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Settling Back Home

Reflecting on 2015

It’s hard to believe I am home nearly 3 months and it’s almost 4 months since I left San Francisco. Time has flown by, when thinking back about San Francisco it feels like it was all a dream. As expected when coming home I received a lot of ‘Are you delighted to be back?’ questions, this of course only adding to the upset of coming home. I am beyond jealous of those only starting out on their adventures overseas.

When coming home I decided to become more conscious about spending time with my family. Christmas served as the perfect opportunity to do this. My family and I have a tradition of going away for a night or two between Christmas and New Years. It is something I really look forward to and this year was no different. This year we went to Seafield Hotel and I have to say it was one of the best places we have been to yet.

Before Christmas I made a short trip to Galway to spend time with my younger cousins, as I knew once I started working full-time I would not have the opportunity to do this. The trip was great I got to attend my cousins gymnastics competition (a whole 4 hours of it) and visit the Christmas Market on Eyre Square. Believe it or not I even enjoyed helping with homework, although I can’t say the same for my two younger cousins I was helping. Quizzing them on their times tables through Irish was a struggle in itself.

Now as many of my friends know I don’t do well with not being busy. The day after I arrived home I already had booked myself in to get my driving license replaced. It probably wasn’t my smartest move booking it for 11am but sure look it got sorted. I was eager to get straight back driving. One little problem was that my car had been given to my younger sister. Within the week I had bought myself a FIAT Panda, the whole sharing a car wasn’t going to last in the long-term.

Only after buying the car did I found out that since I had let my car insurance lapse for more than 3 months I was considered an unexperienced driver. The fact I am 25 with nearly 5 years driving experience and no claims made absolutely no difference. I was receiving minimum quotes of 2,000euro. Long story short I ended up going with company Boxymo (underwritten by AIG). Boxymo installs a device into your car that monitors your driving providing you with weekly updates. Their target market is young inexperienced drivers, however, when talking to their engineer who installed the device into my car he said over 30% of the cars he works on are owned by people that have come home after living abroad. The cost of the insurance is a fraction of the price I had previously been quoted and will stand to me when looking for quotes in the future.

One of the biggest things I have had to adapt to since moving home is having other people dependant on me. I became so accustomed in doing everything myself, not depending on other people and going places without question. Now obviously I have moved back in with my family and with that comes a certain expectation. Now it’s not half as bad as I’m making it sound, sure there is always food in the fridge and someone to have a chat with. I know it sounds spoilt and believe me it’s not like that at all, it is more being aware that during your free time there may be things other people need help with.

My gran has a theory, that since I now have my own car, a job and money there is no need to ever leave Ireland again. We shall see how her theory plans out but for the moment I am settling back in and looking forward to see what else 2016 has to offer.

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From the dance studio to the GAA pitch

Dance

I remember the day I walked into my very first ballet class, excited and hopeful that this would be the same class my neighbor and childhood best friend attended. Our teacher Marie Cole walked around the room with her remote gently tapping our knees when our first position was over turned. I remember drawing an imaginary line on the floor, pretending it was a tightrope, and playfully fell over, as I prepared for our performance in the National Concert Hall.

I remember the day I arrived to class upset over homework, Ms Cole took my hand, thinking I was upset due to my friend missing our weekly class and lead me to my place. I remained with the ‘Irish Ballet School’ throughout primary school, secondary school and during my first couple of years in university.  Weekly classes became bi-weekly and increased further before the occasional performances.

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I contemplated joining a dance class when I first moved over, while also looking for other opportunities. To my father’s delighted I found a GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) club to join, Clan Na Gael. My friends back home find this concept hilarious… and tbh so do I!

Growing up sports were just not my thing. Now don’t get me wrong, I know plenty of people that dance and take part in competitive sports, I was just never that girl! However, in my opinion there is no better time than now to change that. So much has changed over the last year so why not give this a shot!

I have to admit I have not been as dedicated as I would like to be, but I plan on changing that. We train twice a week and have the odd match on the weekend against the only other ladies team in SF.

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I love the feeling of accomplishment after training, the fitness aspect of it and the community the club offers. The only thing that has been holding me back is the feeling I get during training… It reminds me of when I returned to dancing after being out with a knee injury. Everyone had learnt a new dance for an upcoming performance. I had sat in on some of the rehearsals to avoid falling behind, but watching and actually dancing are two very different things. My first class back I messed up the steps and found myself getting extremely frustrated. At training I feel like I am reliving that dance class, over and over again. I know with time and practice I will improve (I really can’t get any worse) and I am determined not to give up! Sure I’ve already been told I have the ‘spin’ defense move down 😉

Brunching & Munching

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As my life pretty much revolves around food I thought it was only appropriate that I start to document some of those experience. I started with an excel sheet (very organized I know) of places that have been recommended to me and also places I have tried myself. As friends and family begin to visit San Francisco they will be looking for recommendations and I find whenever I am asked on the spot I blank, so hopefully this will kill two birds with one stone. Besides if anyone ever comments on my eating habits (which I hope will never be the case) I can say it’s research…. 🙂

As previous mentioned in another blog post weekend brunch is extremely popular here in California. The price range of food varies as much as the lines you find yourself standing in. In each post I will try give a price estimate, if they take reservations and maybe even a rating. It will be trial and error for the first while but hopefully I’ll get there eventually!

A short drive from San Francisco

Photo taken at Point Reyes National Seashore, California

Work was closed for Presidents Day (16th February) so a road trip was a must. It was all very last minute and to be honest there wasn’t really much of a plan, other than to get a car and drive.

Sorting Transport 

As I am under 25 years and without a credit card I did not have many options when it came to hiring a car. I ended up going with Hertz and got a Toyota Yaris. With full coverage insurance it cost us $136.

Things to note:

  • Hertz accepts debit cards
  • The card you use must belong to the main driver
  • They will take a $200 deposit from your card
  • If you are under 25 there is discount codes available online
  • You will be asked do you want them to refuel your car or will you do it yourself – do it yourself, its cheaper!                                                                          

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   Route  

  1. Point Reyes National Seashore

   2.  Petaluma (overnight)

   3.   Bodega Bay

 

 

Point Reyes National Seashore

On arrival we found a large cabin that is home to the Point Reyes park rangers and the information centre. It was here we received a map of the area and were recommended the 8 mile (4 there & 4 back) Bear Valley Trail. This is a vey flat trail with a breath-taking view at the end. The walk took 4 hours, walking at a leisurely pace. It was a warm day so we found ourselves gulling through water.

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I was suggest bringing a few snacks for when you reach the edge of the cliff. Sit down and enjoy the view! There is a small but beautiful beach down a rather steep climb. Please note that this is not a recommended climb and I have been told people have been injured during the climb. In saying that, if you would like the adventure I would recommend climbing down onto the beach and enjoying your snacks there.

Point Reyes National Seashore is somewhere I plan to bring all my visitors. A place not known to all travelers but without a doubt worth a visit.

Petaluma

This small town has a lot to offer, from the lovely restaurants to the talented Petaluma Pete who plays his piano on the a street corner. Looking for a quite weekend away or just an evening out of the city I would highly recommend checking out Petaluma.

Accommodation – This was quite a random find and a good one at that. I was checking out google maps and saw it was a town close by. We booked into Motel 6, an absolute steal! $75 for one room, with two queen beds and onsite parking. Remember this was over valentines weekend and a long weekend.

Food – We were very lucky and got a table at Risibisi Restaurant, a busy little Italian restaurant in the center of the town. There was a special Valentines Day set menu which had some lovely dishes. Unfortunately it lacked a choice of good desserts 😦 , which sent us off in search of a supplement, this is where we came across Powell’s Sweet Shoppe. Every wall was covered with a section of sweets/candy to choose from, we were like two kids in Charlie & the Chocolate Factory.

On Sunday morning after a quick Yelp search we found ourselves at Hallie’s Diner. I would advise you get down early as the place fills up fast. We were very lucky to get seated straight away. We both devoured the Cinnamon French Toast, a breakfast I would definitely go back for.

Shopping – Another lucky find was Petaluma Village Premium Outlets. After breakfast on Sunday morning we stopped by for what we had intended to be a ‘quick look around’, three hours later we hit the road again. Some great deals can be found in Nike, Ann Taylor and Levis.

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Bodega Bay

It around 2pm by the time we arrived at Bodega Bay. We had sat in a good bit of traffic on the way from Petaluma, I put this down to the fact the sun was beaming and everyone wanted to get out in the fresh air. We didn’t mind too much as the views were breathtaking. We drove all the way up a windy quite narrow hill were we parked the car and walked to the cliff side. There wasn’t much of a walk, more like a stroll along the cliff, this suited us fine as our legs were tired from the previous day.

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Bodega Bay is considered a prime spot for whale watching (especially between the last weeks of April & start of May), but we were hopeful we would catch a glimpse. After a half an hour or so of patiently looking out we began to give up hope. We wandered over to a group that had gathered at the point of one of the cliffs, it was there we caught a glimpse of a group of gray whales. Due to the time of year (February) the whales were quite far off the coast.

Overall our trip was a great success. Although we started out without much of a plan, only a car and a place to sleep, we packed a lot it. When living in a city you can easily forget that there is more than concrete buildings and the hustle and bustle of city life. Some of the most spectacular views are only an hour out of San Francisco.

Keeping In Touch

                                     Photo taken at Lands End, San Francisco, California

As a child we go to school and during the summer we spend it with our families, abroad, at summer camps or in various other ways. The point is after the summer we all go back to the classroom, trade war stories and start all over again. The process is quite similar as we go through secondary school and even through university. Although during the transition between primary school, secondary school and university, friends may move away, but personally I found most stayed close by and remained in a similar routine to mine.

Now, as majority of us have graduated, our lives are very different and our schedules are certainly worlds apart. Friends have chosen to continue their education, others have immigrated, others have found themselves with permanent nine to five jobs in their field of study and others have chosen to travel the world!  We take holidays at different times, have different priorities and our day to day lives vary greatly.

When I decided to immigrate my dad asked me what I was most nervous about. I know he was expecting me to say ‘knowing no-one’ or ‘moving away from my family’ or anything along those lines, instead I replied with ‘losing touch with my friends’. He quickly reminded me that one of my best friends lives in Philadelphia and it had been over a year since I had seen her, he then went on to remind me of another friend who had just come back from two years in Australia, both friends I am still in touch with.

Recently the time difference has started to get to me… eight hours is proving to be a nightmare when trying to arrange chats with friends. When I get up, they’re in work, and when I’m finished work they’re in bed. Now my sister has had the bright idea to make things more difficult by moving to Finland for five months… that’s a TEN hour time difference. Last Sunday I had a three-way Skype call with my family, in San Francisco it was morning, Ireland late afternoon and in Finland it was night time. Imagine what it was like when we didn’t have Skype!

Although I have always said I didn’t want this site to become too personal, I have quickly come to realize that it might be the easiest way to keep everyone informed. While I still intend to keep information broad enough, I am going to start documenting more of my adventure here. Till next time…

Thinking of Home

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Photo taken at Union Square, San Francisco, California

I am officially living here 2 months, although it still feels like I’m only here a wet week! In that time I have celebrated Halloween, gone to Lake Tahoe, experienced a real Thanksgiving, partied when the Giants won The World Series and so much more..! With only two weeks till Christmas I find myself missing home, with this in mind I thought I would jot down things I miss from home and others I don’t. Now I am not going to state the obvious such as friends, family and my mom’s home cooking but rather things you wouldn’t necessarily think of.

Things I miss:

Chocolate

Although my family has spoiled me, sending over some good ole Cadbury’s chocolate, it’s not the same when you know you have to ration it. I miss heading to the local shop and being able to buy it myself, instead of hiding it away.

Food

A lot of what I miss from home is food related, actually a lot of my life in general is based on food. If I was to go home for 24 hours I have a list of restaurants I would visit, such as Wagamama’s, Bay, Milano’s, a fresh bag of chippers chips (seriously lacking over here) and of course grab a white hot chocolate in Butlers.

Christmas Time

When someone says Christmas I think of dressing up my winter woolies, spending time with my family and curling up in-front of the wood burning fire. In California it’s not the same, the sun is shining, woolies are tucked away and for me the festive spirit is just not there.

Water

This one may seem crazy but the water is different over here and I don’t mean tap water. My hair never seems to be clean and needs to be washed all the time!! On that note I am also dreading the inevitable haircut.

The News & Weather Reports

In Ireland the main news station is RTE at 6pm or 9pm. In America there are so many news stations, therefore, it is a very competitive industry. As a result some of these stations air the most ridiculous news. I find it hard to find out what is actually happening in the World! I still find myself checking Independent.ie and the Irish Times.

Things I certainly do not miss:

Public Transport

On average in Dublin you could be waiting between 20 – 50 minutes for a bus. Here the maximum wait for the buses in my area (38, 38L & 1) is 8 minutes! You certainly don’t see people running for the bus and you’d be surprised how many bus drivers will wait for you if they see your attempting to cross the road to them. While I miss the convince of having my car there is definitely no need for one when you live and work in the city.

The Weather

Cold, wet, windy, hormonal weather in Ireland vs. bright, sunny, sometimes foggy weather in California. What would you choose?

Taxis/Cabs

I can count on one hand how many times I have hailed a cab since I have arrived. I always order a cab through Lyft or Uber, as I find it to be more secure and I do not have to worry if the card machine is working or if I have enough cash. Regardless whether I hail a taxi or order one through an app it is still so much cheaper than Ireland.

I’m sure there is a lot I have left out and I’m sure there is a lot I have yet to discover, but for now that is it! Don’t hesitate to send some chocolate my way if you’re really embracing the giving Christmas spirit 🙂

Finding THAT Job

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I was very active throughout university, always getting involved with extra-curricular activities even in my final year. As a result I have met some inspiring, dedicated, successful individuals and I continue to do so. Little did I know all these extra-curricular activities were building a foundation for my professional career. These experiences have proven to be invaluable! On graduating I was approached (via: LinkedIn) about a marketing position in Microsoft. This particular position was advertised for someone with 3+ years’ experience. Several interviews later an offer was extended to me and I started work the following week. I will be forever grateful to my manager who did not label me as ‘just graduated’, but saw beyond that to all the experience and knowledge I had gained through my involvement in extra-curricular activities. All this made moving to America more daunting for me, as I was going to have to enter into a very competitive job market, something I had not done before.

Starting out on your job search you can be faced with filling out hundreds of job applications/screening questions and on average only 10% of the them may make it to a recruiter. The best advice I have received was… step away from the computer and go network!! Ever hear the phrase ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’well it’s true! Here are some tips I found to be useful:

  • EventBrite -Register yourself and look for networking events in your area.
  • Meetup.com is also a good site to check out for meeting locals.
  • LinkedIn – Study your connections, who knows who, ask for introductions to people in companies/industries you’re interested in working. Ask them for a 15min coffee.
  • Referrals –  Know someone working where you are interested in applying to? Ask for a referral. Most time it’s a win win, you get moved to the top of the pile and they receive compensation if you’re hired!

I have always believed in finding a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life. While I know finding a job is tough I still stand by this! You may not absolutely love every aspect of you job you should love about 80% of it. Keep that in mind throughout your search.

A few more tips to help you along your job search…

  1. LinkedIn – upgrade your account to the Job Seeker Premium, you get the first 30 days free. However, there is no point in doing this unless your profile is up-to-date. The thing to remember is LinkedIn is a platform to advertise yourself, only put up experience that is relevant to the job you’re looking for.
  2. Business Cards – get personal cards made. If you’re Irish you’re guaranteed to feel like a twat, but get use to it! There is a different format for American business cards so if you’re getting them made overseas make sure they are the correct dimensions, otherwise you’ll stand out… and not in a good way. Moo.com and Vista Print are 2 good sites to check out.
  3. Alumni Network – most universities have an alumni network, connecting past and present students. It is a fantastic facility, make use of it! Meet others that attended your university, you can even share war stories. Dublin City University (DCU) have a fantastic network with Chapters all over the world, including San Francisco.
  4. Glassdoor – not only can you get an overview of salaries in different companies, this is also a good platform for finding jobs.

Good luck 🙂

San Francisco I have arrived!

         Photo taken at Bakers Beach, San Francisco, California

As mentioned in a previous post I had been getting ready to relocate to the States… I have now well and truly arrived! This is my first time living away from my friends and family for a prolonged period of time and I am happy to say, ‘so far, so good’.

I arrived on the 30th of September and checked myself into USA Hotels on Polk and Jones. I stayed in a four-bed female dorm. I had booked myself in for just under 2 weeks knowing it would be tough to find accommodation, so this gave me plenty of time. The hostel provided you with bath towels and breakfast (pancakes, bananas, ‘oatmeal’), and wi-fi. This hostel is close to Union Square but also the Tenderloin, it’s safe once you do not go wander a few blocks over (walking away from Unions Sq.).

Day two – I checked out the Irish Immigration Pastoral Centre (IIPC). This is a wonderful facility and I would advise everyone relocating to check it out. The Irish community is very close and I have found everyone is willing to help you out. They run workshops, meet ups, have a list of possibly accommodation options (short-term & long-term) and career options (mostly laboring, hospitality & personal care). Since arriving I have attended their LinkedIn workshop, graduate meet-ups, networking mixer and their November Irish remembrance mass.

Coming over here I was determined to live with different nationalities and immerse myself in American culture, this is easier said than done! I had spent weeks on Craigslist before coming over and continued the hunt when I arrived… I was getting nowhere (literally no responses). Through the IIPC I met Emma*, she had been on the hunt longer than I had and knew her way around. We found an apartment together in Central Richmond. Here a week and I could finally stop living out of my suitcase (& obviously check out of the hostel early)! The apartment came unfurnished but that was easily sorted with an overwhelming trip to Ikea. I now live with 3 Irish girls and could not be happier!

Advice when looking for an apartment :

  1. Craigslist is where it is at – instead of applying to ads place your own ad, say where you want to live, your budget and a little about yourself.
  2. Arrange private viewings if possible, there is less competition this way as you get to spend 1:1 time with the renter.
  3. Go to viewings equipped with a statement of income, a reference and most importantly the DEPOSIT! We had no credit rating so this was important.

We are now fully set up and taking advantage of all San Francisco has to offer. Before I sign off I am going to leave you with some tips I wish someone had shared with me when setting up.

  1. Internet – we decided to go with Comcast as it was already operational in the apartment block. You can pay an additional charge for someone to come set it up, to be honest if its common sense, save the $. So far so good the services has been reliable.
  2. Mattress –  Aladdin Rugs is where it is at. I got a Queen mattress (spring & memory foam) for $225. Albert (the owner) is helpful, honest and such a character.
  3. Mobile Phone – this is something you should set up the day you arrive! Make sure googlemaps is both compatible and reliable on your phone, especially if you are travelling alone. When I first arrived I set up a pay monthly plan with Metro PCS, I quickly changed over to T-Mobile to the $85 per/mo plan. Its expensive but I get 5BG Data, unlimited international calls & texts (to mobiles & landlines).
  4. Google Express – when you sign up you get 4 months free delivery. They have a number of retailers on board (Target, WholeFoods, Costco, etc.). If you order before 1pm you can get that day delivery. My only compliant is that the delivery windows are quite wide but the door to door delivery makes up for it.
  5. Uber & Lyft & Sidecar – too late for public transport or sometimes its just quicker in a cab, check out these apps. When setting up an account get a friends code (or use mine) and it means your first ride is free and they also get a free ride.
    1. Lyft – ciara738507 – personally this is my favorite. If you are a party of 2 or it is just yourself I suggest you use LyftLine, this means you share the cab with people going the same direction as you and your cab turns out to be super cheap!
    2. Uber – ciarae7 – Uberpool is the same as LyftLine but I’ve found it slightly more expensive.
    3. Sidecar -the cheapest of the three, but not as well known. Haven’t used it enough to have much of an opinion.

Those 3 Questions…

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I am moving to North American at the end of the summer for 14 months. This is something I have always said I would do, so when I told my parents I was going they were like ‘yeah ok’ and I knew what they really meant was ‘come back to us when you’ve booked your flights’. I could understand this reaction as we hadn’t actually been home from Chicago 24 hours and also the fact I had been going to America for the last 3 years.

Now, the date has been set, visa has been approved and flights have been booked, it has become a reality! Slowly, I have begun to hear my parents tell people and talk about it as a reality. There are three questions that are repeatedly asked, the sequence varies…

Question 1: Do you have a job set up?

Question 2: Do you have a place to stay?

Question 3: You know people over there, don’t you?

… but it all ends the same, ‘I’m sure you’ll have a great time’, to which I politely smile and thank them.

It is funny to watch everyone’s reaction when the answer to all three questions is no! There is that look on their face that screams ‘ARE YOU CRAZY’.

The truth is I can’t bloody wait. I am the eldest in my family and have never lived away from home on a long term basis (excluding the adventurous summer spent in Chicago, but that is for another day). What appeals to me most about moving is the fact I know no one, no baggage, no expectations, a fresh start!

Don’t get me wrong I will miss my family so much, but as my 7 year old cousin reminded me over the weekend, we now have Whatsapp, FaceTime (not that I actually have an iPhone) and Skype. It is not as if my own form of communication is a letter in the post!