Adventures in London and Glasgow
Something I didn’t consider before choosing where to study abroad was my proximity to an airport. I’m not sure why it never occurred to me, because it would seem that ability to be able to journey from your home base country to another would be extremely important, especially since I ultimately decided to study on an island. Thankfully, there’s an airport a taxi ride away from where I live, with 20 euro flights to places like London and Glasgow, just across the pond.
One of my friends is studying at Queen Mary University in London, so I took one of these very inexpensive flights for a weekend to visit him. I almost chose to study at QMU when applying for schools abroad, and I feared that visiting there may make me regret my choice of UCC instead. Being a laid-back travelers, we wandered from place to place via the Tube, enjoying the sights and sounds of people from everyone rushing from one place to the next. Being foodies, we took advantage of the diverse cultures and ate authentic sushi and Indian food (both of which are very hard to find in Ireland). Being huge nerds, we geeked out at Platform 9 3/4 (I’m a Ravenclaw by the way), and, being shopaholics, gaped in Harrod’s (a very expensive, very beautiful mall, in short). London had the glamour of New York with the diversity of Los Angeles and the sprawl of San Francisco. It delivered the dazzle promised by the media, with a healthy dose of lovely accents and delicious food.
The following weekend, I went with two other Americans studying at UCC to Glasgow, Scotland. I was also considering studying abroad in Edinburgh, and once again I was afraid I’d find a country I preferred over Ireland. We arrived at our hostel with no plans for the weekend, but after a heaping helping of the best curry cheese chips in Scotland (go to the Blue Lagoon, it’s a must), we were off. We found our way to the People’s Palace, where there is an unbelievable park and a greenhouse (with palm trees; I felt so at home). The lovely employees saw we were a bit lost and gave us a map, which led us to old, beautiful churches, more beautiful parks, and (very much by accident) a huge museum. We took pictures with the old-fashioned blue police boxes (or T.A.R.D.I.S.s, depending on who you ask), ate Scottish sweets, roamed a beautiful library, and frolicked (yes, frolicked) through the chilly fields that were hidden in the city. In the evening we sat in the hostel bar with a few pints and a bottle of wine. In the corner of the bar, ten rowdy obviously Irish men were playing pool and eavesdropping on our American accents. One approached the guy in our group and was so happy to hear we were indeed from the States. The whole group came over and invited us to join them for their stag party, which was apparently happening right then and there. A weekend that started with no plans at all evolved into an unexpectedly lively and lovely adventure.
But at the end of each amazing weekend, it was good to flop down onto my bed at home in Cork. Being able to experience other countries over a weekend is incredible fun, but Ireland has become my home. And despite England being bustling and diverse and Scotland charming and sprawling, I’m happy to say that I have yet to find a country that makes me regret choosing Ireland as my study abroad home.