So I decided I should write a summary blog to condense my thoughts on each place I visited last semester, if only for myself to have as a future reference. I’m a pretty organized person, and my brain works through lists and breaking things down, so that’s what I’m going to do here too! You’ll see what I mean…
Let me begin by saying that each and every one of these countries was incredible. I wouldn’t trade one experience for the world. However, each place has it’s own character and personality and offers something different from all the rest. With that said, here are the superlatives I’ve given each one (in order of when I traveled there):
Most comfy: Oxford
To go back to my middle school vocabulary: duh. Oxford was my central ground, my home away from home, and after four months of living there, it became my comfort zone. Though it’s a large city with bustling streets, tourists, and many businesses, it feels “homey.” Everything shuts down around 5pm because people go home to be with their families, and after about 11 or 12, you can stand out in the middle of the street for a solid 5 minutes and not see a single car pass by. Life is just different there. During the day, most people walk or ride bikes to get around town, and even when it’s rainy outside (which, let’s be real, is most of the time), there’s a quaint, peaceful atmosphere. Oxford is the place I’d tell you to go if you wanted to experience England in a more suburban-like, simple environment, as opposed to the crazy busy London. Which leads me to…
Most popular: London
London is a must. Along with Paris, it’s one of the first cities you think of when you think of Europe, and it just can’t be passed-up. Since I’d already done all the “touristy” things in London when I visited in high school, I didn’t make those sights a priority this semester. However, there was still tons for me to do there. I ended up taking three different trips into London, seeing three shows (Blood Brothers, Les Mis, and Phantom), the suburb of Southall, the Marble Arch, Abbey Road, M&M World, Chinatown, the Tower Bridge, and more. There’s seriously so much to do in London–I could have studied abroad there, going nowhere else, and have been entertained for a semester. It’s extremely versatile–in London, you can find something for everyone.
Most breathtaking: Ireland
Oh, Ireland. After going there for my first travel break, I left saying no other trip could possibly compare. Although that was a pretty bold statement to make at the start of my semester, it wasn’t extremely far from the truth. Ireland was by far the most exquisite place I visited. It was the place I just wanted to stare at for hours on end because it was nothing like I’d ever seen before. On our bus ride from Killarney to Dingle, I’m pretty sure we passed every type of terrain you can imagine: plains, lakes, beaches, mountains, valleys, sheep-covered hills, and even some not-so-beautiful wasteland areas…and even those were cool! Ireland really was the most phenomenal place in terms of the nature around us. It took my breath away on more than one occasion, and I would absolutely love to go back there again.
Most random: Prague/Vienna
When we made the decision to go to Prague and Vienna for our long break, I had a lot of these “???” going through my head. What’s so great about the Czech Republic and Austria? Well, let me tell you: a lot! They were by far the most obscure places I visited, but I had so much fun there–not to mention the fact that I spent a lot less money (Prague is cheapppp). I saw some incredible historic monuments, went to an opera, visited a music museum, and much more! I got to experience a different side of Europe, one that fewer people think of to visit…unless you’re Emily Maynard.
Most busy: Paris
Ah, Paris… What can I say? I feel like this one is at the top of everyone’s list already, and they’re right. Paris was wonderful, but there was SO much to see! I was only there for three days, but it could have been a year and I would still have been cramming sights in. As it was, our trip to the City of Love and Lights was packed full of tours and visits, including all the main things you’d expect to see in France. The weekend was nonstop, but it was completely worth it and one of my favorite trips. I felt like I was actually visiting Europe–the Europe I had anticipated–while I was there.
Most delicious: Italy
FOOOOOD. Oh my, I must have gained at least ten pounds in Italy alone. While so much about Italy was extraordinary, the food was insane. Pizza, pasta, bread, gelato…it makes my mouth water just to think of it. You want to eat well? Go to Italy. It doesn’t matter where, it’s all great. They might have to roll you back to America, but it’s totally worth it.
Most relaxing: Spain
It makes me sigh to think of Spain. That trip was by far the most relaxing. Let’s review what I did: lie on the beach, eat, lie on the beach, eat, shop, lie on the beach, play putt-putt, eat, go home. Yep. That’s about it. And it was beautiful.
Most action-packed: Switzerland
On the other hand….Switzerland was not so relaxing. At least not while I was jumping off canyons in the Adrenaline Capitol of Europe and whatnot. Interlaken was such a cool place and reminded me so much more of America than anywhere else I visited. It was definitely a different feel, but similar in terms of what was available to do, eat, and see. It was so great to hike up hills overlooking the city and watch gorgeous sunsets while grilling hot dogs and hanging out with friends and the next day go hang out by the gorgeous lake. Switzerland was so much fun–a great place for families or young adults to hang out.
Most necessary: Germany
While Germany had a lot of great aspects to it, I think one of the best for me was the knowledge I gained from visiting Dachau. I had always “known” about concentration camps, but it wasn’t until I saw one with my own eyes and felt the oppression there that it really clicked for me. I would say that out of all the places I visited over the course of the semester, Dachau was the most necessary–meaning, it taught me something about life and history and humanity.
Best Overall: Italy
Shocker, I know. And I promise it’s not just because of the great food. Italy was the best trip I took all semester, largely because it was a group-wide venture including everyone, even our professors. It was warm and sunny, beautiful in terms of nature and scenery (especially in Assisi), marvelous in its sights (particularly in Rome), fun in the atmosphere, fantastic for its food, and just lively all around. I had the time of my life in Assisi, Rome, and Florence and would go back again in a heartbeat.
Well, there you have it, my complete list of superlatives for the semester (even if it is a bit late). I promise this is my last post about studying abroad. For real. Well…hopefully.