Last semester, I studied abroad in Nantes, France as part of Grove City College’s study abroad program. Also, be sure to check out my post on why I chose to study abroad.
During the course of lengthier vacation breaks, including Fall and Thanksgiving break, students are given permission to venture to varying countries of their interest. Upon deciding which country to visit, students are required to pair up in groups, reserve hotels and apartments as well as book flights. In order to ensure everyone’s safety, all groups are to submit a travel sheet to Mark and Deb Reuber (the program directors), describing where their group will be traveling along with information about airfare, apartments and other varying forms of transportation. Students are also required to notify their parents for consent before departure.
As our sixth and last week of the field trip program came to a close, we started packing our bags and printing out our boarding passes. I have always wanted to visit the homeland of my heritage and what better way to spend my fall break then to visit Ireland, a country full of luck, live music and lively people!
Once my group reached Ireland, we settled into our beautiful apartment (which was in the heart of Dublin). We took the streets by storm, exploring as much as we could before the sun went down. Later that evening we found ourselves at a nearby mall that was featuring a student night. All stores were offering student discounts and sales, which made for some wonderful souvenir shopping. After some great steals and bargains, we headed downtown to the world famous Temple Bar.
We woke up the next day, bright eyed and bushy tailed. The morning began with an early start as we ventured out at 7 a.m. to catch the Cliffs of Moher tour bus. The all-inclusive tour took us on a 13-hour journey from Dublin all the way to Galway which featured the famous cliffs. Personally, I believe our tour guide was the best part of the excursion. He sang, taught us Gaelic and provided us with an unforgettable experience that I will always cherish. After stopping at St. John’s castle, we arrived at the cliffs. It is so hard for me to put into words the feelings and emotions I felt as I crept to the cliff’s edges. Between the pumping adrenaline in my blood to the rapid beating of my heart, I was in complete amazement of God’s creative handiwork! Without railings or fences, one is held at his or her own risk. The harsh whip of the air and the smell of sea salt mesmerized my senses as I walked from cliff to cliff. After the cliffs, we enjoyed a traditional fish and chips dish at an authentic Irish pub right on the coast.
On our way home, we ventured through numerous limestone quarries, pastures, cemeteries and beautiful beaches. The following morning the lasses went shopping while the lads took a tour of the Guinness factory. During my time in downtown Dublin, I was able to see the spectacular Trinity College which was so elegantly preserved and well kept. We soon met up with the remainder of the group at the bus stop and headed towards our next destination, Scotland.
As we flew over Scotland I had no idea what to expect. Personally, Scotland was not on my mental radar of countries I was interested in visiting, but after firm persuasion, I was happy and content to visit the UK. We arrived around 7 p.m., just in time for the local Edinburgh versus Ireland rugby match. Fun was had by all, as we tried to blend in as best we could cheering on the Glasgow Warriors. Edinburgh by night, looked as though we had just arrived in a fairy tale. All buildings have externally remained the same for hundreds of years which gave the city a medieval vibe.
We had another early start, this time waking up at 5:30 a.m. to watch the sunrise at Arthur’s Seat. For those of you who may not know, Arthur’s Seat is a dormant volcano that is said to have the best panoramic view in all of Edinburgh. Upon arriving at the top of the mountain, I was in total shock. We were in a cloud, nothing could be seen below but white fluff. I started to cry because I was so overwhelmed and could not believe I was hundreds of feet in the air. As the sun rose, the view became more scenic as mountains and the city structure became visible. This was yet another wonderful experience where God revealed his presence and majesty ever so clearly to me.
As the day progressed we took a pleasant walking tour, located on Royal Road. Our tour guide took us to numerous historical places including St. Guiles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh Castle, the Elephant House and Greyfriars Kirkyard. We all had a wonderful dinner at the Standing Order which offered great traditional Scottish meals such as Haggis. I did venture to try some Haggis and I cannot say that I truly enjoyed it. The next day, we returned to St. Guiles’ Cathedral for mass and enjoyed a warm cappuccino at the Elephant House (Harry Potter was written there!), following the service. We also had the opportunity to learn about Edinburgh’s history at the National Museum as well as Scottish National Gallery.
Overall I had a terrific fall break and made memories that will last me a lifetime. Both countries have such unique cultures but what both countries have in common are the very friendly residence. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Ireland and Scotland and look forward to returning one day with my family and friends.