Monday, 16 April 2018

It was in Providence I found myself again

So it's been a while since I've wrote on here and I don't know where to begin. Suppose I should start with how much I love it here! I can't put it into words how happy I am to be here and how I wish I could stay here instead of returning to WIT for my final year (no offence you guys). I was so lost and heartbroken when I first left the city of Waterford to start my journey up in Belfast way back in October 2017. Leaving the Culloden Estate and Spa I was in a better place than where I had started but still not feeling like myself. I was so eager and excited to get started on my American dream. I still remember the day I flew out so well. February 26th, my aunt Sarah and my amazing Mam (who has helped me greatly on this very costly year on placement) dropped me off at the airport. All I'll say guys is work hard for the summer and save like a trooper!! This is a very expensive year. Especially if you wanna have a little fun. I know I'm going off track but I feel this is an important time to throw in that I think having work placement first is the correct order placement should be in. You can work, get a valuable experience and continue to save up for your travels. Personally I find this semester wayyyyyyy more fun than the first. I am thoroughly enjoying myself. Don't get me wrong I really enjoyed my time at the Culloden and made some friends for life, however this experience is beyond amazing. Another reason I am so glad that we had done work placement before study abroad is because going up to northern Ireland really helped me in the process of being away from home. I am delighted I had a slow transition and didn't just jump on a plane 3,000 thousand miles away. I used to find myself ringing home a lot in the first few weeks of work placement. Here I would've found that a lot more difficult. It is only a 5 hour time difference but you'd be suprised when you take 5 classes that are very intense and are 7 hour sessions long you don't find the time to call home. Never mind the correct time to call home! I am always in class when it's time to call my family so normally don't get the oppurtunity. Weekends are usually the days I update them on my amazing adventures. The classes here are really amazing I am learning so so so much. It's crazy how different the system here is though. There rules are very very strict and a lot of the chefs are like a double of Gordon Ramsey x10. It is not for the faint hearted. I suggest googling American terms for kitchen equipment and ingredients in American terms eg. Rocket is Arugula. I wish I had, as my first set of classes was a bit difficult to keep up to speed when a chef is shouting for a 6 pan and you have no clue what that is! They don't have time to show you, so if you are interested in the States do your homework before you arrive. Sanitation systems too are very strict here. It is not your own seperate area of the kitchen where you clean up your own mess. It is a big area called the dish pit with a wash up sink, rinse sink, and a sink full of sanitiser which you leave the equipment in for a whole two minutes before drying and putting away. The system for cleaning the floors is amazing. So first you brush up the dirt. Then you throw hot soapy water all over the floor. Basically make a massive puddle. Get a brush and brush it into the floor to remove all the dirt. Then you get a squeegee and swipe all the liquid into the floor drains. Then clean out the floor drains with hot water and paper roll. (No such thing as blue roll in JWU Providence kitchens). Majority of the other students have never even heard of it. They also prepare all dishes wearing plastic gloves. You can't touch certain foods without wearing gloves. There's the one chopping board used for everything JWU kitchens which I don't like! How can you fillet a fish and break down a whole chicken on the same board?? Even if you do wash it.  Washing counter tops and tables are very strict also. You first sanatise the surface, wash with hot water thats above 75 degrees and then use a table squeegee to dry it off.  Another tip is study temperatures in faranheit before you come here as it's on a lot of exams and they only use faraheit here. For cooked meats and fish, fridges and freezers, doughs and the weather. I am learning so much about how European kitchens work and how the American kitchen differs. It's really is a life skill that I will keep in my future career as a chef. Now for some tips before arriving in the states. So be prepared on the first night you arrive there is absolutely nothing in your dorm room. Except from a matress, a wardrobe and a chest of drawers. I slept the first night with no pillow and no blanket. Luckily there is trips to Walmart in the first week you arrive but be warned you spend a lot here. As you need to buy a pillow, a duvet, sheets, a lamp, hangers for clothes and coats, shampoo, bathing essentials, toliet roll etc. Again money, money, money, so save like crazy guys. I spent 200 dollars in Walmart for my bare necessities.
I also suggest buying what you can to make you last for a good while as it is the cheapest shop around providence for all this. There is an Aldi thats a 35 minute walk away but even still it is nothing like it is at home and not nearly as cheap. So really take advantage of these trips to walmart. I am still using shampoo that I bought from there as I bought an industrial sized bottle on purpose!! It is not possible to walk there unless you want to walk 6.4 miles. You can take an uber but it is 20 dollars one way. Speaking of Ubers. Do not take a taxi anywhere!!! When I first arrived in Providence TF Green airport the JWU free shuttle did not show up. We waited 45 minutes and there was no sign. So some spanish students and I had no choice but to take taxis to campus. I was unaware that Uber and Lyft existed, (Get the free app on your phone guys). So I stupidly got in a taxi and he charged me 45 dollars for a 5 minute car ride. Now if I do need lifts anywhere I always use Uber (Lyft is the same thing but isn't as good and is normally dearer). Don't let the fact that it's costly scare you off. 1) Lorain had warned us since before we even started the course that 3rd year was expensive and 2) If you go anywhere outside Europe it is expensive but you have to remember it is beyond worth it. The life experience and the education you are recieving is phenonemenal. The equipment in these kitchens guys are mind blowing. Between spice grinders and 4 blast freezers in every classroom, the list is endless. To be honest I've gone blank trying to remember it all. All I'll say is you guys need to come here and experience it for yourself, so you too can have writers block trying to remeber the endless amount of facilities that JWU supply you with. In reference to the meal plan, I suggest going for 14 meals. I myself have 14 meals. 14 is more than enough as 1) we're chefs and generally you are in PM labs until 8pm at night so are always fed. 2) Sometimes you don't even get the oppurtunity to eat, as horrible as that sounds you don't starve because again you are in labs and are fed. So there is no point paying extra for 18 meals when you barely use up 14. Finally 3) because if you get 18 meals you only recieve 100 flex dollars (yes we get a bonus of flex dollars in our meal payment) where as if you get 14 meals you get 200 flex dollars. I was delighted when I arrived during spring break and by asking questions about was it possible to put money on our student card I found out it already has flex dollars on it. The amount depending on which meal plan you picked. Your flex dollars are super handy as they can be used in all the dining halls on campus, the stores on campus and all 3 starbucks that are on campus. Be careful though, you may think 200 is a lot but you'd be suprised how quick you'll fly through it. Luckily I still have 60 dollars left. I think I may have a starbucks addiction now though.....oops. So finally to end. I am going to explain why I titled this blog "It was in Providence I found myself again". So as I explained at the start of this blog I wasn't in the best place leaving Waterford and not much better leaving Belfast, but living here has left me to grow up, become independent and realise life is so precious and should not be taken for granted. There are so many amazing places to see, people to meet, so why sit around and weep when you could be living the best life you can have. I had lost myself last summer, I didnt know who I was anymore. This 3rd year finally getting out of the city of Waterford has left me to grow, explore and find myself again. The happy, kind and determined Beth that my friends and family know and love, but most importantly who I know and love. Feels so amazing to be at peace with myself again. Look forward to it guys, wish I was in your shoes and only about to start my journey instead of it coming to a close end. Make every second count!! Suppose it's not entirly over. Summer 2018, DisneyWorld Orlando here I come!!!!!!!

By Beth Murphy

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Just chillin' in Miami!

Studying at JWU Miami:

Miami so far has been a very eye opening experience! Getting to see so many cultures in the one college is very clear here in Miami. The style of college and feel is so different to home. 

JWU University Wildcat Centre

Classes are laid out a lot different. I choose to do 5 subjects you can do more if you wish but who really wants extra time in college when they can have far more beach time!! Classes are ran so that your labs are for 9 days straight and then you move onto the next lab. Morning labs start at 7am which works out perfectly, so you can have the day to yourself. You may have an evening lab depending on what labs you picked. The best part about being an exchange student is the options of modules. I picked a mix of culinary, pastry, mixology and brewing which I recommend to get a more diverse and broad learning experience while here.

Money matters: When it comes to finance it is essential to save all you can. Meals are paid for in advance so its nice to have that payed off and know that your daily meals are covered. The JI Visa we received only permits for you to work for your sponsor which is Johnson and wales. There are jobs in “The Mix” AKA the cafeteria so that is definitely somewhere to go if you need a little pocket money. Other than that, getting around can be cheap there is very little public transport but by downloading the Uber app its easy. Us as a group of 4 divide it each journey which works out reasonably cheap. Today I got an Uber pool by myself which I shared with two others this works out a lot cheaper and again so quick and easy. Theirs also “Limebikes” located all over the place which you can rent by downloading the app and scanning for 1 Dollar per half hour. Perfect cycle to the beach!!
Catchin' some rays!
When I am on the topic of beaches, they are just unbelievable, white sand and clear blue water! Any chance we get we are on the beach. “Bal harbour” beach is the closest to us its just under half an hour cycle. We have a bucket list of beaches we plan to visit! 
Food and social life: The food scene in the USA is how you probably imagined it. There are endless fast-food chains. The Cuban culture, however, is definitely very clear here as almost every corner you turn there is Cuban from their famous coffees to their breakfast which we are told is great. The social life is great but can be expensive, so we recommend happy hour or stay away from south beach, but south beach is a good place to visit and experience!

Spinning TV Pool party
Things to see and do: Besides visiting all the beaches there is plenty of cool places to see. One of my favourites was visiting Wynwood, this place is full of art, restaurants, quirky cafes and much more. South Beach  also must be seen. The beach is packed with people and has a very lively feel to it.

There is no shortage of different events and there is still much more we plan on doing before we head home in 6 weeks’ time.

Keep a look out online for not so pricey tickets and see all you can because time does fly by!

That’s only a taste of all the perks of going to college here in Miami. So far it has been a very enjoyable experience and I couldn’t recommend it enough to get over here for the semester and live it up!

Ă€ine Dempsey.

Monday, 9 April 2018

A Carlow man’s guide on how to get to Miami!

I have been living in Miami for almost four weeks now … what a crazy place but amazing at the same time! The main reason I am writing this is so that the upcoming exchange students won’t make the same mistakes that I did and that they will have a rough guide on what to do, where to go, eat, sleep, drink and where to get a bargain because Miami is expensive and you have to be careful and wise with your money so that you get the most out of it!

Step one: VISA
So the first thing that you have to do is apply for a DS-2019: Online Non-immigrant Visa. This visa cost $180 and the you have to pay SEVIS fee which is another add on which costs $160 and after you have filled out your application and paid all your fees you will be given an appointment in the American embassy in Ballsbridge in Dublin (Park in AIB three doors down for free parking!) 
When going for your interview you will need your DS-2019, a receipt of your paid SEVIS fee and you must bring two identical photos at your visa interview. Your photos must be: Printed on photo quality paper. 2 x 2 inches (51 x 51 mm) in size. This is NOT the same size as a passport photo, don’t make the same mistake I did and have to run over to the pharmacy across the road and be late for your interview! 

Step two: TRAVEL 
Flights to Miami are quite a reasonable price to be honest, I flew out with Aer Lingus from Dublin and flew into Miami International airport and it cost €440 return  and then €50 for a 23kg bag. The flight was 9 hours long. This is new route so I would expect that they price with go up a small bit.
The visa that I got expires on the 18th of May and I finish classes on the 17th so me and the lads taught we would fly into Miami a few days before we started college for a short holiday before classes started! 
So we booked a cheap motel online and when we arrived there in a cab I could only describe the area as the ghetto and the room was like something out of a horror film! So the next day we got the hell out of there and booked into a hotel near the college called the Best Western Plus, which is the perfect place to stay if you want to arrive a few days before hand and explore Miami.

if you don’t have health insurance already, you will need to get some if you want to attend JWU as you have to have cover in the USA. 
JWU offer health insurance for $608 for 1 term with is really expensive! So I did a bit of research and the cheapest health insurance that I found that complies with their terms and conditions is They offer cover for the whole term for 115 euros and that even includes your travel insurance! Don’t forget to waiver JWU insurance and make and let them know that you already have insurance. 

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Toronto Update

So time has been running super fast over here and somehow we are getting into our final 3 weeks of college, which is kinda crazy. I feel I have truly been living the Canadian life on my time here. Here are some of the things I've been getting up to on my time in Toronto.


Although when living on campus residence you purchase a residence dining plan card with $1000 you will often opt to eat out to avoid eating repetitive nutritionally depleted meals. Close by you have the usual fast food restaurant and chains in Woodbine mall, Thai express do a good Asian soup bowl that could feed a small family. The campus college offer Subway, Tim Horton's, Gourmet express (student made meals), Burrito bar, etc. I learned quiet quickly that eating out in Toronto was not cheap. So being a student and living on a budget means fishing for daily specials and finding the best food at an affordable price. My favourite place to eat is Toronto's China town which is a short walk or tram ride from Spadina station. China town offers endless options of ramen, dim sum, rice bowls, sushi and off course bubble tea. The food markets in China town also offer a great selection at a lower price, great for snacks and fresh fruits.
BBQ pork ramen, kimchi & seaweed salad 
We have also had a really interesting experience in the Mythology diner (Short walk from Dufferin Station) which we visited with our lectures from college. This diner provides a completely vegan menu, here we tried some popular menu items such as vegan style, chicken wings, calamari, pastrami, cobb salad, poutine, fish and chips.
Vegan Pastrami Sandwich
Another food experience you must try in Toronto is Poutine, Chips topped with gravy, cheese curds and anything else from pulled pork to chorizo and chicken. 

Road Trips

Long road to Blue mountain

Canada isn't all snow and bad weather the sun actually shines here a lot. These days are perfect for Renting a car off Turo (be aware you need a full licence for this and if your under 25 you will be charged a young drivers fee). One of our roads trips was to blue mountains which is only about 2 hours away from Toronto. Blue Mountain has everything from skiing, snowshoeing and hot spring spas, so you can definitely spend a whole day there.

Scandinave Spa Blue mountain

The Scandinave spa is a must see, but on the weekends wait lists start at up to 5 hours, your better off going on a Wednesday were they do a special price of only $58 and the wait list is much shorter. A dip in the freezing cold plunge pool on a snowy day is a must, but just chilling in the heated pools and around the fire pits prevents the frost bite.

While in Blue mountain we also went snowshoeing across Toronto's largest suspension foot bridge. My honest opinion about snowshoeing .... its great if you really want a workout but they are not all that easy to walk in (note I did this on a day where I had the flu and almost gave myself pneumonia... not recommended). The views and trails in Blue mountain are well worth the trip though. We drove to the lakes in blue mountain also which in the summer have great beaches but in the Winter they resemble what I could imagine Alaska looks like.
Lake Beach Blue mountain

Note this is just 2 hours from Toronto but the sun was shining in Toronto with no snow so make sure to check the Weather in Advance to make sure you get to see all the lovely views in Blue mountain.

Toronto Nighlife

Weather you like night clubs, pubs crawls , country bars or just a good aul Irish bar Toronto has endless numbers of them to choose from. The subways and buses run late into the night depending on where you want to go, you will probably opt for taking an Uber (more expensive but way faster). Entry into big nightclubs on the weekend is very expensive (upto $25) I usually opt for bars but that's just me, Dublin Calling near Ossgoode station is one of my personal favourites during the week (what can I say I'm a creature of habit). Drink prices are pretty similar to at home. You can always pick up tickets for fun events and pub crawls on Groupon or on Facebook it just takes a little looking, these usually offer some free drinks, drink specials and plenty of fun.
90's style pub crawl


Classes are still going really well, Hope and myself continue to win over all our lecturers with our Irish charm. Some classes we have taken on in the last 3 weeks are Italian cuisine (Endless pasta making) and Advance nutrition (a good mix of theory and practical) which we are both really enjoying. 
Ravioli making

Each Friday we cook for the Humber room a restaurant attached and open to anyone in the college. This class is great fun and the chefs are very open to allowing us to do in class specials.

Guiness and Chocolate sorbet

The options of how to spend your time over here are endless and I could probably keep typing all day about the things we do over here but this is just a brief look into what we are getting up to and how we spend our time here.
Sarah Kehoe