shop.

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I continued my journey by biking around Muckross Lake. On my way, I passed Dinis Cottage and some amazing views of Muckross Lake.o p q r  t

I finished my lap around the lake by stopping at Torc Waterfall. I had seen the top of the waterfall last weekend when we hiked up Torc Mountain. m n

And here some more pictures from the rest of my journey.

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My Irish Adventure: First days of school!

I can’t believe yesterday was my first day of school! My teacher and my students are great, and everyone is so welcoming and friendly. St. Olivers is the largest school in County Kerry and is known for their diversity among staff and students. Several different cultures are represented in my classroom alone, and there are also several special needs staff members that work directly with students that need additional support.

Here is how the primary (elementary) school grade levels progress in Ireland vs. America

Ireland:                                America:

Junior infants                     Preschool

Senior infants                    Kindergarten

1st class                                 1st grade

2nd class                                2nd grade

3rd class                                 3rd grade

4th class                                 4th grade

5th class                                 5th grade

6th class                                 6th grade

After 6th class, students in Ireland then move onto secondary school, where they complete the rest of their education. During secondary school, students may choose to take a year off of taking courses to participate in a “transition year” where they have the opportunity to learn about several different careers they might be interested in. Similar to the United States, many students then continue on to University.

Today, I had the opportunity to help out with the 5th and 6th class trip to Killarney National Park for their unit on “orienteering.” This is when students work in groups of three to follow a map to various check points throughout the area. Students are given a map and a small clicker they use to check into the specific points.

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While we were orienteering, I was able to get some great pictures of the National Park!

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I had a great time today and look forward to the rest of my experience!


My Irish Adventure: 4 days, 3 provinces, 5 counties, and so many memories!

I began my journey on Wednesday and arrived at the airport well before my plane was scheduled to take off. I’d say the nerves officially kicked in when I was boarding and thought, “Wow, could these seats be any closer together?” The answer is no, they could not be. However, the flight itself really wasn’t terrible. I got my first literal taste of Ireland when Kerry Gold butter was served with the rolls during dinner. It was fantastic! We arrived in Dublin around 5:30am, Ireland time. Although all the signs were written in Gaelic, I was able to find the shuttle bus to Dublin Heuston, where I caught the train to Killarney. So finally, after a 7 hour flight, a 45 minute bus ride, and a 3 and a half hour train ride, I arrived in Killarney!

I was, as they say here in Ireland, ‘quite wrecked.’ I met Stella and the boys (Colm, Kevin, and Mark) and was able to settle into my room after admiring the fabulous view from their back windows.

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After a while, we began to pack up some things for our upcoming trip up North to County Mayo. In Ireland, children have what they call a ‘midterm break,’ which means they have a week off of school at the end of October. It just so happened that my arrival came at the same time as their midterm break, which meant a trip up North to visit with the boys’ grandparents. On the way up, we stopped at Stella’s sister’s home near Galway City, in a town called Annaghdown. This was about 3 hours from where we are in Killarney.

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When I arrived I met Stella’s sister, brother-in-law, and the boys’ cousins. They could not have been more welcoming, and I had my first taste of traditional Irish curry and chutney. It wasn’t as spicy as I was anticipating, but very good all the same. I went to sleep around 9:00pm, after staying awake for nearly 32 hours. I awoke the next morning feeling much better and slowly adjusting to the GMT time zone. Rather than mountains, this backyard had a castle in it!


After breakfast, Stella, the boys, and the cousins showed me around a bit and we took a walk down to the pier. On our way, we passed an old Montessori called St. Brendan’s Cathedral.

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We then headed down to Lough Corrib, the largest lake in the Republic of Ireland!


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Later that night, Stella, the boys, and myself headed just another hour North up to Kiltimach, a small town in County Mayo to visit with her parents.


We had a wonderful dinner prepared by “Granny Mayo” with fresh vegetables from “Grandad Mayo’s” garden. The next morning, we took a walk to the river and passed all of the farms in the area.

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When we returned home to Killarney, we quickly got the boys ready for trick or treating, as it was already Halloween! We went around to a few neighborhoods to trick or treat, almost identical to the way it works in America. The children were dressed in their costumes and wired on “sweets.” (They say ‘candy’ as ‘sweets’ here).

The next day, Sunday afternoon, was an absolutely beautiful day. We had a great lunch outside on the back patio and the sun hitting the mountains was just gorgeous.


After lunch, we took an adventurous hike up to Torc Mountain. The views were absolutely stunning and well worth the work!

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And after ALL of my adventures that filled my first four days in Ireland, I am finally beginning to prepare for my first day of school at St. Olivers tomorrow morning!