Shannon: Trinity College – The Fulfilment of My University Dreams

When I was younger, I watched films about universities like Oxford, leading to my desire to go to one of those castle-like universities one day. As you will see from my photos, that dream has been fulfilled!

One of the many things that I love about Ireland is its warm and welcoming culture. This is encapsulated in the college campus, which is open to the public. You can often see tourists walking in to take photos of the stunning architecture and I have to admit, this was me when I first arrived.

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Inside the entrance of Trinity College – isn’t it stunning?

Trinity College was established in 1592 and designed to model other historic universities like Oxford and Cambridge. Legend has it that if you are walking underneath the Campanile (pronounced Cam-po-neel, pictured below) and the bell rings, you will fail your exams. So far, I have steered clear of it and you rarely see Trinity students underneath it. You might take the obligatory graduation photo in front of it to celebrate your academic success but no one wants to risk the possibility of this legend coming true.

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In the centre of this beautiful campus stands the Campanile – walk underneath it if you dare

When I walked into my first class at Trinity, I was nervous because I had no idea what to expect. I had questions running through my head such as:

What if my lecturers are terrible?

What if I hate my classes?

And the list goes on.

I am in the last semester of my Conjoint Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Music degree majoring in English, Chinese and Musicology (Music Education) and while that is quite a mouthful, I really enjoy studying these subjects. At Trinity, I am taking two Music courses (called modules here), one Education, and one Children’s Literature course and am honestly learning so much.

Courses at Trinity College are similar to Auckland University as you also have lectures and tutorials. The main difference is that the lecture hours are significantly reduced so I only have classes from Monday to Wednesday which is a nice change. However, since Trinity is focused on research, the coursework and assignments are geared toward that with the expectation of students keeping up with multiple course readings and engaging in discussions.

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This is the Berkeley Library, one of three inter-connected libraries at Trinity College

I was delighted to discover that as a Trinity student, I have free entry in to see the ‘Old Library’ and the Book of Kells, an ancient Irish text of the four Gospels.

I don’t even have the words to describe how exciting this was because when you walk into the long room and see the shelves of books, you can feel the sense of history as you take in the beautiful architecture, smell of old books and manoeuvre your way through the crowds of tourists. Something that is pretty cool is that they turn the pages of the Book of Kells every few weeks so you can go in several times and see different pages each time.

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Inside the entrance of the long hall – I thought I was dreaming!
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One of the stunning staircases – only librarians can use it
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Another picture of those beautiful shelves of books!
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A bust of William Shakespeare, 1 of 38 busts in the Library
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Copy of the Book of Kells in the Long Room – no photos allowed in the exhibition but you can see the exquisite detail

Despite my initial fears, I am really enjoying studying here. Apart from study, I got involved in the social aspect of Trinity by joining Christian Union (a Christian group at Trinity). By attending their events/meetings and being open to having lunch with classmates, this has helped me to adjust and enjoy the exchange experience more.

Fun fact: There are two languages spoken in Ireland; English and Irish (Gaeilge) and you can see both everywhere on street signs and public transport.

Thanks for reading!

Feicfidh mé ar ball thú (See you soon)

Shannon

Shannon: Finding My Feet

Hello again!

I’ve been in Dublin for almost 2 months now which is crazy but I am absolutely loving it. When I first arrived, I was nervous because I didn’t know anyone and envisioned myself alone in my room, friendless (maybe that was a bit dramatic). However, I managed to find a church close to my accommodation. This helped me so much because:

  1. Everyone here is so welcoming and friendly
  2. Knowing locals in Dublin means that I have insider tips for what I should do!
  3. Walking to church helps me to exercise (it takes 30 mins) and the walk goes through Rathmines shops, a picturesque area of cute little shops and cafes as well as stunning Georgian architecture
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I can’t get over how stunning these houses are!!
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The coloured doors are also a highlight of my walk

One of the lovely ladies from my church showed me St Stephens Green, a park near Trinity College. I enjoy learning about the history of places so it’s awesome that there are memorials for the Irish potato famine around the park.

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The centre of the park
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Inside St Stephens Green Shopping Centre
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I also found a Disney store nearby (three storeys high!!)

One of the highlights of my time here so far has definitely been going for strolls around the streets near Trinity. It doesn’t cost anything and there are often buskers playing live music throughout the day. I have had to ask for directions a few times and had no problems, apart from one instance where a kind passer-by didn’t understand what I was asking because of my New Zealand accent.

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Grafton Street, one of the main areas for busking
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Entrance to the National Gallery of Archaeology

I haven’t gone crazy with travel but I enjoyed a recent visit to the National Gallery of Archaeology (it is one of four National Gallery museums in Dublin). This was great because:

  1. It was free!
  2. I didn’t want to just enjoy the sights and experiences, but I also wanted to learn more about Irish culture and history.

One of the most important things that I’ve realised so far is that I need to be open to meeting people and exploring new places as this has enriched my experience. Although, it’s important not to exhaust yourself to the point where you are too tired to enjoy travelling as I learned the hard way.

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George’s St Arcade, an area of little shops and cafes near Trinity College
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Gems from an Irish fudge shop inside George’s St Arcade, literally enriching my life

Out of everything that I have done so far, finding a community that I relate to has helped me to adjust in Dublin. Honestly, I can’t recommend this aspect of travelling enough because it can be tempting to just get caught up in travelling rather than also forming friendships with like-minded people. While there is also an element of exploring (and enjoying) new places, enjoyment can be found in the small things also.

I hope that this blog post has been encouraging and look forward to sharing more about what life in Dublin is like!

Until next time,

Shannon

Shannon: The Journey to Dublin

On the 8th of January 2019, I began my journey to Dublin. This was an experience that I will never forget because:

  1. It was my first long haul (and solo) flight
  2. Unexpected things happened

Even though I was excited, the funny thing is that when I was on my first flight, I thought, “I don’t want to go! I want to get off!” What probably didn’t help is that when I turned to hug all of my family goodbye at the airport, there were lots of tears.

Since I was leaving home for the first time, my parents were (understandably) a bit nervous about me going so far so I stayed in contact with them through the airport wifi. To keep me going for the second leg of my journey, I bought a bowl of beef noodle soup at Hong Kong airport. Sadly, I was unable to finish it as I had previously consumed two meals on the flight from Auckland.

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My “I’ve arrived safely in Hong Kong!” selfie
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I got this delicious soup at a noodle bar near the departure gates

Originally, I was supposed to have a 3 hour layover before I would catch my flight from Hong Kong to Dublin but we were informed at the departure lounge that the plane had been delayed for 3 hours. At this point, I had been on a 12 hour flight near a screaming toddler and wanted to arrive in Dublin so I could get some shut-eye. I had the choice to approach this situation in one of two ways:

  1. Go with the flow: take in the information, process it and entertain myself
  2. Let the emotions rule: give into exhaustion and frustration and spend the delay stressing about when the plane will arrive

It was not easy but I wanted to approach the delay with the more positive view. While I’m on this exchange, I want to make the most of experiences because I will carry those memories with me for the rest of my life. So, I talked to fellow passengers, went for a walk around Hong Kong Airport and found a pretty New Year display!

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New Year display in Hong Kong Airport. Sign: DO NOT EAT (the mandarins were real!)
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Our plane finally arrived at 4:30am (Hong Kong time)

When I arrived in Dublin, I was exhausted but excited to get to my accommodation. Being typical me, when I had picked up my luggage from the baggage claim (with help from a kind gentleman) and put it on a trolley, I ended up awkwardly shuffling forwards and trying to prevent it from careening into passer-by’s. It was only after someone told me to push down on the handle that I was able to manoeuvre it smoothly.

I ended up taking a taxi and the driver gave me an overview of Dublin as he drove to my accommodation. Everyone who I met was so kind and friendly when I asked for help and despite the challenges, this gave me a lovely first impression of Ireland.

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My first view of Trinity College-it’s right in the city centre
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The Bank of Ireland-also in the city centre

Thanks for reading my ramblings 🙂

Shannon

Reflections – Tate

This post comes to you from a bedroom in Kingsand, Cornwall, which is my new set-up for the next little while. I am here, and not tucked up back home in between semesters, post-Mediterranean holiday, because of the university I’ve been writing about for the past few months: Trinity—and the fact I’m in the process of extending my time abroad so that I can spend more time studying there.

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My feelings towards my time in Dublin are overwhelmingly positive. It’s probably easiest explained in the spiel I’ve found myself giving any time someone asks me about being there: “Everything I’m learning about feels so immediate, because so many of the writers I’m studying have come through Trinity, or lived in Dublin, or been so close geographically that it’s far more accessible and real than it’s possible for them to be in New Zealand. The history—buildings hundreds of years older than even the first glint of any Treaty on New Zealand soil—is right there. Oscar Wilde’s houses, and Yeats’s; sites of risings and revolution now right on my doorstep. The city never feels intimidating, as some can, and once you’ve got your bearings you’ll find yourself devising shortcuts and favourite routes and you’ll be engaging in a light College Green jaywalk ahead of the LUAS with the best of them.”

Okay, so maybe I don’t wax quite that poetic when I’m describing my experience, but I’d say I get pretty close to it. And they’re truths.

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Don’t get me wrong, there are absolute, complete stressors: administration and enrolment at Trinity is entirely different from Auckland; immigration appointments can provide long wait times and make every single person involved anxious; if you walk two streets off your normal route you can be lost in the depths of suburbia—but these are difficulties you’d find anywhere, in some form or another. They pass, and you can get down to the business of enjoying your experience. (That said: homesickness hits the best of us, though it can be helped through social media. The time difference for me ranged from 11 hours to 13, but I managed. Wrecked my best mate’s sleep schedule, and mine, but it can be dealt with!)

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I’ve found that what I got out of the experience massively outweighed the anxiety I felt at times (story of my life, really). Dublin is a great place to move if you want an international experience that is truly independent, but also not vastly different from home. The sense of humour is the same, and the same rugby games get broadcast in the pub. (I was the sober friend on a Literary Pub Crawl and almost gave up on the rest of the night because I spotted the ’Saders—y’know, the usual.)

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I built a nice little routine for myself in Dublin: trips to Lidl and the ways to walk; cinemas I’d go to on occasion and which shops to avoid at which times because they’d be manic. I made friends from around the world (though unfortunately none from Ireland—a downside of international accommodation). I had an absolutely brilliant time, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Ta ta,

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My Favourite Spots in Dublin – Tate

We were given a choice of what we wanted to talk about for this blog post, so I thought I’d share a few of my favourite spots around Dublin city, all of which are within walking distance of Trinity College or Binary Hub!

Indoors

There’s a lot to be seen around Dublin — museums, galleries, libraries, and cathedrals. They’re all located relatively centrally, and you can almost stumble from one to the other, especially once you’re in the depths of Georgian Dublin. (The different areas can be categorised by their architectural era and as somebody with a not-so-secret love for architecture—I’m the gal who stops and goes “oh, finally a fluted column!”—Georgian is definitely my fave). Fortunately, almost everything has free admission, so you can get in and get your fill of art/history/culture without breaking the bank.

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One of my faves from a previous visit to the National Gallery!

Two of my top spots are just down the road from Trinity. If you leave campus down by the Science buildings, onto Nassau Street, you’ll go past the site of Finn’s Hotel (where James Joyce met his future wife, Nora) and soon enough find yourself at the National Gallery of Ireland. It spans multiple floors, numerous exhibitions, and—to bring up architecture again—even the building itself is gorgeous. On my first visit there, I happened upon a massive, absolutely magnificent portrait of Graham Norton—just a room over from several stained-glass depictions of Bible scenes. There’s really something for everybody. Also in this area you can find the Museum of Archaeology and the Natural History Museum, if you wanted to make a day of it.

There are loads of gorgeous cathedrals and churches dotted around town, too—in particular, St. Patrick’s is great to visit, and there’s loads of history there. It’s also not far from Marsh’s Library, if you don’t mind parting with €2 in exchange for seeing a bunch of stunning old books. (I might be showing my true colours as an old lady and a major nerd here, but, like, it’s my blog post, whaddaya gonna do).

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Marsh’s Library!

Another particular favourite of mine—though this one certainly isn’t free to access—is the Lighthouse Cinema. It’s a five-minute walk from Binary Hub, just across the Liffey, and in addition to showing a spectacular selection of films—I took my Californian friend to a very emotional showing of Lady Bird there—they’ve also been known to throw costume parties and cocktail evenings in the lead-up to big film releases. (They went ham over Isle for Dogs.)

Outdoors

In terms of the outdoors, there are parks abound in Dublin. Many areas have greens or squares of grass/trees/shrubs etc. too, so you never feel too enclosed by the city. The aforementioned St. Patrick’s Cathedral has gorgeous grounds, and I’ve also heard people rave about the Iveagh Gardens (not to be confused with Beyonce’s Ivy Park clothing line). My two personal favourite outdoor spots, though—Trinity grounds not included—are Merrion Square and Phoenix Park.

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Oscar Wilde dominates the whole Merrion Square area. I mean, the whole thing.

Merrion Square is right by the National Gallery, just down the round from Trinity. When you see everything awash with Oscar Wilde references, you’re in the right place. Wilde lived on Merrion Square, as did W.B. Yeats, although further down the road. There’s a monument to Wilde which faces his house, and I’ve taken it upon myself to ensure all my friends have visited the spot (yeah, this blog post has devolved into Tate’s Nerd Preferences, but they’re part of why Dublin is such a fantastic city). I always find Merrion Square really relaxing, and it’s a two-minute walk from Trinity, so definitely worth a look-in at least.

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Lovely day in Phoenix Park!

Phoenix Park, though, is iconic. It’s huge—7.07km²—and offers up everything from fields of daisies to Dublin Zoo to a herd of deer that have been known to take food but also potentially to give a bite if you’re not careful. On a sunny day, people flock to Phoenix Park; Ed Sheeran performed there a couple of weeks ago, which I’d forgotten until I tried to make a trip and found it far more populated than usual, even for summer. Oh, well. There was another park just down the road. Classic Dublin.

I’m heading to Barcelona in a few days for a cruise around the Mediterranean (with my mum, no less), but I’ll be back one last time to give you a reflection on my experience at Trinity this sem. Until then!

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Campus Life – Tate

The theme of this blog post is “Campus Life”, which I thought I’d tackle by separating things into two categories: study and extracurricular. We’re talking study expectations, social opportunities; all the goods. Let’s do it!

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A gorgeous walk into uni, complete with crane.

Study:

Trinity as a university is predominantly research-based, and this is absolutely shown in its timetabling—even at the undergraduate level. The stages of undergraduate study are classified with Freshman and Sophister categories, and, within each, a Junior year and a Senior year (i.e. first year students take Junior Fresh modules, second year students take Senior Fresh ones, then third-years move into Junior Soph, etc.) The university is split into three main faculties or schools: Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; Engineering, Mathematics and Science; and Health Sciences.

Freshman modules (read: papers, or courses, or whatever you want to call them) under the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences umbrella typically meet once a week, with another one-hour tutorial for compulsory modules. This is markedly different to UoA, and you’ll find your in-class time decreased by at least half—even if you’re entered for the maximum five transferable-credit classes. You’ll therefore have way more time on your hands (I had three-day weeks), but with the lack of in-class time comes much higher expectations of student-led learning. I was expected to read a book—novel, poetry collection, play etc.—a week for each of my modules, plus secondary readings which could range from one five-page section to four twenty-page stints. I’ve actually found it easier to get through course content this way, despite there being more of it, and it’s also given me the opportunity to get out and explore more of the city when it wasn’t so busy.

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Now that the weather’s started to improve, all grassy expanses on campus are occupied by opportunistic students and members of the public. College Green has been rechristened “The Beach” on days like these!

Classes, like UoA, run for fifty minutes, beginning on the hour, and—unlike UoA—the Arts modules tend to all be taught in the same building, so you’re not dashing from the Engineering building to the Law school, or from OGGB to Commerce A. Just up and down a few flights of stairs! Another difference from UoA is assessment: where most UoA papers are run on continuous assessment—e.g. 50% exam, 25% essay, 15% test, and, like, 10% participation—modules at Trinity are often one-and-done. I had three essays this semester, all worth 100%, and two exams, also worth 100%. This is both good and frightful, but there’s no point in stressing—all you can do is your best, anyway, and at least once those assessments are over, you’re done for that module and you can breathe easy. (I did have three essays due on the same day, though, which I didn’t enjoy. But, on the bright side, I learned really good time management!)

Extracurricular:

Trinity, like UoA, has heaps of clubs on offer—virtually all the same ones you’d find at our Clubs Expo, a couple of our more niche sports and the legendary Meat Club notwithstanding. Personally, I joined the Literary Society (poetry readings, tea and coffee afternoons, Harry Potter-themed events galore) and the International Students Society. I’d really recommend the latter, as they do discounted trips to a bunch of must-see places; I went to Galway, the Aran Islands, and the Cliffs of Moher earlier in the semester. It was manic in terms of time—constantly go-go-go in between locations—but the peace and stillness on Inis Mór (Inish)more than made up for it. (I’ll see myself out.) I’d recommend joining a club or two, as it can be a great way to meet people if your living situation doesn’t supply you with a bunch of groovy new mates, and lectures themselves aren’t the most social places.

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The Cliffs of Moher! When my family came five years ago, it was too foggy to even get to the Visitor Centre—but on this day it was lovely and clear!

Because of its aforementioned focus on research, Trinity is also a hub for exciting workshops and lectures. If you’re a bit of a nerd like me, you’ll take advantage of the free—free!—talks that are on, literally every day. The subjects are so varied that you’ll easily find something suited to your tastes; a couple of highlights for me were a visit from an Italian sculptor who had had several run-ins with the mafia, and a celebration of Harry Potter’s enduring legacy. (You may be sensing a bit of a Potter theme here. And before you ask, yes, I caved and started playing the mobile game.)

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The Aran Islands! This picture really doesn’t do it justice; the place was gorgeous beyond belief. More on my Insta if you’re interested (@tatefountain #shamelessselfpromo)

Trinity’s really in the centre of town, too, so it’s only a short walk to the National Gallery, Merrion Square, and basically any other destination you could be after. A few different classes use Marsh’s Library—which is stunning, by the way—as a field trip, but you can go yourself for about €2. Definitely worth it for the history! (Speaking of: definitely use your Student ID to jump the queue, and the fees, for the Book of Kells and the Long Room at Trinity. I may have cried walking up the stairs to the Long Room. Sis luvs books, and all that.)

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Food, Glorious Food – Tate

To be clear right from the outset: there isn’t a huge degree of difference between food in Ireland and food in New Zealand. (Please try to hold all potato-based japes for the duration of this blog post.)

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The Stag’s Head’s take on fish and chips.

Many well-known Irish staples – such as shepherd’s pie and fish and chips – wouldn’t look out of place on a New Zealand dinner-table. We share a lot of basic meal components, and while a move to Ireland definitely means bidding adieu to L&P, Whittaker’s, and other uniquely-Kiwi products, there isn’t that adjustment to, say, rice at every meal, or recipes you don’t recognise. Plus, Ireland has its own set of stand-out players: most principally, Guinness and Bailey’s – though as someone who doesn’t particularly like either of them, I can’t offer a comprehensive review: only that you can get them in a variety of forms and people always say they’re better in Ireland! (Fun fact: Guinness is brewed in 51 countries around the world, so no matter what your local Irish pub might be saying, it’s unlikely you’ve got a pint directly from my next door neighbour.)

The food scene in Dublin feels similar to that of Auckland, as there’s a lot of variety in the central city, provided you know where to look. Honestly, I’d suggest becoming That Person and scrolling through Yelp and/or TripAdvisor, or even just giving things a cheeky Google – I’ve found so many great spots just from doing a bit of research. Word of mouth is great, too, so once you’ve made a few friends, maybe ask them if they’ve ventured out into any exciting eateries thus far. (If not, make it an activity!)

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Downstairs at Mama’s Revenge!

While I’ve got you here, I thought I’d shout out a few of my favourite places for a specific recommendation, should you find yourself in Dublin:

  • Pub food: You can go into any pub you like and you’ll find good, reliable food. But I’d recommend Arthur’s and The Stag’s Head for reliability and convenience. Arthur’s is a short walk from Binary Hub and it has a lot of options on the menu that won’t break the bank, and The Stag’s Head is a five-minute walk from Trinity if a class finishes up late or if you’ve got something at College in the evening and you don’t want to walk to and fro. If you’re looking less for pub food and more for pubs, my favourites are Bad Bob’s and Frank Ryan’s. Bad Bob’s also serves food, and is packed almost every time I go, but it’s just down the road from Temple Bar and they have live music and it’s always fun. Frank Ryan’s is a five-minute walk from Binary Hub and very small but completely worth checking out – their décor, like Bad Bob’s, is brilliant, and they also have a very friendly dog who practically owns the place!
  • Mama’s Revenge: Placed on Nassau Street, just beside Trinity, Mama’s Revenge is a great spot for Mexican food! It’s fresh, fast, and filling, and you’ll get things cheaper if you show Student ID. (If you’re sitting in, go downstairs! It’s super cute.) (Side note: Dublin is on a bit of a Mexican kick at the moment, apparently – there’s a Boojum on every other street if you’re after a good taco bowl!)
  • The Market Bar: I discovered The Market Bar by accident, looking for somewhere to take visiting friends, and it is possibly my new favourite place. The menu is diverse and not overly expensive, and the restaurant is gorgeous (if you’re interested in getting the ’gram). It’s also near Trinity, so if you wanted to celebrate the end of a hard day/week/month with some friends, this could be a nice way to do it! The food is organised in such a way that it could be shared like tapas, or you could order things individually. Either way, I’d wholeheartedly recommend it!
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Luuuuuvs a burrito with friends after a late class finish!

Those are some quick recs from me re: food in Dublin. There are so many places and all kinds of cuisines on offer (within walking distance, too!), so I’d definitely encourage researching things yourself. For such a compact city, the options are endless.

Catch ya next time!

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