Thursday, January 3, 2013

Europe, in Maps and Photographs

If your geography is anything like mine, the most you know about Europe is that it's across the ocean to the right. Prior to this semester, I would not have been able to locate the Netherlands, place Scotland in the United Kingdom, or determine whether Paris or Madrid was closer to London. Thanks to a bit of European travel, some of these deficiencies have been remedied. I will take this opportunity both to show off my favorite photos from my semester abroad, and to improve American terrestrial literacy.

Geographical Background
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)

Edinburgh, Scotland
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.

Edinburgh Castle

Bonfire Night

Christmas Market

Inverness, Scotland
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.

Sheepdog Farm


Urquhart Castle

Stirling, Scotland
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.

Dublin, Ireland
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.

The Spire

Merchant's Crafts

Oscar Wilde Statue

London, England
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.

London Eye

Dragon at the Tower of London

Shakespeare's Globe (3rd Construction)

* * *

France (*Paris)

Paris, France
Meeting my family in Paris over Thanksgiving was certainly a treat, with the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and Notre Dame highlighting the experience.

The Louvre

The Eiffel Tower

Notre Dame Cathedral

* * *

Spain (*Madrid, *Barcelona)

Barcelona, Spain
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

Madrid, Spain
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

Palacio Real

* * *

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...

1 comment:

  1. very nice - I feel like I toured the other ones as well through you.


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