As I approach the halfway point to my semester abroad I thought it would be fitting to write about the different places I have traveled to so far. Being in Europe definitely has its benefits with having very easy access to a lot of different destinations. In the past two months I have traveled to ten different cities in six different countries.
The first month I stayed in Spain got to explore Granada, Madrid and Ibiza! I am so in love with my host city of Granada. It is not as well known or as big of a city as Barcelona or Madrid but it has a lot of character being in southern Spain. I was pleasantly surprised about the large Mediterranean influence in this part of Spain. To be honest I never considered Spain a Mediterranean country until now having actually experienced the lifestyle. I love the food, the people, and the culture. Needless to say that traveling up to Madrid for a weekend was a very different experience. I was interesting to see how similar it was to big cities in the United States. The Americanization in Spain was also evident as you could walk down the main streets and see companies like Burger King, the Apple Store, and others. I think a lot of big cities in Europe are similar with the current situation of globalization. I had a completely different experience in Ibiza, where our AirBnB was in more of a residential area and the trip had more of an island and vacation feel. With a much more relaxed and calm atmosphere it was a great weekend away in the first few weeks where we were able to cook our own food and watch movies in English. Its the little things that you don’t realize that you will miss when you study abroad. I’ve quickly learned that it is important to take time for yourself every now and then so you don’t become too overwhelmed with the new environment you’re living in. This can also help with the homesickness.
After a month in Spain I felt it was due time to start seeing the rest of Europe. My first real trip was one that I had been planning for a while to France for a friend on my program’s birthday. We went to Bordeaux first to visit La Cité du Vin, which is an interactive museum dedicated solely to wine. For the other half of the weekend we went to Paris which was amazing. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed France because before coming to Europe I didn’t have a great desire to travel to France, I think mostly because I don’t understand the language. But I had a great experience and it was definitely one of my favorite trips.
The next weekend I traveled to Rome, Italy which was also amazing. Getting to see such iconic landmarks like the colosseum and going to the Vatican was unreal. Also the food in Italy was unbelievable. I learned that I actually like mushrooms while in Rome from trying my friend’s dinner. I think that is one of the best parts of traveling is getting to try new things and discovering new parts of yourself.
The next week was our first course break so I traveled to the United Kingdom and Ireland. The first stop was Manchester, England. My younger brother is a very big soccer fan and watching soccer is something that my family always does together, so getting to tour the Manchester United stadium was a very cool experience for me. The next stop was Edinburgh, Scotland which was probably my favorite from this trip. I have to say that I was not expecting much from Scotland and that it definitely surprised me how much fun we had there. There were lots of sights to see, but my favorite was climbing Arthur’s Seat which is a large hill on the outskirts of the city that gives you an amazing view of the city. The last stop on the trip was Dublin, Ireland which was a lot of fun. My favorite part of going to Ireland was taking a bus tour out to the Cliffs of Moher which were absolutely breathtaking. That was definitely another moment where I realized how lucky I was to have this opportunity to travel around Europe.
As much as I have loved traveling these past few months I am glad to be able to stay in Granada this weekend to really enjoy time in my host city. I think that sometimes, especially in Europe, students can get too caught up in wanting to travel everywhere and don’t really spend a lot of time experiencing all that their host city has to offer. This being my first time in Europe I understand wanting to travel a lot, and I have certainly done my fair share of traveling these past two months, but it is important to find a good balance with this.
Overall, I am so grateful for this opportunity to get to see the world through studying abroad and I would highly recommend it to anyone considering it at UIUC.