What would you do if you had over two full weeks off of school? Well when you’re in Europe.. you travel! In a matter of 16 days I hopped around to 6 new cities, 4 countries. It was a constantly moving whirlwind – but there is something extremely satisfying about coming home in one piece with all your belongings after a successful long trip.
First stop: Barcelona
My friends and I booked a weekend with Weekend Student Adventures- they specialize in weekend trips for study abroad students in Europe that a friend’s mom had told us about. I would recommend WSA to anybody studying abroad! You have an exciting, young guide who will instill the perfect balance between a structured tour experience and giving you the freedom to do what you’d like to. We took a paella/sangria cooking class, did a bike tour through the city in a whole afternoon, were given interesting information and history, and taken to all the hot spots of Barcelona! Highlights of the weekend- making new friends from all around Europe, the bike tour, frolicking on the Barcelona beach and seeing the ocean, and the architecture by Gaudi (the Sagrada Familia has become my most favorite church in the world!)
Madrid is surprisingly different than Barcelona. Rather than the laid back beach time vibe of Barcelona, Madrid is full of shopping, night life, and markets. Highlights were meeting up with a friend from UT who’s studying there, having to buy new boots after mine fell apart, discovering new fashion stores to love, tapas, and hanging out on a roof where we saw the most beautiful view of the city!
Ireland was all about the land and Guinness. We got to our hostel and immediately joined the free walking tour given by the hostel (definitely take advantage of free hostel walking tours) where we saw the main sights and ate lunch afterwards (fish n chips!). I was able to meet up with my best friend from home who was studying in Dublin. Together we went to the Guinness Storehouse which is a must for an Dublin visitor. I may or may not have discovered my delightful taste for the dark beer. An unexpected yet incredibly worthwhile experience was taking a day trip to the other side of Ireland – where in contrast to the city-like atmosphere of rainy Dublin, we had a beautiful sunny day to see the Cliffs of Moher and a local farm family. I felt like I was back home running around with a bunch of open land and cows and picking berries off and eating them!
London always has, and always will, hold a special place in my heart. Since the time I first visited with my family before high school, I was obsessed with it. One shameless boyband and a royal obsession later.. I’m still in interested, still in love, still in the know of London culture, and was eager to go back. Having already seen most of the touristy things, I had the freedom to not feel pressured to see what I felt like I had to (ie. tourist attractions) and was able to really see the small parts of London I had heard of and immerse myself in the local’s living culture. My favorite part was doing just that. East London, for the barely two hours I spent there, was one of the best discoveries. It’s the hip part of London, full of vintage markets and thrift stores and extremely quirky people and fashion. I bought a denim jacket that after a little bit of my TLC, I hope can be transformed into a really awesome piece of my wardrobe from an even cooler place. Also, if you head to London- don’t forget to visit this hidden gem! Primrose Hill.
Now it’s back to the books with the heavy realization that I’m halfway through with this semester. I am missing Austin and my friends very much, but nothing can compare to this experience I am having.