I’m really excited to promote this fantastic project in Ireland. I participated in some of the workshops in Berlin. It was great and I was positively surprised of the quality of some of the pictures we took.
The photography workshop challenges the prevailing misconception, that blind people have no understanding of and interest in visual arts. People with physical disabilities tend to be in pictures, rather than taking them. This project aims to turn…
Der DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst) organisiert im Rahmen seiner Kampagne „studieren weltweit – erlebe es!“ am 19. und 20. Juni in Essen eine Tagung mit vorangehender Online-Diskussion unter dem Titel „„Studentische Auslandsmobilität erhöhen! – Soziale Diversität und Lehramt als Herausforderung und Chance“, die vier Gruppen in den Fokus nehmen möchte:
All diese Gruppen sind – aus verschiedenen Gründen – statistisch bei Auslandsaufenthalten unterrepräsentiert. Im Rahmen des Austausches und der Diskussion geht es um die Identifikation von Hürden und mögliche Verbesserungspotentiale im Sinne der jeweiligen Zielgruppen.
Ich bin studentische Themenpatin für den Bereich Auslandsaufenthalt mit Beeinträchtigung oder chronischer Erkrankung und lade euch hiermit herzlich ein, euch noch bis zum 19. May an der Online Diskussion zu beteiligen. Hier ist mein Video in dem ich erzähle, warum sich für mich als Studentin mit Seheinschränkung Mein Auslandssstudium in Galway akademisch und persönlich gelohnt hat.
I’m not exactly a fashion enthusiast. I obviously want to look well and feel good about myself, but easy maintenance and practicality always come before style. When I moved to Ireland, I could no longer bring my mum a bag full of ironing every weekend. She gave me a precise list specifying which items could be washed together and at what temperature they had to be ironed and suddenly I was on my own. I gave up the good intentions of separating and ironing my laundry in the second week, colour absorbing tissues had to do the job and all the blouses and skirts, which definitely had to be ironed where banished back into the suitcase. Jeans, T-shirts and jumpers became my best friends.
I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions, but I wanted to bring a bit of variety and colour into my wardrobe this season. Shopping in general, whether it’s for food, household stuff or clothes, does not rank high on my list of favourite activities. I can think of tonnes of things that are more fun than wondering aimlessly around a gigantic shopping centre, full of stressed people hunting for the latest bargains.
Being visually impaired doesn’t make it easier. I have to take every item out of the shelf and hold it really close to my face or even use a magnifier to see what it is. Apart from people staring at me, this is very slow and frustrating. Initially, I was ashamed to ask for help and bought whatever I could identify. I ended up with rather random stuff in my trolley and if I was really unlucky I got meat pizza instead of the vegetarian version. After a while, I overcame my pride somewhat and now I get the shop assistants to help me. Most of them are very friendly, but in places like ALDI it can be hard to find someone. More upmarket places like Tesco do home delivery.
I enjoy clothes shopping with my mum. We are having great fun laughing about some of the more ridiculous fashion trends and I know she is honest when something doesn’t suit me, sometimes even too honest. But my mum is also the conventional Jeans-type, so I ended up buying similar clothes twice a year when I was home in Germany.
I have seen personal shoppers on TV, transforming slightly uncomfortable looking participants into completely new people with the help of high-maintenance haircuts, lots of make-up and pretty clothes nobody would wear in everyday life. But my boyfriend had used it before and was very happy with the service and encouraged me to give it a go. In fact, he made the appointment in the biggest New Look store in Dublin, otherwise I would probably still be talking about doing it soon.
I was very nervous and self-conscious in the beginning. I showed the lady who helped me some pictures of clothes I liked from the New Look website and half expected her to shake her head in despair saying these styles don’t suit me. Of course she didn’t. I managed to say that I want to wear something more adventurous and elegant than jeans and off we went through the fashion labyrinth. I took whatever she suggested. No harm in trying I thought. While I liked some pieces at first sight, I would have never even thought of trying a leather skirt for example. Surprisingly, it looked really good and I bought it. It’s one of my favourite skirts now and it doesn’t have to be ironed.
I had a whole changing area to myself and actually really enjoyed this shopping trip. We had a great chat about what colours and styles go together and it almost felt like a shopping trip with a friend. I realised that I had been too hard on myself when it comes to what goes with what. I’m a perfectionist, but as my granny says: “Nowadays almost everything goes together”. The challenge with skirts and dresses is to find matching shoes I can walk in, but we managed to find a pair with relatively small heels and like everything else it’s all about practice.
Since I don’t want to go shopping anytime again soon, I bought lots of stuff. That way you can make sure every top goes with every skirt, instead of buying single pieces, only to discover that you have nothing to go with it once you get home. I would definitely recommend availing of personal shoppers for everyone, visually impaired or not. It’s fun, efficient and full of surprises. A new style can make a huge difference and I got only positive feedback from my friends. The shop assistance are passionate about fashion and helping customers is a welcome break from stocking shelves or standing at the till to them. I’ll definitely be back in the winter season.
As a German student living in Ireland for the best part of three years, it took me a while to realize that my Erasmus year at NUI Galway not only made me a more independent and open-minded person; gradually it also improved my perception of my home country. While visiting Berlin with my Irish boyfriend, it dawned on me that living standards and social security are definitely higher in Germany.
When I applied for the exchange year as an undergrad, I couldn’t get away quick enough. I was fed up with the infamous German bureaucracy, the anonymity of big cities and everyone’s stereotypical “Germanness”- first and foremost my own. I took my conveniently located and affordable apartment, my student grant and free third level education for granted, and became unsatisfied and restless. Although I met plenty of foreign and Irish students who had to pay for college and their stay abroad, I still didn’t understand people’s enthusiasm for everything German. I spoke as little German as possible and when I started to speak with an Irish accent, I began pretending to be Irish when abroad, and asked my friends to stop introducing me as “Tina from Germany”, a fact they think I should be proud of. My Irish friends are still puzzled by my lack of interest in German history and current affairs and wonder why I don’t talk to every German tourist on the street. They mention people they know in Munich and are almost disappointed that I don’t know them. It seems to make no difference that I’m from the opposite side of the country.
Initially, I had mixed feelings about bringing my boyfriend to Berlin. I don’t know the city well and I was afraid to fail miserably as a tour guide. However, researching things to do, I discovered lots of interesting sights I haven’t been to myself. I really enjoyed the city centre walk and the bus tour in English, maybe because they were designed for foreigners and gave a good overview without going into too much detail. My generation was no longer taught to feel responsible for the past in school, we were nevertheless bombarded with dates and facts, which we forgot as soon as the last exam was over. Most Irish people on the other hand have a fair idea of Irish history and politics.
The best part of the trip was a Trabi Safari. Trabis are flimsy looking, but surprisingly robust cars produced in the GDR. Although I was born after the wall came down, I feel nostalgic every time I see one of these cult-cars. Before my boyfriend remarked on it, I hadn’t noticed that the buildings in East Berlin are much more square looking than those in the Western part of the city. There are still architectural, economic and cultural differences between East and West. When telling people I’m from Germany, I always make the point that I’m east German, a distinction the Irish, many of whom are proud of their home county, tend to understand better than other visitors.
My boyfriend loved the cheap but high-quality multi-cultural restaurants and the variety of cakes and rolls in bakery shops. He was seriously impressed with the frequency and punctuality of all modes of public transport. In most parts of the country, but especially in the capital, you can get everywhere by train, bus and subway, and changing from one to the other is no problem. The transport systems in Galway and even Dublin do not remotely compare to that. The massive train stations are a bit overwhelming at first, but as someone who doesn’t drive, I felt very empowered.
For me, Germany’s main advantage is the high level of social security. Unemployed people are far from being rich, but in my opinion nobody who seeks help has to be homeless there. It took me years to understand Irish people’s obsession with owning a house; unlike in Germany, well-kept apartments in Ireland are rare. The Irish rental market is privatised and on top of paying ridiculous rents, tenants have few rights. At home, neither my parents nor my grandparents own a house; they live in the same apartments for years and don’t intend to buy it. This system makes it easier for people to move and although the minimum wage in Germany is slightly lower than in Ireland, people don’t have to spent most of their money on paying a mortgage. As a student, my health insurance contribution is comparatively low and most medical treatments and prescription medications, including a GP visit in Ireland, are free.
My main reasons for living in Ireland are still the stunning landscape, Irish arts and first and foremost the friendliness of the people. By now I have more good friends here than I ever had in Germany. Nevertheless, most people we met on our holiday were very nice and spoke at least some English. Unlike the small East-German town I’m from, Berlin is pretty international and one can get around without speaking much German.
Ireland is a great country to live in, as long as you have a well-paid job and don’t get seriously ill. If the government wants to keep young people in the country, it has to offer us a future that makes working, living and perhaps raising a family here more attractive. Otherwise, many of us will eventually move to countries with better living-standards, even if we don’t really want to.
Auch wenn es auf diesem Blog im Moment eher ruhig ist, schreibe ich auf Studieren Weltweitweiter fleißig über meine Zeit in Galway an der Irischen Westküste. Hier eine Übersicht einiger Artikel zu den Themen Planung und Finanzierung von ERASMUS-Jahr und Auslandsstudium sowie meinem Studienalltag mit Sehbehinderung. Für Fotos könnt ihr mir zusätzlich auf Instagram folgen.
Finanzierung eines Erasmus+ Studiums mit Behinderung
Nachdem Finanzierung und Kursauswahl für den ERASMUS+– Aufenthalt inIrland geregelt waren, galt es ein Zimmer in Galway zu finden. Ich bin kein Fan von WGs, aber nachdem ich mir einige irische Webseiten zur Wohnungssuche angesehen hatte, wurde mir klar, dass eine eigene Einraumwohnung ein Wunschtraum bleiben würde.
Mir wurde erst richtig bewusst, dass mein ERASMUS+-Jahr jetzt startet, als ich wenige Tage vor Abflug nach Galway anfing meinen Koffer zu packen. Hier ein paar nützliche Hinweise fürs Kofferpacken im Allgemeinen und ein paar Dinge die auf einer Irlandreise nicht fehlen dürfen.
Viele Studierende arbeiten irgendwann im Laufe ihres Studiums im Kundensupport am Telefon. Im Ausland auf Englisch mit wildfremden Menschen zu telefonieren, von denen einige einen starken irischen Akzent haben oder selbst Ausländer sind, ist allerdings noch eine Stufe anspruchsvoller.
In diesem Post möchte ich kurz erklären, wie blinde und sehbehinderte Studierende arbeiten. In den letzten Jahren hat sich die Technik auf diesem Gebiet stark weiterentwickelt und das Internet erleichtert uns vieles. Trotzdem ist es immer noch schwierig an barrierefreie Fachliteratur zu kommen.
Ab sofort schreibe ich für den Blog Studieren Weltweit über mein ERASMUS-Jahr und mein Auslandsstudium in Galway. Meinen ersten Blogbeitrag „Blind im Ausland Studieren – Geht das?“ findet ihr hier. Unter dem Hashtag #ErlebeEs könnt ihr mir und den anderen Korrespondenten außerdem auf Facebook, Twitter und Instagram folgen.
A few weeks ago we travelled to Dublin to see the latest production by the Abbey Theatreof Tom Murphy’s “The Wake”, a play portraying the materialism of Irish small-town communities in the early 1990s. It reveals how far most members of so called respectable families are prepared to go to satisfy their desire for power and wealth.
So far 2016 was a great year for fans of audio described theatre performances and I hope the continuing international interest in Irish arts will further not only creative art production, but also help to increase the availability of caption and audio description for patrons with visual and hearing impairments. I have written about how audio description works and the importance of making culture and arts accessible to everyone in a previous review.
The staff of the Abbey Theatre is very friendly and the lady who hands out…
I came second with this story in the Hounddog Tails competition in the over 18 category. The short story competition was kindly organised by the owners of Hounddog Dog Grooming in Galway. By the way, I highly recommend them: They do an excellent job, are lovely to owners and dogs, and they always have time for a chat about walking routes and grooming tips. The competition categories were under 12, 12 to 18 and over 18. Thus, there was a great mix of people at the awards ceremony and of course doggies of all shapes and sizes. The first place winners received three free dog grooms, second and third place one and we even got trophies. The best part however is that three dogs from the MADRA rescue centre get groomed for free every month in the name of the first prize winners. The people I talked to all own rescue dogs, so there is absolutely no need to support scrupulous puppy farmers. It was inspiring to meet so many people who truly care about dogs. Plus, I would never have written the following story without a prompt. So here it is:
Mixer the Trouble Maker
As a child I’ve always wanted a dog, but we lived in an apartment and my mum said it wouldn’t be fair. Instead, I got guinea pigs. They lived to ten and I loved them, but they wouldn’t walk on a lead. They just hopped in circles around me and I had to defend them from real dogs.
When I moved from Germany to Galway, I suddenly had a big garden and the Salthill promenade right outside the door. After almost refusing to give a dog back after two weeks minding, I decided to finally get one myself. One day I turned up at the GSPCA shelter and when asked what kind of dog I was thinking about I gave the very precise answer:
“I don’t know, medium energy terrier-something, that can be on it’s own for a few hours perhaps?”
Assuming small dogs are less work than bigger ones is a typical first-time owner misconception.
“What about a Jack Russell than?”
“Oh yes, a Jack Russell, my best friend’s parents have three and they are one of three breeds I would recognise.”
Needless to say, I fell in love with the first dog I was shown. A Jack Russell called Mixer. He rolled over to let me tickle his tummy for a while, than got up and walked confidently away. They called him Mixer because he used to sleep under a concrete mixer until the lads on the building site built him a shelter. They fed him until they were finished at the site and he had to go to the rescue shelter. I thought about renaming him, but the name fits. Having lived on scraps, he’s definitely not picky. In fact he eats absolutely everything. Like a giant food mixer he devours everything often without even chewing it. I still can’t leave him alone with food. On our second day together, the cheeky monkey stole a banana out of the fruit basket. Since I have Mixer, the floor is definitely clean, apart from mucky paw prints and hair.
It’s a bit like I imagine it to be to have children. In a way having children should be easier, because you can bring them everywhere without having to tie them outside and they wear nappies and have no teeth in the beginning. Ok, that’s a silly comparison, but like first-time baby parents, I wanted to do everything right as a first-time doggie mum. I spent hours looking at the ingredients of dog food, reading toy reviews to find out which ones last longest and contain no toxic materials, and browsing training tips websites. I even broke my vegetarian existence, because I tried a piece of kibble I can’t quite remember what meat tastes like, but if it’s all like this, I’m not missing much. Well, Mixer obviously likes it.
I heard somewhere small dogs often have dental issues. Have you ever tried to brush a dog’s teeth? Reflexively I opened my own mouth and started dribbling, while Mixer licked the dog-toothpaste, bit the brush and spat at me. The dog dental care set is made in Germany and I thought we export mainly cars and beer.
Mixer is an escape artist. Geraldine who did the home check showed me some gaps I had to fix and I blocked them off with concrete blocks, thinking he’s no bank robber so why would he dig a tunnel. However, after all the blocking and several roles of wire later, he still finds gaps. He digs, jumps, climbs and balances on walls. There must be a bit of a cat in him, maybe he is a “Cat-Russell”. You would imagine someone from the former DDR should be good at building walls, but every time I’m convinced that he won’t find another one, he disappears for another adventure, only to loiter back into the garden after a while, as if nothing has happened. Now I’ve ordered an electric fence. This is war!
The only positive thing about Mixer’s rambles is that I got to know most of the neighbours. The most embarrassing incident was when he sneaked into a house, ate the resident dog’s food and left a smelly surprise. Thankfully the neighbours still talk to me.
Sometimes, because I’m visually impaired people ask me why I didn’t get a guide dog, but I wanted to find out whether I’m a doggy person first. One day a lady asked me, if Mixer was a guide-dog. I thought it was a joke and replied: “Of course, he is still learning,” all the while having to hold onto the lead with both hands to stop him from chasing a cat. However, she was serious and while walking away mumbled: “Well he still needs some training, but at least he takes up less space than a Labrador.”
I would never go hungry with Mixer, if allowed to lead he would navigate me to wherever he smells food, but it could be a bin instead of a restaurant.
Mixer definitely changed my life for the better. I bring him for a run on the beach everyday. Sometimes the place is like a canine playground. Mixer is the kid – I mean dog – nobody wants to play with, because he’s not really interested in making friends, all he does is bully bigger dogs and runs off with their toys. If they are squeaky toys, I’m in trouble, because he loves them but never gets them because they are killed within minutes.
I got to know some lovely people. For some reason, I tend to remember the dogs’ names better than their owners’. One night a man even gave me a reflecting collar with flashlights, just because I remarked that it is a brilliant idea. Walking Mixer also raised my awareness of the environment. It’s only since I have to stop him from picking up every bit of rubbish along the way that I’ve realised how littered the streets actually are.
We even bring Mixer cycling in a basket on the tandem bike, but I much prefers running alongside the bike.
Having a dog is certainly a big commitment, time – and moneywise. However, I already miss Mixer when I’m just gone for a weekend. It’s nice to come home to a furry friend with a wagging tale, although he’s probably only happy because it’s dinner time again. There he is, five past six and he sits here staring accusingly at me. So, I better give him his dinner.
Although the number of audio described and subtitled live-performances has considerably increased over the last few years, they are still rare outside Dublin. Consequently, I was delighted when I received the Arts & Disability Ireland text newsletter notifying subscribers that WillFredd Theatre Companywas to bring its newest production CARE to the Galway Town Hall Theatre.The show featured audio description for visually impaired audience members and subtitles for patrons with hearing impairments.
What is Audio Description?
People may know Audio description (AD) from TV programmes. It is a voiceover telling blind and visually impaired viewers, or indeed anyone who chooses to use it, information that is not conveyed through dialogue, music or sound. For example It would say something like: “John enters holding a folder under his arm. He is a well-dressed man in his forties.” I’m not familiar with the production side of AD, but it is…
This post was first published as part of the New Tribes Series in the Galway2020 blog. Galway is bidding to become the European Capital of Culture 2020 and with only a few weeks left until the judges make their final decision, I want to share this again. I volunteer for the Galway2020 initiative and the Galway2020 team is very open to suggestions. They made me feel welcome and try to find volunteer roles I’m able to do and enjoy. Sometimes people with a disability are, often unintentionally, excluded from participating in and contributing to mainstream cultural projects. In fact, their voices are seldom heard outside disability related contexts. For me this wasn’t the case in the Galway2020 campaign. Thanks for letting me be part of it. I hope we win!
I like the concept of Europe, because theoretically, it means I can be German and Irish at the same time.
I’m from Germany and I came to Galway as an ERASMUS student while studying English at the University of Leipzig. My degree focused mainly on Britain, but I wanted to go somewhere different and Galway was advertised as a small seaside town, so I picked it without knowing much about it.
I’m legally blind and there aren’t that many students with a disability who go abroad. I had to organise some things in advance, but it was definitely worth it, because I became more self-confident and independent. I’d recommend living in another country to anyone, but I’d especially encourage students with a disability to give it a go. During my first week in town, I did a walking tour and the guide said, ‘Some people call Galway the graveyard of ambitions, because once you move here, you can’t or won’t leave again’. I’m now doing an M.A. in Irish Studies at NUIG, so I agree with the part about not wanting to leave, but I don’t think Galway is a graveyard of ambitions. It’s very much alive and I can imagine living and working here for a while longer.
My Irish friends are always amazed that I don’t greet everyone I hear speaking German on the street, which is what most of them would do. To be honest, I didn’t really go looking for other Germans; I wanted to meet people from different countries. However, I met some lovely Germans over here, mostly ERASMUS students and people connected to the German Department in NUIG. Native speakers of English are said to be unwilling to learn another language, but I know lots of people here who learn German or at least have some phrases. There’s a German conversation group meeting every other Tuesday in the Bierhaus, if anyone wants to catch up on their German. Living abroad definitely made me look at my home country and culture in a different way.
Being at Home
If you go out and do things, it’s very easy to meet people and to get involved with community groups and projects. In the beginning, college clubs and societies helped me a lot. Especially when you’re new somewhere and know nobody, you’re more prepared to try new things.
I joined the Galway Visually Impaired Activity Club. Every other Sunday, we go cycling on tandem bikes, with a sighted pilot in the front and a visually impaired person in the back. It’s a great way to get to know different people and it doesn’t matter whether you have a disability or not. Once or twice a year, we go on weekend trips and I already got to see a good bit of Ireland by bike. We also participate in charity cycles. The longest one I did was 100km, but our Sunday spins are shorter and we try to cater for all ages and abilities.
Last year, I helped organising a cycle from Berlin to Prague for the club and I hope to do the Cycle Against Suicide next year. I also volunteer with the NCBI (National Council for the Blind of Ireland), advising people on how to use their smart phones with the built-in accessibility features.
I’d love Galway to become more accessible to people with disabilities; more pedestrian crossings and acoustic lights, wheelchair accessible businesses and bigger street signs with contrasts.
There’s always something going on in Galway; festivals, good live music in pubs, charity events, and Connemara is ideal for all kinds of outdoor activities. I bring my Jack Russell terrier, Mixer, who I got from the GSPCA for a walk on the prom every day. It’s a great place to meet other doggie-people. I got so used to having the sea right outside my doorstep that I start missing it when I’m gone for more than a week.
When I first came here, I tried to listen to a conversation on the bus from Dublin airport and thought my English was really bad, because I couldn’t understand anything. It took me a while to realise that they spoke Irish. I’ve learned a few phrases from friends and Duolingo. People are delighted that I try, even when I get it wrong. I hope to do a spoken Irish course next year. I went to a few events in Irish and even though I didn’t understand most of it, it was fun.
Because of my visual impairment, I often have to ask for directions. People here are very nice, sometimes even a bit too helpful, when they want to help me cross a road which I don’t want to cross at all or try to lift me into a bus. But they mean well and sometimes, I have great conversations with total strangers.
I’d love Galway to become more accessible to people with disabilities; more pedestrian crossings and acoustic lights, wheelchair accessible businesses and bigger street signs with contrasts, to name only a few things. I recently wrote a blog post on how giving each bus stop an individual name and announcements on busses would improve Galway’s public transport system, not only to visually impaired users but also to visitors.
What it Means to be European
I like the concept of Europe, because theoretically, it means I can be German and Irish at the same time. It would be great if Europeans didn’t need to decide a citizen of which country they want to be, but I suppose that wouldn’t work for legal reasons. I find applying for anything in Ireland rather cumbersome. It’s all so bureaucratic. If you have documents in a language other than English, you have a real hard time. But I suppose that’s the same in every country. It would be great if it became easier to resettle within Europe, especially when it comes to insurance and state benefits.