From the Emerald Isle to the City of Lights

One of the coolest aspects of participating in GBI: London is having the opportunity to travel beyond my study abroad placement. My first trip outside of England was when I spent the week in Ireland for spring break. I was particularly excited about this trip because I would be traveling with my friends from the University of Pittsburgh who are studying abroad in Florence. In order to prepare for our trip together while living in two different countries, it took a significant amount of communication on our part. Jess, Mackenzie, and I had several phone discussions and also created an agenda for our trip on a shared online document. In order to make the most of our trip, we sorted out all of our accommodations and excursions ahead of time. We began our week in the Republic of Ireland, spending a few days exploring the city of Dublin. My personal highlights from Dublin were the Irish Rock N Roll Museum (where we were serenaded with “The Parting Glass”), and also the comedy show we attended one evening. After Dublin, we took a train to Galway, and spent the next three days on day trips to the beyond beautiful locations of Connemara, the Cliffs of Moher, and the Aran Islands. Finally, we went to Belfast in Northern Ireland, where we also explored the city and went on a sightseeing tour that included Giant’s Causeway. The best part of the week, though, were the people we met throughout our trip. Everyone was so excited to learn about our lives and to share their own with us. I also loved  being able to enjoy traditional Irish food and music.

This weekend, I took a short yet rewarding trip to Paris, France with a group of fellow students on my program. On Friday, we took a river boat tour on the Seine and spent the evening in the Louvre, the beauty and size of which is overwhelming. Saturday began with a three hour walking tour that included the Notre Dame. That evening, we had dinner with an old friend of mine… Matheo was a foreign exchange student from France during my junior year in high school. He was our guide for the night, taking us to the Eiffel Tower with ease. I am so grateful that I got to reconnect with him after three years – and also got to try escargot! On Sunday, we explored the Latin Quarter and then concluded our trip with the Arc de Triomphe. Although our trip to Paris was wonderful, there were some challenges. As expected, it was difficult navigating in a country where the first language is not English. Additionally, we had to be extremely vigilant due to the protests occurring in the city. This also impacted which streets and metro stations were open throughout the weekend. My advice to anyone looking to take a trip while on a study abroad program is to avoid “winging it.” It is imperative to do research on the area to ensure safety and efficiency. Make sure to keep your passport and return ticket safe, and finally, wear comfortable shoes!