Maintaining a social life outside of working and classes in college is hard, but when you’re in a completely different country for six weeks, your desire to travel to as many places as possible makes this balance even harder. These past few weeks, I’ve been working, studying, and traveling across Europe with my friends. It’s been incredibly hectic, but now that I am officially back in the UK until the end of my program, I thought I would reflect on my experiences.
Last weekend, I traveled to Paris with three friends from my program. Being that it was my first time in continental Europe, I was incredibly excited to get a taste of French culture, specifically the chocolate croissants! I took the Eurostar into Paris late Thursday night, which was a unique experience in and of itself. The Eurostar is the underground train that runs across many major cities throughout Europe, including London and Paris. It was interesting to be on the train as I believe it is much more efficient and, thus, quicker than other forms of transportation I’ve been on, so I highly recommend anyone traveling to major cities in Europe to check Eurostar schedules and book in advance to save costs.
After a good night’s rest in our Airbnb, my friends and I spent our first day in the city in Disneyland Paris! It was so much fun to ride many of the same rides that are in Disneyworld in Orlando, FL, and I got to try some new rides too! It was an incredibly long day, but I got to feel like a kid again, which was a nice way to start off my three-day adventure in the City of Lights. For the rest of the weekend, my friends and I spent the few days we had in Paris to explore some of Paris’ iconic monuments, including the Seine River, the Louvre Museum, the Arc de Triomphe, and, of course, the Eiffel Tower! Also, we went shopping at some great boutiques on the outskirts of the city, so I got to find some unique clothes and jewelry as souvenirs for both my sister and me. Lastly, what would a trip be like in Paris if I didn’t get to try the food! For me, food is a huge part of the travel experience, and I wasn’t disappointed on this trip. The bakeries that we went to had some of the best chocolate croissants and macaroons that I’ve ever had; I even brought some home for my roommate and I to share! On our last day, my friends and I also got to go to this amazing café for breakfast known as the Breizh Café, which is known for serving authentic and homemade crepes from scratch. After was all said and done, I think it’s safe to say I gained amazing memories (and a few pounds) from this weekend.
After returning to the UK that following Sunday, I had a lot of friends ask me what Paris was like compared to London. In my opinion, I believe comparing Paris to London is like comparing apples to oranges. Both cities are unique in their own way, so it’s hard for me to choose which one I like better, especially I’m staying in London for six weeks as opposed to three days. However, based on my experiences, I enjoyed Paris’ architecture more so than London’s, but because I don’t speak a word of French, I’m very grateful that I am doing my internship in London and not in Paris!
The following Friday morning, I flew out for my next international destination: Dublin, Ireland! Since I booked this trip through a CAPA-sponsored travel abroad organization, also known as Somewhere New, I was very excited from this start as I knew how professional and amazing the staff was for these weekend tours. Needless to say, this program did not disappoint. From the moment our trip began, we were constantly being inundated with the beautiful sights of the country of Ireland and given great advice on where to find food and what activities to try out on our nights off. If anyone is planning on traveling through a third-party travel agency for students, I highly recommend this company.
While the first day of the trip got off to a late start due to our mid-morning flight, my friends and I were lucky enough to be greeted with cool temperatures and cloudy skies, which was a nice change from the heat wave that has overcome London for the past month or so. Dressed in our sweatshirts and jeans, we headed out to do a two-hour walking tour of Dublin, seeing many famous sites of the city, such as Dublin’s Castle, the Medieval Walls, Viking remains from famous churches, and the Trinity College of Dublin! We finished off the night walking around the area known as Temple Bar, listening to some of the up-and-coming performers from the area.
The next day, we woke up early to begin our six-hour bus ride for Galway and the Cliffs of Moher. Along the way, we stopped at other historical monuments within Ireland, such as Dunguaire Castle and the small fishing village of Doolin, where we got to have lunch at an authentic Irish pub known as O’Conner’s. Our final destination before settling in our new hostel in Galway for the night was the Cliffs of Moher. This natural wonder has been one of the many highlights of my trip. Providing some of the most breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean that I’ve ever seen, the Cliffs are even more beautiful in person than in pictures online. I could’ve spent all day there taking in the views (and getting some more pictures as well). After a long day, we headed to our hostel in Galway, which is a smaller, quieter town than the bustling city of Dublin. Cobblestone and live music lined the streets of this quaint town, and once again, my friends and I spent the rest of our night listening to the performers as well as eating gelato from Gino’s, an Irish ice cream shop known for its amazing gelato and a true must-have if ever visiting Galway or Dublin. For our final day in Ireland, we departed Galway to head back to Dublin for a tour of the Guinness factory. While this day was mostly spent on the bus and in the airport, I got to spend the bus ride taking in more of the gorgeous greenery that is dispersed all throughout Ireland, which felt like another tour in and of itself. I also got to spend quality time with my friends and get caught up on some homework, which was definitely a huge relief to get out of the way since we didn’t arrive back in the UK till late at night.
After visiting two amazing countries, I believe I have learned so much in only two weekends. While I enjoyed my time at both countries immensely, these ‘holidays’ have made me so grateful for the opportunity to study abroad in the first place. This being my first time in Europe, I had little expectation of what each country would be like. Aside from what I’ve seen in movies, I’ve expected most of France and Ireland to be similar in appearance and culture to that of their larger cities, Paris and Dublin, respectively. However, I’m glad to say I was proved wrong and pleasantly surprised. Each country is unique in its own way and offers so much more than the typical tourist attractions that everyone visits. Although I did spend a large part of my time doing the tourist attractions, the experiences I had in these two countries wouldn’t have been complete without talking to some of the locals and learning more about the culture of each city that I visited. Overall, I’m so fortunate that I got to take some time away from the hectic schedule of my classes and internship in London and spend two back-to-back weekends in two amazing countries, creating memories that I will certainly carry with me even after this program ends.