My Trip to Washington, D.C.

Washington

Washington Monument

Hello again,

Time is going by so fast. I can’t believe that I will be going home next week! I’m devastated. Obviously I’m really excited about seeing my friends and family. And Christmas is a great time of year to be at home – everyone is back from their travels and there’s always a good buzz about the place. Even though it rains quite a bit here in NC, it’s not as dull or as gloomy as it is in Ireland during the winter so I’m definitely going to need some time to readjust to the Irish weather!

A couple of weeks ago I visited Washington, D.C. I loved it! Vimaljit, girl I met at the Gateway Orientation program, is studying at Georgetown University so I stayed with her for the weekend. One of the best things about getting a Fulbright is getting the chance to meet new people. I’ve also recently met up with two Irish Fulbrighters, one here in North Carolina and one in San Francisco (more about SF next week). Fulbright really does give you the opportunity to meet new people, from your home country as well as abroad.

My first day in DC was spent exploring Georgetown. It’s such a cute place. Looking at the different style of houses is one of my favourite things to do in a new place. I don’t know if that’s weird or not and I actually only found out how much I like doing it after visiting Chicago earlier this year. Chicago has some really cool architecture, especially around Lincoln Park. Vimaljit also showed me the house where The Exorcist was filmed! After grabbing a bite to eat we headed out for some drinks with her college friends. Going for drinks in DC is totally different from going for drinks in Chapel Hill, probably because Chapel Hill is your quintessential college town replete with UNC merchandise stores and frat houses (but I love it). There’s definitely a more businessy vibe in DC.

Washington DC

Lincoln Memorial and the Reflecting Pool

The next day I went sightseeing. I did the usual: Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Reflecting Pool, the Capitol, the White House…They are all within walking distance from each other. I then headed to the museums. The first one I went to was the Smithsonian Holocaust Museum. That was really interesting. I spent at least three hours in there. I read everything on the walls so I moved pretty slowly. I also went to the Library of Congress and the Museum of American History. By that stage I was pretty tired so I headed back to the apartment. We went for dinner and wine at a Japanese restaurant later that evening and it was great to unwind.

My bus was leaving early the next morning so I didn’t have time to do any more sightseeing. Which I was a little disappointed about because there is so much to do and see in DC. But I definitely intend on heading back in the future. It’s a great city. After San Francisco it’s my favourite US city (so far). I would definitely recommended a visit! Washington me

As you’ve noticed, I also visited SF recently. I’ve family there so I went to spend thanksgiving with them. That was also so much fun and you’ll hear all about that next week!

Bye for now…

Some Challenges You May Face When Moving to a New Country

2015-09-11 13.56.14These challenges won’t apply to everyone. Ireland has become very Americanised over the past twenty years or so and having been to the U.S. previously, either on holidays or on research trips, I didn’t really experience culture shock. Nevertheless, these are the challenges that I faced when I first arrived in North Carolina.


HOMESICKNESS

Homesickness is, unfortunately, inevitable. No matter how excited you are about your new venture, you will miss your friends, family and home comforts. However, as sure as I am that you will experience homesickness at some stage during your time abroad, I am equally sure that you will come out of it. At the Gateway Orientation Program, we were warned that all cultural exchange students go through periods of highs and lows – sort of like a roller-coaster. But for every low point, there’s a high point! When I first got to North Carolina I experienced homesickness almost immediately. I didn’t know anybody and because I’m not taking any classes (I’m conducting independent research) I was worried that I wouldn’t make any friends. Fortunately, it’s actually very easy to make friends here, provided you’re willing to put in the effort. Within the first week I signed up with the UNC Boxing Club and got in touch with the Graduate History Society so I got to meet loads of new people. If you sit at home and don’t reach out then you probably won’t make too many new friends, so it really is important to put yourself out there. Meeting new people helped to solve my homesickness problem but if it’s plaguing you, this website offers some really good strategies to deal with homesickness.

THE CLIMATE

In Ireland the weather can be pretty miserable. Our winters are dark, drab and grey and although we get some bright, sunny days in the spring and summer, the temperatures rarely peak above the mid-twenties – Celsius that is. So when I first came to North Carolina I loved the bright sunny mornings. That is until noon hit. I learnt the hard way not to walk to the store between 12 noon and 2pm. The humidity is a killer! Once, I even got sunburned walking ten minutes to the shop! Now that it’s October, I’m getting a good insight into what hurricane season is like in NC. Hurricane Joaquin is on the horizon and it’s been raining for the past week, pretty much non-stop. When the rain first began I noticed that so many people wore wellies! I found this hilarious until I couldn’t walk to the library without stepping into very deep puddles. I now plan on investing in a pair of wellies!

NOT HAVING A CAR

I love my car. I miss my car. Here in NC, I’m very, very lucky to have found an amazing apartment so close to everything on campus. Pretty much everywhere is within walking distance. Except for the grocery store. It’s actually only about a thirty minute walk away but I have to make sure that I time it correctly because there is nothing worse than walking that distance (in jeans) in the humidity. I speak from experience! My rule of thumb is not to use a basket while shopping and to only buy whatever my two hands can carry. This ensures that I’m not logging heaving bags all the way home – again, I speak from experience! There are buses, but they are so infrequent that it’s sometimes easier to walk…

THE CURRENCY

This might seem like a silly one but American currency can be very confusing! First of all, a wad of dollars makes you feel like you’re loaded when you’re actually not. Boo. 😦 And don’t get me started on the coins. What’s a dime and why is a five cent coin bigger that a ten cent coin!? Aragh. This can be very frustrating when you’re trying to pay for your coffee and a very large queue is forming behind you. Thankfully, most places accept card, even if you’re only buying a bottle of water. I’ll admit, having to swipe instead of entering a pin did take a bit of getting used to too! You can’t swipe too fast and definitely not too slow. But I’m a pro swiper now! 🙂


I know that I’m very lucky that these are the only challenges I’ve faced in the U.S. Some of my friends from around the world have definitely experienced culture shock, particularly because of the language barrier. My fellow Fulbrighters and I have all remained in contact because it’s important to have a strong network of support. If you’re finding living abroad challenging, never be afraid to reach out to someone. Even if they’re not going through the same thing, they’re sure to offer kind words of support and sometimes that’s all you need.

Road Trip to Asheville, North Carolina

Blue Ridge Parkway

A view from the Blue Ridge Parkway

Last week my boyfriend came to visit and we went on a road trip to Asheville, North Carolina. Asheville is a beautiful city in western North Carolina, about three and a half hours away from Chapel Hill. So, for that all-American experience, we rented a pick-up truck, booked an Airbnb and off we went!

Asheville was as beautiful as everyone said it would be. It’s a very laid-back city with a strong hippy vibe. The food was amazing and the craft beer is supposed to be even better. I don’t actually like beer but the wine was pretty good!

Asheville

A view from the Blue Ridge Parkway

The first day we got there we spent the day exploring downtown Asheville – our apartment was within walking distance and our air bnb hosts recommended some great bars and restaurants. The weather was perfect – not too hot and definitely not too cold which made all that walking very easy.

Biltmore House

Biltmore House

The second day we visited the Biltmore Estate. Biltmore House, the main house on the estate, was built by George Vanderbilt in the late nineteenth century. It’s the largest privately owned house in the US. We couldn’t take any photos inside the house but the place was restored to near perfection. It really gave you a feel of what it would have been like to be one of Vanderbilt’s guests. The view from the house was nothing short of magnificent. Miles and miles of trees, rolling green hills and perfect blue sky. I really fell in love with the place because of that view!

The Biltmore Estate was designed to be self-sustaining and the Biltmore Winery is located just a short drive from the house. A free tour of the winery is included in the cost of admission along with free wine tastings. Needless to say I came home with a great bottle of Riesling.

The view from The Biltmore

The view from The Biltmore

The third day we drove along the Blue Ridge Parkway. This parkway runs through Virginia and North Carolina, mostly along the Blue Ridge Mountains which are part of the Appalachian Mountains. Again, the views were spectacular. The weather was cooler that day but it was the perfect time to make the trip because the leaves had just started to change colour, making the views even more amazing.

That evening it started lashing rain! And when it rains in North Carolina, it pours. The weather has been pretty miserable since but hopefully we’ll get some sunshine before the week is out. All in all, the trip to Asheville was amazing and we’re both so glad we got to see a beautiful part of North Carolina.