Travel Week 1 & Busy life updates!

So…I promised I wouldn’t be this person. The blogger that says she’s going to update often, and then suddenly 3 weeks go by with no word from her. I really did promise myself not to do this, yet here we are. Life here has gotten busy in the best way possible, and while I am going to try to hold myself to regular updates, I also don’t want to force myself to blog on my travels.

With that all being said, it’s been about a week since I returned from my big European adventure, and I don’t think I’ve recovered all of my sleep still. For those of you that don’t know, DIS is a unique study abroad program in that it gives you two full weeks to travel. One of those weeks, students embark on a trip with their core course to a destination in Europe, and the other is yours to go wherever (or stay in Stockholm if you choose). My forensic psychology course will be going to Scotland next week, so I had the first one free.

I went to 3 places (Dublin, Paris, and then Amsterdam) on my own, meeting up with different friends and family along the way. Instead of summarizing all my stops together in a huge mess, I’m going to break this post up into highlights of each place below.

Dublin

I knew that when I studied abroad in Europe I had to make a stop in Ireland. My father is a dual citizen, and I remained the only one in my family to never have seen the homeland (as I have affectionately nicknamed it). It worked out well, because one of my closest friends from school, Natalie, is spending her semester studying at University College Dublin. The first day, after waking up for a 6am flight, we spent the day downtown, with Natalie acting as my tour guide. Overall, I wasn’t super impressed with Dublin as a city, but I also kept reminding myself that my standards are probably incredibly high after living in a Scandinavian city for two months. I definitely came to appreciate Stockholm so much more during my time away.

What I did love about Ireland, however, was the countryside and stunning scenery. My second day there, we visited a place that had been on the top of my bucket list for a long time – the Cliffs of Moher! I had seen so many pictures of them, but nothing could have prepared me for how breathtaking there were in person. Truly a humbling sight to see. It was a long 13 hour day on the road, because after some time at the cliffs, my tour group stopped in Galway for a quick tour and dinner! I really wish I had had more time there, because Galway looked exactly like what I pictured an Irish town to look like. I definitely would like to go back one day.

On Monday, my last day in Dublin, I went on an excursion by myself while Natalie was in class. I ended up going on the Howth Cliff hike, an area about 30 minutes east of Dublin. It was a very peaceful afternoon, and I even ended up seeing a dolphin on my walk! Overall, 3 days was entirely too short for everything I wanted to do and see in Ireland, but I was grateful for the time with Natalie and to get a taste of how beautiful the country is. Hopefully I can convince my dad to take me back soon! 🙂

Paris

Of the three destinations I traveled to, this was the only one I had visited before. I was in Paris as a 13 year old with my brother and parents, so it was interesting to come back alone. I didn’t come back just to see Paris though; I came to visit with my french exchange student from high school, Gwen. It had been four years since I had seen her, so I was especially excited for this stop in the week.

When we were finally reunited, it felt like my concept of time completely disappeared, because she was just as I remembered! Her English is still much more advanced than my French (even after 8 years of it), so we spoke that most of the time. Some highlights of our time together include eating crepes under the Eiffel Tower, somehow talking our way into the Louvre for free, going out to a nice dinner with her mom (who spoke barely any English; my French definitely came in handy then), and visiting Montmartre/Sacre Coeur (though I did this when she was in class).

My days in Paris were definitely some of the best I’ve had abroad so far, because I got to do something I wouldn’t have been able to had I not come to Europe. It was so amazing to be able to reconnect with Gwen, and I know she will be a lifelong friend. We’ve already planned to try to meet up in Montreal within the next year or two, so we don’t have to wait 4 again! 🙂

Amsterdam

The third and final stop on my great European adventure was to Amsterdam. I was excited for this not only because I’ve only ever visited the Amsterdam airport and wanted to see the city, but also because I was meeting up with my parents and one of my best friends from college, Melanie! It was so good to see them all again after 8 weeks apart. Amsterdam was much more touristy than I was expecting, but I’m still very glad I went and saw it. My favorite thing there was the Anne Frank museum/house, especially because I had read and studied the book extensively in middle school.

Melanie and I ended up turning Amsterdam into a food tour of sorts, after having seen a Facebook video with the best foods in the city. We went to the Avocado Show (an all avocado restaurant), got french fries, hot dogs (vegetarian for me) and milkshakes at a popular spot, and stroopwaffles and poffertjes at the Albert Cuyp Market. If nothing else, I would absolutely recommend Amsterdam for the food.

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After about 2.5 days in Amsterdam, I said goodbye to my parents for the week (they would head to Berlin while I had class and then to Stockholm for a long weekend), and Melanie and I got on a plane back to Stockholm. Her fall break was unfortunately the week after mine, so we only overlapped for the weekend. But, she got to visit me in Stockholm for about 3 days while I started class again, so it all worked out!

I got to revisit the more “touristy” aspect of Stockholm with Melanie, which was honestly a treat. It’s easy for me to forget that I’m in such an amazing city with my day-to-day craziness of classes and field studies. We did a ghost tour of Gamla Stan (would definitely recommend), visited Ice Bar (an entire bar and room made of ice), went to the Swedish Meatball restaurant in town (I had the veggie balls), and biked around Djurgården during her days in the city. It was hard to see her go, but I’ll be reunited with her again very soon when we meet up in Berlin!

While other DIS students traveled together during the free week, I’m grateful for having gone alone to meet others along the way, because it was definitely an experience I needed. After managing last-minute baggage fees on budget airlines, three 5am wakeup calls, a sketchy airbnb host, and many tears, I can definitely say I built a lot of confidence traveling during this week.

My travels and my time with Melanie in Stockholm were definitely all highlights of my semester. It’s still crazy to me that this is my reality for the four months that I’m here, and I’m trying to soak up every minute of it.

My next post will be coming shortly, and it will cover my mid-semester reflections and my time with my parents. After that, it’s off to the airport again for more European adventures!

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