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HCJMU Abroad: First Stop, Guinness

Hello, collegiettes™! And so a new school year has begun. While you all are enjoying yourselves at JMU, I have packed my bags and started my journey on the other side of the Atlantic!  Allow me to introduce myself:  My name is Megan Harman and as I study abroad in London for the fall 2011 semester, I will be entertaining you twice a month with my experiences from across the pond.  I am a senior School of Media Arts and Design major with a concentration in Journalism and a minor in French. While doing an internship with UK’s ESPN, and taking three classes, I am here to bring Europe to you. I’ll explain my experiences with guys, dating, fashion, food, beer, traveling, and customs from multiple European countries!
Before I had to arrive in London, I took a two-week vacation with my mom. First stop: Guinness. 

Let me stress the importance of traveling light. Cramming two weeks worth of clothes in one small duffel bag is nearly impossible, especially for a girl. Let’s not forget the tiny sandwich size bag of toiletries  (including make-up, which has to be shoved into the same small duffel bag). Basically, to avoid checked baggage fees, my mother and I forcefully stuffed our lives into one bag each and left the United States to spend two weeks at the most luscious, lively, and exhilarating place yet: Ireland. 
Traveling is not as peachy as it seems. After running to our connecting flight in London, tripping over my awkwardly stuffed duffel bag and getting harassed by customs, my mom and I finally made it to the West Coast of Ireland. It took two days. By the time we arrived, we were six hours ahead of the States, looked like we hadn’t slept and lucky for us, it was the beginning of a new day.  Up next, mastering the rental car. 
Thankfully my mom pre-encouraged me that she could manage a stick shift vehicle. Little did I know that was when she was sixteen! We got in the car, put it in gear, and then drove on the right side of the road – which is of course the left! To make you see this clearly: picture two of the tiniest cars in the world side-by-side.  Now imagine that is how wide the roads are. That was how wide the roads were! After pulling over twice, we came to the conclusion that we should drive as little as possible and that we needed a beer, preferably a cold one. 

Getting to our rental home was like drinking a cup of coffee before class. Conveniently enough, we had to pick up our key from the local pub. This is the exact moment I fell in love. His name was, and is, Guinness. I had never met him before, but I heard he was like drinking syrup. Not only was that information discouraging,it was completely false!  He had a rich heaviness and a hint of coffee flavor that went down surprisingly well.  He became my “go-to” drink for the next two exciting weeks. 
Visiting historical castles, riding mountain bikes on the narrow country roads, and doing a little shopping left nothing else to do at night except for eating traditional Irish comfort food and drinking a pint.  The great thing about Ireland is that there are approximately four pubs per block; at least there was where I stayed. Every night wasn’t complete without live traditional Irish music. And this is where the excitement began. 
After a delicious dinner and two glasses of wine, my mom and I ventured over to the pub across the street. Low and behold, the jackpot. An Irish rugby team stopped in town just for the night. Let’s see… a combination between live music, four pints of Guinness and a rugby team? Not sure the night could have gotten any better. I’ll start off with this: Irish boys like to dance. Granted, they don’t by any means dance like we do at Jimdel’s; they actually twirl you and in no way are you sweating all over each other. 
The next place I went to a couple nights later was more like a club – the biggest club I have ever seen or been to in my entire life. I thought I was walking into a small pub but around the corner and through several hallways opened up a room the size of D-Hall. Who knew this was here?! No, they did not play traditional Irish music. Luckily, my mom and I met some girls earlier in the day that told us they would like to take us out. We agreed to a couple drinks. Well, the couple drinks turned into staying out until 3 a.m. and walking home together singing “Party Rock Anthem” by LMFAO. 

Let me tell you something about my experiences with the music scene here – essentially, the songs that came out in America almost 6 months ago, are coming out now in Ireland; therefore, a song that I know and think is old and overplayed, is ten times more exciting for them. Watching them pump their fists in the air made it feelsurreal that I was in a foreign country with so much life around me. 
As time dwindled down, and my mom and I had the best times of our lives, I knew I still had so much more ahead of me. I am unpacked in London now and it is calling. Throughout the semester, I have several planned trips across Europe. From Paris to Italy or from Germany to Greece, I will share my experience with you. One thing for sure is, some time in the near future, I am dragging someone with me back to Guinness. I mean Ireland. 
Until next time… Cheerio! xx

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