Monday, November 4, 2013

Save the Best for Last

It's official. I am back in Arkansas!

The past five months were all I dreamed and more. I learned so much from school and teaching. I gained friends from all around the world. I saw the world through different perspectives. And I experienced God in new ways.

After traveling for three weeks over Easter Break, I had a few weeks of classes at Stranmillis. It was really nice to be back in the atmosphere of a classroom, and I continued in my modules for reading and writing, music, P.E., the world around us, and personal development and mutual understanding.We picked up from where we left off at the beginning of the semester, and we discussed our different experiences during teaching placement. My last few weeks consisted of doing our final assignments for each class, most of which were lesson plans, reflections, and essays. It was enjoyable writing the essays and being able to reflect on my experiences in the classroom in Northern Ireland and comparing and contrasting education here in Arkansas with what I had learned and seen in Belfast.

Though school was my first priority, I had many more little adventures around Belfast and Northern Ireland before I had to return home. As usual, I'll let pictures tell it all:

Road trip to Castlewellan with Emmi and friends from Belfast! A beautiful and rainy day all in one:

A weekend to flatmate Emma's Farm with some of the ERASMUS girls and Claire:

 An exciting day trip to Londonderry with Sanna! We heard passionate stories about the city, almost got run over, witnessed a Guinness World Record, and just barely made our way back home to Belfast. All in all, a wonderful day to remember:
Bogside Mural

Brides at Guildhall

Brides crossing the Peace Bridge

"Hands Across the Divide"

Peace and Equality

A friend from Stran agreed to take some of us foreign gals up to the Mourne Mountains one day. It was foggy and windy like crazy, but such a blast!

At the top of Slieve Donard

On our journey to the top

I got to take a couple of lovely trips to Stormount (Parliament buildings). They were some of my favorite days!

In my last week in Belfast, I definitely made some lasting memories! At Stran, I got to represent home for one class. I took a trip to Dublin to watch The Lion King, which ended as one of the most crazy days of my life. I climbed Cave Hill on a beautiful sunny day with friends from Stran, and we got to appreciate Belfast in all of its glory. We went surfing in the cold and rain. And, I took a day trip to the North Coast with one of my favorite people in the world.

Definitely American...

It was amazing! (What I saw of it that is...)

Beautiful Belfast from the top of Cave Hill

Surfing with Simon and the girls

Dunluce Castle in my last few days

One of my favorite parts of Ireland :)

Sea Park

 Hardest of all, I said a lot of goodbyes to a place and many people I grew to love more than I could have ever imagined.

An experience to last a lifetime.
A dream come true.

"Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Girl Meets Ireland, England & Scotland

Hello again!
Where to begin! Since I last posted, I completed my last two weeks teaching in the primary school, and spent three weeks traveling over Easter Break!

The last two weeks of placement at Oakwood went quickly! Sadly, I was a bit ill throughout, so I probably didn't perform my best some days, and the class felt empty on and off due to sickness among the children and teachers as well. I received two tutor visits from professors at my University, and they were both very encouraging and gave me some great advice to further my teaching skills! I also got to teach about the Easter story to my class, which was another really interesting experience! It is so neat to see the children learning about Jesus in the classroom and exploring it for themselves at such a young age. On my last day, I was given many sweet cards and presents, and the last week I received more hugs than I can count. We had "circle time" before I left on the last day, and the teacher led the class in an activity with a "worry jar" in which the children place any worries they may have and then replace them with happy thoughts. Many children that shared their worries said things along the line of "I'm worried I will never see Miss Gorny again." And later she gave them a chance to say something special to me. My favorites were "I hope your plane doesn't get canceled." and "I hope you enjoy seeing your friends and family in America." They were too sweet! I feel like I had such a valuable experience with them, and I learned so much from my time in that classroom! I know I will take so much of what I learned into my future classroom!

During those two weeks, I also got the great opportunity to watch the "Sleeping Beauty Ballet" in the Grand Opera House in Belfast, and it was great! I really enjoyed it! And the Opera House was a beautiful place!
That weekend I went home with Jayne for a relaxing weekend, after which I felt much better "health" wise! We went to a lovely ladies' breakfast at her home church. And then I celebrated St. Patrick's Day with the other international students in Belfast on Sunday! We attended a parade and concert in the city! It was a lot of fun! That night I spontaneously attended a wedding reception in the city with one of the international girls and a local friend. We did a lot of dancing and really enjoyed the evening!

On the Saturday after teaching practice had finished, there was snow on the ground, and we gathered our bags and headed out for our three weeks of travels! I was with one girl, named Roxy, from the Netherlands, for all three weeks. And there were four other girls that we were with at various other parts of the travels.

For our first destination, we took a bus to Dublin, Ireland, where we stayed for four days.

We did a lot of things in Dublin, which was a lovely city! Some of the things we did include visiting the Trinity College, and getting to go in side the Trinity College Library and viewing four pages from The Book of Kells. It was breathtaking! Definitely one of my favorite things I did all of break! We also took a tour of the "Guinness Storehouse", which was about four stories high and really interesting. We toured "The Leprechaun Museum", in which we heard many mystical stories and we shrunk to the size of leprechauns. We visited a beautiful cathedral, and we had dinner in a cute pub with live Irish music.
Trinity Library
St. James's Gate
Didn't much like the sip of Guinness I tried...
(Yes, I tried it.)

In the Leprechaun Museum
We also took a day trip to a town called Kilkenny, and we drove through the Wicklow Mountains and by Glendalough. In Kilkenny we walked through a castle, to the top of a round tower, and ate in an old "witch's house". We stopped in an old monastery and saw some beautiful high crosses. And the mountains were gorgeous, but awful cold and snowy that day!
Wicklow Mountains

 Our adventure continued as we flew to London! We were there for five days and had a great time! We were blessed with the opportunity to stay in a lovely manor with Olivia, who works at a boarding school and had gone to Ozarks during her college career. She made us feel right at home and really took care of us! We saw the musical Wicked! (Another one of my favorites of the trip!) And, of course, we saw all of the main tourist attractions. We also went to a cute market one day, ate a lot of yummy food, and did a bit of shopping! I'll let the pictures explain our time in London!

With "Princess Kate"

King's Cross Train Station

Being interviewed about seeing "the Princess"

Ozarks and London love with Olivia!

The London Eye

Set from the musical Wicked!

The London Eye

Westminster Abbey

From up in the London Eye

Beautiful Big Ben! :)

At Buckingham Palace
Tower Bridge

Then we made our way up to Manchester, England for two days. We mostly just explored the city, but found there wasn't a lot that excited us there. We still made the best of our time there though! And I loved a library we stumbled upon, John Reynolds Library. It was beautiful!

the library

We rode swings above the city!

Then we flew again to Edinburg, Scotland for three days. I think it was my favorite city! Such a beautiful and unique place! And so full of rich culture and friendly people! Our last day there we did a three hour walking tour. We learned a lot about the deep history of the city, saw multiple places of possible inspiration for the Harry Potter books, and had some good laughs! We felt a lot of cashmere and heard a lot of bagpipes! I'm sure we could have stayed there the rest of break and found enjoyable things to do!
This one deserves beautiful pictures that won't do it justice!!

Sunset behind the Scott Monument

At the top of Arthur's Seat

After climbing to Arthur's Seat

Arthur's Seat

Ruins in the sunshine


Thomas Riddle's Grave!
(for you Harry Potter fans)

Supposedly where JK Rowling sat and wrote parts of year 1 and 2
(Harry Potter fans-get excited)

A beautiful city

Calton Hill
With our new friend: the most pierced person in the world

Our next destination was Glasgow, Scotland, where we stayed for three days. The first day we explored the city some, the second day we took a trip up through the Highlands and to Loch Ness, and then the third day we relaxed before flying back to Ireland.

In the Highlands

Loch Lomond

Loch Ness

On a cruise on Loch Ness, looking for Nessie!

Feeding deer on the day trip

Petting one of the cows with bangs!

Preparing to travel with our suitcase, "Suzie", once more!

Once back in Ireland, we stayed one night in Dublin, and then traveled by bus to multiple different cities. We stayed in Cork for two days, which was full of beautiful colors, and then spent a day in Blarney, visiting the beautiful castle grounds and kissing the stone! Then we headed to a little town called Ennis, another personal favorite! The cars stop for you, the cute shop owners wave as you walk down the street, and the locals smile and greet you. We explored the city and little shops there. They had my name written all over them... literally! And we listened to live traditional music in a comfy pub one night. Then we spent two days in Galway, which had more colorful houses and a cute lighthouse by the sea. And to finish off the trip, we took a day tour to the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare. They were as gorgeous as I ever imagined, even with the Ireland rain coming down!
Adorable sweet shop in Ennis


Cliffs of Moher!!!

From inside Blarney Castle


Kissing the Blarney Stone

Mr. Duffy's Traditional Sweet Shop
(Plus Mr. Duffy)


Traditional Irish music by the fireplace in Ennis

Cliffs of Moher

Thatched house on day trip to the Cliffs

The Burren!

Amazing walls everywere!

In Doolin on day trip to the Cliffs

Cliffs of Moher :)

Cliffs of Moher!

Over the break we saw loads of castles, candy shops, sheep, clocks, cathedrals, and rain. It was an amazing experience, and I'm so glad I got to travel with some great girls from all over the world that made it such a blast :) Because of them, I now know that bed time stories can get us through sleeping in any hostel, and we can fly with as big a suitcase as we want as long as we are willing to put on half the clothes inside. And I'm so grateful for a God who creates such beauty in our world and that he's allowed me to experience a small part of it. He is such an artist, from the gorgeous mountains to the beautiful people. He is so good.
We finally came back to Belfast on Sunday, and it truly felt like coming home. Being back at Stran has felt like home, too! We started classes on Monday and will continue on for the next few weeks. I have less than seven weeks left here, and it's crazy to think about! I know it will go by fast, but I'm looking forward to continue learning and making good memories here :)