November 2006 Reflection

Coming to Dublin was definitely the best thing I ever could have done after graduation. I have to say, I feel more relaxed and more fulfilled here than I have in many years!

I have a wonderful room in the dorms on campus. It is newly renovated, so everything is spacious, clean, and new. The accommodations office really tries hard to find the best rooms available for Mitchell Scholars! I am living in a suite with two other girls, one from Bulgaria and one from Finland, and we all get along very well. They are the sweetest roommates, very clean like me, and we all try hard to split the costs of keeping up the room. My bedroom is very cozy, and I love my workspace, right by the window. There is a lot of shelf and storage space. Our kitchen and common room is tremendously big, and although the bathroom is tiny, the hot water always works!

Trinity is so close to everything! My classes, the dining hall, the chapel, and the gym are two minutes away (one thing to note, though, is that university gyms are not free here, like in the U.S., but a membership is not very expensive). Dublin has been absolutely AMAZING weather-wise. I had prepared myself for the worst, but I found that it is nothing like Boston was! It doesn’t snow (I have heard), and if it rains, it is only about ten minutes at a time. Right now, it is the middle of November, and I usually do not even need a jacket.

Trinity is right in the center of the city, and so all of the shops, restaurants, pubs, and theater/concert/readings events are right outside my door. The pub culture is very fun– here you can have quiet, intimate pub nights out as well as loud and crazy ones. It really is true that there are pubs every few feet! There are some amazing pubs and restaurants—also a lot of great ethnic cuisine (especially Indian, which I love). Bewley’s Café is this amazing oriental-style café with a light Italian menu, and the most wonderful décor I have ever seen in a restaurant. Opal Pub has been a great place to go for “authentic” Irish food, and a quiet ambience.

As far as sites around Dublin, I have fallen in love with the Chester Beatty Library, which houses the most beautiful old manuscripts of all different religions—from ancient Hindu texts to second-century gospels, it has become a haven for me. Also, the Dublin Writer’s Museum has a terrific bookstore. The Irish Film Institute shows U.S. as well as foreign films (for example, in one theater The Departed, and in another a documentary on Zinedine Zidane). In addition, the plays here are wonderful—I have seen three plays so far—Doubt at the Abbey Theater, West Side Story at the Gaeity Theater, and Stones in His Pocket at the Gaiety Theater. Free theater tickets are another bonus of being a Mitchell Scholar! I have also been to Harold’s Cross Park to see greyhound racing, which was a lot of fun, but not on as large a scale as horseracing in the U.S. (like the Meadowlands).

The areas around Dublin are very beautiful. Hiking in the Wicklow Mountains was spectacular, as was Powerscourt Gardens and Estates.

Travel is so cheap and easy from Dublin, and it has been an astonishing revelation! I have visited London and Oxford already, and in the next month I will be visiting Galway, the Aran Islands, Cork, and Paris. I’ve also planned a month-long trip around Europe in March, when Trinity has its break. CIE Tours (the company that gives us free railway travel!) also offers some affordable, all-inclusive tours all over the world—I will be seeing Spain, France, Italy, Prague, Vienna, and Budapest, without the hassle of planning flights, hotels, or transportation myself.

I love the Creative Writing program here. There are 15 of us (mostly British and Irish students—I’m the only American), and the professors are very encouraging. They are also very on-point with their criticism; they give terrific feedback, which has done me a great deal of good in revisions. We do not have any assigned reading, and it has been wonderful to read books of my choosing. I have been reading about 4 books a week since I’ve been here, and I keep discovering more! There are so many Irish and British authors that are relatively unknown in the U.S.—John MacGahern, Jon McGreggor, Claire Kilroy, Seamus Deane, Graham Swift… Walking into a bookstore, you are far more likely to find a good literary book than you are in the U.S., which I feel caters much more to chick-lit and nonfiction. Also, the quality of the books is better here—nicer paper, binding, and covers—which may not matter, but I love it!

I have saved the best parts for last: firstly, how can I write this journal without talking about the other Mitchell Scholars? Mitchells, you all have been the best part of being here. We bonded right from the start, and although it has been less than two months, and some of you are hours away, I feel like we have known each other for years. I know that we will all stay in touch long after this is over. I especially am thankful for the “Dublin crew.” I love our Friday night home-cooked dinners, and our nights at the movies. It is great to have you so close.

And of course there is “The Hoff”! During orientation, we were audience members at the Tubridy Tonight Show, where we were serenaded by David Hasselhoff, and won a free weekend in Galway! I can’t remember the last time I had as much fun as that! It was definitely the high point of my being here so far!

I would really like to end this journal by talking about the amazing experience of writing in Dublin. I cannot think of a place or a program more conducive to developing as a creative writer. I think I have written some of my best work ever here. Not only have I found inspiration in new books, but I am inspired by the city and everything around me. And perhaps most importantly, I have for the first time in my life been able to focus on nothing but writing and reading. I am so grateful to be here, to be so happy with what I am doing, and the people who are with me. This will be an experience I never forget.

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