Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

When the Tourist Becomes the Tour Guide

[alternative titles for this post: Spring Break 2016 // I Have Visitors! // Lauren Uses a Map!]

All I want to do right now is close my eyes and breathe. (is that a song?) This is for many reasons:

  1. I finally can do that now that I can breathe out of my nose again after being sick for the last 2 weeks.
  2. The Northern Ireland air is so fresh and crisp and beautiful!
  3. I’m finally done with my three essays and 1 final exam.
  4. I’m leaving in 1 week! HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE? I’M KIND OF FREAKING OUT!!

All of the above are also reasons why I’ve been absent from this blog for a while. Granted, I was already behind, but getting sick really knocked me out. It was terrible timing to get sick right after I came back from England a few weeks ago. I had papers to write and friends to hang out with, but I was also stuck inside for four days in bed while the weather was absolutely gorgeous. I literally sneezed and completely missed Ireland’s spring.

I was able to enjoy the beautiful weather over spring break though. My family came to visit me at the perfect time and enjoy Northern Ireland in all of its glory. I know it’s what you’ve all been waiting for, so without further ado, here’s a recap of my family’s visit during spring break!


5:30 am March 19: My alarm goes off. Giddy with excitement I jump out of bed.

6:00 am I throw on my winter coat and head to the bus station.

7:00 am I board the bus to the airport.

8:30 am I finally get to hug my parents and brother and welcome them to Belfast! Smiles all around!

10:00 am … ok this recap is going to take a while…

After I collected my family, we hopped in a taxi and I experienced my mom experiencing a car ride on the wrong side of the road. It was hilarious and not at all like a roller coaster like she described it. I also witnessed the cab driver’s attempt to have a conversation with my dad, who couldn’t understand a word of the Northern Irish dialect. It was also hilarious.

For the week I had the luxury of staying with my family at the Gregory House, a wonderful Bed and Breakfast between my accommodation in Elms Village and Queen’s campus. We dropped off our bags and hit up Maggie May’s where my parents got their first Ulster Fry. Funnily enough, each day thereafter their breakfasts got smaller and smaller in size, and by the end of the trip, we were all eating just the porridge. The rest of the day was spent walking through the Botanic Gardens and Queen’s, and a lengthy stop in the Lanyon Building gift shop. We all took naps because of our jet lag and settled into our room.


On Sunday, we walked to St. George’s Market and my mom fell in love just like I knew she would. My brother enjoyed the free Wi-Fi and my dad tried on the newsboy caps. It was so fun to see other students showing their families around the market too!

One thing I liked about having guests was being able to check things off of my own Belfast bucket list, which included going up to the dome in Victoria Square. Though some of our palms may have been clammy (not naming any names…), we saw Belfast from 360 degrees and I loved it. It was so great to see where I had been in Belfast and where I wanted to explore more. Another full-circle moment came when I arranged for a black cab tour after the trip to the mall. Though this was my second tour, the experience was completely different because I had my family with me and I had more knowledge under my belt after taking the class on the anthropology, history, and politics of Northern Ireland. I actually understood what our guide was saying this time! (for the most part anyways). This tour emphasized the violence and fear in Belfast more than the other one, which made me worry that my parents would worry about my safety in Belfast. I honestly have never felt unsafe or uneasy in the city, and the people I have met have been so friendly. Belfast certainly has changed over the last few decades. But I digress.

We got out of the city another day and took a tour along the Antrim Coast. The weather during the IFSA trip of the coast was not the best; it was cold, wet, and windy. During the second trip the weather was beautiful! I’m so glad my family was given just a taste of what the rest of Northern Ireland has to offer.

adam phone 2 Causeway adam rocks 2

The rest of my family’s visit included a trip to the Titanic Museum and the Ulster Museum, and a stop at the movies. My brother and I really wanted to go to the W5 science center, but our parents said we were too old. :( By the end of the week we were wiped out, even though our daily schedule included two-hour long naps.


To recap my recap, here are some things I learned when my family came to visit:

  1. 1 week is plenty when the 4 Porells share 1 room.
  2. I might start using maps at home because they’re so easy to use and I like knowing where I’m going.
  3. Pay attention during tours or else the tour guides will make fun of you.
  4. It’s really fun when your family meets up with a visiting family of a new friend. You learn so much about your friend so quickly and vice versa.
  5. I missed my family a lot.
family pic 2

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