My 3-step descent into coffee snobdom

never drank coffee.

Not in high school. Not during my undergrad years. The most caffeine I got was from chocolate and maybe tea. No matter how much work I had, or how tired I was, coffee was never on the menu.

And then I moved to Seattle.

I held out for a year. Coffee was never part of my daily routine, you know? About a year ago, though, I fell down the coffee rabbit hole and never came out.

It wasn’t an instant thing. I didn’t start chugging coffee from first sip. My descent into coffeedom started slowly, gradually, via this multi-step slide into caffeination…

Step 1: Grad school.

It’s the classic story. Grad students are busy, have tons of work, and get no sleep. I entered a master’s program in a subject I had never studied before. Many late-night hours were spent agonizing over my code, trying to figure out why things didn’t work.


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I was tempted to reach for coffee. But I didn’t. I hadn’t before, why should I now?

Well, let’s throw another factor into the mix:

Step 2: The Eternal Gloom.

For those who don’t know, Seattle is a… special kind of city.

Here were some actual news headlines about Seattle this year:

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Seattle is as gloomy as it gets. Once autumn hits, expect to not see the sun until May. There can be weeks– months– of thick overcast and constant drizzle. Even when you’re outside at noon, it looks as though the sun had just set. It’s that dark.

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I grew up in a much sunnier place. Sure, it gets cold in Philadelphia and Boston– much colder than Seattle– but at least it’d be sub-freezing and sunny. My body was not, and still isn’t, used to the constant gloom. So, during the winter, I’m constantly tired.

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One of the first things I did was buy one of those sun therapy lamps. You know, the ones that are supposed to mimic real sunlight? You’re supposed to sit in front of it for 15 minutes daily. I would leave it on all day.

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Yeah. It wasn’t happening.

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I had to wake up somehow.


Step 3: The City of Coffee Snobs

Now it’s time to share a few facts about Seattle.

  1. Seattle has 1,692 coffee shops in the city, averaging out to 253 shops per 100,000 residents. For reference: NYC only has 103 coffee shops per 100,000 residents.
  2. Seattle is not only the birthplace of Starbucks, but home to over 200 Starbucks stores. There’s a Starbucks on every corner, I swear.
  3. In 2014, Seattleites spent $141.33 per person on coffee, behind only San Fran and San Jose as the highest spenders on coffee.
  4. We have a coffee subscription service that will ship you fresh coffee beans from one of Seattle’s independent roasters each month.

So. Imagine that you haven’t seen the sun in months. You haven’t been sleeping much due to your looming deadlines and confusing assignments. You live in a city that is so full of coffee-obsessed people that there are coffee shops on every block. And not just ordinary cafes where coffee is served as an afterthought– I’m talking about specialty stores that will source, roast, and brew their own coffee beans.

Now imagine that every day you walk by a sidewalk espresso bar (which, by the way, I didn’t know was a thing until moving here) that always smells delicious.

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There was one particularly gloomy night where it was late and I was coding.

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This espresso bar is open until 11PM.

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I gave in, pulled on my raincoat, and walked the five minutes from my apartment to the espresso bar.

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Da fuq were all these words? I went with the only menu item I knew: the latte.


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Pretty as it was, I drank it, of course. I wanted my caffeine.

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Holy shit. This was a game-changer.

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Oh my god, I didn’t even know coffee could be that good.

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Still, I resolved. I’ll only get coffee when I’m really exhausted. 

In the gloomy Seattle winter, I’m always exhausted.

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Soon, I found myself enjoying coffee for the flavor rather than just for the caffeine. I would buy coffee and sit in a cafe whenever my home internet died. I got coffee with friends. I got coffee with coworkers. I bought myself a coffeemaker and a bean grinder. Coffee– good coffee– is woven into the fabric of Seattle culture, something I didn’t realize until I went back to the East Coast and got brunch with my friends…

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Bitter, burnt, watered-down. I didn’t realize the standard to which Seattle holds its coffee until I went somewhere else.

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And to this day, I’m known as the coffee snob among my East Coast friends.

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Well, the haters gonna hate, and I’m gonna caffeinate.

I’m graduated!

Well, almost graduated. Grades aren’t released for another few days, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t fail any classes this semester. (Please be merciful, professors)

Turning in my last assignment was a bit of a shock. Immediately after, I was still in student mode. My friend asked me:

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It took a few days to sink in. I couldn’t shake the anxiety. How could I not have deadlines?! Projects?! Work that will cut into my sleep schedule and make me consume even more coffee?!

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Though, to be fair, that also cut into my sleep as well.

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So now I’m home for the holidays! I’m taking some time off before starting work full-time in February. Current plans? Sleeping, trying to wean myself off caffeine, and reminding myself that, by some miracle, I have a master’s degree.

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Because let me tell you, I sure don’t feel like a “master” of anything yet.

I should be more chill. As my professor reminded me…

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Looks like the learning doesn’t end even when you’re out of school! Except this time, I don’t have to bury myself in debt to do so. In fact, I’ll even get paid!

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Cheers to that!

In which I try to be fashionable, part 2

This summer, I interned at Nordstrom, a chain of clothing stores. Not just any clothing stores, but high-end, luxury department stores that sells the latest trends and finest designer goods.

So, despite being in tech, I still see some very fashionable people at work.

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This wouldn’t do. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not very fashionable. If I was to work at a company that hopes to be the fashion authority, I had to step up my game.

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There was only one problem.

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I don’t know how to match clothes. I don’t know what fits me. I have no idea how to put an outfit together. I’ve gotten away with it at work by wearing dresses, like, all the time. It’s just one item and I don’t have to think about it!

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There was only one thing to do.

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I’ve used Pinterest in the past to brainstorm art and photography ideas. Why couldn’t it work for fashion?

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All the outfits I found seemed designed for those gorgeous, long-legged models who you could dress in a garbage bag and still make it work. My body type is a little less forgiving.

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It was time for more research. 

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I started reading the female fashion advice subreddit.

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I got a headache trying to process all of it.

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It was time for the next step.

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I enlisted the help of my fashionable friend from LA. We ended up going to Nordstrom (intern discount, yay!) where she encouraged me to find my own personal style.

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It was a 180 from my previous shopping experiences with my family.

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So this was a totally new, self-empowered approach to shopping.

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And at the end of the night, I actually bought clothes. That I actually liked. And they were on sale!

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Emboldened by my success, I decided that it was time to step it up.

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This time, I enlisted the help of three friends to help me shop. Three times the people, three times the success, right?

And three times the volume, it seems.

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It kind of became a dress up game for my friends.

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But it worked! In the end, I found a bunch of clothes I liked and bought even more. (I had a gift card that I needed to spend, so I didn’t even feel bad about it!)

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I couldn’t believe it. My coworkers noticed my sudden change in clothes. Even my mom approved of my new look.

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Then, my quest for fashion peaked with one friend’s invite:

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A what?

So there’s this clothing line called Cabi that has an interesting business model. Basically, Cabi stylists host these “fashion experiences” where the stylist will walk you through that season’s Cabi clothes. Then, you can try on the clothes samples, get fit and style advice, and order any pieces you like. The idea is to have an intimate setting where you and your girlfriends can drink wine, eat snacks, and shop for trendy clothes with a professional stylist.

I didn’t even know something like that existed. It was, again, a totally new experience for me.


Yeah. I know nothing about fashion. I’m not girly. I don’t even like shopping. The whole affair was way outside my comfort zone.  Not to mention that I was probably the youngest person there– Cabi seems to be more popular with the middle-aged crowd.

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After the stylist presented all the clothes, we were given the chance to try them on.

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Might as well just go for it, right? I started picking random items from the rack and trying them on. Much to the delight of the middle-aged ladies around me.

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The stylist helped me out.

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Believe it or not, though, the stylist was super helpful! She gave honest advice and never pressured anyone into purchasing clothes– even telling people not to buy if she thought the piece didn’t fit. With her help, I ended up finding some clothes that I really liked! I asked the stylist if I could place an order.

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I felt bad for the stylist, but damn! I had paid for next semester’s tuition that morning. I did not have that money to spare.

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My friend rescued me.

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I ended up buying just a skirt. At a steep discount. Because I’m still in grad school, goddammit!

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In the end, though, I’d say this summer was a success! For the first time, I actually tried to learn how to dress myself. My coworkers have been very entertained by my quest for fashion.

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Deep down, though, I think my clothing preferences have remained the same.

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Sorry, mom– the sports shorts and tank tops aren’t going away anytime soon.

In which I try to be fashionable

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been at war with my mom.

It’s been going on for years. There has been blood. Sweat. Tears. Drama. And it’s always been about one thing:

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That’s right, everyone. I confess.

I am not a fashionable person.

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I guess I never cared as a kid. Or as a teenager. Or now. I wore sports sneakers every day until my senior year of high school, and didn’t start even attempting makeup until I graduated. Even in elementary school I thought fashion trends were stupid and that comfort trumped all. Just call me a 7-year-old hipster.

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I hated shopping. Back in the day, I’d bring my Gameboy while my mom and sis hunted for sales.

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To this day, I really only shop when I actually need something. Nothing brings me greater joy than to dress in shorts, a loose tank, and a comfortable hoodie.

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Fast forward to last winter, when I was searching desperately for an internship. My school managed to arrange a visit to Nordstrom, a chain of high-end department stores in the US and Canada. A group of students, including me, were able to meet current Nordstrom tech employees and even listen one of the VPs speak about the company.

I have to say, he sold it.

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So I applied. And lo and behold, I got an interview.

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So imagine my shock — and my family’s shock — when I got the internship.

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I was really nervous. What if everyone there dressed really nicely? Would I need to up my fashion game to work there?

Then, on my first day, I met some of my coworkers.

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I mean, I still try to dress properly for work. I’m an intern, not a full-time developer. Plus my mom would have a fit otherwise.

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Gotta dress to impress, especially if you like the job! Which I do. The work is interesting. Everyone’s been really nice and helpful. I’m learning a lot!

About both technology, and fashion.

And my knowledge is a little uneven.

The other day, the interns got to go on a tour of our flagship store in downtown Seattle. We were taken around the store before it opened and got to see all the brands and designers that we carry.

It was like… how I imagine a non-programmer feels when they hear software developers talk.

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Seriously. Like Jon Snow, I know nothing.

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After the tour, they set us loose for a half hour to shop around.

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Overwhelmed by the fancy clothes, I immediately headed for the electronics section.

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But hey, who knows? Maybe Nordstrom will have a positive influence on me and I’ll suddenly become fashionable. I did see some items that I would buy!

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Or maybe not.


My brief life as a professional dog walker

When I first moved to Seattle, I decided to take a day to explore the city. I figured it was a good way to get a feel for the place. I strolled from my apartment to downtown to see the sights.


Seattle seemed pretty alright! Lots of coffee shops, fancy apartment complexes, and–


–on the corner of Olive and 9th, the greatest sight of all.



A doggy in the window! I love dogs. I never had one growing up, so I’ve always been extra fond of the fluffy buddies.

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What is this magical place I had happened upon?! There were dogs. A room full of dogs. Multiple rooms full of dogs!



It was a doggy daycare. A DOGGY DAYCARE! Several rooms just full of adorable, fluffy, beautiful dogs, playing and napping and eating and MY GOD, JUST BEING SO FREAKING CUTE.


It was puppy heaven, except for one thing: a pane of glass between me and those dogs.


There were people working in this doggy daycare, hanging out in the dog rooms. Their job was to be surrounded by dogs! They could pet the dogs all they wanted! And get paid for it!

I was jealous.


I whipped out my phone.


And believe it or not, I found my answer… on Craigslist.


That’s right: Craigslist is where I found my big break. I immediately submitted an application and sent in my most polished, up-to-date resume.


I even wrote a cover letter. A COVER LETTER. TO WALK DOGS.


My effort paid off! I got an interview.


After two weeks of training and a background check, I was living my dream. Walking and playing with dogs. Every day! And getting paid for it!


Well, OK. There’s more to the job than that.

Every dog has their own personality. You have to learn how to handle each one.

One dog, for example, liked to attack other dogs.


Another dog liked to attack skateboards.

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One dog liked pulling on her leash. Really hard.


I had one dog who was especially strong-willed. Unlike most dogs, this one hated going outside. Especially if it was chilly. Or raining. And in Seattle, it’s like that 9 out of 12 months of the year.


Most dogs come running to the door to greet you. This dog, I had to drag out of bed.


There was only one time that this dog greeted me happily when I came in.


Nope. Turns out the dog had pooed in the apartment. And boy, was she happy about it.


Until I took her on her walk anyway.


Man, I loved that dog so much.

That’s not sarcasm. I loved ALL my dogs. I loved, loved, LOVED my job. I mean, imagine seeing these guys every day!

I absolutely love and adore all dogs. I thought this job would desensitize me to dogs and help me STOP gushing all over them. Nope. It made it worse.


I showed off my clients every chance I got.



Dog walking is, really, my dream job. I could walk dogs for the rest of my life and be totally fine with it. Unfortunately, though, it’s not something you can make a career out of.

Computer science, on the other hand, is something that can turn into a full-time job. And I needed to focus on school.

I had to prioritize.


So, after weeks of agonizing, I made my decision. I met up with my boss. My boss is a great guy, and was very understanding.


Ok, ok. School is important. Building my career is important. BUT I WAS STILL REALLY DEVASTATED OVER LOSING MY BABIES.



For WEEKS I had withdrawal. Is that even possible? Withdrawal from your daily dose of happy, fluffy, unconditionally loving cuteness? LET ME TELL YOU: IT’S POSSIBLE.


And to this day, I’m still obsessed with dogs.



My love-hate relationship with computer science

I’ve had one hell of an extended absence from the internet. My last post was last September. It’s March now. What happened to me?

Well, this happened.

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Yep, my foolhardy self decided it would be a great idea to move across the country and learn computer science. In a master’s program. Even though I’ve never touched code before.

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My program is a little different from your typical CS master’s degree. The first year is supposed to be a “crash course” in comp sci, an intense information overload designed to get you up to speed. After that, the rest of the program is master level courses.

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I mean, it’s impossible to fit four years of coursework into one. Not that they haven’t tried. Our professors are not afraid to introduce content fast. 

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And the professors are not afraid to give us work. The assignments we’ve received have been long and daunting. When I’m not at work or in class, I’m coding.

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Even when I’m not coding… I’m coding.

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And when I’m REALLY not coding… I’m thinking about how I should be coding.

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Hell, the only reason I’m able to blog right now is because I’m on spring break. Even as I write this, though, I’m thinking:

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Learning computer science is different from learning biology. Biology requires a lot of memorization. Even if I didn’t understand something fully, I could often BS my way through class from sheer rote memory.

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Computer science is not like that. Learning comp sci is like learning how to solve increasingly complex logic problems. You have to understand everything, or your program won’t work.

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Thus, I’ve developed a love-hate relationship with programming. Programming can be incredibly frustrating. I have spent hours and hours stuck on one problem, unable to debug it or Google a solution.

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I’ve never been this intellectually challenged, ever. I made it through college! I can’t be that dumb. But in this program, I feel flat-out stupid.

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Yeah. I’m 60% sure that my professor thinks I’m a dumbass.

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Or maybe we just like to give each other shit. (In all honesty, though, he’s a great teacher!)

So, yeah. Coding! Who knew that it would mean hours upon hours of frustration, swearing, stress eating, and punching walls? Sometimes, all at the same time?

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Since I entered this program just to try it out, my friends often ask how I’m finding it so far.

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To be honest, I don’t know if it’s a yes. Those hours of banging my head on my keyboard? They suck. But when all that struggle turns into a running program, I’m all like,

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Either way, I’m lucky to get to try it in the first place– and I think I’ll be sticking with it for a little longer.








In which I get hit by a car

When people found out that I was going to Ireland, they would always ask one thing:

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The answer was always,

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And our town was, indeed, a bit remote. For two months, my fellow students and I stayed in a little town called Ballyvaughan. And when I say little, I mean tiny. I’ve stayed in countryside villages before. Back when I lived in Germany, my little town of Monzelfeld had about 1,000 people. Heck, 1,000 was the size of my high school graduating class. To me, Monzelfeld seemed small.

Ballyvaughan boasts a population of almost 300 people.

So we got to experience, truly, the small-town country life. One of the first things we noticed? The roads.

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Out in the Burren, the roads are long, narrow, and curvy. Unfortunately, the only way to get from Ballyvaughan to the college we were studying at was via one of these roads.

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A van would drive us to and from the school at 9AM and 5PM every day. If we wanted to get to and from the school on our own time, though, we had to walk.

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The speed limit around the area was 100 km/hr, about 60 miles per hour or so. Cars drive fast. To keep themselves safe and visible to drivers, people wear these when they walk anywhere:

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Photo courtesy of one of our lovely member’s selfie stick!

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Walking to school made me pretty nervous at first. It would be better if we could walk along, say, the side of the road on the grass or something. But no, both sides of the road to school were lined with stone walls, nettles, and thorn bushes.

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After a while, I got used to it. Irish drivers– swift as they are– know what they’re doing. They’ll drive around pedestrians. If a car’s coming from the opposite direction, they’ll stop and make room. Some kids didn’t even bother wearing their vests in the daytime. Not me, though– I’m a bit too paranoid for that.

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In fact, by by the 6th or 7th week, I wasn’t nervous at all. I wore my vest, but walked along with confidence.

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And of course it’s when you let your guard down, that it happens.

post 201 image 13My friend and I decided to walk to the local aviary for a bird show. We were told that, when walking along the road, you should always walk against traffic. When going around a bend in the road, however, you should always be on the outside. Otherwise, cars won’t be able to see you.

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So, at a bend, I crossed the road to be visible. I made it safely to the other side. My friend was about to follow suit when it happened.

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It came from behind me, so I didn’t see it coming: something hitting me, at great speed, knocking me clean to the ground.

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It seemed like an instant, and yet, a long time. One moment I was happily walking, the next moment I was on the ground.

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The impact swept me into the air and sent me rolling on the road for a couple feet.

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And my shocked brain could only muster one reaction.

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My friend ran over to me, shocked. A passing car stopped, the driver sprinting out to make sure I wasn’t dead. I didn’t see the car that hit me.

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Whoa, give me a second, lady. I need to think about this.

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It seemed that, in the split-second of collision, my brain had the good sense to scream:

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I insinctively reached for something– anything– to prevent me from cracking my head on the pavement. The only thing within reach? Those goddamn thorn bushes along the side of the road, of course.

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A cycling group passing by noticed me on the ground. They stopped, too, to make sure that the little Asian girl bleeding on the street was okay.

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My biology-trained brain flashed back to middle school science class.

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After a minute or so, the cyclists helped me to my feet and walked me to the kind passerby’s car. She started to clean up my cuts when I see a man sheepishly walk up. Turns out that he was the guy who hit me– and the first thing out of his mouth was an excuse:

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The cyclists were on him in an instant.

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The man just kept repeating himself. I don’t usually drive here! I’m in a rental car! I just moved to Ireland, I’m actually from Italy! It was between hitting the girl, and hitting the other car…and I was driving a rental car… so it would have been more expensive to hit the car…

It wasn’t until I spoke up that he finally agreed to give out his information.

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One of the Irish cyclists came over to me.

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Oh, man. I wasn’t exactly anticipating this. I rooted through my backpack with my non-bleeding hand.

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So, I got the man’s name, address, number, and license plate. As soon as I did, he rushed to his car and drove away. One of the cyclists turned to me.

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I replied,

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My friend called our professor– but, of course, our fine professor gave her cell phone to her au pair instead of carrying it with her. We had to contact our art college instead. Luckily, one of the program coordinators there volunteered to drive me over an hour away to the nearest hospital. Irish locals are kind like that– seriously, I’ve never met such a generous community in my life.

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By the time we finally got to the hospital, the shock had worn off and I was feeling better. Still, I entered the ER. At the time of the accident, my right elbow was really sore and inflamed. The swelling had gone down since, but still. It’s definitely better to be safe than sorry. Especially after getting hit by a car.

A nurse disinfected my cuts and brought me to the doctor. The doctor proceeded to do a physical check-up.

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By some miracle, I was actually alright. I was sore, bruised and a bit cut up– but all my bones were intact. Nothing was broken. All’s well that ends well, right?

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Requiescat in pace, my dear friend.

So, a few hours after the accident, my sister received this phone call.

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Alright, alright. As torn up as I am about my now-deceased camera, I have to say: I am, indeed, one lucky bastard.

In which I ditch my degree and move across the country.

I graduated.

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It’s a weird feeling. I’m done college. I’m supposed to go find work. Get my own apartment. Start a 401k. Be a grown-up and all that. That’s the general plan for college graduates, right?

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So, last February, I started looking for employment. I attended job fairs, sought advice from my career office, and sent my resume out to dozens of employers. You know the drill.

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All so I could start my exciting future as a full-fledged adult.

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With a bachelor’s degree in biology, I was likely to get some sort of lab technician job. You know, pipetting, running gels, growing cell cultures, doing someone else’s experiment for them. I more or less know the drill. I’ve done two co-ops in the pharma industry, and one internship in an academic research lab. Let me just say, I run a mean lab bench.

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So, yeah. Graduating college, getting some lab work. All very exciting stuff.

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It was amidst all my frantic job-hunting that I received this e-mail from Northeastern.

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Seriously, though, what was this? I’ve never taken a class in computer science before.

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The rest of the e-mail went on to describe why computer science was awesome, and why I should accept this spontaneous admission to some random master’s program. I know nothing about coding, but: it’s okay! This particular master’s program is designed for students with no prior programming experience. What’s more, the e-mail was signed by Northeastern’s dean of the College of Computer and Information Science. Northeastern does have a small campus in Seattle, it’s true. Was this legit?

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I guess we were about to find out.

What compelled me to even go to this informational lunch? I’m not sure. Perhaps it was my overwhelming enthusiasm for my future lab job. Or, my love for the study of biology.

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So my friend and I went to the informational lunch. We’re both in the sciences, though, and any good scientist has a healthy amount of skepticism.

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The dean had brought her second-in-command and two current grad students with her. They buttered me, and the handful of students who came, up with food and drink and handshakes and flattery.

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They then proceeded to give us the most enthusiastic pitch I’ve ever seen.

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Unfortunately for them, I wasn’t the only one who came in skeptical. One girl raised her hand and asked,

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I added my thoughts.

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And finally, another girl asked it straight:

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The dean seemed shocked that we thought it was a scam. For her, setting up this program had taken years. But, to us… let’s be real. Out of nowhere, you’re offered admission– and a scholarship– to a master’s program you hadn’t even heard of?

I wanted to cut the crap and hear the real deal. Civilly, of course.

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She went on to explain. Northeastern’s Seattle campus was built only a few years ago. It offers a number of graduate programs, including the master’s of computer science. Northeastern is hoping to grow the Seattle campus to have a couple hundred students, but they’re having trouble.

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The truth comes out: their program needs home-grown females. So, they’re offering us admission and a scholarship. That way, we could go and do the first semester for free. Try it out. If we don’t like it, we can always drop out and go home.

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My friend turned to me.

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If you haven’t seen the Sassy Gay Friend videos, you are missing out.

So, the dean and her crew seemed desperate determined to bring in some local, female students. Not everyone was as keen as they were, though. Take my friend, for instance.

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And this girl.

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They had contacted us too late. It was already April, graduation was approaching, and future plans were already finalized. Except for my own.

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I once again turned to the Sassy Gay Friend.

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I think you can guess what I chose.

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And that’s why, right now, you can find me in Seattle, Washington, starting anew with only my suitcases and my nerves.

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I guess Sassy Gay Friend said it best.

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Let’s see how long I last.

In which I learn why Ireland is so green

When you Google Image “Ireland,” this is the kind of thing you get:


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There are two things in common with these three photos:

  1. The scenery is very green, as Ireland is famous for.
  2. The weather is beautiful and sunny.

So I always imagined Ireland as a beautifully warm and sunny country with bright rolling hills and lush grass. I wasn’t totally off: it’s got those rolling hills, that lush grass. As for the warm and sunny part…

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…I was dead wrong.

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Honestly, I should have known.

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And my group was living in a particularly harsh part of Ireland. We were right on the west coast, in a place known as the Burren.

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The Burren, as you can see, has a very distinctive landscape. It’s composed of crumbling limestone, the remains of an ancient seabed. The rocky hills can get quite tall, with many of them reaching over 200 meters high. And since the Burren is by the west coast– where those Atlantic sea winds come blowing in– the weather can be… unpredictable. 

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Let me give you an example.

During our first week in Ireland, my group was scheduled to go on a hike on Blackhead Mountain. Blackhead Mountain is located right along the coast and promised impressive views of both the sea and the land. What’s more, we had a local Irish farmer to guide us on the hike. I was excited.

post 199 image 14We took a bus to the starting point. The weather looked warm and sunny when we were indoors, but as soon as we stepped out of the van…

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Windy as hell. You could open an umbrella and fly away, Mary Poppins style.

But it wasn’t raining, so we went on our way. Despite the wind, I was really enjoying the walk. The Burren has a beautiful and unique landscape. For instance, the rocks are full of huge gaps called “grikes.” If you’re not careful, you could step in a grike– and considering that these gaps can be as deep as your waist, that would not be good.

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The Burren is also home to a distinct mix of flora. Back in the Ice Age, an iceberg dumped a mix of Arctic and Mediterranean seeds in the area. Today, they still flourish due to the Burren’s year-round temperate climate. I never expected to see orchids outside of a rainforest!

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So, in spite of the chilly wind, I was enjoying the hike. Our hiking guide was incredibly informative and walked at a nice pace, stopping frequently to explain this rose bush or that ancient fossil. About 30 minutes in, we paused so he could even give us a bit of Irish history.

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He paused.

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Of course, I looked behind me.

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There was a HUGE rainstorm blowing right at us.

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It didn’t.

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The storm arrived within a matter of minutes. It came out of nowhere! And it wasn’t just rain. IT WAS HAIL.

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Horizontal hail, due to the wind.

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There was nothing we could do but continue our hike. Our guide kept going with the tour as usual. But the wind and hail were so fierce that, even when he shouted, we could barely hear what he said.

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Oh, the joy.

We continued up the mountain, battling winds that threatened to knock us over. Our guide led us to a structure known as the Caherdooneerish Fort. Here, we huddled against one of the ancient stone walls and waited out the storm.

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We love hiking

We love hiking

After about 20 minutes of soaking misery, the clouds finally cleared.

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We continued our hike in the beautiful, beautiful sunlight.

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Mind you, it was still windy as all get-out. The wind was so strong that it almost tipped me over with every step. And you don’t want to misstep in the Burren: remember, those grikes can swallow your leg whole. Alternatively, you could slip and knock your head on some lovely limestone.

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Seriously, I thought I was going to die with each step I took.

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It was insane. Incredible landscapes. Outrageous weather. Kids stumbling down the mountain, defying death with every step.

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It was one of the best hikes I’ve ever been on.

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Because nothing gets your adrenaline pumping better than thinking you’re going to fall off a mountain…for an hour straight.

In fact, I wasn’t even mad when another rain cloud rolled in.

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And when it started hailing on us.

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Luckily, our guide was prepared this time.

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Apparently, 13 people could fit under this guy’s tarp. Barely.

Three hours later, our bus picked 13 wet, freezing kids off the side of the road. I had worn two pairs of pants. Both got completely soaked.

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As you can imagine, we were all glad to get back home. We could take warm showers. Heat up some soup. Huddle under dry sheets and thick blankets, thinking about the windiest three hours of our lives.

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Maybe I am. But hey, nothing wrong with a little crazy, am I right?

Hello, world!

Uh, hi.

I’ve been gone.

For a while.

Five months, to be exact.

I had reasons! I swear! No, seriously. My life has been a bit crazy for the past few months.

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And that was only May.

As for the rest of the time, I’ve been occupied doing something else entirely. Remember when I decided, last-minute, to get an art minor? Well, I probably should have planned for it a little sooner than my senior year. I wanted to get this minor, but still graduate on time in the spring. This turned out to be… complicated.

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Okay, I’m exaggerating. Northeastern offers exactly two basic art courses in the summer, courses I had already taken and didn’t need.

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The art advisor hesitated.

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Excuse me?

She was serious. This was a real thing starting this year. If I went abroad for two months to some tiny, tiny town in Ireland, I could get the art minor and graduate by August.

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Yeah. The situation was absurd. I couldn’t get my art minor at Northeastern this summer… I could only do it in Ireland.

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I’m stupid.

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So, dearest readers, that’s where I’ve been all summer.

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And man, was that the weirdest trip of my life.