Casey is Counting…the days until she can go back, the amount of money she has left, the number of memories she made, etc.
It’s official. I am back in the US of A. But before I talk about that, let me tell you about my pre-Christmas adventures!
The first weekend in December was my last real weekend in the UK, so I figured I’d make the most of it! First, I headed to Bath for the crowded Christmas Markets, where I stocked up on Christmas presents for my family, and the Roman Baths. It was quite a fun little trip! Next on the list of places I had to visit was Northern Wales. I got on my first train of seven for the day on my way to Blaenau Ffestiniog, a slate mining town, home to Bounce Below–the largest underground trampoline park in the world! I had a blast at the underground trampoline park! Then, I made it to the town with the longest name in the world–Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.
Back in Cardiff, I had my last Taco Tuesday with my flat, we had Secret Santa, took our last couples trips to Fattoush, played our last rounds of contract rummy, and said our final goodbyes. It was one of the toughest weeks I’ve had in a long time. This semester, I was blessed with the best flat in the UK. I haven’t even been home a week yet and I already miss them all so much. I can’t believe I was able to study abroad in such an awesome part of the world with such great people. I hope every student who spends a semester abroad has as good of a time as I have had.
Following the goodbyes was a pretty exciting hello–I met Jake and Emily in Geneva, Switzerland to start off my week of travel with Jake before we both left Europe for good. In Geneva, we happened across a giant festival and a nice old woman who showed us the whole thing. Geneva was pretty neat, especially for me, because this semester I had been studying the history of the Protestant Reformation, which had a lot to do with John Calvin in Geneva. We got to see a lot of the typical tourist spots and a few added bonuses along the way.
Jake and I continued our travels down into Italy. We didn’t stay too long in Milan, getting there late Sunday night and leaving early Monday morning. On our way down to Rome, we stopped in Pisa and saw the famous Leaning Tower, along with the Baptistery, the Cathedral, and the Campo Santo–an old cemetery that is said to rot any body buried in it’s sacred soil within 24 hours. One of the best parts about Pisa, other than the warm weather, was eating at a little Italian restaurant–5 euro pizzas in Pisa! It was some of the best tasting pizza I have ever had. After racing to our bus, I slept most of the way to Rome to prepare myself for the full day ahead.
When in Rome…yes, Jake and I watched the movie, but only after seeing the city on the Tuesday of our week of adventure! First, we went to the Vatican Museums and saw the Sistine Chapel, which was pretty impressive, as were the rest of the exhibits in the museums. Then, we went to the Scala Sancta, or the Holy Steps that were moved from Jerusalem to Rome. They are said to have traces of Jesus’ blood on them and are only to be climbed on one’s knees. Our next stop was the Papel Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, which was Jake’s great-grandmother’s church when she lived in Rome. We also went down the street to see the house she lived in and the spot she was picked up by his great-grandfather on their wedding day!
As we made our way into the afternoon, we headed over to the Colosseum, which was pretty amazing. We didn’t get to go inside, which we were kind of upset about, but it only made us want to come back, knowing there would lots more we wouldn’t get to see and do that day. We managed to squeeze in seeing the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and the Mouth of Truth before it was dark enough for us to go back to the Colosseum and see it all lit up at night with a beautiful full moon in the sky. We had a giant meal of spaghetti when we made it back to our hostel for the night, but saved enough room for gelato, and, man, we were glad we did. If you ever go to Italy, the one thing you have to do is buy gelato from every gelato shop you see! It made it in my top 5 favorite foods for sure.
The next day, we arrived in Florence and spent the day with Jessica as our tour guide, showing us the tourist sights, like the Duomo and one of the fake David statues, and the neat little finds (gelato included!) she knew about from her semester abroad there, like another 5 euro pizza place! When we left the next morning, I was afraid we were going to miss our plane back tot he UK when our bus was delayed, but we made it to Cardiff that night safe and sound. On my last latenight Fattoush trip, the Fattoush man asked me about everyone else I spent my semester with, recognizing me because of my flatmates’ and my frequent visits there. The next day, I took Jake to see the Cardiff Castle and the Christmas market in the city center. We raced back to my flat to pack up my bags and turn in my key. I said goodbye to what had been my home for the past three months and we got on our bus to the airport to head to Dublin to fly home. That night, in Dublin’s airport, we spent unpacking and repacking our bags to make sure we were under the weight limits for our flights the next day. Somehow in the midst of all our travels, I caught one of those dreaded holiday bugs, probably in one of the many airports Jake and I had been in less than 24 hours. There’s not much you can do when you’re traveling to treat a fever, headache, cough, etc., so I sort of just kept on keeping on with Jake there doing everything he could to make me feel better until it was time to go. We said our goodbyes around 4 a.m. and spent the next 16 hours travelling back to the United States.
And now, here I am: home for a week and a half and already itching to get back on the road and have my next adventure. Wales was one of the best things that could have happened to me. I was pushed out of my comfort zone, I was forced to be an adult, I met lots of new people and made many new friends. I wasn’t really challenged academically while in university, but, now that I’m at home and have five final papers to write, each one worth 100% of my grade, I definitely feel the weight of the semester on my shoulders. If that’s not a wake-up call into adulthood, I don’t know what is.
However, if I’ve learned anything this semester, it’s that no matter what gets thrown my way, I can always figure out a way to catch it and throw it right back. I’ve also learned a lot about myself. I’ve learned just how great my love of travel is and how to ball on a budget because of it. I’ve learned just how long I can go without doing my laundry or showering. I’ve learned that I could totally live off of hummus and crackers if I ever need to. But most importantly, I’ve learned some names of some pretty awesome people who I am going to miss a lot this upcoming semester. I owe most of my semester to all of the amazing people I met while abroad–my flatmates, my floormates, the IFSA staff, the people of Cardiff, and even a few of the nice strangers I managed to meet on all of my adventures. Talybont South became my home away from home becasue of all the people I connected with. Without them, I would not have had the wonderful experience I had.
I am so thankful for all of the people I met, adventures I had, and memories I made. I’m looking forward to the day I can go back! Bye for now, hwyl am y tro!!
Want to know more about me? More about my adventure? More in general? Check out my travel blog “Casey in Cardiff” by clicking here or typing the following into your browser: www.caseyincardiff.weebly.com.