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.

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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.

Europe by train – My Inter-rail journey

Europe by train – My Inter-rail journey

For anyone looking for an alternative holiday this summer I would strongly advise on giving Inter-railing a go. Personally I didn’t have a clue what inter-railing was until my brother went five years ago with four of his mates. The photos and experiences he shared instantly made me want to give inter-railing a go.

Ever since then the idea of going inter-railing was regularly talked about within my friend groups but it wasn’t until this year that something materialised when me and two other friends from Omagh decided to set off on the 2 week long journey.

Choosing your ticket

When planning your trip there are a couple of different ticket options you can choose from, Deciding on your ticket really depends on your own personal preferences and circumstances, we however went for the cheapest ticket which allowed us to travel to 5 different countries in the space of 15 days which was perfect for us. With our ticket we were restricted to travelling on only 5 single days within the 15 day period, other tickets allow you to travel on 7 or 10 days with the most expensive ticket allowing you to travel continually for 1 whole month. Ticket prices can be found here.

 

Planning your itinerary

Personally one of the main spots I wanted to visit was Lake Bled, Slovenia ( which I for one can say is one of the most picturesque places I have ever visited, absolutely breath-taking scenes) while my mates wanted to visit Berlin and Krakow.

Prior to our departure we really did little to no planning or organising other than ordering our inter-rail ticket and booking our flights to our start location.  I know some people prefer to be a little more organised than we were, but we were three laid back, easy going lads to say the least (we pretty much winged the whole thing tbh).

On the contrary we met people that had their whole 2-4 weeks planned out ahead of themselves with train reservations, hostels, nightclubs, pub crawls and tours booked two months in advance. This organised and planned approach didn’t really appeal to any of us so we just booked our hostel and any other reservations for the next location the day before we arrived.

Our Route

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Our starting location was Venice, Italy. The reason for this was simple, it was the cheapest flight we could get in and around central Europe.

Venice was a really nice spot, although very expensive we were lucky enough to get booked into a cheap hostel chain (Generator Hostels – which I would highly recommend) where we spent most our time sampling some of Italy’s famous Aperol Spritz’ for only €2.

On our first night out in Venice we met two brothers from Canada who coincidentally were staying in the same hostel as us and who we actually got to know pretty well (thanks to a bottle of vodka and a drinking game) but I will talk about these guys later.

After our two night stay in Venice, it was time to move on to location No.2 : Lake Bled. I’m sure most of you have seen or at least heard of Lake Bled and I am nearly certain that most if not all reports about this place were astonishing, and rightly so. Slovenia was one of the cheapest destinations on our trip with our hostel costing a mere €7 each.

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From Lake Bled it was then off to Budapest, one of Europe’s most popular party hotspots. One of the best and worst part of Budapest was our hostel, which was located just above a bar which played live music up until 5am. A key highlight of the trip was when we visited the famous Budapest ‘Sparty’ (a must) which was a huge spa party in the Szechenyi thermal baths.  This is where we bumped into our Canadian friends we had met in Venice. I always thought it was so weird that out of 192 countries in the world, 50,000 odd cities and 7.5 billion people, we met the same people twice, in two different countries… what are the chances?

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After Budapest we travelled further east towards Krakow, Poland. Unfortunately, it rained for most of our stay there so we didn’t get out to see much. We did however get the chance to join the hostels pub crawl which is something I would highly recommend if you are travelling by yourself as it is a great way of meeting new and interesting people and also gives the chance to visit a variety of the city’s local ‘watering holes’.

Now it was time to make our way west in the direction of Berlin, this was our longest train journey of the whole trip which required a mammoth 10-hour commute. Some people are daunted by the long commuting hours involved with inter-railing but when you’re with your friends and in the right company the hours can really fly by.

Berlin is one of the most complete city’s you probably will ever visit in my opinion, the mixture between culture, nightlife and tourist attractions is magnificent and offers you plenty to do over your 2-3 days.

Berlin nightclubs are known for being the best in the world, So obviously we had to try them out. Before entering one of the clubs we were informed by the abnormally strict bouncers that cameras were prohibited inside and that we had to put a sticker over the cameras lens on our phone, this threw us a little and we really didn’t know what to expect when we got in but I can honestly say that it was one of the best nights out I have ever had, the best of it was the place didn’t close until 8am!

This meant that we could step out of the nightclub at 7am, grab our bags at the hostel and make our way to the train station for or final train journey to Amsterdam at 9am, fresh. as. a. daisy.JM1

Upon arrival to Amsterdam Central station, this concluded our inter-railing journey. Following 2 weeks of hectic travelling and partying, our energy along with our funds were quite depleted so we used the remaining two days to just chill out and reminisce on our eventful inter-railing experience.

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James McGirr is a final year BSc Public Relations & Communication Management student at Ulster University. He can be found on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/james-mcgirr-247328143/

Dealing with an Addiction

When you look at these postcards what do you see or feel?

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I see adventure, memories and I start to feel excited.

I’m sure that when you read the title of this blog you were going to be reading a hard hitting, fact telling and emotional story about a drug or alcohol addiction, but I’m sorry to perhaps burst your bubble, that my addiction is traveling.

Perhaps calling it an addiction is bit much, its more of an obsession or a passion.

I first started noticing my obsession when every other Facebook status, tweet or Instagram post was from profiles that talk about traveling. Whether that be a video on the top 5 reasons to visit Iceland, to a stunning picture of a scenic destination or just someone writing about their travels to Mexico. This was going on for a while, and then I started searching the cost of flights or hotel prices to a certain destination that found its way onto my social media feeds. Which would then involve me signing up to the likes of travel and hotel compare sites for the best deals and being bombarded everyday with emails from the likes of:

  • Booking.com
  • Hotels.com
  • Secret Escapes
  • Airbnb
  • Groupon
  • Wowcher
  • Oasis Travel
  • Jet2City Breaks
  • Jet2Holidays

The list goes on. (Feel free to use this list for your next travels)

Not only does having emails after emails from the above list trigger that there might be a problem arising, but I also have a profile with every single company and every single company has an app for smartphones being the 21st Century, which obviously means I have them all on my phone. I recently had to buy a new phone with more storage because I couldn’t bare to delete the apps from my old phone.

I noticed recently that a way in which I try to go on an adventure is finding a comedy show or a music concert that I want to see and finding out if there is a way that I can see that show or concert in a different country rather than seeing them locally in Belfast.

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I have thought about my experience of having a travel obsession and have decided to list a number of reasons that show how I am obsessed with traveling. Please use this to your advantage when diagnosing yourself.

  1. Your Travel list is very long
  2. You are a member of every travel company or compare site
  3. There is no better feeling than when the plane or car takes off on your new adventure
  4. You start planning your next trip on your current trip
  5. You get restless if you don’t have a trip planned soon
  6. You get super excited when your plane or hotel is finally booked
  7. TripAdvisor and travel blogs are your go to read
  8. You get almost as excited about planning the trip as actually going
  9. Your phone is full of travel apps
  10. You go through security at any airport on autopilot (no pun intended)
  11. When someone tells you, they’re going on a trip you instantly want to know every detail
  12. You often feel the need to butt in and offer your travel planning expertise
  13. Your phones camera library is like a Travel Channel on steroids
  14. Any photo on social media that you stumble upon becomes a new place you will have to visit in the future
  15. You always have a half-unpacked suitcase laying around
  16. Every trip no matter how close to home becomes an adventure

My travelling is certainly not up to the standard of those Instagram posts that we all see. Due to being a student and definitely not having the funds to go to the amazing places that I want to go to. For me a good traveling adventure is even just staying a night away in Belfast, or out to Enniskillen, Dublin or even Portrush. My most recent trip was to Lusty Beg Island. It was very last minute and I got the deal off Wowcher. I had an amazing two nights away being carefree and  having no responsibility, being able to do what you want and having no one question what I’m doing.

Which is a nice change considering I do live with my parents. Also, being able to make memories with the people I travel with. I don’t travel to boast about where I am or what I’m doing, and therefore I find that I don’t put a lot of my photos on Social Media, I prefer to have them for myself to share with close friends and family and to keep the memories close to my chest.

I find that having such an obsession not only can be exciting and fun but can also be distracting in jobs and when doing Uni work. It can certainly bring tension between the people I want to travel with and myself, as I am constantly tagging them in holiday competitions on Facebook or under videos of places I want to go. It can be hard because the people I’m tagging possibly don’t want to go or can’t afford it while I just keep gong on about the places I want to see with them.

I sometimes drive myself mad with it, as when I have something in mind I obsess over it until I am told its not going to happen or I find somewhere else I want to go and obsess over it.

I have a tone of places I want to go and see, and I hope that it won’t be long until I’m back on a plane or in my car and taking that next adventure. the video below is 100% my travel bucket list…for now. check it out:

Aimee Orr is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on: LinkedIn: aimee-orr Twitter: @aimeeorr13

10 tips for both surviving and embracing an Erasmus year in Spain

Erasmus is an amazing opportunity to study abroad in another European country while receiving funding from the EU. I spent my Erasmus year in Madrid, Spain teaching English to children in a primary school, and I had the most amazing year. It has shaped me as a person in so many ways. I can now say I am a more confident person and I can even do my own washing and ironing! Sadly, Erasmus is a scheme that has a rather uncertain future with Brexit around the corner, so I’m here to tell you not only how to survive it, but how to embrace it while it’s still a thing. ‘Cus, you don’t know what you’ve got ’til its gone and all that.

    1. Don’t book your accommodation online. Go and see it first!
      If you are going to be living in these digs for around 9/10 months, they’re going to have to be decent. Imagine booking a place online and paying a reservation fee only to arrive and it still be a building site, and then having to live with no kitchen for your first week, no central heating (the entire time) and worst of all, no WiFi for two weeks. I bet you think I’m joking and that’s a hypothetical situation I’ve just concocted in my head. Well it’s not. It happened to me. Here is some photographic evidence if you still don’t believe me.
    2. Your language skills will only improve if you make the effort.
      If you want to improve your Spanish skills, establish this with every Spanish person you meet when you meet them. If you begin speaking to them in English it will stick. And it’s very awkward and embarrassing to then switch languages half way through knowing a person. Depending on where you are in Spain, there may be a lot of temptation to just speak English. Which is fine if that’s what you want to do, but in my case I was there to improve my Spanish, and sometimes you have to push yourself and make extra effort to do so. If you don’t know any Spanish people you can speak to, research where your local intercambio (language exchange) takes place. These are a fun, relaxed way to practice your language skills, and it’s not intimidating as everyone there is in the same boat!
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    3. If you’re a fussy eater, you might want to stock your suitcase full of supernoodles.
      The food in supermarkets is not the same as at home. The bacon is pre-cooked for you to reheat, ensalada rusa (russian salad) is not the same as coleslaw (do not make this mistake) and if you’re a fan of fajita nights they don’t sell sour cream ANYWHERE. Literally, nowhere. Aside from this, Spanish food is actually really tasty. Try not to stick to just what you’d eat at home, you’re only there for a short time, try something new!
    4. While we’re on the topic of food, I hope you like jamón (ham).
      If you don’t, you should probably just go home. The Spanish are obsessed with ham, and they eat it in all forms, shapes and sizes. Where I was in Madrid, there were even jamón museums. It is really tasty, though, it’s definitely a fad I was able to get on board with.
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    5. Spanish bureaucracy is, to put it straight, a nightmare.
      Getting your documents is a daunting task, I’m not going to lie about it. For some reason in Spain they manage to make everything a lot more complicated than it needs to be. Be aware of the law of ‘falta uno’ (one missing) which refers to the fact that for some reason every time you bring your necessary documents to register for whatever it may be, they will always tell you there is one missing and to come back when you have it. It’s a known phenomenon and it’s incredibly frustrating.
    6. When it’s your birthday, don’t expect everyone to buy you presents. In fact, it’s kind of the opposite.
      At the school I worked in, every time it was someone’s birthday they themselves brought in biscuits, cake, sweets, etc for everyone else. WHY?! Surely they should be the ones being gifted? In Spanish culture, though, the responsibility of celebrating one’s birthday falls on said person. Luckily my birthday was in July after my Erasmus year was over, so I was back home and of course I got presents.
    7. The Spanish have their own concept of time.
      Do not ever take a Spanish person seriously when they ask you to meet them at a certain place at a certain time. Instead, tell them to text you when they’re on their way. They will never be on time. Ever. Spaniards are extremely laid back, to the point where for someone as timely and organised (some may say uptight) as myself, it’s annoying. Spanish time is relative and very vague: mañana is anywhere from 8am-2pm, tarde can last until it’s dark outside, and noche can mean anything from late evening to the early hours of the next morning.
    8. Do not mention Catalonia or the referendum if you don’t want an argument.
      Whether the person is from Catalonia or they’re Spanish, this is a topic that is bound to wind people up. It’s a bit like bringing up the troubles in Northern Ireland with someone you don’t know, you just don’t do it. Unless you’re in the mood for a debate.
    9. Be aware that people will stare at you on public transport.
      Here in Northern Ireland, I’ve come to realise that we’re very private people. We don’t like to know each others business, we stick merely to small talk about the weather and football scores. However in Spain, everyone will watch everything you’re doing. And when you catch them staring, they won’t feel awkward and stop. They’ll continue. And don’t worry if you feel awkward, because they don’t.
    10. Lastly and most importantly, embrace it!
      Moving abroad and experiencing another culture is an amazing opportunity that you may not get again, so grab it with both hands and enjoy every second. Be aware of the little things I’ve pointed out, but also embrace your own culture shock – everyone will make their own observations when living in a foreign environment. The year will be what you make of it, so don’t shy away from the opportunity. This ‘throw yourself into it’ mentality I picked up on my year abroad is probably the reason I took the plunge and decided to study this course which something completely new to me, and it’s exciting!
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Anna Stewart is an MSc Communication and Public Relations with Advertising student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @astewart95 and LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/anna-stewart-b3127a139/

 

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

5 Things to do at Lake Garda

Lake Garda has been the most beautiful, relaxing and magical place I’ve ever been to so far on my journey’s.  Lake Garda is a spectacular lake located in Northern Italy, created during the Quaternary Ice Ages (1.5 million years ago).

When visiting Italy (in September), I stayed at Riva Del Garda located at the top of Lake Garda. It is surrounded by imposing mountains and sparkling blue water, and is known for its medieval towers, Renaissance churches, and narrow cobblestone streets.

What I loved most about Lake Garda was its picturesque villages, medieval castles and lakeside promenades that created a unique magical experience for me. So here are 5 things that I recommend you should try on your trip to Lake Garda:

Lake 1

1.     Visit the Santa Barbara Church

The Santa Barbara Church is located up in the high mountains beside Riva Del Garda (the top of Lake Garda). The small Chapel to Saint Barbara was built in 1935 by the miners who worked on the conduits of the Ponale power plant. Its panoramic views are breath taking. It took me around 3 hours or so to go up and down to visit the church. Unfortunately we picked a day were the rain poured from the skies while we trekked up, but it made the adventure all the more memorable and exciting.

However, one think to note, when you first see it, it is so tiny from the town (almost like a dot) that you would think it is impossible to get to, and when you are walking it can be a little dangerous at times. But when you reach the top it really is a gift to the eyes and a feeling you’ll never forget!

Lake 2

2.     Visit the picturesque villages

On my stay I visited two beautiful villages beside Riva Del Garda by boat called; Malcesine and Limone.

The picturesque Malcesine, framed for its medieval Scaligero Castle is magnificent. The charming village is surrounded by breath taking landscapes and embellished by architectural treasures. It has cobbled lanes and a breathtaking castle, crammed between the blue lake waters and the massive mountain ridge behind (Monte Baldo). If I were to get married abroad I think I would choose this castle in Malcesine because of its fairytale beauty.

There are pretty little squares, cafes and restaurants, and shops selling ice-cream, handbags, shoes, limoncello (a local drink) and clothes. The main harbour is typical of Lake Garda: small, attractive, filled with boats and lined with cafes. A short distance away is the old port, the Porto Vecchio, a quieter spot with good lake views, curious sculptures and more restaurants. There is also a cable-car running up to Monte Baldo which is highly popular and gets very busy as the day goes on. The trip in the cable car will take you 1,800 metres above sea level, with spectacular views. It is perfect for capturing an incredible view and for cyclists, walkers and paragliders.

Lake 3

Limone, is another small village backed by lemon groves, with waterside cafes and cobbled streets lined with shops.

The heart of the old town is the little harbour, the Porto Vecchio (‘Old Port’). It is a very small town and when I went (in September) it was packed with tourists. However it is a peaceful and relaxing place to stop by and have a coffee or an ice-cream, to admire the lake views. Its narrow streets are lined with tourist shops along the shore and up the slopes behind. While you’re here you can also tour an old lemon grove, the Limonaia del Castèl or visit the small Chiesa di San Rocco church close to the old port.

One thing I might add is to avoid buying touristy items here, as you can get them much cheaper in the city. I made the mistake of buying a Venetian mask here and found them cheaper in Verona. Venetian masks are a centuries-old tradition of Venice, Italy. The masks are typically worn during the Carnival (Carnival of Venice), to hide the wearer’s identity and social status.

3.     Go cycling – hire a bike

There are so many bikes shops and so many people on bikes! Take advantage of your health and the weather and hire a bike out for the morning to enjoy a scenic cycle. We went mountain biking on Sentiero della Ponale beside Riva del Garda, and the views were amazing.

Although, there are so many routes to choose from ranging from beginners to advanced, you can go up into the mountains or around the lakes. Seeing Lake Garda by bike couldn’t be easier!

Lake 5

4.     Paddle on Lake Garda

While my trip was on a budget, we took out a little paddling boat with a slide called a Pedalos to enjoy the lakes natural beauty. The clear and calm waters of the lake make it easy to unwind. Plus there were a lot of people also out kayaking , canoeing and on stand up paddle boards. Or you could always hire out a boat for the day and adventure down to the South side of the lake.

Lake 6

5. Visit a Wine Vinery

On my trip I visited a beautiful vinery in the mountains called Villa Calicantus. We had dinner there as part of a tour group, and of course I was eating their delicious pasta. After dinner, went out to the vineyard for a wine (which was more like a few rounds of shots – because I tried them all), and listened to music amd talked. A very beautiful place!

Lake 7

To sum up, Lake Garda is one of the most romantic locations of natural beauty, and is a MUST to go on to your bucket list for travelling (preferably with your partner).

 

Shannon Doyle is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @shannond_761 / Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/shannon-doyle-28b827109 

Working with the General Public… It’s not always plain sailing

Working with the General Public… It’s not always plain sailing

They say to work in PR you have to have the best of the best in communication skills. Now you can study these skills at university or on a night out, but nothing will teach you the art of communication better than a job that requires you to work face-to-face with the general public.

As someone who has spent 4 years in retail and a further 2 years working in the travel industry for a shipping company, I’ve had my fair share of time with the general public. And because of this, I’ve learned the hard way that the general public will challenge your ability to communicate professionally and push you dangerously close to crossing that unprofessional line. So, I thought I would share some of the nuggets of knowledge ive gained in my career so far and how they could benefit you in a job in the future.

  1. Non-Verbal Communication – there is no skill you will build more than the ability to control your non-verbal forms of communication. We’ve all been there. It’s 5.29pm and you’ve 1 minute left of your shift. You’re thinking about getting home to your dinner and a glass of wine when all of a sudden a face appears at the door. Now you want to give the customer the benefit of the doubt, maybe they didn’t check their watch or maybe they just need to grab something quickly. We all know this is not the chase. Usually it’s a woman who believes the entire shop will stay open just for them to come in and have a little look about. It is at this moment the anger and the resentment starts to creep into your face. But you smile through it, because even though they’ve ruined your night (albeit 5 minutes of it) it’s the professional thing to do.

KW5

  1. Embracing Shift Work – PR for the most part is a 9-5.30pm job, Monday to Friday. But jobs like retail and travel, are most certainly not. There’s nothing a student loves more than good Saturday shift followed by a Sunday shift to wipe out their social plans, hence the various student nights during the week. You never get to experience that ‘Friday Feeling’ those professional folk talk about because the weekend means work. But the one thing shift work will teach you, is the ability to work well with little sleep and to be flexible. One night I’ll work 6pm – 11pm and then the next day work 6am – 3.30pm. That’s dedication to the job and to a complete lack of sleep. But you do it and you live. It also proves to future employers that you can make time for work and are committed to the company, at least that’s what I tell myself at 5am.

KW7

  1. The customer is not always right – its probably the most cliched saying when it comes to work, but I can confirm that the customer is not always right, but they certainly think that they are. I’ll take an example of this from a few days ago at my part time job. I work for a ferry company and on this night, I was checking in vehicles that were traveling over to Scotland. Like most travel companies such as airlines etc, if you’ve made a mistake in your booking, you are liable to a cost to change such mistake. It happens more often than you would think but customers often book their travel arrangements the wrong way around. So instead of sailing from NI to Scotland, they’ve done Scotland to NI. Now most people who make this mistake are a little embarrassed but generally are happy for you to amend the mistake which can incur a cost. But there’s always that one customer who believes you are doing this simply to annoy them. I can confirm we are not. The first sentence that usually leaves the mouths of those who believe that the customer is always right is ‘are you sure?’. Yes I am. I’m not making it up for a laugh, you’ve done it wrong. On the night in question I had this from a gentleman who had booked the wrong. Now the important thing here is that, this was not my mistake, this was his. But given the 10 minutes this man spent yelling in my face about how much I was making his journey hell (by fixing his mistake so he could actually travel) and his threats to travel with the rival company instead of paying the amendment fees (which would have cost a lot more than the payment I needed from him) he did in fact prove to me that the general public will blame anyone if it means not admitting their own mistakes, and they seem to think you are their verbal punching bag.

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Now don’t get me wrong, I will never be rude to a customer, you can be as rude to me as you like and I won’t yell or be rude back. But if someone continues to yell at me, I will not go out of my way to help them unsurprisingly.

These are just 3 examples of the things ive learned working in a job that puts me face-to-face with the general public. Stay calm, smile when you have to, always be flexible and remember in a situation where you are the one with the knowledge of how your profession works, more often than not you will be in the right, not someone with little experience in what you do for living.

These are skills that can be taken to every single job and it’s why I believe that only once you’ve spent time working with the general public are you ready for a job in communications, because only then do you understand the way in which you should hold yourself in the professional world.

Kirsty Wallace is a final year BSc Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be contacted at www.linkedin.com/in/kirsty-wallace-851504115 and on Twitter @KayyWallace