Castles, Markets, Churches and a Stone-cold Kiss

(Originally posted by Katie Virostek, a junior at CSU studying abroad at the University of Limerick in Ireland.  You can access her blog here:

Saturday I took a day trip to Blarney Castle and Cork City, which is in the very southern part of Ireland. The day started very early at 8:15 am — I have quickly realized that when I return home and back to American people time I will have a very, VERY difficult time getting used to waking up early. My earliest classes here are at 10! After about a two hour bus ride, which I definitely napped during, we arrived at Blarney Castle. We started the day the only proper way- with much needed tea/coffee and scones at the tiny local hotel. Once the caffeine kicked in we made our way onto the castle grounds to explore a bit. Blarney Castle is the home of the Blarney Stone, which you can kiss once you walk to the top of the castle. Because our tour group consisted of 150 students, it took us about 45 minutes to actually walk the 100 stairs to the top and kiss the stone. To kiss the stone you lay down on your back, hold on to two iron bars with your hands while a worker holds on to your hips, lean your head all the way back, and MWAH! Kiss the stone. I actually really enjoyed doing this, even though it looks really scary. Those who kiss the stone are said to have bestowed upon them the gift of eloquence. I will leave that up to you to decide if it’s true or not.

Because we had to wait so long in time we didn’t have time to properly explore the rest of the grounds, which includes a lake, fern garden, and water garden. We did survive the Poison Garden, which contains a wide array of poisonous plants. One that I came across and found rather humorous was cannabis, which is illegal in Ireland. A totally unexpected find for me. Our leader joked that this is probably the only place you could find it growing and not get in trouble for it. I’m not going to touch on that subject any more though.

After Blarney we drove another half hour or so into Cork city, which has the River Lee running through it. Cork is a lot bigger than Limerick and the term “city” is more appropriately used to describe it than Limerick.  We got lunch at Cafe Mexicana, where I had some incredible enchiladas. We then visited the famous English Market, which is like the Milk Market but for Cork and a bit nicer. It contains some of the best foods from all over the world, including some ice cream that I got post lunch.

Once we finished up at the English Market Sally and I walked to St. Anne’s church, which houses the Shandon Bells and Tower. You actually are able to climb the tower and ring the bells yourself, but we got there too close to closing time to be able to do that. The tower itself though is pretty iconic, and we enjoyed the walk over.

I’m excited for fall to start here! I’ve seen some amazing pictures of fall in Ireland, and I cannot wait to experience it firsthand.


The Awe of Rome at Night

(Originally posted by Amanda Thompson, a CSU student currently studying at John Cabot University in Rome, Italy.  Visit her blog page at

I have just completed my first full week of attending John Cabot University, and residing in Viale Trastevere in ROME, ITALY. Weekdays are usually spent walking back and forth to three different JCU campuses, lounging by the Tiber River, and weaving in and out through cobble stoned alley ways littered with quaint Italian pizzerias, cafes, and ristorantes. Each weekday is an adventure in itself, even though I am still working on establishing a set daily routine. Back at home in Colorado, a set routine was feasible and easy to establish…for that is where my comfort zone lies, as well as familiarity and stability. However when in Roma…one could easily immerse themselves in an adventure whether it may be dodging aggressive cars and buses left and right just to walk two blocks to the nearest grocery store, or if that adventure is found at 3 a.m., lost and confused in the heart of Rome.

Which leads to last Friday night…and this night was just a tad bit different than Katy Perry’s version. In this case, last Friday night, we went trekking in the dark, in search of a bench mark, then abbiamo trovato il colosseo.

At around 3 a.m., the night owls of Rome were starting to find their way back to their homes. The restaurants and bars began to shut off their lights and stack up their chairs one by one. Everyone and everything seemed to start to settle under the moonlight…all except four. My friends and I wandered the empty cobble stoned streets, questioning the way back to Viale Trastevere. We finally asked a local Italian who led us in the opposite direction…and straight to the famous grand Colosseum, which was vibrant and lit up, illuminating all that surrounded it with its yellow lighting. Despite the pain in our feet and the heaviness in our eyelids, the four of us stopped in awe of the monument. To me, the Colosseum appeared to be even more breathtaking at night, without all the crowds of tourists and vendors surrounding it. What a sight.

Colosseum at night

Colosseum at night

Even if the local Italian man led us in the wrong direction, I was glad he did. Maybe he knew these four soon to be locals needed one last adventure before the sun came out…or maybe he just did not understand our broken Italian.

Cheers to the confused Italian local and to the beautiful lit up Colosseum. Cheers to getting lost. Cheers to the spontaneous adventures that makes everything worth it. I can’t wait for what the next 4 months will bring.


Nicole Aranci is studying Marketing and a Creative Writing at CSU and will be spending the next semester in Adelaide, Australia. Her blog can originally be found at

[Originally posted February 18th, 2014]


I’ve always thought that was a beautiful name. People always ask me after I tell them I’m studying abroad here, “Why did you pick Adelaide?”

The truth is I’ve always wanted to come to Australia. When I was little I’d read national geographic kid’s magazine and about half the time there was some kind of animal from Australia. My favorite tv show on discovery kids was about three girls who lived in Australia and rode horses. If adventure was out there, it seemed like it would live in Australia.

Plus, beaches.

Adelaide was just the obvious choice for me bc it was a direct exchange program with csu. And that is the unglamorous take of how I chose Adelaide. I didn’t know what I was doing!

Yesterday I went into the city and the architecture is beautiful. The buildings are all old and ornate, with swirling an curving trim around the porches and windows, red tile roofs and stone or brick walls, and little details here or there making each one unique.

There’s loads of cafés and shops. I think as far as city centers go, Adelaide isn’t lacking much at all. But then again, I’m not much of a city person, and my favorite thing about Australia so far is the ugly black and white birds that warble and trill outside my window. They’re truly good singers and I noticed them straight off, even through my fog of jet lag and exhaustion.

I know I promised some pictures and better blogging when I got to better internet, but you’ll all just have to hold out a few more days until I can get my laptop.

Out house is good. The best part about it is my two roommates Millie and Yoshi. Millie is Australian and grew up on a sheep farm somewhere in Victoria, and Yoshi is from japan. He said he’d teach me to make sushi sometime so I’m sincerely looking forward to that!

My room is pretty cheerful. I was a little aghast upon first seeing it, but I cleaned the carpets and Millie took me to kmart to buy a colorful flowery comforter and purple sheets. The breeze flows through our whole house and it’s really pleasant and cool. There’s also some pretty neat old houses in our neighborhood and we’re really close to woolworth’s, which is Australia’s second largest grocery store chain.

My friend Cody came to Adelaide to study abroad too, so today I’m braving the bus system to go into the city and meet him at campus west. I can’t wait to see someone from home! It sounds so silly but even in New Zealand where I had loads of friends and traveled with great people I was always excited to meet an American.