UK versus USA education and culture, the difference across the Atlantic!

In the UK and Ireland, we all have a distinct perception of what college in the U.S. is like, Right?

The parties, the frat houses and the socks and sandals combo – yes it is real!

In general, we aren’t far wrong. But having been there, done that (and bought hundreds of T-shirts) my views have changed and, to be perfectly honest, I prefer it over there!

…and here’s why:

SCHOOL SPIRIT –  

Americans have SO much school spirit! Whether it be a big basketball game or a coffee morning charity event you can’t help but notice everyone wearing the college colours and excessive face paints to show their passion.

People you don’t know or have never met all of a sudden become your best mate just through random events. I LOVED IT!

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WORKLOAD –

I was very surprised by the amount of work! It’s undeniable that the workload in the U.S. is considerably bigger that over here, but the work is definitely worth less of a percentage towards your overall grade.

In other words, if you do badly on an assignment it’s not the end of the world because it’s only worth 10%, unlike our 50% exams at home.

I also had a love/hate relationship with pop quizzes (well more of a hate!).

These are tests at the beginning of class, adding up to a ‘daily grade’, but as long as you’ve done the reading, you’re sorted. These tests also became a godsend because it definitely took the pressure off during midterms and finals – if you did it right, which I certainly learned in second semester.

You do also have to buy the textbook, and I mean ACTUALLY buy it! There’s $100 you’ll never seen again…

GRADING –

Coming from home where it’s considered a miracle to break 70% on your assignments, I arrived in America and suddenly began getting 95% on things. WHAT?!

No matter how many times I got 90%+ on a piece of work, I still always felt like I’d become a genius, destined for Mastermind.

Having said that, one of the nicest adjustments was that Professors in America want a personal relationship with you and to get to know you both inside and outside the classroom. They know your name and not just your ID number and for me that really helped while settling in.

And sometimes, they’ll let you re-do their work if you’re not happy or will offer extra credit so you can boost your grade. Extra credit is literally free marks, just let that sink in for a minute. Free marks?! Completely unheard of at home.

DRINKING – 

Drinking culture is also a huge part of American college life, but because most college students are below the drinking age, a lot of it exists underground — whether that be at house parties, frats, fields, or through the use of fake IDs.

A massive culture shock for me was not being allowed to legally drink or go into pubs and clubs. But to be honest, it was actually nice to not revolve your days around it – like we do at home.

Also, just a heads up – NO ONE in the United States thinks red Solo cups are interesting.

They are seen as the dirty, plastic cups which you spend half of the morning after a party cleaning up and are the ideal beer pong receptacle. But because they are ever-present at American parties, they have made it onto TV and because American college movies are watched everywhere, red Solo cups are now “a thing” abroad. Weird.

 

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HUMOUR AND GENERAL LINGO-

Or should I say ‘humor’…

Sometimes in British humour the jokes on you – Americans cannot grasp that. Plus, we use irony, A LOT.

But when Americans use irony, they will often immediately admit it by adding an unnecessary “just kidding”, even if the statement is outrageous and obviously ironic.       For example, “If you don’t come out tonight, I’m going to shoot you… just kidding.”

Don’t get me wrong, Americans can fully appreciate irony, I just think they don’t feel as comfortable using it on each other in case it causes hurt or anger. Whereas over here, we use sarcasm as both a shield and a weapon. We mercilessly take the hand out of people we like or dislike. And also ourselves, in fact, even more so ourselves!

It’s not so much about having a different sense of humour, but more an all-round different approach to life. Americans are not embarrassed by their emotions and they applaud ambition and openly reward success. It’s an openness that always made me feel slightly guilty and apologetic when their achievements were met with silent appreciation, rather than claps and shouts – we just don’t do that. We avoid sincerity until it’s absolutely necessary.

A major thing I noticed is how Americans say, “have a nice day” whether they mean it or not. Here we wouldn’t dream of it! I don’t know whether it’s because we don’t want to sound insincere or because we don’t want to celebrate anything too soon.  As bad as it sounds we are so much more pessimistic and expect the worst. Americans are brought up to believe they can be the next president of the United States. Over here we’re told, “Have a plan B, in case things don’t happen for you.”

FOOD

Ah, ONE of America’s greatest assets.

A friend of mine once said “American food means taking everything you learned about moderation and healthiness growing up, and completely ignoring it.” I mean, what’s not to love?

US students can NEVER go hungry, especially if they have an unlimited meal plan, just one swipe away from an all-you-can-eat buffet. Even without a meal plan, you can sometimes use the dining hall for as little as $5, then eat all the food you possibly can and get a box to go for later.

This is very unlike the UK and Ireland where, by week 12 you’re living off beans on toast because you’ve almost completely run out of your loan (and by almost I mean ‘ran out two months ago’).

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I could talk ALL DAY about the differences between here and the U.S.

I think it’s so important that each of us get the chance to experience different cultures and interact with different people at some stage in our lives. It’ll definitely change how we see things and if you’re in anyway like me, how you say things…

and so on that note,

Have a nice day y’all!

 

Lauren Kearns is a final year BSc Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University, Jordanstown. You can reach her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/ lauren-kearns-90819710b

Great things never come from comfort zones – Study USA!

Imagine this – you wake up one morning, you’re lying in a strange bed, in a strange room, in a strange country, all alone. Scary right?

Wrong, it’s the exact opposite!

…And I’m here to tell you why.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I hate ordinary. I hate getting up every day, doing the same thing, going to the same places and having the same experiences. So that’s why last year I swapped my standard, routine and completely average student life in Belfast for an unforgettable year studying abroad in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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Where do I even begin? *gulps to hold back tears*

The BEST thing about my year away was the people that I met. If any of you are reading this you’ll know exactly who you are!

Before I left I never imagined myself being in the situations I was in and getting the opportunity to meet the most amazing people. Arriving in the U.S. I was the ‘foreigner’, a strange thought but true. I thought I would be the weird one, the one who stood out – but I was wrong.

There are people from all over the world at college in America. Some of my best friends came from completely different continents, and learning about them and their culture made daily life so much more interesting.

My year away was a whirlwind to say the least. I got to experience some AMAZING American events, I felt like a fully-fledged citizen after a while!

I was there for the most controversial U.S Presidential Election (that was something else – to say the least!) American Thanksgiving in Philadelphia, Christmas in NYC and Spring Break in Canada. I mean come on, who wouldn’t cut off their left arm for that?

 

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Having said that, we definitely celebrated some things the Irish way. A blurry pub crawl hitting every Irish bar in Philly was a 21st birthday not to be forgotten and running through the streets in Boston on St. Patricks day with face paint and flags makes me cringe, smile and cry all at the same time!

It was only then I realised, adventure is the best way to learn. Why not do everything while we’re young?

Don’t get me wrong, there are days where reality hits, and it hits HARD.

When the rain and snow is beating off the library window and you’re up to your eyes in deadlines and textbooks. You suddenly realise you’re 3000 miles away and you can’t just pop home for a cup of tea, wheaten bread or an infamous Sunday roast.

But that’s O.K.

Having had a couple of those days myself I can safely say for every bad day there are 30 great ones. Do not let yourself be put down, have a break, take a walk and go again.

As I write this, my heart is broken. My year is over and I have had to leave my ‘home’ and best friends to come back to my home and best friends. Not many people can say that.

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I consider myself to be one of the lucky ones, the chance to live and study in America doesn’t come around very often.

It was only when I returned home that I realised how life-changing the year was. I had seen America’s true colours, my eyes had been opened and I had changed indefinitely.

Before I finish, I’d like to leave a few tips for anyone considering studying or doing placement/ post-grad work abroad.

My ‘wish I knew before going away’ Tips

  1. You don’t need that extra suitcase
  2. You won’t drink a good cup of tea all year
  3. Hope for the best but plan for the worst
  4. Study/Work abroad is an emotional cocktail (not a rollercoaster)
  5. Learn how to read a map and navigate without your iPhone.
  6. Forget yourself in a new country and make memories, leave the FOMO at home.
  7. Join a club, whether it’s a sports team or cheerleading or chess. You’ll meet so many people and it’s a great way to get involved!
  8. Sleep is for the weak, say yes to EVERY adventure (even if it is going for Dunkin at 4am).
  9. Reverse culture shock is worse than initial culture shock, prepare yourself.

 

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What have you got to lose?

‘It’s better to look back on life and say “I can’t believe I did that…” than to look back and say “I wish I did that…”’

 

Lauren Kearns is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University, Jordanstown. You can reach her on LinkedIn at  https://www.linkedin.com/in/ lauren-kearns-90819710b

The Best Five Days!

                           ‘New York; Concrete Jungle where dreams are made of…’                                Shop to you drop, eat until you explode and sight see until your eyes ache.

                                                             28/10/17 – 02/11/17                                                                                                                7 girls, 5 days, 4 nights

When thinking of what to write about for my next blog it appeared obvious- my latest adventure…

As I boarded our direct flight from Dublin to Newark Airport- a number of things circulated in my head. I wonder what New York is like? I wonder if it really is a concrete jungle? Do they actually have yellow taxis like you see in movies? Is it as busy as people make it out to be?

YES. YES. YES. They do!

Even though it is known as ‘The City that Never Sleeps’, it is almost impossible to see New York in 5 days. Even if you lived here for 4 months I still don’t think it would be enough time to actually see it all! I seen quite a lot when I was there and I think I got about 16 hours sleep the whole time!

5 Must Do’s When In New York and 1 Don’t

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  1. Shop to you Drop- Jersey Gardens

AMAZING DISCOUNTS AND AMAZING SHOPS. From Tommy Hilfiger to Ralph Lauren to Victoria Secret. This place is amazing! Just remember your passport and you get a book full of discounts and freebie coupons to shop with until your hearts content.

 

  1. Hop on, Hop off Open Top Bus Tour is best for Sightseeing

A MUST HAVE. ThAR25is bus saved our legs for 5 days! Sounds silly but so true! Buses run basically 24/7 and stop at all of the key tourist attractions, streets and landmarks. Within our package we got four tours; an Uptown, Downtown, Brooklyn and Night time tour as well as entry into two main tourist attractions for $100! It also included the boat over to Statue of Liberty 🙂

Although heights are not my forte, if you would like to observe the whole city from above, the Rockefeller Center and the Empire State building are a must do! If I was to pick one of the two, I would go to the Rockefeller Center as you can see the Empire State building from it and the queues aren’t just as mad! Personally I think it is best to go at night to see                                                        the beautiful view and the millions of lights!

  1. Carlos Bakery & Stardust Diner are AMAZING!

After a fun filled day shopping at Jersey Gardens we stopped off and had a bun and coffee at Carlos Bakery. Carlos Bakery is an attraction in itself with lots of treats and tasty desserts 🙂

Stardust Diner is a must-do also! Ever wanted to feel like you were part of a Broadway show while eating breakfast, lunch or dinner? Have characters from all different Broadway shows dance on the tables and have a singsong while others serve your food on rollerblades?

  1. Tiffanys- Treat Yo Self!AR22

If you are into jewellery and think that you deserve a treat then Tiffanys is definitely a good shout! Although if you are indecisive like me, make sure the company you are with don’t mind waiting as there is an awful lot of amazing jewellery to pick from! 🙂

 

  1. The Statue of Liberty

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The Statue of Liberty is a must-do! (Although hopefully you won’t have the same experience as I had) The Statue of Liberty is bigger than you could ever imagine and a prime spot to get the ultimate insta pic! We stayed on the boat and did not get off as the boat does a loop around the statue and given the short time frame that we were there for we didn’t want to waste any time! It was at the Statue of Liberty on the second last day when we knew that something was wrong…                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        6. 31/10/17 – Halloween Day – 3:30pm – 8 killed, 12 injured                          

We were walking alongside the harbour (shown below) looking for the boat over to the statue when the commotion started. Police, ambulances, helicopters and pedestrians frantically running on the other side of the street. As we spotted the boat we seen the Captain frantically waving and shouting ‘Everyone onboard… last boat, last boat!!!’ It was only 3:30pm… why was it the last boat of the day? Alarm bells started to ring and we started to run onto the boat… as the boat started to leave I looked at my phone- 8 messages from family and friends asking if I was ok and if I was anywhere near the trouble in New York. The attack was breaking news on Sky and was all over different news channels worldwide.AR30

Eight people were killed and more than a dozen injured after a man drove a truck nearly a mile down a bike path in lower Manhattan striking pedestrians, cyclists and a school bus.

After smashing into the school bus, injuring two adults and two children, the 29-year-old suspect exited the truck displaying “imitation firearms”. The suspect was shouting “Allahu Akbar”, Arabic for “God is great”, before he was then shot by police in the stomach. The suspect was arrested, and a paintball gun and a pellet gun were recovered at the scene.

Donald Trump tweeted about the incident: “In NYC, looks like another attack by a very sick and deranged person. Law enforcement is following this closely. NOT IN THE U.S.A.!”

Despite all this, I have already planned another trip back to New York at Christmas, this time to visit a cousin who is going there on placement! Next time I will definitely squeeze in a Broadway Show, a basketball game and a horse and carriage ride around Central Park 🙂

Love,

Aimee xo

Aimee Rourke is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/aimee-rourke-593013109/ 

Fancy an American Adventure?

One my more recent spontaneous decisions that I made was to apply to work at a summer camp in America. It was not something I had ever considered doing but one day at the beginning of May I decided it was what I wanted to do with my summer. Obviously with it being so late on in the year to be applying and with it being so close to the camps beginning for the summer, I had limited choice on how to go through the application process. I couldn’t go through the more well known agencies such as ‘Camp America’ and ‘Americamp’ as their applications had closed for 2017 but I managed to find a company called ‘BUNAC’ who I was able to apply through. I couldn’t have asked for a better service so would highly recommend them to anyone considering camp!

Within the next month I got my visa and found out I would be Lake Staff at Indian and Forest Acres Camp in Fryeburg, Maine. I jetted off to Boston on the 7th of June to begin my adventure! The first two weeks involved setting everything up, being trained, familiarising ourselves with the camps traditions and getting to know eachother before the children arrived. Throughout these induction weeks the Lovewell (lake) staff got to go to the lake everyday and do all the watersports ourselves. On the final day before the kids arrived we carried out a tradition that apparently happens every year. We rented 30 canoes (three people to a canoe) and used our life jackets to tie them all together and spent the day floating down the Saco River, stopping at numerous beaches on the way. We were prepared and developed a systematic approach to the drinking strategy for the day. 20% water, 80% bevs.RR13

Once the kids arrived they were assigned their cabin and the counsellors found out who we would be living with. Our job as counsellors was to essentially play the role of parents to the children for the next seven weeks. The age range at camp was 7-16 and I was placed in the junior unit so the girls in my cabin were among the youngest. It’s so strange how you can develop such a close bond with people you have never met and I can honestly say I felt like the girls were my children for the summer.

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Indian and Forest Acres is a very old camp, coming into its 95th year, which naturally means it is full of traditions. I thought some of these traditions were odd at first but by the end of the summer I had fully come to appreciate them. The links below give a taste of what life was like at camp.

https://vimeo.com/226311311                                                 https://vimeo.com/229915789

On a typical day my routine would be to go to the lake in the morning, drive the boats whilst teaching the children how to water-ski and wakeboard. We would go back for lunch and then in the afternoon we would be teaching the kids how to sail, kayaking and paddle board.

RR15I had no travel plans for after camp before going but my flight home was three weeks after camp had ended. The friendship group that I had made decided to plan a road trip down the east coast.RR16

We started off in Boston, Massachusetts, making our way down to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania then on to Washington D.C. After this we went to Miami, Florida. We then started to make our way back up North to Wayne, New Jersey, stopping off at Orlando for some fun at Universal Studios, eventually ending up in New York City to finish our trip.RR17

 

I cannot recommend considering going to America to work at a summer camp enough! It was such an amazing experience and as cliché as it sounds, you really do make friends for life!

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Rebecca Reid is a Final Year Communication Management and Public Relations Student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Twitter @Rebecca12reid and on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rebecca-reid-64b580153/

The repeal of Net Neutrality – is America okay?

It’s not exactly new information that since Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States, America hasn’t really improved as a nation, despite Trump’s presidential campaign slogan ‘make American great again.’ The majority of the decisions he’s made since winning the election has outraged most of the country, like his decision to ban transgender troops, or the travel ban he enforced just one week after his inauguration.

However, the most recent nation-wide dilemma, – the plan to repeal Obama-era net neutrality protections – even has Trump supporters up in arms, probably because this is the first major decision under Trump’s rule that is actually going to affect all of them.

Net neutrality demands that all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should treat all web traffic the same, and should enable access to all content and applications, regardless of the source, and without favouring or blocking specific products or websites.

Without net neutrality, ISPs will no longer have to treat all internet traffic equally, and will be able to favour certain websites and services over others.

Think of Internet traffic like actual traffic, without net neutrality, ISPs like BT and Verizon can develop literal fast and slow lanes. One certain ISP could have the power to slow down its competitors’ content, or block specific political opinions or beliefs that it disagrees with, and in turn could charge extra fees to the very few content companies that could afford to pay for special treatment, which will degrade everyone else to a slower tier of service. The repeal of net neutrality would destroy the open internet.

On Thursday 14th December 2017, Trump’s Republican-led Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to approve this controversial plan of repealing net-neutrality.

Of course, no one, other than the FCC know what this repeal of net neutrality actually means for users of the Internet, although some people have made their predictions.

The most likely of outcomes, is that the prices the public pay for their Internet will go up, but variety and diversity of accessible web pages will go down and the largest, most well-known of Internet companies will gain a significant advantage over small, upstart companies. As a consumer, the end of net neutrality means your most-used and favourite websites are going to load a lot more slowly, and some of your favourite content may just go away, because your provider can’t pay the fee. The consumer will no longer be in control, the ISP will start to pick the winners and losers instead of the Internet user themselves.

Andrew Leonard used this example in an online article on rollingstone.com: “Let’s say you’re a regular user of Amazon, eBay and Etsy. Currently, you’ve got all those apps on your phone and laptop and they all work perfectly. The pages load fast, and orders go through right away. But you get your service through Verizon, and now, with no net neutrality, Verizon is capable of saying to all three online retailers: ‘hey, if you want to be in the fast lane of the Internet, you have to pay for our premium package’. Amazon and eBay, the two more established and larger online companies can afford to do this, but Esty, as a smaller upstarter company, unfortunately cannot, meaning Etsy will from now on, be in the slow lane, and the next time you want to search for a “Save Net Neutrality” t-shirt to wear to your next protest, the page takes absolutely forever to load.”

But that’s not all. Under the new rules, ISPs won’t just be free to charge more for faster access, they’ll be completely free to simply block access to whatever part of the Internet they feel serves their financial interest. Comcast, for example, may decide that it makes no sense to allow Netflix to compete with its own streaming service and stop allowing its users access to the site.

Right now, it seems to be the end of the Internet as Americans know it. But a legal effort to overturn the decision made by Trump’s FCC is expected to begin immediately. Congress has the power to pass legislation to restore net neutrality, and this could mean greater turn out in the 2018 midterm elections from millennials who care deeply about this issue. Around 18 states also plan on suing the FCC in order to defend net neutrality protections, including New York, California, North Carolina and Virginia.

Hollie Thomson is a final year BSc student in Communication Management and Public Relations. She can be found on Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/holliethomson/ or Facebook: Hollie Thomson

Holidays of a lifetime

For most people, myself included, holidays are the highlight of the year. A lot of time and money goes in to planning and paying for the perfect get away to create experiences we will never forget.

I’m extremely lucky that in the past couple of years I’ve had two of the best holidays I’ll probably have in my life.

 Vietnam and Thailand

Planning started about six months in advance when we gathered a crowd and planned the dates. Then it all became real when we finally booked our flights and had something to look forward to! We headed off to Bangkok for the start of our six week trip not really having a notion what to expect.

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At the Top Gear spot on the Hai Van Pass

Beforehand we had planned a route and had a rough plan as to how long we were staying in each place. First up was Hanoi. Hanoi was absolute mayhem. It is constant madness with so many motorbikes about that you could barely cross the street. While we were here we went to Ha Long Bay for the hyped up Castaway Tour which is a must do if your ever in that neck of the woods! From here the plan was to go to Hue and stay for a couple of days.

After arriving we quickly realised it wasn’t really our cup of tea, so found locals who ran a bike touring company. So we rented bikes and had a guided tour through the Hai Van Pass to our next stop Hoi An. The Hai Van Pass, which some might recognise from Top Gear, was hands down one of the best days of my life and will take a lot of beating!

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Was quite proud of my handywork at bandaging

Next up was Nha Trang where we rented our own three story villa. For the equivalent of around £10 a night it really is true that you can live in luxury for the next to nothing! From there we planned another bike tour to Da Lat. Unfortunately for myself this one wasn’t as successful as the first for me as I ended up putting the bike into a ditch. I’m still maintaining that it was the bikes fault and not mine, but it sort of put a dampener on things! Pretty sure the place we ate that day also served us dog instead of pork, but the less said about that the better. From there we went to Mui Ne and then Ho Chi Minh and got ready to meet up with the other 10 of our group that were flying to meet us in Thailand.

We had 6 different stops in Thailand and so was a lot to squeeze in with a lot to do at each one. It consisted of a lot of boats and buses to get from island to island. Everything was planned around the full moon party in Koh Phangan, which I think should be on everyone’s bucket list. Absolute chaos.

My favourite place was probably Phi Phi, where you would think half of Ireland was there at the time. The elephant sanctuary and white water rafting in Chiang Mai and the Slip N Fly in Koh Phangan were probably the other highlights.

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West Coast of the States

Never having been to America before I was absolutely buzzing to be heading off here for 3 weeks. The plan was to do San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas and Yosemite.

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Probably looking a wee bit too happy than I should have been after the incident

However, the bad luck from Vietnam seemed to follow me when I was held at knife point in a bar in San Francisco. It really wasn’t the way I wanted to spend my first night out in the states, but that’s what I got. Don’t think I put my mum’s mind at ease either writing “Lol some boy just put a knife to my throat” into the family Whatsapp. On the upside it’s a good story to tell (because I’m not dead) and was usually greeted with “Welcome to America” by anyone we told.

We also had to fork out twice for our rental car as, being as stupid as we are, we didn’t realise you needed a credit card to put on file. Eventually we got sorted with the company saying, “You’re lucky you’re Irish” as the reason they helped us out.

Not everything was all doom and gloom but. In fact everything else we did was unbelievable. We did the usual touristy stuff like the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and the San Diego Zoo.

The highlight for me was definitely Las Vegas. We were there the week before the McGregor Mayweather fight, and so the buzz around Vegas was unreal. We went to Wet Republic when DJ Tiesto was playing which is something I’d say everyone should go to if they get the chance. Seeing all the different hotels was absolutely mad and people really don’t lie about how hot it is (all the time) there. After Vegas, Yosemite was the perfect spot for a chill out, with the dogs at our AirBnB greatly assisting in our recovery.

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All in all two absolutely once in a lifetime holidays (which have left me skint) that I don’t think will be topped. But I have learnt that you probably shouldn’t ever go on holiday with me as something bad is bound to happen!

Wonder what’s going to happen next year…

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The car that our Irish charm got us… not much but did the job

Daniel McGrenaghan is a Final Year Public Relations student at the University of Ulster Jordanstown. He can be found on Twitter @danielmcg132

Road Tripping the West Coast of California

Travelling the West Coast of California was the most incredible experience I have had to date and I’m excited to share it all with you in the hope that it is on your bucket list by the time you finish reading this post.

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First things first, when booking flights, accommodation and car hire set yourself a budget in advance and this will make it much easier to manage and save your money.

TIP: Book all accommodation through booking.com (cancellation up to 24 hours), look out for car hire deals on Rentalcars.com on a daily basis (if you are under 25 it will be more expensive), luckily, we got a deal which included the young driver fee.

On 28 August, we arrived in beautiful San Francisco or ‘Fog City’ as some prefer to call it, where you are surrounded by stunning architecture, parks, VERY steep streets and the gorgeous bay area.

 Three of my favourite days in San Francisco

  1. Hop-on-hop-off tour bus, I know what you’re thinking… tourist central, but it is honestly the best way to see the city and after all, you are a tourist!
  2. The Alcatraz Tour, this will take up most of the day and is worth every penny
  3. Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 are beautiful areas to walk, eat and people watch

TIP: 5-7 days is enough time to explore the city, bring comfortable footwear, it is chilly so bring jeans and a jacket and I assure you, this is the only time you will need this attire on your trip!

During our time in San Francisco we allowed 2 days to travel to Yosemite National Park, where we reserved a camp space ($18) 5 months in advance. Yosemite gave us the full camping experience, from cooking dinner & breakfast on a campfire to having zero phone signal.

TIP: Hike to Nevada Falls, it was unbelievable. The route is ranked ‘difficult’ but is definitely doable and took us 4.5 hours.

 

 

Back in San Francisco, we picked up our little blue racer and headed for Highway 1, not before Cathal almost drove into the side of Walmart, the sound of the American woman’s voice is still ringing in my ears ‘WATCH WHERE YOU’RE GOING, DUMBASS.’

Our next stop was Avenue Inn and Suites in San Luis Obispo (SLO), a small ‘student’ sort of town, although we didn’t get to a sorority party it was the cutest town EVER. A one night stay was perfect!

TIP: Stop in Monterey on the way down for lunch at any restaurant on the pier. In SLO look out for ‘Bubble-gum Alley’ it is disgustingly cool.

Next up was Santa Barbara, the quirkiest town with beautiful houses, cobbled streets, unique shops and restaurants all within walking distance from our accommodation, the Orange Tree Inn.

TIP: There is a handy bus stop every 200 metres down the strip, the open bus comes every 10 mins, this will take you to the beach for ($1.50).

Hi View Inn & Suites in Manhattan Beach was by far the best accommodation of the whole trip. We chose to stay just outside LA and used Uber which was cheap and cheerful. Manhattan Beach is a relaxing area with very few tourists which we loved!

TIPS: Stop in Santa Monica before you reach Manhattan Beach, hire bikes and cycle the boardwalk to Venice Beach it is SO much fun!

Hike to the Hollywood sign, it takes about 2 hours and you will get amazing views of LA.

Visit Rodeo Drive, the more luxurious side of LA with a strip of designer shops.

Finally, have a coffee break at Alfred’s Coffee House (490 N Beverly Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210, USA).

 

LD1

 

San Clemente was our second last stop, this was really only to ‘rest our heads’ for one night. There isn’t much to do here except chill on the gorgeous beach which is walking distance from San Clemente Inn.

TIPS: Stop off at Laguna Beach before you reach San Clemente, parking is cheap, it is a beautiful place to have lunch and a walk around the town.

In San Clemente, dine at The Fisherman’s Restaurant and Bar with the sound of the waves crashing right below you.

Last but certainly not least of our West Coast (‘best coast’) experience was San Diego. We stayed in the amazing Kings Inn, it is 10 minutes out of the city centre but easily accessed from Highway 1, driving into the city was super easy (says me in the passenger seat) but Cathal agreed! It was comfortable, spacious and had a great pool and Jacuzzi.

TIP: Visit the zoo (we are children at heart), it is the rated the No.1 in the world and I couldn’t agree more!

Pay a visit to Fashion Valley outlet shopping mall for all the best deals

Dock the boat from downtown San Diego to Coronado Island for $5 and cycle around the 84.6km island, the 15-minute boat ride provides breath-taking views of San Diego’s skyline.

I mean… you can’t fly all the way to the states and not pay a visit to the big apple. New York was our very last stop before heading back to Dublin.

TIP: The trusty hop-on-hop-off tour bus, in just 4 days we were able to see the city under no pressure.

Our favourite places where Brooklyn Bridge, Top of the Rock (go during the day), Central Park, 230th Roof Top Bar on 5th Avenue, 911 memorial… I guess all of it was pretty amazing but those are the ‘must-dos’

LD20

GENERAL ‘MUST KNOWS’ FOR THIS TRIP:

  •  All accommodation SO easily accessed from Highway 1
  • Do not pay extra for a GPS from the car hire company, your iPhone is just as good
  • You’ll notice that there isn’t much negativity in this post, that is genuinely because everywhere we visited and stayed was amazing
  • If I have been successful in inspiring you to book a trip to palm tree paradise & spectacular New York City, I hope you enjoy every minute of it!

 

Laura Duffy is a final year Public Relations Student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Instagram @laura_duffyy and on Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/laura-duffy-8803b7105/