Wednesday, June 12, 2013

After Landing back on American Soil

                This three week experience has really changed me as an individual and as a teacher forever. I have grown as a person in many ways. I learned to take in the beauty of a situation and take a step back and relax. The people I had encounters with were very humble and enjoyed each day of life. From our bus drivers to store clerks, they wanted to make sure you as a customer and as a person had a good experience and they loved to know and talk to everyone. We meet one young male who really made me realize how I have grown up in a great family and how important they are to me. He loves his family and he loves his home town while he showed us around he made sure to tell us everything he knew. Making me want to learn more about where I’m from and know what is right here in Pittsburgh. I learned to take a breath and relax which is one thing that will change everything in my life. I also learned that if you put your mind to doing something great things will come out of it. I learned this coming on this trip and taking the chance, and when climbing a 2,000ft mountain.
                 I grew as a professional within my placement. I learned that I building a relationship is key when teaching students. I know that sounds funny because I've been told that each semester but this trip shows in in action and made me realize how important it is to build that relationship with your students and co-workers. While at my placement if a relationship wasn't started they would not interact with me. I learned so much about each individual and showed them that I cared which made leaving hard.            Another thing that my placement did was made connections with what the service users wanted to do. The classes were choosing by the service user’s interest and they got to sign up for classes that they wanted to go to. Many also did individual projects that they were interested in like one service user was making a yellow submarine from the Beatles. Lastly getting to know your co-workers will help in the work setting with making connections with students you have and it also allows your students know that everyone needs to work together and not against each other.
                My academic goals are still the same with what and who I want to teach however this experience makes me want to learn more about connections in a classroom or connections with activities and an individual with a disability. So I could see myself wanting to do research on this in my future.
                I was surprised how easily I just went day by day with little planning and if the bus or we were running late it didn't matter and I was not stressed about being late. Normally I am always on time or early for work or even meeting with friends. So when things were late I thought I would stress more however I didn't so that was something that I realized is not life threatening that I don’t need to run like a mad woman and I can relax a little before freaking out that I maybe late.
                While in Ireland my fears pretty much disappeared I let go of my fears after the first day when we got lost walking to town on our first night. I figured if we can get lost and home on the first night that we would be able to find our way and exploring is how one will discover more by just letting go and taking in the experience.  
                Studying abroad has changed my view on the world making me know how beautiful other places can be and how many places have different outlooks that may be more impacting for students learning and individuals in a lifestyle. The single greatest benefit of studying abroad was the experience as a whole. I loved getting to know my roommates on my own and not making prior judgments. I learned to trust myself and to let go of control allowing me to grow as an individual. Being away from my family and friends showed me that I can stand on my own and I am a strong individual that will grow more with each experience. My favorite experience was definitely in my placement gaining more experience and allowing others into my life to gain a relationship really allowed an impacting gain for me and loving the service users I worked with. Going into the day service center each day was something I looked forward to and loved walking into such a great supportive environment.

                My advice for the next participants would be to let go and enjoy your three weeks because time does fly. Go out each night enjoy explore new places even if that’s not what you would normally do at home who knows you may love it and may change your life. Take a step and let your heart lead you and do not let your fears hold you back. I would definitely study abroad again if I was giving the chance again. I loved learning and loved meeting new people. Where I would study wouldn't matter because everywhere has a different story and learning can come from everything. I would go back to Ireland however I would like to go somewhere else and learn more about other places in the world.  

Saturday, June 8, 2013

My faviorte weekend trip was this past weekend. This being our last weekend in Ireland made it bitter sweet, however, it was something I will never forget. It was a bank Holiday here in Ireland as well which was exciting to be a part of. Saturday we went to West point and started our day early climbing Croagh Patrick, which is, is a 764 metres or we would say 2,507 foot mountain and it is an important site of pilgrimage in County Mayo, Republic of Ireland.
This was a huge accomplishment. Our small group stuck together and climbed to the top and pushed each other to finish. Once we started we made sure that we all stuck together. All week at my placement I was told that I could do it but it would be a challenge. I did not realize how much of a challenge it would be till we started climbing. The view was amazing and it was a great feeling once we reached the top of Croagh Patrick. Once we got to the bottom of the mountain was an even better relief. We all then went in to town for a nice dinner to celebrate our accomplishment. At dinner I really felt the connection between our group we came together. We have become a family in this short three week period and learned how to encourage each other and build up everyone’s confidence. Once we finished dinner we shopped around and then took the bus back home to relax our stiff bodies from the climb.
The next day we went to Galway our first stop was the cathedral. It was beautiful. The pews were all facing different directions which I found strange. It was a beautiful place to worship and pray for others. Then we were dropped in town to shop. This was fun the weather was nice so many were out and about. This gave us a chance to interact with people and meet up with a friend we meet on this trip from Galway. His name is Ryan and he DJ’s at a pub during the week. He meets us after noon where he took us to the best shops and an American candy shop to start.
Then he showed us the claddagh. This is where the Irish Claddagh rings shape was discovered. It was based on a church which was the heart for love, and then the town circled the church which is the hands which stands for togetherness. Then the crown means loyalty. This was great to see because many have an Irish claddagh ring but don’t know where it came from and what it means. Ryan then showed us the old Spanish arch which was a trading market. He took us to a water polo match which isn’t like our water polo. Their water polo is played in kayaks where ours is not.  
Then we went to the beach. There was a football tournament in the park which I loved seeing because that is something I played when I was younger. But this was not like a simple park tournament. There were a ton of people in the park watching these games very invested in a little park match. This shows that here in Ireland many are very invested in football and it is a large part of their culture.
Then Ryan took us to a family run business that he worked at when he was younger. Where I tried bacon and cabbage, which here is a dish that Irish are known for. It was great the cabbage was good and of course the meal came with some potato as a side. The meal was great and I would eat that again. The restaurant was amazing and the owner still remembered Ryan.
As we drove back to town Ryan would tell us many things about the outskirts of the town which I found fascinating. Many young people don’t know much about their own culture or surroundings. I say this because I am ignorant about landmarks at home and would have no idea what to tell visitors about my homeland. He was so kind and helpful. Very into his family culture and is very respectful and loved showing us around his home.
Then the Bank holiday began. We got home a little around 8pm and relaxed from our busy day in Galway. Then we got ready for the night. Ryan told us that a Bank holiday is the fourth of July or New Years and that the pubs and night clubs would be packed. So he got us on one of the VIP lists and we got to truly experience the night life in Sligo. We went to a pub first and danced then when to the disco, which is also a night club. We enjoyed our night full of dancing and meeting others. We meet some students from Ireland and also meet a couple of people from England which was great. We really enjoyed our weekend and the bank holiday.
Croagh Patrick was an amazing view while coming down the mountain we could see the ocean and all the islands surrounding it something I will never forget. The towns are indescribable here in Ireland. Each store is different colors inviting customers in. I also love the bus rides because I get to the country side of Ireland which is VERY Green! This shows the natural beauty of Ireland. It’s hard to describe the place because it is beautiful and makes me speechless. The way that many if not all things are natural and the landscapes are gorgeous. On a sunny cloudless day anywhere in Ireland one can capture its true beauty. Before this trip everyone told me Ireland was Beuatiful but never said how or why they thought that and now i know because it is really hard to discribe something so beautiful.

Friday, May 31, 2013

A day in Sligo!

My typical weekday starts at 8am I wake up the earliest in the group, because I need to catch the bus earlier to get to my placement. Once I am ready I eat a light breakfast and make my lunch for the day. Then I walk to where my bus picks me up. The bus rides are one of my faviorte parts of the day!

On the bus each morning I see two of the service users I work with all day then the others on the bus are in other day activity homes. This bus ride gives me the chance to interact with the service users in a comfortable enviorment. It also allows me to see how they interact one-on-one with other service users.

Once I arrive at my placement I am greeted by many of the service users. They ask about my evening and agree with me about how beautiful Ireland is. They ask me if I  got in touch with my family back home and love showing me pictures of there families. Once all of the service users have arrived they start their day.

They break into groups, one is an art group that makes life size art, another group is newspaper and they read the paper together and talk about their enviorment and what is going on in the world, lastly some go to sports!

I get to go to sports or stay behind with the art group. When I go to sports they learn simple motor skills. This week they were working on football skills. When I say football I mean soccer. They decided that they were doing well with hand cordanition so it was time to move to the bottom half of the body. I worked with one individual who is in great shape he did well and had a strong foot. This was exciting for the service users because Sligo was playing soon and they all seem to enjoy watching football. The art group started to make the yellow submarine from the Beatles. They were excited when I returened to the workshop because they wanted to show me what they came up with and it was starting to look great.

Then I go to lunch and enjoy conversation with the staff. They really enjoy telling me the hidden secrets of Sligo and enjoy hearing about my night.

Once lunch is over I stay at the workshop and it is time for music! This is an exciting time for the service users they really enjoy dancing, clapping, and singing to new and old songs. One individual starts singing off first. His name is Martin he is amazingly smart. He knows the name if each song, who sings it and when it came out. He sang Sweet Caroline which stole my heart. It was so amazing and cute! After music Martin comes over and talks to me about my flight into Ireland. He loves airplanes. When I say love don't mean collects models. He knows so much about planes and when they are taking off and when they should land. He knows when certain airlines opened and where they flew to. I normally get lost in the conversation because the information  he knows goes over my head. He is very impressive.

After music I have a tea break and get ready for my goodbyes for the day. This is the hardest part of the day because I really enjoy my placement and I know that soon I will be leaving for then last time.

Once I arrive home I normally relax and wait for the others to get home. Then we normally have dinner together. Once we eat we decided to get ready and enjoy the night life at the local pubs and getting to know some Irish students. We do our best not to stand out but were Americans and its like we have it written on our forheads. Here in Ireland the students dont really come to the pubs till midnight so when we do go out it is a long night. I enjoy going out and meeting new people it helps understand the culture more. We try to switch pubs so we can see the different enviorments and enjoy some Irish music in most places.

Once we all get home we normaly talk a little about the day over some chips which are called crisps here in Ireland. Then once we all are extreamly tired we go to our rooms and go to sleep.

That's a typical weekday in Sligo. It looks like a lot because it is a lot! We decided as a group of house mates that we are going to enjoy and learn as much as possible. Staying out late does come with the slow mornings, however, it is all worth it because we may never get the chance again to come back to Ireland.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A whole new world!

The first impression of Ireland was while our plane was landing. I was fortunate enough to get a window seat. It was early morning and as we came closer to land I could see the country side of Ireland. It was beautiful took my breath away. Then we went to the cliffts of monnr which were also breathtaking. This is a hard country to explain its buety and simplicity is so amazing and really helps calm and allow others to reilize material things don't matter as much as Americans do. The second day we went into Sligo and learned more about the town and actually found our way the second try around.Sligo was a cute little town very colorful but also sad to see many stores going out of buissness because the ressision has hit Ireland harder that us back in the us.

The language here is also impressive and intreaging. It is part gallick and part English slered together. We also went to a pub at night to listen to traditional Irish music! It was great I liked the soft tunes and loved that older men and woman came on and played at a table in the pub.

The first three words that I thought after my first day in Ireland was buety, kindness, and spiritual. Looking forward to seeing what else can, earn about myself and the culture with in the next weeks here in Ireland.

My programs orientation was great. I walked in and was introduced to everyone. Many service users were walking by and saying hello! It room was full of are work that all the service users have made in classes that they have chooses to take. There was a music class waiting in the other room with drums that they individually had made. Once we walked through the doors to the room all of the service users stood up and clapped for me I felt so welcome then the teacher lead them in there song which was pleasant! They played two songs for us. They were so happy we loved there songs.
The service users we're kind and told me I was welcome again. I loved the enviorment and can't wait to start tomorrow.

The service users at my placements rang in age from 35 to 70. Many have Downs syndrom. Some are more verbal than others however they all seemed extreamly happy and loving.

The three things that stood out was the large age difference and the differences in abilities. Many of the male service users were cute and told me how cute I was and that they were so happy to have me.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

A week away!

Deciding to study abroad was something i never thought about till one of my friends told me what a great time she had on this exact trip. Studying Abroad was something i thought would leave me in school longer and put me more in debt. Now that i am a week away from leavening I am so excited. I decided to study abroad because I have only heard great things about this program and I know that it is a once in a lifetime chance. I also thought it would be a great learning experience and allow personal and professional growth. I also have always wanted to go out of the country and going with school allows me to learn and have a structured learning experience. 

I expect to to changed by this experience in many ways. I feel that this will open my eyes to another world and teach me to live and take life in more than i do now. I know many say that they are crazy and live full stressful lives while they are in school and i am one of them. I have two part time jobs and take a full course lode each semester. I also am involved on campus with many organizations. I am a busy bee, and i would like to calm down and experience each day. I feel that being away from home and my jobs will allow me to accept life and be more in the moment. I also feel that i will grow more as my own self. I live at home and always have had my families help being away will allow me to grow as an individual. I also expect to learn more about another culture and accept this culture as much as i can. I also feel that working with students with special needs will help me with my nephew who has Downs Syndrome. I am ready and open to learn and change from this experience. 

My goals while I'm abroad is to see as much as i can and enjoy the beauty of another culture. Another goal is to learn how to work better with students with different needs. I would also like to see as much as i can while i am over seas to experience another culture. My last goal will be to relax more. 

I expect to achieve these goals by taking in everything and spending as much time as i can in Ireland and no stuck in my room. I also feel that being in the classroom four days of the week will allow me to learn about students with needs. 

My fears or apprehensions are growing as we get closer to our take off day. I have never been away from my family this long or my job. I love my family and my athletes that I coach I feel that being away I will miss them extremely and find that frustration. I am also nervous that I will get lost in an unfamiliar place. I'm nervous that not being able to contact my family as much as i can here is going to stress me out more than it should. I am also scared that I am going to miss what is going on here at home with loved ones. However, i feel that the excitement and support i have overcomes my fears. 

I am  most looking forward to the whole experience. I am excited to travel and see something other than the United States. I am excited to grow and gain more experience in a classroom setting. I am ready to grow and learn about another culture and see and hike and live in another culture!