Katie Riley '14

Although my final week in Dublin has been spent doing all the routine “last things” like my last trip to the grocery store and last laundry run, I did manage to fit in one last trip before my last exam and my voyage home.

In all my travels this semester I had yet to make it to Northern Ireland, so my friend Mike and I signed up for an all-day guided bus tour from Dublin to the Giant’s Causeway, which also included a stop in Belfast. We left Dublin at 7:00 a.m. and drove about two and a half hours north, crossing from Ireland into the UK. Our first stop was the Carrick-a-Rede Bridge in Antrim. The famous bridge is 66 feet long and is elevated almost 100 feet above the water and was once used as a bridge by salmon fisherman to move between the mainland and a tiny island nearby called Carrickarede. Although I am terrified of heights and tend to get vertigo, I thought I would give it a try, but once Mike and I reached the actual site of the bridge I had to back out. The winds at the bridge were blowing at roughly 40 miles per hour so I decided to just watch the other brave souls from our bus group clutch to the swaying bridge as they shuffled over the bridge and back.

As the wind and rain started to calm down, we got back in the bus and drove to Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The causeway is an area of basalt columns (rock formations caused by lava from a volcanic eruption) that legend says were formed back in the days when giants roamed Ireland. After the visit to Giant’s Causeway we rode back to Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, and spent an hour walking around. We drove back to Dublin after a long day on the road. The best part of the day was seeing a crystal clear double rainbow over the greenest, most lush landscape I have ever seen. It was the perfect Irish day.

After my trip with Mike I had a perfect last weekend with my friends, but finally it was time for me to sit my last examination. I had my Irish History exam scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Monday in the Examination Hall. I walked in the entryway and looked for my name on the class roster to find out my seat number (seat #122). When I entered the hall it felt like I had walked into the world of Harry Potter. I felt like a student at Hogwarts sitting for the O.W.Ls. There were rows upon rows of seats all facing a desk at the front that was sitting like a throne upon a platform overlooking the hall of students. I have never taken an exam with so many students or proctors in the room. I felt slightly overwhelmed at first by the grandness of the hall itself, decorated with large paintings and a beautiful, high ceiling, but when the exam started it all faded away, as I scribbled to write as much as I could about Irish History within the two-hour time limit. I left the exam hall feeling relieved, but also a bit sad knowing that this was the last thing that stood between me and leaving Dublin.

I only have two more days in the city that I have come to love so much. I am not ready to say goodbye but I know that, ready or not, I have to board my flight to San Francisco on Wednesday.

For my last trip of the semester I made it over to Amsterdam for four days and five nights with a group of 7 other Holy Cross students. It was a great change of pace to spend so much time in just one city. For all my other trips, it was fun to be constantly on the move, seeing so much in so little time, but it was even better to not feel rushed to explore Amsterdam. This way, I got a better feel for the vibe or essence of the city by just wandering the streets and exploring without an agenda. Amsterdam reminded me a bit of San Francisco—a laid-back city filled with friendly and helpful locals—which is maybe why I felt so comfortable there. In fact, of all the cities I have ever visited in Europe, I think Amsterdam is the one I can most see myself living in.

Here are a few highlights from the trip:

-Anne Frank Huis: my first order of business in Amsterdam was to go to the Anne Frank Huis (Anne Frank House). I have always had a fascination with World War II history, especially the Holocaust and so to be able to visit the annex where the Frank family famously hid during the war was a dream come true. I not only walked behind the bookcase and up the narrow, steep, hidden staircase, but I also saw Anne Frank’s actual diary.

-Cheese samples: The Netherlands most famous cheese is Gouda, but in the shops along Amsterdam’s many canals, you can sample all types of sheep, cow, or goat cheese. While touring the tulip market, I stopped in a few of the nearby cheese shops and the employees would not stop encouraging me to try more samples. Never one to say no to free cheese, I happily indulged them. There were slices of cheese and gourmet mustards, which were all so delicious that I never actually bought cheese or mustard to bring back with me because I couldn’t decide which one I liked most.

-Canal boat tour: Amsterdam is known as the “Venice of the North” because of all its canals, so what better way to explore the city than on a boat tour? We took a one-hour guided boat tour and it was wonderful to sit in the open-air boat, soaking up the sun, and exploring Amsterdam from a new perspective.

-Heineken factory: Although I can’t drink beer because of a gluten allergy, I enjoyed “The Heineken Experience” and learning about the brewing process of Europe’s largest brewery.

-Bike riding: No Amsterdam experience would be complete without a bike ride. In Amsterdam bikes are the major mode of transportation, so in order to feel like locals we rented bikes and rode around the city for a few hours. We stopped by the zoo, a planetarium, and a nearby park to rest and snack.

I ended a fabulous trip with great news from Holy Cross that my roommates for next year and I landed an apartment in Williams Hall, our first choice for senior year housing! I’m not ready to say goodbye to Dublin just yet, but I am starting to get excited for my summer internship in New York and fall semester back on The Hill. But before then, I still have a list of must-do items for Dublin, plus one more final to take. Only 10 more days!

The first day of our epic weekend in Amalfi was a trip to the island of Capri. We woke up around 7:00 a.m. in order to take a bus to the ferry to Capri. There, we were loaded onto smaller boats to take a tour around the island. On the way around the island we made a pit stop at one of the seven wonders of the natural world: the Blue Grotto. The Blue Grotto is a sea cave that is most notable for its blue-green water, which gets its hue from the way that the two natural light sources in the cave reflect off the water. I was squeezed into a tiny canoe with four other people in order to fit into the small opening of the cave. We only stayed in the pitch-black cave for about a minute, which was just enough to experience the reflections. On our way back around the island we also spotted some massive cliff-side mansions, a lighthouse, and the famous lover’s arch rock formation. Once we docked, the group walked up the hill to where we had some amazing views overlooking the water and surrounding area. Also at the top of the hill we found cute, narrow walkways lined with little boutiques and cafes. We had about 45 minutes to rest and look around, so I grabbed a coffee to go before we continued (in vans this time) even further up to the top of Capri. At the next level we stopped for a limoncello and chocolate tasting before we dispersed for lunch. The sun finally broke through the clouds after a surprisingly chilly morning and so our HC group stopped at a market to grab sandwiches and snacks so we could eat outside and enjoy the wonderful weather. The rest of the afternoon was spent walking around the town and then talking a very long (900 step) walk back down to the docks. On our way down we happened upon a soccer field, so we stopped for a quick, impromptu game before we made it down the rest of the steps to the beach and then back on the ferry to Sorrento for dinner and festivities.

Luckily the next morning we did not have to leave the hostel until 10 a.m. so we could get a few more hours of sleep. However, at 10 a.m. the buses left and we were off to the town of Positano for a beach day. We took the bus down the winding cliff road and walked the rest of the way down to the black sand beach. On the way down the sun became progressively warmer so that by the time we reached the beach, I was ready to apply the sunscreen and go for a dip in the water. Before I could even get my toes wet our group decided to do one of the optional activities for the day: cliff jumping. I’m terrified of heights but cliff jumping in Italy sounded like a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Therefore, despite my nerves, I hopped on the boat to the cliff with the rest of the HC crew. Although I was one of the last people to jump and I only went to the first level on the rocks, I did it! I still can’t believe I made it up to the rocks and actually jumped. After the thrill of cliff jumping it was back to the beach, where we spent the day lounging in the sun until it was time to return to Sorrento.

On our third day we left the coast to head to Pompeii to take a tour of the ancient ruins. A group of us opted for audio guides and spent about two hours making our way through the park. Walking around for two hours in the heat was exhausting, so when it was time to meet our group at 5 p.m. and head back to Rome, I was more than ready to go. Back in Rome we met up with even more HC visitors who had been doing their own traveling in Italy. Our final day in Rome was spent at the Vatican. Because we had a flight to catch that night we had limited time and did not get a chance to make it to the Vatican Museums or the Sistine Chapel. We did spend time in St. Peter’s Basilica and climbed through the inside of the dome and up onto the cupola for some great views of the city. After our last, long, leisurely lunch at the piazza near our hostel and our last cup of gelato, it was off to the train station and then the airport for the Dublin crew.

The entire weekend in Italy was surreal. I’m so happy that I was able to join the trip and visit the Amalfi coast—a place I have always dreamed of visiting. Now that I’m back in Dublin it’s time to get started on studying for exams and prepping for my trip to Amsterdam.

To celebrate the end of classes for the semester, I jumped on an HC group trip to Italy through a program called Bus2Alps. The program we did was called Rome2Amalfi, which was a four-day trip to the Amalfi Coast from Rome. There were three groups of Holy Cross students, each from one of the three different HC study abroad locations in Ireland (Dublin, Cork, and Galway). In total, we were a group of 13 and the bigger Bus2Alps group was around 200. Although the program officially started Thursday night, I flew into Rome early Wednesday morning by myself in order to spend a little extra time sightseeing before Amalfi. I had been to Rome on a family vacation back in high school, but due to flight cancellations and weather disasters we only had about 24 hours in the city. We basically spent our time in a van speeding around the city trying to make it to as many monuments as possible. Therefore, this time around I was determined to spend some time just wandering the city, experiencing the rhythm and the atmosphere, which is what I missed out on before. I also missed out on some crucial tourist sights like the Spanish Steps, so I added those to the “must-see” list.

After a quick lunch at the Piazza Risorgimento right next to my hostel (a salad with parmesan cheese, mushrooms, and hearts of palm), I lathered on the sunscreen and headed to the Piazza del Popolo. Last year at Holy Cross I took a 17th century art and architecture class and we had studied the architecture of some of the buildings in the Piazza as well as two Caravaggio paintings that are held in the chapel of one of the churches, the Santa Maria del Popolo. I knew I couldn’t come to Rome and not see the paintings after having spent so much time studying them in class. I saw the “Conversion of Saint Paul on the Road to Damascus” and the “Crucifixion of Saint Peter,” which were both even more vibrant and detailed than I had appreciated from pictures and slides in class. From the Piazza I walked down to the Spanish Steps and as I was sitting on the steps soaking up the sun and awkwardly asking strangers to take my picture I got a call on my Irish phone from one of the other HC girls from Galway who was also in Rome. I asked her where she was so I could meet up with her and a few other HC Galway girls and it turned out that they were also sitting on the Spanish Steps, just a few levels above me! It was a great coincidence. We walked over to the Pantheon together, first stopping at a café that is one of the oldest in Rome. I got a cappuccino and it was the best of the entire trip. After the Pantheon the girls got gelato at a famous gelateria nearby. Exhausted from getting up at 4:00 a.m. for my flight and then spending all day walking in the sun, I decided to call it quits on my touring after a walk through the Borghese gardens and I headed back to the hostel to wait for the rest of my Dublin group to meet me later in the evening.

The next morning the HC boys from Dublin and I set out for a full day of touring. We had to be at the bus terminal by 7:45 p.m. so we started the day with a tour of the Coliseum and Roman Forum. Then we walked all the way to the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain, stopping for a great lunch along the way. I had my first prosciutto and melon of the trip and I think it was the best piece of cantaloupe that I have ever tasted—amazingly ripe and juicy, which was just what I wanted after walking around in the sun all morning. We walked to the Spanish Steps, grabbed some gelato and headed for the hostel to collect our bags so we could meet with the rest of the HC group before making our way to the bus terminal. Finally all the HC kids together, we marched to the train station with our bags and headed off to Sorrento and a weekend worth of adventures.

What is the best way to celebrate the last week of classes for the year? At Trinity, the answer is Trinity Ball. On the night of the last day of classes Trinity hosts Europe’s largest, most exclusive private party and I was fortunate enough to get a ticket.

The week leading up to the ball crews began setting up tents all across campus. It was so cool to watch the iconic Front Square area with the campanile become transformed into a massive stage and dance floor area. On Friday, all afternoon classes were cancelled so that the gates to the campus could be shut off to the public. The only way to get onto campus on Friday afternoon was with a student ID card. I have to admit I felt quite special jumping past the line of disappointed tourists waiting at the gates, flashing my ID card at the guards, and walking straight onto campus. After lunch, the HC girls and I went for manicures and pedicures and then went back to our individual apartments to primp and get ready for the big event. We got together with more of our friends from both Trinity and HC and even those who weren’t going to the ball came over in their suits and dresses to take pictures and hang out, which made the whole event feel even more special (and slightly prom-like). We made it to the ball in time for the two acts that I really wanted to see: Imagine Dragons and Ellie Goulding, who were both performing in the largest of the tents, the “Main Stage.” There were five separate stages, each hosting a minimum of 4 different acts or DJs throughout the night. The atmosphere was overwhelming, yet unbelievably incredible and the party lasted well into the morning.

It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I’m so glad I had the chance to go. Now that classes are over, I have to focus on choosing classes for next semester at Holy Cross, working on a senior year thesis proposal, and, of course, preparing for my upcoming trip to Italy!

This weekend I made a spur-of-the-moment trip to Galway. I didn’t have classes on Friday because of the Easter holiday, so I took the opportunity to travel and headed west for an overnight. The HC Galway group ends their semester a few weeks earlier than we do at Trinity, so this was my last opportunity to spend time with my friends before the summer, and, for some of them, until senior year. I took the 1:45 p.m. bus leaving Dublin and arrived in Galway around 4:15 p.m. where I met my friend Grace at the bus stop. We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening in her apartment just talking and having a great time catching up. Half way through the evening we were joined by a larger group of Holy Cross students and we just sat around the kitchen table enjoying each other’s company. It wasn’t anything fancy or exciting (some people were just lounging in pajamas), but it was such a great time. We all got up the next morning to go into town where a food festival was underway. I had no idea before I got to Galway that there was going to be a food festival, so it was a fabulous surprise when I learned that we could go have a sample lunch of all sorts of food at many different tents. On the walk to the water where the tents were set up, I stopped back into the ring shop where I had bought my replacement Claddagh ring a few months ago to buy another replacement ring, this time for my mom. She lost her ring when she was in Dublin visiting me, so I promised to make a trip out to Galway just to get her one. Mission accomplished, Grace and I practically ran down to the food tents to start sampling food. I selected barbequed pork with onions, slathered in barbeque sauce, as my main dish for lunch, followed by a slice of gluten-free lemon pound cake for dessert. I kept returning to the gluten-free tent because they had so many delicious samples that I couldn’t stop picking at them! I also bought gluten-free flax seed crackers to bring back to Dublin with me. There were more than a dozen tents and so many different foods to try. There was fresh fish and meat, Asian food, crepes, candy, organic produce, and a variety of baked goods stands. Everything was so reasonably priced and it all looked amazing, which was why I was glad I had to leave to catch my return bus to Dublin or else I would have stayed there snacking all day long.

This week marks the last week of classes at Trinity. Friday will be a huge event called Trinity Ball (they have been setting up tents and floors out on the campus lawns for over a week now) to celebrate the end of term, which will be followed by three weeks to prepare for exams. I don’t want the semester to end yet! I guess it’s a good thing I still have plenty of traveling and studying left before that happens.

This past week in Dublin was one of the most hectic and eventful weeks I have had in a long time. The week started with an HC group activity on Saturday with Silvia, our cultural coordinator. Silvia took us to see a production of the Tony-Award winning musical Once at the Gaiety theater. Seeing the production in Dublin was quite a treat because it is also the setting of the musical itself. Not only was Saturday the day of our HC gathering, but it was also the day that my sister arrived to visit me for her spring break. My parents arrived two days later for a week of family-filled adventures. While I went to class my parents did some touring around the city and saw the National Gallery and Christ Church Cathedral. Together we took a day trip to a quaint seaside suburb called Howth, which is a twenty-minute train ride north of the city. There, we walked along the water, wandered through the fish markets and had delicious, fresh fish for lunch. Among many other activities last week I also finally bought my first Irish sweater, went out to many lunches and dinners with my family at Dublin restaurants that I had been dying to eat at for moths, and I introduced my parents to the new HC friends that I have met in Dublin this semester.

While I spent the week running around trying to squeeze time out of my schedule to spend time with my family between classes and schoolwork, the city of Dublin spent the week gearing up for St. Patrick’s Day. By March 14th the city was packed with tourists and the shops were full of costumes and green paraphernalia for the big day. I have never seen the city so full and I have to admit, it was quite overwhelming. Everywhere I walked I heard people speaking a different language and the quiet little side streets I used to wander were now filled with street vendors and performers. Unfortunately neither my sister nor my parents stayed in Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day, but my friend Catherine (who is studying at St. Andrews this year) came to stay with me for the weekend festivities.

Despite the insanity of the masses of people and the endless sea of green, I have to say, I can’t think of a cooler place to be on St. Patrick’s Day than in Dublin. The morning of the parade Catherine and I woke up to what else but snow! I, like everyone else in the city, just piled on a few extra layers of green and grabbed my umbrella to head out into the flurries. I was even able to get a decent view of the parade, watching from the steps of a pub so I could see over people’s heads. It was a very long day, starting around 9am to get ready for the parade and lasting until the wee hours of the morning. The city truly came alive this past weekend and I am so glad that I was here to be a part of it. Between St. Patrick’s Day and the visit from my family, I would definitely say that this has been the best week in Dublin thus far.

At Trinity there is no week in the spring that is designated as “Spring Break.” There is, however, a week called “Reading Week,” which for full-time Irish students is usually a chance to either go home or to catch up on reading assignments and writing papers. This past week was Reading Week, but instead of spending it in the library, the other HC girls and I decided to do a little learning outside the classroom and go to Spain for a week of adventures. The five of us started our journey together in Barcelona and then after a packed day of touring we split up the next morning, three of us leaving for Palma de Mallorca and two of us going to León to each visit our HC friends studying abroad at those sites. I was part of the Palma crew and so we left at 5:00 a.m. on Saturday morning to fly from Barcelona to Palma (only a 30 min trip). We spent Saturday, Sunday, and Monday morning in Palma and then flew to Madrid Monday afternoon. Madrid is my favorite city in the world so I played tour guide and token Spanish interpreter as I dragged my friends around the capital Monday, Tuesday, and part of Wednesday. Then Wednesday it was back to Dublin and back to school work and preparing for the multiple waves of visitors that we will all be hosting in the coming weeks. The trip was a blast and we did so much touring in so little time that it would be crazy to try to give a detailed account of every moment, so here are some pictures from the highlights of the trip:

The HC Trinity girls atop a bench at Parc Güell in Barcelona

Me, outside the cathedral in Barcelona. We stopped here and walked around the neighborhood before having some delicious tapas at a restaurant called El Xampanyet for dinner

Me, Casey, and Danielle in Palma in front of the iconic cathedral

The beach in Palma was beautiful and would have been so tempting had the weather not been about 45 degrees

The "Palma crew" in front of the Royal Palace in Madrid. On the same block we also saw the cathedral, city ruins, and the basilica, among other sites

Eating dinner at the world's oldest restaurant, Botín, on our last night in Madrid

Casey and I spent our last afternoon in Madrid walking the city and wandering parks like this one, Retiro, before we caught our flight to Dublin

In the past year I have lived on three different continents and attended three very different colleges. My life at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) is not only a completely new experience from my time at the Universidad del Salvador (USAL) in Buenos Aires, but from my time at College of the Holy Cross (HC) as well. I thought it might be interesting to note some of the similarities and differences between the three living and learning arrangements I have had over the past year:


-HC: Worcester, Massachusetts, North America

-USAL: Buenos Aires, Argentina, South America

-TCD: Dublin, Ireland, Europe

Type of Academic Institution:

-HC: College

-USAL: University

-TCD: University

Living Arrangement:

-HC: Dorm room with one roommate, shared hall bathroom, dining hall meal plan

-USAL: Host family apartment

-TCD: dorm-style apartment, 4 suitemates, single bedroom, two bathrooms, shared kitchen and living room, no meal plan

Class Structure:

-HC: 4 classes per semester, classes are usually three times a week for 50 minutes or twice a week for 75 minutes; buy books from bookstore or print assigned readings daily

-USAL: 4 classes per semester, class time and frequency vary widely (one class can be held for an hour once a week, three hours once a week, two hours twice a week, or anything in between), there is no syllabus with readings, photocopies of suggested readings can be purchased at a nearby kiosk

-TCD: 30 credits per term (classes are either 5 or 10 credits), there are usually 1-2 lectures (big classes) a week and then a tutorial (smaller focus group) once every other week, assignments vary by class (some classes have weekly assignments and some only have an end of the term exam)

It has been a fascinating case study to live and study in three such distinct places. In less than a year I’ve seen exotic new cities, lived on beautiful campuses and studied at historic institutions…and it’s not over yet! Yes, I will be excited to return to Holy Cross in the fall, but for now I am focused on my upcoming travel plans, applying for summer internships, and preparing for my parents’ visit to Dublin.

(photo courtesy of Jennie Meyers)

Ever since I can remember, I have always wanted a surprise birthday party. Every year I would hint or even outright ask that my parents or my friends throw me a surprise birthday. The closest I ever got to receiving a surprise on my birthday was this year for my 21st birthday. While out at my birthday dinner in NYC with my sister and her friend Claire (my friend from HC, Katy’s, sister), Claire left the table for a minute. My sister and I thought she got lost coming back from the bathroom, but it turned out that she actually went outside to meet her parents who dropped off a birthday present for me! Not only was I surprised at receiving a present, but I was even more stunned that the present was from Katy, currently studying at St. Andrews in Scotland. The generosity and consideration that had gone into the present was almost too much for me to handle. I knew that when Katy’s birthday came around, I had to do something equally special to repay her for one of the most amazing birthday presents I have ever received.

That’s why this past Saturday I woke up at 4:00 a.m. and took a cab to the airport to spend 36 hours in Scotland to surprise Katy for her 21st birthday. My friend Catherine, who also studies at St. Andrews, arranged to meet me in Edinburgh around 8:30 a.m. on Saturday to keep me company until Katy came to town under the pretense of playing tour guide to some HC friends from Galway who were also visiting for her birthday weekend. She eventually made it to Edinburgh around 11:30 a.m. and came to the Starbucks where Catherine had arranged the meeting. I put my little birthday present of fancy tea and chocolate for Katy on the table and waited for her to come up the stairs and be surprised. And surprised she was! We hadn’t seen each other since last year at Holy Cross and we were both so excited to be in the same place at the same time again, if only for two days. I hope my presence in Scotland was sufficient repayment for the amazing surprise she gave me on my birthday a few months ago.

Once the surprise encounter was over it was time for some serious Edinburgh touring. We only had about five hours to do as much sightseeing as possible before the bus left to take us back to St. Andrews. We first stopped at a cute, small Thai restaurant to fuel-up for the blitz tour. I had some delicious pad Thai (made even more delicious by the fact that I hadn’t eaten since 5:00 a.m.) then we went on to visit the café where J.K Rowling wrote Harry Potter, a historical cemetery where J.K Rowling got the ideas for names of her characters, the Edinburgh castle, a church on the Royal Mile, the queen’s residence, and a delicious fudge shop. After quite the eventful afternoon we took the hour and a half bus ride back to St. Andrews where we had a celebratory dinner at a local Mexican restaurant with the other HC students at St. Andrews.

The next day it was time for me to head back to Dublin via bus, train, shuttle, and airplane. My trip was exhausting, officially the quickest international trip I have ever taken, but it was more than worth it to see my friends and to surprise Katy for her birthday. Luckily, I have a few weeks to recuperate and catch up on schoolwork before my next adventure—Spain!

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Katie Riley '14

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