A Stateside Summer

A Stateside Summer

Home for the next 14 weeks…

Wow! Where do I even begin to describe the BEST summer of my entire life? Well…

The 8th June, 2018 at Dublin Airport <DUB>. The day I left all my friends and family behind for 14 weeks to go and work at a summer camp, in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

GA6
Saying goodbye to my family!(my dad and brother trying not to cry was so cute!)

After a 6 hour flight, I touched down at Logan International Airport, Boston <BOS>.  A couple of hours of waiting around later, the Camp Assistant Directors, Vicky and Kevin came to collect me and a few (equally as nervous) camp-goers. Little did I know, within weeks, these people would become some of my best friends in the world!

A 90 minute bus journey later, and I had arrived at a place I now called home, Camp Burgess and Hayward,  in a small town called Sandwich (lol yes, i know), Cape Cod, Massachusetts. I was greeted by about 10 or so people, who arrived at camp before me (one of them being my best friend Jessie – who i’ll talk about later!). Everyone was immediately so so friendly and welcoming, I couldn’t believe it! First thing was first though…SLEEP! I could feel the jet lag starting to kick in already. The Camp Director, Allie, brought me and another girl, Megan, from Liverpool to our room where we would be staying the ENTIRE summer as ROOMIES!

Where it all began…

GA5
This is the van – my baby for 3 months! Fun fact: in this picture the van was stuck in sand for 6 hours, where we had to be rescued by the local police and then be threatened with a $1000 fine for it to be towed!!!! Luckily enough the tow-truck man loved my accent so let us off for free!

So basically, it’s a funny story how this whole trip came about. I initially never really had much interest or knowledge about the whole ‘Camp America’ thing, but my friend Jessie (who I mentioned before) had applied and was offered a job as a Horseback Director in January, at Camp Burgess and Hayward. She told me that she had got placed and I was over the moon for her, but also envious that I still had no plans for the summer.

Anyway, a few months passed, and in April, Jessie mentioned that the camp was still advertising for people to come and help out for the summer, and that they needed people to be van drivers. As soon as she told me I couldn’t have emailed the Camp Director, Allie any quicker. A whole 3 months at a summer camp, with my best friend, driving around in a van?! SO much fun, I couldn’t say no!

Allie (who was the BEST BOSS EVER) emailed me back and we arranged a phone interview. The interview consisted of questions about my driving abilities where I completely lied and said I had drove 1) an automatic before, 2) a van before and 3) on the other side of the road before. Thankfully Allie trusted me enough to give me the job!

So there it was – I was officially going Stateside for the summer, with 2 months to save up enough money to last me 14 weeks and to fill out enough paperwork to last me a LIFETIME.

A day in the life…

Every single day at camp was so different. There was a general schedule which we followed every day, but what happened within that day just depended. Each morning at 7.50am we would have ‘flagpole’. This was a fun way to start the day where a member of staff would stand up and do something to help wake everyone up, like teach everyone a dance or do some stretches. We then raised the flag and said the Pledge (so American, I know!)

We would then go to the dining hall for breakfast, which was usually something like pancakes or waffles (believe me, after eating the same food every day for 3 months you start to get sick of it). Although the food was always amazing and the kitchen staff worked so hard to cater for almost 400 people a day!

As one of my duties as Resource Specialist (the scientific name for van driver), I would do a run into the local town, Hyannis, which was about 20 minutes away, at 10am, where people would spend their days off. After that, I would usually have somGA3e wee jobs to do  in the morning time, like collect things for camp or do the daily Dunkin’ Donuts run!

Whenever I didn’t have any van related jobs, I would spend my time at the waterfront, playing on the water trampoline, over at horseback with the 12 gorgeous horses we had (Elsa was my favourite) or playing on the slip ‘n’ slide. Yes I know, my summer job was SO DIFFICULT AND BORING!!

Lunch and dinner time in the dining hall was by far one of my favourite parts of the day. Everybody gets up and sings at the top of their lungs, standing up on chairs and dancing around the place like crazy people! At the beginning it is so daunting, because everybody knows each other so well from previous years at camp, and being the new ‘international’, you feel so shy and awkward, but after a few times, you soon start to learn all the words and become just as crazy as the rest!

GA2
This was the big bags of paint that we separated into small buckets. My hands were stained green for DAYS!

At camp, one of the big events was the colour run. This was one of my highlights of camp. The run was 5k around the camp property, and all the kids and staff took part. Hundreds of dollars worth of powered paint was ordered in, there was inflatables, waterguns, a popcorn stand and speakers blasting music all day. The atmosphere was literally unbelievable! It was a day i’ll never forget.

The grand finale of camp was our 2 day long colour war, M&P (Mariners and Pioneers). The Mariners are the blue team, and the Pioneers are the red team. The neutral team in the middle was purple (the team I was on).I can’t put into words how seriously this colour war is taken. Looking back it’s funny because it’s only a colour war at a summer camp, but people get so competitive. There literally was blood, sweat and tears over the course of the 2 days.

The Pionners won this year, and the moment it was announced, the whole camp ERUPTED! It was such an amazing way to end the best 3 months of my life.

After camp ended, me, Jessie and Megan did some travelling for 2 weeks. We went to Boston, New York and New Orleans. Safe to say it was a crazy whirlwind of events. I’ll leave it at that.

Anyway, here I am, a month and a half now i’ve been home. In final year and working 35 hours a week. The joys!! Roll on next June when I can return to the second place I like to call home!

G x

GA4

Grainne Arkins is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/grainne-arkins-a54401173/ and Twitter: @GrainneArkins

 

Anna’s Declassified University Survival Guide.

Anna’s Declassified University Survival Guide.

AG7

As the cliché goes, “university will be the best days of your life.” Now don’t get me wrong. Being a student is great. Most of us go to class a mere nine hours a week compared to 6 hours a day when we were in school. We get to live with our best friends (there for being able to borrow their clothes everyday), we have  independence for the first time, meeting new people is inevitable and getting to try new things is a must. It’s great. However, like everything else in the world it has its downsides.

When talking about university with friends or family what most people will never mention is the amount of stress and anxiety we as students face every day. Behind all the socialising and freedom we will encounter large amounts of university work, social anxiety, money problems and feeling like we have absolutely no idea what we’re doing. Don’t worry if you’re feeling over whelmed, you are not alone! A new report showed that a massive 82% of students at a university in the UK claimed to have suffered from stress and anxiety when starting their course. Out of these only 25% said they would ask for help as the others said they wouldn’t know where to find it or else they’re too embarrassed to ask for it.

I have came up with tips from my university experience that will help you unwind, relax and enjoy this experience as much as you can (and no they don’t all involve socialising and drinking.)

  1. Partying

I may as well start with most student’s favourite topic. Partying. Who doesn’t love having a night out with your friends, wearing your new favourite jeans, all for the night to end with you all in the pizza shops struggling to get a taxi home. Nights out can create some of our best university memories, however you don’t need to feel under pressure to go out every night, no one enjoys this.

AG3

Alongside it being expensive, waking up with a hangover before going to class is one of the worst feelings ever. Rather than always picking a bar to socialise in invite friends down to watch a movie or go for food. It’s cheaper and saves you having a killer hangover the next day. If you want to get out of the house most cities have cinemas and crazy golf as well , both are social and will give you a chance to catch up with friends without having to shout over loud club music into each other’s ears.

  1. People

Our parents have always told us it’s important to always surround yourself with the right people, and guess what? They’ve been right all these years. When we’re in university, most of us have some type of idea of the person we are, and want to become. Surround yourself by like minded people. Focus on the good people in your life, the ones that motivate you and want you to achieve the best you can. Surround yourself with friends that will be happy for your success and are willing to spend countless hours in the library with you rather than people who will miss two classes a week so they can stay at home and catch upon their latest Netflix binge.

AG6

3. Money

As soon as our student loans come into our accounts it feels like we are rich (if only for a few hours). We convince ourselves we deserve those new shoes after all the hard work we’ve been doing all year and now ordering dinner seems like the much more attractive option over pasta and a jar of Dolimo sauce. However, don’t be fooled! Yes it’s nice to treat yourself once in a while but this money will primarily be needed for university essentials- rent, textbooks and your cost of traveling to and from university.

JM2

Over the past three years I’ve figured out what I spend the majority of my loan on and figured out how to minimise it. Firstly there’s rent, expensive and unfortunately unavoidable, so let’s move on. The second biggest cause of my painfully small bank balance is of course… drink and food. The best and easiest ways I deal with this is having a balance. You don’t need to eat less to save money on food, you just need to eat smart. If you’re feeling lazy and want a take away for dinner go onto google and search food places with discount codes for students. If it’s a Tuesday and you and your flat mate are big pizza lovers, Domion’s does “Two for two Tuesdays” where you get two pizzas for the price of one.

Similar to this, pick clubs and bars that do student offers such as “90p drinks.” It will save you a fortune. Give yourself a budget that you can afford to spend on a night out. Then take this money out, put it in your purse and leave the bank card at home. Your head and bank balance will be thankful for this tip in the morning, trust me.

So there we have it, my top three tips to help you survive university. Even though it sounds like I have a lot of bad things to say about university, I wouldn’t chance my experience for the world. Endless laughs everyday with your friends, being able to stay in your pj’s until 2pm and no one in your house will judge you if it’s 2am and you want to order a Chinese.

If you’re feeling over whelmed it’s okay to miss a night out and hop on the bus home. At the end of the day nothing will beat a home cooked meal and getting cosy up on the sofa catching up with your family and watching your favourite TV show.

Anna Grant is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Instagram- @annagrantx.

 

Semester scary

Growing up in the absolute middle of nowhere for the past 18 years could have never prepared me for the transition from the country to the city, or school to uni. Garron tower was the castle on the hill, not just a school but a community and unfortunately in September, I learnt that Jerusalem Street was not exactly the same. For the duration of my upper 6th year, the stress of A-levels had made me that pupil who couldn’t wait to leave and move on to university. A few weeks into my first semester however, things took a turn, and I would have done anything to press rewind. The transition from primary to secondary school, at the innocent age of 11, seemed to be the biggest moment of my life (or so I thought). A big new building with 800 pupils and an oversized uniform that made me feel tinier than I already was. Fast-forward 7 years and Ulster University Jordanstown was unfortunately an even bigger step; one I didn’t think I could take.

Truthfully, I thought I had a fair idea of what ‘uni life’ had to offer when I left the house that Sunday evening, with an Asda bag full of the essentials and a huge grin on my face. My sister has been at uni for the past 2 years and the thrill of partying and staying with her in ‘the big smoke’ was the only real experience I had. Lying in bed, nursing a sore head, whilst she attempted to make herself presentable for class was exactly what I expected and couldn’t wait for. Unfortunately, reality soon became my enemy. Uni wasn’t what I had anticipated, and I soon became that girl. Struggling to get ready, panicking about missing the bus and not being able to find my class.

For me, first semester wasn’t all fun and games. I felt so out of my depth and frankly, quite stupid. I thought everyone around me was 10 times smarter than I was and that I would ultimately never be able to survive until graduation, drop out, become a sad and uneducated 40-year-old, who had been shamed the uni drop out, failure and disappointment of the family…phew. What about my aspirations to become a highly paid successful professional, with a just as successful husband, 3 kids, a dog and a huge house? Dramatic, I know, but honestly, I couldn’t see myself surviving until Christmas, never mind final year. Who would have thought when you came to uni you would actually have to do work?! Is it not all about the craic? After 3 assignments and 4 tests I’ve realised it’s not…BUT, that doesn’t mean you can’t have an absolute blast.

I know I’m making semester one out to be the worst thing in the world but it’s honestly how I felt. However, what I’ve came to realise with the aid of my new friends, who I had originally deemed the next Einstein’s, is that everyone is in the same boat, so don’t worry.  Uni is a scary place for a first year and no matter how clever you know you are you begin doubting yourself and your ability. You disregard the fact you got the grades and you’re fit for the degree, all you need is the motivation to work for it. Don’t let the fear of the unknown ruin your uni experience, especially first year. This is the time to let all the partying out of your system and discover more about who you are (as cliché as it sounds).  You need to remember you didn’t work your butt off at school to come this far and only this far. Embrace all the worries and wonders student life has to offer and take them in your stride. After all, your student days are the best days of your life; fact. No matter how many times you convince yourself you can’t do it, you can and you will.

In the wise words of Samantha Montgomery, “Don’t let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.”

Thanks for reading!

HG1

 

Holly Gillan is a first year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on: Instagram – hollygillan987 ; Twitter – @Hollyg453

 

What has Christmas become?

I’d like to begin by saying I am by no means a ‘Christmas scrooge’. In fact, I would go as far as saying Christmas is my favourite time of the year, what’s not to like about getting time off university and celebrating with your family with a few drinks and lots and lots of food along the way? However, nowadays Christmas is all about presents and the stress that comes with buying presents, especially for those with young children. Although I doubt there are very many people that would change the idea of exchanging gifts at Christmas, including myself.

RM14

I personally believe that Christmas has become far too commercial. Christmas is a religious holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus, although I must admit I wouldn’t say I’d be the best Christian but I would always attend church on Christmas Day. However, this is becoming less and less common as years go on, kids now grow up thinking a man named Santa is generous enough to bring them gifts if they are well behaved while missing the real meaning of Christmas. People generally get more excited about the famous Coca Cola advert than the true meaning of Christmas and why we celebrate it.

RM10

In my eyes, Christmas has become all about getting the biggest, most expensive presents and having the best Christmas decorations in your street. It has almost turned into a competition – “I have better decorations than you do” or “I got better presents for my kids than you did” it’s becoming ridiculous. I had a conversation with a member of staff in my work last week and he told me he has been working 50-55 hours a week for the past month to save up money for his kids because they have written ‘Santa letters’ worth over £500 each. I thought to myself that it’s crazy that you’re working these long overtime hours because your kids live in a generation that Christmas is all about presents, which has resulted in putting yourself through all this stress to save money to buy these presents whenever you could settle for buying you kids less and instead spend more time with them coming up to the festive period rather than being stuck in Tesco, which I can guarantee they would appreciate more in the long run.

RM11

Working in retail, I witness at first hand the mayhem that evolves around this time of the year. I see mums, dads, boyfriends and girlfriends running around in panic, spending as much money as they need to keep everyone content with their Christmas presents. People simply spend money at will without worrying how much they are spending in order to fit in with the commercial aspect of Christmas, rather than its true meaning. Having said this, I still agree that presents are a nice gesture at Christmas and they add to the celebrations, however I feel there would be a much more balanced spread between basing Christmas around presents and remembering the real meaning behind it.

RM12

Although all that I’ve mentioned above isn’t always the case, there are still a small number, in fact a very small number of people that ignore all the hype and teach their children to live by the true meaning of Christmas rather than the modern commercialised version. In the 1950’s the average child would get up on Christmas day and go to church in full Christmas spirit, knowledgeable of what Christmas really meant. He or she then would have come home and perhaps received a few presents. However, in today’s world kids get up as early as 6am and open an entire stocking worth of presents that their parents have no doubt worked very hard to purchase. After opening all the presents some kids would be forced by their parents to attend church or in some cases the family would forget about church and enjoy the rest of their day. The excitement around Christmas is buying and receiving presents rather than celebrating the birth of Jesus, therefore I can conclude than Christmas has become extremely commercialised.

RM13

 

Rory McAllister is a final year BSc in Communication, Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found at: @R_McAllister14 on Twitter.

Happy Blogmas

It’s the most wonderful time of the year– well to me it is anyways. I’ve always been a fan of Xmas, I just love the smell that comes with it, and for some reason everyone is just always happier. With the lead up to Christmas, many of us attempt to lose a bit of weight, purely so we don’t feel as guilty for the endless amount of celebrations and quality street we consume for breakfast. For me, I’m already embracing the pig in a blanket look, whereby I’m masking my Xmas physique with many woolly layers of clothing. So, I thought a little ‘blogmas’ post would be fitting considering Christmas is pending.

CMF10

I’ve been watching Xmas movies since even before Halloween, so I guess you could say I’ve the Christmas movies well sussed out- here’s a few to keep use going over the crimbo hols!

Must watches:

1. ELF
2. The Grinch
3. The Night Before
4. Home Alone – Lost in NY
5. Fred Clause
6. Four Christmases
7. Deck the Halls
8. Jack Frost
9. Santa Clause (1,2 & 3)
10. Love Actually

You know Christmas is approaching fast, whenever the house is coming down with crates of Shloer and you lowkey have a bottle with dinner every night from now till Christmas, the tins of Quality street and Celebrations are stocked up and well out of site, so no one can get their hands on them, and the house has a constant scent of cinnamon from Christmas candles being burnt continually. Although in my family the chocolate stash is well raided before Christmas, hence why the body will be delayed this year yet again. Through a lot of debate and tastings from celebrations a well-rounded ranking has been established, which is presented below.

CMF11

 

 

 

*Note: Galaxy Caramel sadly didn’t make the cut in the ranking due to them all being inhaled before the positions were decided!

 

 

 

 

 

Que being a slight Bah humbug…

More than ever, Christmas has turned into a money racket as my mummy would say, acting like she is going to put an end to  going over board each Christmas. Even though our living room door is covered in Christmas wrapping paper for me and my sister to run through in the morning, as well as our presents being wrapped in 2 different colours, so we can tell who’s is whose of course , may I also add me and my sister are 20 and 22 (not complaining though). So I blame my mother for me being such a Christmas fanatic.

Christmas is also a busy period for all the festive activities which we have to attend, like the annual trip to the Christmas markets, staff do’s and the 12 pubs of Christmas, at this time of year they are basically compulsory to participate in. However, all these festivities do leave a hole in the pocket, and many people’s funds are low, especially the student loan (roll on Jan for a wee top up). However, with Christmas slowly but surely becoming so orientated around gifts and pressures to get the right present. It forces some people to spend money they don’t have, to try and meet the materialistic standards set by society. At this time of the year, if my mummy buys me a Chinese it’ll be part of the Xmas present too. In other words, we are all so infatuated in spending money to get the flashiest gifts for people, we often get too caught up in it, and forget what Christmas is actually about (As cheesy and cliché as it sounds), but we do. There’s no doubt that receiving and getting presents for people is satisfying, especially when you see their face gleam up whilst unravelling the paper.

CMF12

As I’ve kind of matured (slightly, not a lot), I’ve come to realise that yea presents are great at the time, but they don’t make up for everything. Many families dread Christmas, due to a loss of family member, whether it was recent or long ago, however that empty place at the dinner table on Christmas day is more obvious than ever. For me it’s my wee granny, Christmas has never been the same without her and I’m sure many can relate to how their Christmas experience has changed massively from losing that certain someone. What I’m trying to say is appreciate what you have around you, and it’s nice to be nice, especially around this time of year because no one knows what this festive period means to people. So, just remember ‘he who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree’.

Before ending my lil blog post, be sure and have yourself a very Merry Christmas!
CYA, Clodagh xx

Clodagh McFaul is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/clodaghmcfaul/ ; Facebook – https://en-gb.facebook.com/clodagh.mcfaul ; LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/clodagh-mcfaul-592381173/

 

Boston Blues

Fáilte,
The title isn’t just about how I miss my time in Boston. It’s more than that. It tells the short story of the whole reason I was there in the first place. To play Gaelic football for the Shannon Blues of Boston.

CL1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shannon Blues crest

It was mid June and I had been toying with the prospect of going for a while. It was a year of mixed emotions for me with a lot of ups and downs. Part of me thought getting away for the summer would help but for the most part I was scared that deep down I’m a real home bird and that I’d never be able to do It. The idea of leaving home properly for the first time was daunting. Making the journey across the big pond to the US. Alone. I at times asked myself if I was going crazy. Luckily I had Gaelic football which for many young Irish men is their ticket over to Boston or wider afield, and costs us little to nothing at all. Still, money was not the limiting factor rather it was whether or not I had the courage to go by myself.

On the 20th of June a few hours into the flight I diagnosed myself insane. Another three hours later I had arrived in Logan airport in Boston. Picked up by a man I didn’t know much about and brought to a house full of other young Irish lads at the same chapter in life as myself. A couple of days passed by and I was almost regretting the decision. By the third day, somehow and inexplicably over night the lads I had been staying with and the team that I had joined became my new family. A band of brothers is what we had become and our manager aka “Biscuits” had become a father to us all while we were there. We went about our day enjoying the sun and come night-time there was always a buzz around the city. When it came time to play football we did just that. The quality of football surprised a lot of us first timers that had made the journey over the Atlantic. Even more so the quality of home based players or actual Americans who adopted the sport was truly amazing to see. Although he wasn’t on my team, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Diarmuid Connolly the Dublin five time All Ireland winner; was a bit surreal. I’m sure for those who have been in in America their whole lives it was even more meaningful to have a living legend of the game like him come over and showcase his skills in their own backyard. At the end of the day we were all there to do the same thing. Enjoy our summers and do what we cherished, which was play ball.

I would like to speak for all the lads not just on my team but for all of the Irish lads who traveled to Boston to play football in the summer of 2018. We appreciate and thank everyone who was able to make it happen. We each joined a new family and hopefully we will see them again in the near future.

Some of the Shannon Blues and I

This being my first blog post is really just a quick insight into what I wanted to share with whoever was interested in reading. There is a lot more to tell and an interesting array of topics I could get into in the future. Let me know what you might like to hear about my travels through any of my contact details below. Thanks for reading folks.

Go raibh maith agat.

Connell Lemon is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found at: Instagram – connell_lemon97 ; Facebook – Connell  Lemon.

The surprisingly holy holy lands

Holy lands? Nothing holy about the place. With a name like ‘the holy lands’ and street names that consist of Palestine Street, Jerusalem Street and Damascus Street, you’d imagine this place to be a very quiet, religious area. But that’s where you’re mistaken. In the center of Belfast, this area is dominated by students who drink five nights a week and Romanians. Like every 18-year-old when going to university I was skeptical about living in the holy lands, as their life style focused more on partying and not enough on their academic studies. After deciding to live down with my friends as a student, my suspicions were confirmed. Despite blessing our house with holy water, some demons definitely got in. These are not the usual demons that you hear about at mass, these are the demons that are controlled and possessed by one too many jaeger bomb. Despite having holy water in our house, the only holy water we needed was a spar slush puppy to help cure our three-day hangover. This was my regular healing process each week.

However, it does seem that there are miracles happening in this area, as people be drinking to five o’clock in the morning and still manage to make their 9’oclock lectures looking like they’ve had their Weetabix and 8 hours sleep. I myself fell a victim of the late night drinking and the early lecture partaking. It seems like a great idea at the time, however, the next morning this was definitely not one of my good ideas.

Located in the heart of the holy lands, was our very own food shelter in the form of press 29. This is where most student could have a nice warm meal and discuss with their own Samaritans about which commandment they may have or have not broken the night before. I could honestly say there has been times, where I feel this place has truly saved me.

In addition, we do show our faith once a year, as we celebrate our dear St. Patrick on the 17th of March, for freeing Ireland from snakes. On this day we take to the streets with music and alcohol to show our appreciation for the patron saint of Ireland. When taking to the streets us student have our own rendition of Noah when he was in the ark with all the animals. It is otherwise known to us students as rock the boat. It’s basically the same thing.

The holy lands can be all fun and games, until everyone’s student loans start to wither away. This normally starts a month after returning for fresher’s. At this point we would be praying for Jesus himself to appear and perform the feeding of the 5000…students. I think every student at this point, would be well and truly grateful for a free feed, even if it is only fish and bread. As much as they would prefer it too be a Boojum. Beggars can’t be choosers!

I suppose the holy lands does show traits of being a holy place in its own way, as there does be a lot of praying, modern day student miracles and celebration of saints. In theory, it is a holy land however, it is an unorthodox fashion.

Finally, despite the flaws of going to Hatfield every Sabbath, Limelight every Monday, and back to the Hatfield on a Tuesday. I have still managed to secure my place in final year, and that is well and truly a miracle in itself. I would advise every student with the option to live nowhere else but the holy lands.

Chloe Toner is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: LinkedIn – linkedin.com/in/chloe-toner-937039153