Where I've Been
I was based out of London for my Fall Semester, so England is where I spent majority of my time. I visited surrounding cities, such as Bath and Brighton, as well as other universities, such as Cambridge and Oxford. My favorite city is still London given this is where I lived for four months and where I learned the most about local culture, people and lifestyles. I love how there is history and modernity all in one, something very different from MN. If you're someone that likes to stay busy, you will never be bored. With that being said, London is also 40% green space for those who prefer to lounging at a park or being surrounded by nature. London always will be a second home and I wish I could go back already!
This was our first weekend trip and it really kicked off the group bonding (there were 50 St. Thomas students total). We hiked the Scottish Highlands which was exhausting, but unbelievably gorgeous. We also got to visit Loch Ness, which is said to be home to Nessie the Loch Ness Monster, but unfortunately we did not have a sighting. It felt great to be in open air and land after living in a city for a month! And even though my legs were so tired after hiking multiple mountains, it was worth it to obtain the most amazing views. Scotland was by far one of my favorite locations.
France and Belgium
France and Belgium was a combined WWI tour visiting Lille, Arras, Reims (France) and Ypres (Belgium). This trip consisted of war monuments, cemeteries, front–line trenches and other historic cites. It was nice to be out in the countryside once again and visit smaller towns not many get to see or have even heard about. France was very quaint, and even though I found few locals who spoke English, they acted very friendly towards our group. The chocolate on this trip was one of the highlights!
Ireland was booked more last-minute than my other trips, but I am very excited I got to see this beautiful country. It really is true that you will never see so many shades of green and the people are by far the friendliest. While here, my friends and I visited the Cliffs of Moher and took a tour around the Ring of Kerry. The cliffs were unlike anything I had ever seen; they were massive, powerful and beautiful all at the same time. The Ring of Kerry was also breathtaking with the overarching views of lakes, mountains and wildlife. The quaint, small towns were very welcoming with locals always asking personal questions! Ireland is for those who love exploring the outdoors, which I do, so I loved every minute.
Greece and Italy
Greece and Italy was planned solely by me and two other friends for our midterm break, it was a total of ten days, but I wish we had at least double that. Greece definitely forced us out of our comfort zone because no-one spoke English and the alphabet looks like algebra. However, we visited the Acropolis and Parthenon, the first official Olympic stadium and various museums with Greek sculptures and artifacts. In Italy, my friends and I visited Rome, Florence, Venice and a couple coast cities (La Spezia and Portovenere). The coastal cities were my favorite because of the sea–side towns and ocean views; Florence had beautiful architecture and a fun overall atmosphere while Venice had beautiful countrysides. Rome was definitely the busiest, but also had the most to do! We saw the Roman Coliseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Vatican and various other monuments.
I never had thought about going to Poland, but it was a group trip offered by our sponsored program and ended up being one of my favorites! I think this had a lot to do with the group I was with and all the crazy situations we endured. We dealt with flight issues, our bus breaking down, a bachelor party in our hostel and getting lost countless times. With that being said, we also got to experience a vibrant market and main square with many local chocolate shops and a fun night life. The main square was always busy with both local people and horse–drawn carriages, something very different than any other town I’d seen. The buildings were beautiful and I loved that it wasn’t very “touristy”. Although most of the trip was fun, we also visited Auschwitz Concentration Camp which was very moving and emotional. Overall, an amazing experience and one of the cheapest trips which was a plus!
Iceland is now home to the most breath-taking views I’ve ever seen. I saw waterfalls, glaciers, the Northern Lights and geysers exploding! Some of the most unique experiences I had here was visiting the Blue Lagoon, which is a large natural hot spring, and snorkeling between the Earth's tectonic plates. The snorkeling excursion made me feel the most adventurous, but was also the coldest experience of my life being it was in glacier water. It was incredible to look/touch one side and see the North American plate, then look/touch the other side and see the European plate; definitely worth it but wait tell the warmer months. We attended a Northern Lights tour, but ended up seeing them one night walking home from a pub right in the heart of Reykjavik, the town we were staying in. I've never seen anything like it and wish they lasted longer! Everyone should go here if they can, it's the perfect destination.