Category: Tips/Advice

11 Lessons Three Years Abroad Taught Me

A very honest post. Being ‘hush hush’ about my REAL experiences is pointless because then my content is inauthentic and I’m not providing anything of value to readers. Thank you so much to everyone who reached out already and said this helped them! I am really touched that my lessons can help others and beyond happy to help.

From September 2015 until this past Tuesday, I was an international Bachelors of Arts undergraduate student at Maynooth University in Kildare. When I was 18 I took a one way flight to Dublin and started a new, extremely important chapter. It was just something I wanted to do and I can’t explain much more than that. I’m not quite sure what I’d be like if I didn’t. I am not going to go on about this like it was all roses and now I’m fantastic, haha, it was much, much harder than that.

With living abroad, there is some seriously unbearable days and moments where you crave the comfort of home. Of all kinds. And when you go to your actual new home after an already terrible day, your building’s community washing machine is locked and will continue to be locked with your wet clothes in it for two entire weeks until the janitor eventually fixes it. You lose the entire set of clothes and then can’t wash other clothes for those two weeks. You proceed to enter your kitchen and find your roommate has taken the last of your milk and is most definitely stealing your food. Living with new people is a shock to the system, especially when you don’t mesh with them. You eventually get used to a million minor inconveniences.

The hardest experience I had along the way (there were plenty) was when my first boyfriend dumped me out of nowhere, told me he was using me and didn’t care for me at all (charming, I know) after I decided to stay in Ireland for the summer. I spent that whole summer trying to find a job and couldn’t. I was lonely and sad and quite simply, heartbroken. At the end of the summer I had to repeat a few exams from first semester of first year (because I was very fond of going out and didn’t study so much…yikes!) and I put all my energy into my studies and passed. At the time I was so embarrassed that I didn’t tell anyone. I nearly left it all and went home! Looking back, I’d give younger Laura a big hug and say it’s okay to mess up and then slap her and ask why the hell she invested time into someone so obviously cruel. But again, we mess up, I’m human. My advice is to look at the tough stuff which can be like the simple examples above, or something much more serious, as an opportunity to learn.

I can happily say I’m so proud of where I am today! The beginning of this journey feels like a very long time ago. It took a LOT of work and mistakes and teary-eyed days. But I’ve got the diploma (;

I’ve learned some fairly valuable lessons from my university experience abroad and thought I’d share them in honour of closing this chapter! I also hope this helps anyone who may find themselves in this position.

1. You are your best friend. Friends come and go and at the end of the day, you only have yourself so you may as well take really good care of yourself. I used to take myself to lunch or coffee in the village once or twice a week when the budget allowed.

2. Be selective. You’re in charge of the way you feel so choose who you surround yourself with carefully. Bad friends are a waste of time. I’m not calling everyone I’m no longer friends with bad friends by the way. That’s harsh but when I look back at younger me, I become frustrated about how much I let ‘friends’ push me around. To reiterate, friends come and go! Not everyone is meant to stay and that’s okay. Wish them the best and carry on. I have a good attitude about this now but maybe about a year ago, I didn’t. Don’t go out with bad boys or bad friends. Just don’t.

3. Some people are just people to party with. A tough lesson it took my first two years to learn. They might be good fun and you have your laughs together but they’re not there for you when something goes wrong. Not everyone who seems nice and interested actually wants to be your friend. Protect yourself!

4. Don’t blow all your money. You seriously do not need a GHD everything. I don’t really know why I thought I did. Also, if I could do those three years again I’d join babysitting apps and/or some kind of hospitality agency that would allow me to earn and be choosy with my hours.

5. No one loves you more than your family. Treat them kindly <3

6. Call home when you feel down and then do something productive to distract yourself. Do something small to make yourself happy. For me, sometimes it’s self care like a face mask and painting my nails.

7. Make exercise regular. Motion is medicine and you’ll be able to settle into a place more if you have a regular routine and feel good about yourself!

8. Know when to say ‘nah, not for me.’ Walk away from stuff that doesn’t feel right. You don’t need to stay anywhere you don’t feel good.

9. You won’t gain any success by comparing your very special unique self to someone else’s looks, grades, economic background, etc.

10. Keep trying. Nothing comes naturally (well maybe some things do). Effort is necessary in all aspects. I did quite well at university in the end but I can openly admit I could’ve spent a lot of more of my free time in the books.

11. Don’t worry. Easier said. I wasted an insane amount of time worrying about boys, what people thought of me, how I looked, whether I’d get a job, etc. It’s really natural to worry but I always remind myself it all works out. I encourage you to not give a damn about this stuff. By being yourself you attract what’s meant for you.

You will change and grow and learn more about yourself than you ever thought! Wishing those going to university far away or moving abroad the very best on their adventures😊 Congratulations on making a very exciting choice. You will thank yourself later!

L

x

What to Expect at a Bloggers Event

Hello, hello.

*This is the lovely Arlene Gill and I at my second ever event for BPerfect! Check her out: Girly Inspo Corner

I was invited to Lunn’s Jewellers for an exclusive peek at David Yurman’s new collection, so I went in July and I actually really enjoyed it! It’s pretty nerve wracking walking into a room where you don’t know anyone. But I knew it would a big step in the right direction as a newbie Belfast blogger and I’m super glad I went.

While it’s gonna sound obvious when I explain what happens at an event, I wish someone had prepared me. So if you’re a relatively new blogger or someone who is building up the courage to start a blog and find this blogpost amongst your Googling, here’s the story…

What to Expect:

1. A lot of dressed up people you recognise from online, and some you won’t know at all. But that’s okay! Everyone is there to socialise and network. The hardest part is building up the nerve to say hello to someone and introduce yourself. You will want to feel presentable so wear something you love and feel good in.

2. Socialising, and a lot of it. One blogger told me the hardest event is your first and I believe it! It’s because you’re diving in and don’t know anyone. I’m proud of myself for going to a couple now. It’s easier to go knowing you know someone there.

3. Nibbles and bubbly probably. Events will provide some sort of drink and light bite. If no food, definitely a drink.

4. Photos
People are grabbing selfies for stories and Instagram shots. There’s usually a professional there shooting the event.

Tips:

– Do your research before the event on the brand.

– Look your best. People are taking photos and tons of them.

– Stick out your hand and say hello!

– Be friendly and be you!

– Some people won’t be super social with you and thats okay, that’s on them. Find ones that want to talk to you and give them your time.

– just have fun (:

*Me, Emily Desmond (check out her blog) and Cathy Martin (check out her blog: The F Words)

Goodluck!

x

The Best of Belfast: Food to try & places to go

Belfast is one of the spots to visit in 2018 if you haven’t! If you follow me you know I spend half my week in Belfast and the other half around the Dublin area. This is because I have my boyfriend and friends in Belfast and my uni life and friends in Kildare, which is coming to a close as I’m wrapping up my last semester. I lived in Belfast full time over the summer and loved it. It is very different to Dublin and considerably smaller. It’s lovably quirky and very easy to navigate.

There’s always something fun going on. Here are some spots to check out that I love and have tried/visited. I don’t have photos of everywhere but where I do, I’ve included them below.

My favorite food places (I’m picky): I’ve tried lots but these were the stand outs.

  • Ginger Bistro – Good for a nice meal and ambiance.
  • Fratelli – chocolate mousse is INSANELY GOOD. A small portion is just enough.
  • Avoca Cafe – I have tried the other Avoca cafes around and in Dublin but this one in Belfast is also really lovely.

My favorite bars (casual to fancy):

  • Five Points – Always has live Irish music. Really fun for singing along. Whenever I’m there I don’t even mind standing.
  • Parlour Bar – Very student-esque. Casual AND cheap. They have pub quizzes every Thursday.
  • Filthy McNasty’s  – Fun quirky bar for a night out. There are several differently decorated sections and each of them always have a good buzz. My favorite one is the outside part picture below at night.
  • Town Sq. – really yummy cocktails. Love their moscow mule.
  • The National and Sixty6 – Fancier part upstairs if you want to leave the casual scene, but it will cost you a fiver.
  • The Perch – I went here first for my 21st with friends. It is expensive but very, very nice. The espresso martini is great. It has a rooftop view but I didn’t see it that night haha.
  • Babel – Another rooftop bar! View is so great and looks over Victoria Square. Dying to try the food there. Sorry I don’t have any pictures of it!My favorite takeaways: One for almost every variety/takeaway mood.
  • Abacus Chinese
  • Love Pizza
  • Boojum Burritos
  • Chip Co.

Touristy things worth seeing:

  • City Hall – right in town center, beautiful inside and out.
  • Victoria Square – LOVE the design of this place. It’s an outside shopping that transitions into a dome covered shopping center. Casual shopping to high end. There’s something for everyone. If you don’t fancy shopping, there’s cafes and food as well. It is currently celebrating it’s 10th birthday! Read more here.
  • Tours on the history. I have done multiple tours of Belfast for a class I took on Northern Irish society. The city is rich in history and if you like politics it may be of interest to you. Also check out the very striking Stormont building, the home to the Northern Ireland Assembly.
  • Titanic Quarter – Titanic museum is there! Read more about tickets for it on their website here.

    Places on my to-try list right now:
  • YoSushi – conveyor belt sushi. I’m going to give sushi another chance.
  • Coppi
  • Cuban Sandwich Factory

Seasonal Things to Do:

  • Continental Christmas Market – different meats from around the world to try, Bailey’s hot cocoa with various flavors, some really cool creative stalls with jewelry, art, and delicious food.
  • Christmas shopping in Victoria Square – caroling, and all around Christmassy vibes.

    A little further away…
  • ON A GOOD CLEAR DAY: About an hour down the road in Antrim you can find the Giant’s Causeway which is a gorgeous area with an interesting geological rock formation that draws in a lot of tourism. There’s also a rope bridge and several trails for walks.


    Are you in the city looking for something else to do?
  • Check out a film at Queen’s Film Theatre. Discount with student card but anyone can go. A more intimate movie theater experience!
  • Crazy Tuesdays at Movie House on Dublin Road. 3.50 tickets all day for any movie.
  • Go for a walk in the town or grab a coffee at a nice cafe. There’s some great coffee places and I’ll do a separate post on this.

There are some ideas! Have you been to any of these places?

x

7 Questions I Get Asked + Homesickness Tips

When you tell people you’re from another country there’s a few questions that you are bound to be asked. As well as a few randoms! It’s usually whenever I meet someone I get asked a lot of these! It’s been three years of answering them so I have the answers memorized, haha.

Retro Flame’s new video actually inspired this post! She is the opposite of me…from Ireland and moved to America. She’s brilliant and I love her content!

Hopefully these answers give a little insight into my blog!

  1. Is your red hair natural?
    ….Followed by have you ever changed the color? Haha. My color is my natural one! I wanted ombre when I was younger and got my whole head dyed platinum blonde…It was so embarrassing and not my best look. I’ll stick with the red.
  2. Why did you pick Ireland? 
    My parents are from Ireland and they brought me over a lot growing up, which I’m super thankful for. I have always loved Ireland, the people and the culture! University in Ireland just seemed like a great idea to me when I was seventeen and it’s cheaper than most unis/colleges stateside. It’s still my best decision yet!
  3. How’d you pick your uni?
    I had researched all the Irish universities for awhile and thought Maynooth would be the best fit for me. I figured it would be less overwhelming than going to school directly in the city, but if I wanted a city vibe I could just take the train/bus into Dublin. Read more in my post about applying to Irish university here.
  4. Which country do you prefer?
    It’s very tough to pick! Both have amazing places, things, foods and people that I love so much!
  5. What do you miss most about Massachusetts?
    Buffalo chicken pizza tenders/pizza and Dunkin Donuts iced coffee. And my family and friends and my sweet little dog.
  6. Where will you live after uni and what will you do? 
    I’m moving to Belfast, woohoo! Cannot wait. I have some ideas work wise, but only time will tell!
  7. How do you avoid being homesick when you live so far away from home?
    Only around my birthday do I get a bit homesick. Mine literally just passed but it’s a day where I always want to wake up at home! It’s okay to miss home/be homesick! It doesn’t make your journey/trip/move any less successful.

    My tips are:
    – Try and stay busy and distracted. Clean, cook, workout, study, whatever!
    Do something that makes you happy. 
    – Meet up with friends! Call your friends and/or family if you can’t meet up.
    And here’s the most important one:
    – I also remind myself I once lived at home and wanted to move to Ireland so badly! And that I am very happy here and have built a wonderful life for myself! The homesick feeling will pass! 

    x

Taking Care of Your Skin Before & After Travel

I’m not alone here when I say airplanes do something to my skin. It totally dries mine out. The airplane is not the cleanest place so I apply my cream/moisturizer on my face before and after I fly. I also find when I’m traveling I use makeup wipes A LOT more…Which, yes, are not so good for your precious skin. If I’m in a time crunch or super tired I’ll reach for a makeup wipe or micellar water before I go to sleep. It’s better than sleeping with your makeup on.

It’s always important to look after your face and body! Especially around the holiday season it’s essential to take good care of your face to avoid pesky spots for pictures/nights out and have smooth skin to apply fake tan. Lucky me, I rarely break out which I’m super thankful for. I used to have horrible acne when I was around 13-15 years old. From there on I’ve just had occasional spots. Here are a few things I am currently doing/using before the holiday season where I’ll be flying to Boston and back to Ireland again.

1. Hydration before/after the flight is key. Drink loads of water. The air on the plane can seriously dry out your skin.

2. Moisturize after the skin is already clean and/or exfoliated. I like this one called Seaweed & Tea Tree Rescue Cream and it really does smell like tea tree oil (I love essential oils so that made me happy!) The ‘rescue’ part is actually a natural antiseptic! It’s made from Tea Tree essential oil and seaweed from Ireland. I actually had a couple of spots before I began using it and they cleared up in about two days. It can also be used for lots of skin irritations.

3. And don’t forget the rest of your body. I am currently using oil! A lot of people just stop at lotion/cream/moisturizer for their face. This one is brilliant and smells divine. It makes my skin feel really smooth on my upper arms. Something about the lavender in it makes using it relaxing. 

4. Eating well in general but…Antioxidants are a big one for making the skin glow. I get a lot of mine from blueberries in my smoothies. Overall, nutrients are important.

5. Vitamins. Regarding skin, A, B, C, E and K (yes, I put them in alphabetical order) are the best to make sure you’re getting enough of. I recently picked up a few different bottles at the health store in town for the winter time.

I loved trying Green Angel Skincare‘s products and had fun featuring them in this post. The cool thing about them is they are a local company based in Ireland. After reading up on their website, I was happy to see the founders were really passionate about skincare. They use a lot of Irish seaweed and natural ingredients containing vitamins and minerals perfect for replenishing the skin. They’d make excellent Christmas gifts!

 Take good care of your skin! Traveling is a time that can really wear it out. Also, shop local if and when you can.
x
(Big thanks to Green Angel Skincare for sending me these products! The two featured were my favorites. Find more at http://www.greenangel.com. All opinions are my own.)

Americans Applying to Irish University Process

Several people have asked during my time at Maynooth for guidance for their American cousins, nieces, etc on attending university in Ireland as opposed to staying state side. It was a very independent project and took a lot of time and patience to be honest. As if American students applying to American schools isn’t tough or stressful enough! 

Hopefully this post will clarify the process for anyone interested in going abroad for the whole degree.

Right, let’s say it’s the beginning of autumn. Many Irish universities don’t open admissions until November-ish. That doesn’t mean you can’t get cracking on this. Things may have changed since I was applying though, keep in mind!
This is a photo I still have from when I submitted my application. I was so, so delighted with myself!

  1. Are you a good academic fit for your school? Check out what SAT scores the uni of interest wants. This will be on their website. See what else they require. If you don’t have the score, it’s not a good idea to apply right then. You should sit the exams again until you get the required score your Irish uni wants. From my experience, it seemed they didn’t really care if I was a well rounded student in high school. I explained I was in lots of clubs on the tennis team, etc…No need for that. Good GPA + SAT scores = acceptance.More info on the SAT: I had submitted everything to them but hadn’t sat my SAT until later that fall. The uni told me just get a certain score and I’m in. It was that simple!
  2. Talk to your guidance counselor and let them know you have interest in an Irish uni or IT. They won’t have much to say. All mine said was, “Whoa. Okay. I once knew a guy that went to Cork.” But they need to know where you’re hoping to go obviously. They may encourage you to apply to a back up school in the US and I don’t believe that’s really necessary. You will know if you’re a good fit for your school based on what I wrote above in #1. 
  3. The guidance counselor is going to tell you that you’ll have to do all the work yourself and this is 100% accurate. It is entirely up to YOU to get the transcripts faxed to the correct university office from your high school and do all the application process on your own. I recommend recording what you emailed to whom in a journal just to keep track!
  4. Get your required documents together. This includes your transcripts, copy of your passport, recommendations (I needed 3! They were from my favorite AP English teacher, my private tennis coach and wow I honestly cannot remember the last one, I’m so sorry to whoever wrote it hahaha but I do remember being very happy with all of them), and whatever else they may require in the application process.
  5. Do your research on what degree you want to study. All the information about each one is on their websites. You apply with your top three picks and they decide based on your application (I believe, mainly GPA) what course you are offered.
  6.  You’ll have plenty of questions. I’m here if you have any specific ones! Don’t be hesitant to get in touch. But when I applied, I was calling the international office at Maynooth nearly once or twice a week only to be told it was tea time and I should call back later. I used to get up early before school to call them (I was running on Boston time then). By the time I’d come home it would be too late and the office would be closed.
  7.  Submit on time and make sure you have done/gathered everything needed for the application. Very obvious, haha but necessary.

It is really about keeping on top of everything. It is long and exciting and worth it when you get into wherever you want to go! By the way, I applied in September and found out in November that I was accepted just for a time span reference on applying.

I could do more posts on Irish uni tips for students from abroad if you like! Good luck on everything. It is a very exciting journey (:

x

(Photos taken by my good friend from home Abby in 2015 during my first year on Maynooth University campus)

Tips for Moving Abroad

Hi all!

Welcome to my little blog I’ve started. I’m going on my third year in Ireland and I still find myself in awe that I live here. The greenery and scenery are still as charming as the day I arrived. Growing up, my parents would always bring my brother and I to where they’re from in the west of Ireland, which is just stunning.  So naturally, being submerged into Irish culture, I fell in love with the country.  When university time came around, I packed two suitcases and moved to outside of Dublin to study arts.

What People Don’t Tell You About Moving Far Away (or studying abroad/erasmus):

  1. You don’t need two suitcases. You don’t need all that stuff, please believe me. I wish I could tell 18 year old me to stop packing random things I thought I’d want with me that I’d never look at again. One case and a duffel bag is plenty. Choose wisely what you’ll bring. If I could do it again, all I’d pack is clothes and my makeup and some pictures, honestly. You’ll accumulate so much stuff when you’re abroad! Just buy toiletries there.
    Have you already moved with too much? Just bring bare essentials plus the random stuff you’ve decided was unnecessary next time you fly home-home, and leave it there.
  2.  You will miss stuff. Home is a state of mind but of course there is no comfort like your actual ‘I’m-from-here’ home.  Luckily, I don’t get homesick much. Have I? Of course. When my birthday rolls around every year I always sulk a bit that my mom isn’t there to bake cute cupcakes or put my orange juice in a champagne glass for that extra birthday fun effect. I’m from a beach town at home so I miss my little walks along the shore.
    WARNING: If you have pets, you’re A) blessed and B) going to miss them more than a person. A sad reality of mine is that I FaceTime my dog regularly. That’s kind of sad, right? I have screenshots.
  3. Skip decor. If you’re like me and you move accommodation frequently as a student, resist decorating to your heart’s content. Again, it’s just more stuff to pack when you move.
  4. Meeting people can be awkward. I have met some seriously incredible people in Ireland. All unique and talented and beautiful people I get to call my friends. Obviously you’ll meet people you may dislike or find your energies just don’t mix together in a good way anymore, and that’s okay! Don’t let that discourage you from getting out there and meeting more people. I’ve managed to meet new friends all along my journey! Try inviting someone for a cup of coffee or an event for chats.
    – Try meeting your flatmates, neighbors
    – Get involved in clubs (I didn’t, but I wish I did!)
    – Experience the nightlife if that’s an interest of yours
    – Meet your friend’s friends
  5. Keep positive and distract yourself! If you’re nervous, just know it’s natural and you’re going to have so much fun (I hope anyway). Moving is a magical time of starting fresh and meeting some lovely friendly faces that may end up accompanying you in life for who knows how long!
  6. Stuff will go wrong. C’est la vie. There’s going to be countless ups and downs. Boys will break your heart and you’ll cry in bed with Ben and Jerry’s to Adele. You’ll buy way too much Ben and Jerry’s and regret it because it’s not healthy and now you are kind of broke. You’ll miss your parents and friends. You’ll miss their birthday celebrations and feel bad. Again, your pets. There will be days where all you want to do is ring home but your family is at work or asleep due to the time difference. Lord knows somedays all I want is a medium iced mocha coconut toasted almond coffee made regular from Dunkin Donuts.Distract yourself, you will be just fine.

I am seriously thankful my move and transition to Irish life went so, so swimmingly. I was young, and still am at ripe ol’ twenty, but when I look back I realize it actually was easier than I thought. After high school I was ready for a break from my small Massachusetts town. Ireland was obviously very familiar to me having grown up with the culture and I assume that’s what made it a lot less challenging.  I’m super grateful to have a foot in two different countries.

Goodluck if you’re planning a big move!

x