I spent the semester in Edinburgh, a city in Scotland. Scotland used to be its own country; it joined with England (and Wales) in 1707 to create Great Britain. Talks of breaking away into an independent Scotland continue to this day. Great Britain has since added Northern Ireland (distinct from the Republic of Ireland) to form the United Kingdom. Today, the United Kingdom is one country, and Ireland (less Northern Ireland) is another.
|Ireland (*Dublin) and the United Kingdom (*Inverness, *Stirling, *Edinburgh, *London)|
The capital of Scotland, Edinburgh was my home base for my time abroad. I studied politics at the University of Edinburgh, student population 28,000. In Edinburgh, I tried haggis (vegetarian, I'm afraid), saw the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and celebrated Bonfire Night.
Up in the remote Scottish highlands, Inverness is home to just 72,000 people (compared to Edinburgh's half-million or Philadelphia's 1.5 million). Visiting for an extended weekend, I toured whiskey distilleries, visited a sheepdog farm, and spotted the Loch Ness Monster.
Stirling was the site of a weekend home-stay with a sweet elderly couple. The experience involved climbing the Wallace Monument, visiting Stirling Castle, and watching a lot of BBC.
My first out-of-country trip was to Ireland, a quick RyanAir flight away. The incredible Trinity College Library, national museums, and outdoor food markets distinguished the trip.
|Oscar Wilde Statue|
One of my favorite destinations this semester, London was so exciting, I went twice. Home to 221 Baker Street, Shakespeare's Globe, and the unforgettable Tower of London, it was certainly well worth the return.
|Dragon at the Tower of London|
|Shakespeare's Globe (3rd Construction)|
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Meeting my family in Paris over Thanksgiving was certainly a treat, with the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and Notre Dame highlighting the experience.
|The Eiffel Tower|
|Notre Dame Cathedral|
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|Spain (*Madrid, *Barcelona)|
By far my favorite getaway, Barcelona was (comparatively) warm, colorful, and tasty. Here I tasted paella, saw magnificent architecture by Gaudi, and finally heard the language I studied for so many years being spoken practically. La Segrada Familia (during the day!) and the Magic Fountain (at night!) were sights that everyone should see at some point in their lives.
|La Segrada Familia|
|National Museum of Art, Near the Magic Fountain|
Finally, a trip back to Spain to stay in Alcala and see Madrid. Meeting my friend's host family, eating plenty of churros, and discovering a medieval market were just a few favorite memories.
|Medieval Market, Alcala|
|Buen Retiro Park|
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So, after all of that, would I recommend studying abroad? Absolutely. It's scary, of course, picking up and moving to a new country for a while. But it's fun. And it's eye opening. And it's worth it.
I remember talking to upper-classmen about studying abroad, and I kept hearing the same things from the ones who hadn't: they wished that they had. If you have the opportunity, I'd say: go for it. But the choice is all yours. In the words of the great Dr. Seuss:
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You're on your own.
And you know what you know.
And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...