Ireland | A Weekend in Galway


Galway was without a doubt my favorite place in Ireland. It’s a very small city that I wouldn’t want to live in long-term, but it is an incredible city to visit for a weekend. I’ll take you along for my weekend trip to Galway with three of my best friends.


In terms of transportation, the Irish Rail is the easiest and cheapest method. It was the equivalent of $30 round trip for last minute train tickets to Galway. The train is very nice and really easy to use. You can take the 145 Bus from UCD to the train station. I would leave about an hour and a half to get to the train station and print your tickets so you don’t risk missing it.


I would highly recommend staying in a hostel while traveling anywhere abroad. Hostels are super cheap compared to hotels and while they are not extremely luxurious, they give you a bed to sleep in and that’s really all you need. You’ll be out exploring the town while you’re awake so don’t worry about finding luxurious hotels to stay in or anything. Also, you meet amazing people at hostels from all over the world. We met people from Switzerland, France, and Chile at our hostel and had really cool conversations with all of them!


The night life in Galway is incredible. There is live music everywhere and the town is so small that you can literally walk everywhere. I never felt unsafe in the small city. It’s very well-lit and there are people everywhere. Our favorite pubs were The Quays, King’s Head, and The Front Door. Walk home whenever you’re ready for bed for the night.


Having arrived Friday afternoon and experienced nightlife on Friday night, we decided to do a bus tour on Saturday! We used Lally Tours to see Connemara National Park on Saturday. I would highly recommend this company! We had a fantastic experience and all agreed it was one of our favorite things we had done in the month we had been in Ireland. The park is absolutely stunning and the tour takes frequent stops for photo opportunities, snack breaks, and/or stretch breaks. The main stop was at Kylemore Abbey which was stunning. We had time to hike around the property on the lake and see the stunning gardens as well as the mansion itself. Don’t worry about being tired from the night before because while you have to wake up early, you can always sleep on the bus (although I’d recommend trying to stay awake because the scenery is beautiful).


On Sunday, we wandered the streets of Galway in the daylight. There were at least ten different street performers. We would stop for twenty or thirty minutes to watch some of the artists before moving onto our next destination. If you won’t have time to see the Cliffs of Moher another weekend, I would recommend doing that on Sunday. You can use the same tour company which will drive you to the cliffs for a few hours and bring you back to Galway. The tours are usually about the equivalent of $50 or $60 per person so a pretty good deal considering all the sites you get to see.

That concludes our weekend in Galway! Thanks for coming along and I hope you set aside a weekend to see the beautiful city!

Grace Heart studied abroad in Dublin, Ireland, in Summer 2017:

Ireland | Summer Wrap-Up


You’ve probably heard the stereotypical “study abroad was the best decision I made in college” and “I met my best friends during study abroad.” I have to admit I never fully believed this and always kind of assumed it was just an exaggeration or a way to sell a program. Having completed my study abroad experience, I can say that study abroad has been the best part of my college experience so far and I definitely have met some of my best friends during the program.

This summer program was only two months long, however, it was enough time for me to experience living in another country and build strong relationships with the other students. I went into the program as a rising sophomore which was unique. Of the other 140ish students, I only met one other rising sophomore and she went to UCI. Everyone else was a rising junior. However, I did not find this to be an issue in making friends. I didn’t know anyone going into the program, but this did not prove to be an obstacle at all. The program makes it pretty easy to connect with other students. You are with the same people all day long every day and even participate in organized activities together for the first two weekends.

Furthermore, with everyone studying the same subject, I found it even easier to connect with other students. Especially with physics being a difficult subject, everyone wants to help each other out and studying together can really augment your success in the program. Studying with friends also just helps you maintain your sanity while studying physics 24/7. During the week, you basically study all day every day so surrounding yourself with friends and allowing yourself to take breaks makes the physics part a bit more manageable.

On the weekends, take a break from physics. Go out into Dublin and explore or travel to another city or even country. The weekends are your time to have fun and travel. Even the professors expected us to have fun on the weekends so don’t feel like you’re being lazy because students are expected to travel on weekends. This gave me all the more incentive to work hard during the week so I wouldn’t have to worry about catching up on weekends. The layout of the program is basically: work hard during the week, have fun on the weekends.

I am so so grateful that I was able to participate in this program. I really have no complaints about the program itself. The professors do a great job of teaching you a year’s worth of physics in two months. Yes, the program is difficult, but that’s just because physics itself is a difficult subject. The tutorials force you to practice the content and are built-in study times. As long as you do your best to keep up with the content and review the course material on a daily basis, you will be fine. There will be times when you feel more stressed than you’ve ever felt before for any class, but I promise you do not need to worry about your final grade. They curve the class more than any other class I’ve taken and they do everything they can to help you get an A. Just remember to enjoy the program while you’re in it because it goes fast. I wish you all the best and remember to HAVE FUN!

Grace Heart studied abroad in Dublin, Ireland, in Summer 2017:

Ireland | Study Techniques


So by now I think I’ve pretty much nailed down my study techniques for this physics program. I do realize that everyone learns differently so some of these techniques might not work for everyone, but I will try to keep it general enough to apply to a wide variety of learners, yet specific enough to give you ideas of how I learned a year of physics in eight weeks.


I know it’s easy to go to 9am lecture and sit on your phone or let the material go right over your head, but paying attention will make learning the material and studying later a million times easier. Do what you need to keep yourself awake and attentive during lecture. Bring snacks, drink some coffee, etc. You will sit through two hours of lecture every day, so be sure to pay attention. I use highlighters and pens to take notes and keep track of important information.


You will have two hours of tutorial twice a week in which you work through a problem set in a group of three. I feel like I learned everything during tutorial (in terms of learning to do the actual problems). Please please please don’t just use Chegg to get all the answers down and leave as fast as you can. You’re only hurting yourself this way because while you may get good scores on tutorials and get out faster, you are not actually learning the material that you will need to know for tests. Staying late is more than worth it if you understand how to do the problems that will be very similar to test problems.


If possible, try to take notes on each lecture the day that it is given. This will help you stay on top of the material, ensuring that you understand it as you go along. The material does build on itself so it just makes it more and more difficult to understand if you are further behind. I found that color coding and highlighting worked really well for my learning style. This is especially useful when you get to the light unit. You’ll have a bunch of light rays all over the page, so color coding will help you keep everything in check. More than anything it just looks really nice and makes it a bit more pleasant to go back and review you’re notes when they are easy to read. The professor typically does several example problems in class so go back and redo those problems on your own as well to ensure your own understanding.


The tutorial problems are very similar to the test problems, so I would recommend going back and redoing the tutorial problems on your own a second time. It should be significantly easier the second time and then if it’s not, you know you need to study that material a bit more.


Crash course was a lifesaver. Do not use this alone to learn the material, but I usually watched crash course during the break between lecture and lunch to recap what we learned in a short video that didn’t take too much brain power. There is an entire crash course physics playlist that pretty much covers every topic in the course.


This man knows everything there is to know about physics so just check out his videos if you need any extra help.

Not gonna lie, the course will be challenging and stressful, but I promise you are going to be ok. There will probably be times when you feel like you’re going to fail, but you will be fine. They do everything they can to help you succeed so please don’t let the stress ruin your time in Ireland or prevent you from having fun on the weekends. Good luck studying!!

Grace Heart studied abroad in Dublin, Ireland, in Summer 2017:

Ireland | Transportation in Dublin



The easiest way to get around the city is through the bus system. Each student is given a LeapCard upon arrival at the program and it is preloaded with €5. With the LeapCard, you don’t have to worry about carrying exact change around wherever you go. Instead, you just fill up your LeapCard in advance and you’re good to go whenever you’re ready to explore.

The best place to fill up your LeapCard is at the Centra on campus before you leave. I try to have at least €10 on my card at all times in case I end up going anywhere I didn’t expect to go. On average, each ride usually costs about €2.05 with some of the longer trips being more. It is possible to fill up your LeapCard online, but DON’T DO THIS! If you fill up the card online, you have to take it in to Centra to verify the transaction anyway, so just save yourself the time and effort and go straight to Centra.

When you get on the bus, you can either “tap on” in which case you pay the max fee for all the stops or you can tell the bus driver your stop and he will only charge you according to the number of stops you will be going. Most times, I just tap on, especially if its crowded, to save time, but if you are only going a few stops, just let the bus driver know so you don’t get charged for the whole trip.

I know this was a point of confusion for several people when we started using the bus system, but some people were told that they needed to “tap off” if they “tapped on” when getting on the bus, but you DO NOT NEED TO TAP OFF. Some of my friends got charged a lot of extra money by making this mistake. Tapping off will charge you AGAIN for the max ride length which I’m sure you don’t want. When exiting the bus, you do not have to do anything.

Keep in mind that the bus stops running at 11pm usually. If you are going to be out after 11pm, just split a taxi with your friends. We’ve found it to be about €15-18 when coming from City Centre, which split between 4 people, does not come out to be too expensive.

Overall, the bus system is extremely easy to use and can get you pretty much anywhere, even all the way to Dun Laoghaire.


If you are trying to go a bit further, but not across the whole country, take the DART, part of the Irish Rail system. I only took it a few times to get from City Centre to Dun Laoghaire or from Dun Laoghaire to Howth. It is usually a bit faster and you can still use your LeapCard or you can opt to buy a separate ticket.


If you are trying to get to across the country, use the train! We took the train from Dublin to Galway and it was so incredibly easy and a very nice train ride as well. The train is very clean, with tables and comfortable seats. I would highly recommend heading over to Galway for a weekend by train! You should book these tickets ahead of time if you want to sit with friends. Our tickets to Galway were about €25 round trip. I know you can get to Cork and Belfast on the train as well so definitely check out the train for a few weekend trips!

These are the easiest and cheapest ways to get around Dublin and the rest of Ireland! Take advantage of all the time you have and travel the country because it has so so much to offer!

Grace Heart studied abroad in Dublin, Ireland, in Summer 2017:

Ireland | A Day in the Life at UCD Summer Physics


6:30AM – WAKE UP! I typically wake up around 6:30am and check social media for about ten minutes before rolling out of bed. It always seems like you miss a lot when you’re asleep for half of your friends’ days across the world.

6:45AM – RUN! By 6:45am, I’m ready to run. I love going for runs in the morning because it helps me wake up and it’s also just a really great way to explore the city. I typically run towards city centre and explore different neighborhoods along the way.

7:30AM – SHOWER! After I get back from my run and stretch, I’m shower and get ready for the day.

8:15AM – LEAVE ROOM! I leave my room around 8:15am every morning. It’s about a 10-15 minute leisurely walk to the science building from Merville (dorms) so you get to breakfast around 8:30am.

8:30AM – BREAKFAST! Breakfast is at the Pi Restaurant in the science building. There’s normally some sort of hot dish as well as fruit, oatmeal, croissants, yogurt, and granola to choose from.

9:00AM – LECTURE! We have lecture Monday-Friday from 9am to 11am. The professor usually gives us a short, ten-minute break around 10am so we can get water, go to the restroom, or take a quick power nap.

11:00AM – BREAK! After lecture, we have an hour long break until lunch. A lot of people study during this time, go to the gym, or just relax for a bit.

12:00PM – LUNCH! Lunch is served in the Pi Restaurant again (cafeteria-style). They normally have about three options for a hot dish and are very accommodating to different dietary needs. Salad and bread are available as well.

1:00PM – LAB/TUTORIAL! After lunch, you will either have lab or tutorial. My group has labs on Monday and Wednesday and tutorial on Tuesday and Thursday. Labs last about three hours and  tutorials last about two hours depending on the efficiency of your group. In lab, we do hands-on experiments that apply the information we have learned in lecture. In tutorial, we are given a set of five practice problems to work on in groups of three. Both labs and tutorials are turned in and make up about 40% of your grade together.

4:00PM – GYM TIME! After lab or tutorial, I’ll typically go to the gym and do strength or one of the workout classes. The gym is free to the physics students and there are several free workout classes. These classes last about an hour and are a great way to stay in shape while abroad!

5:00PM – DINNER! – After the gym, we head over to dinner back at the science building. Again, there are usually three options for hot dishes plus a dessert for dinner.

The rest of the evening usually consists of studying/taking notes/doing practice problems or exploring the city. It stays light until about 10:30pm so you’ll have plenty of daylight for exploring if you choose to do so during the week. I would recommend trying to do most of your Dublin adventures during the week so that you can take longer trips on the weekend!

Grace Heart studied abroad in Dublin, Ireland, in Summer 2017:

Ireland | Hiking Howth


Last weekend, we made our way over to Howth, a village just outside Dublin. Most of the village lies on a peninsula. Its coastal feel reflects its history as a fishing village. The village is only about a 30 minute train ride from Dublin City Centre, making it very manageable as a weekend day trip!


It is a bit of a process to actually get to Howth, but I promise its so worth it. I would recommend taking the DART, the Irish train system, from Dublin City Centre to Howth. We left UCD at about 11:00am and took the 39A into town to get brunch in Dublin. At about 1:00pm, we made our way to the DART station in Dublin. A round trip ticket to Howth is only about €5. Buy your ticket just outside the station and make your way to the platform. The station is extremely easy to navigate so you should have no problem finding your way. Once you’re on the train, it takes about 30 minutes to get to Howth.


Just across the street from the DART station is a small market with a few food stands and some souvenir stands as well. We picked up a few pastries from one of the stands and a Chow Mein from a noodle stand. Not kidding, the Chow Mein took about three hours for 3 of us to eat, so maybe get one to share with the group.


Once you’ve walked through the market, take your food and hike the Lower Cliff Loop and have a picnic on the cliffs! The hike was so incredibly beautiful and a must-do if you’re in Howth. The entire hike is about 4 miles and takes about 2 hours if you take it at a leisurely pace. The map below shows the path you will be taking, but it starts right in Howth Village and ends there as well. On the trail you’ll be able to see Ireland’s Eye, an island just off the coast of Howth. Baily Lighthouse and Howth Castle are a few other points on the trail to look out for. Our favorite part of the hike was just the beautiful scenery off the cliffs – one of the most incredible views I’ve seen while in Ireland. To end the hike, we walked down a sort of boardwalk/street with restaurants and docks along the side of the water. We were surprised to see seals and jellyfish swimming around in the water below us too!


We didn’t go straight home, but instead stopped by Dun Laoghaire! Dun Laoghaire is on the opposite side of Dublin City Centre from Howth so it took about 45 minutes on the DART to get there. We had already been to Dun Laoghaire a few times, but it’s another beautiful coastal town. It is somewhat bigger than Howth with more restaurants, shopping, and activities than Howth. Maybe I’ll do another post just dedicated to Dun Laoghaire because it is very beautiful and much easier to get to than Howth, but Howth is definitely worth the journey and you do get more beautiful views than in Dun Laoghaire. Take the 46A home from Dun Laoghaire and your perfect “beach” day is complete!

Thanks for coming along on another day trip with me and stay tuned for a “Day in the Life” post next week that will give you an inside look into what a day at UCD Summer Physics is really like!

Grace Heart studied abroad in Dublin, Ireland, in Summer 2017:

Ireland | Wandering in Wicklow


Having just finished the midterm on Friday, we were all ready to get off campus. Our second program-organized day trip was Wicklow! Just south of Dublin, Wicklow is only about 45 minutes from UCD. The area was originally settled by the Celtics and later plundered by the Vikings from which it acquired its name. Today, the area is full of scenic hills and green fields.


We left campus at about 8:45am and made our way to Powercourt Estates. Nearly 50 acres, this large estate was originally a 13th century castle, later altered by a German architect in the 18th century. The name comes from the original owner La Poer which became “Power.” After a fire in 1974, the House was reconstructed. The view from the castle is absolutely breathtaking, one of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen.  We explored the estate, starting with the rose gardens at the bottom of the steps down from the castle. Next, we made our way over to the Japanese Garden. There was also a pet cemetery on the other side of the estate which was a bit odd. Apparently, it’s the largest pet cemetery in Ireland, but I’ve never really seen any sort of pet cemetery to compare it to so I guess I’d say it was pretty big. It is the resting ground for the pets of the Slazenger families, most recent owners. The cemetery includes horses and cows. We didn’t get a chance to see the tower, but everything we did see was stunning! We only spent about two hours at the estate, so try to be efficient in what you see if you want to explore the entire estate. There is a trail you can take around the whole thing, but we did spend a decent amount of time relaxing and taking photos.