Six Weeks, Six New Adventures

JayLeen Murray NUI Galway, Ireland


February 21, 2017

It feels like just yesterday I just landed in the Dublin airport, a little delusional and confused, walking through customs. Six weeks later and as settled into my new home as I’m going to get, it’s starting to sink in just how quickly time is passing. In between hours on busses mixed with hours waiting in airports, I’ve had the opportunity to spend each weekend traveling to new and unknown places.

My brain is always working full time, in a way I’ve never experienced before. Traveling across seas, I underestimated just how much brainpower is required to adapt and wonder around a new place. Between deciphering different languages, understanding public transportation and figuring out various monetary systems, the brain is always alert; it’s a feeling I have a hard time depicting but I know I am more in my element than any other environment I have jumped into. In the matter of six weeks, I have spent hours upon hours traveling and touched down in six new places on the map.

Galway, Ireland

Galway is the place I fell into leaving a mark on my heart. It’s the place across the sea I’m growing to call home; a comfort zone in the most modest way. Galway is a place full of life, music, energy and smiles. Walking down the cobblestone streets of Shop Street, there is music playing on the sidewalks, music echoing from the pubs, aromas of gelato and coffee in the distant air. Everyone I have met along the way who has visited Galway always told me it’s a special place in Ireland, and it’s no secret why it’s referred to the “cultural heart” of Ireland. It’s a place my little American self is so grateful to comfortably study and explore. 

Cork/Cobh, Ireland

As part of Arcadia’s study abroad program, we were placed in a homestay weekend, matched with a local family in Cobh. Cobh is a small seaport town outside of Cork, the larger coast city. Cobh, similar to Galway, is full of heart and history. Being a small town, everyone seemed to have a story and know each other’s; my host family knew what seemed to be everyone in town. Cork was a little busier and bigger, but I was not as impressed. Maybe I did not spend enough time in the city center of Cork, but I was more pleased with the smaller historical town than Cork City. 

London, England

London exceeded all my expectations, and then some. Being such a commercial city, walking through the streets at night reminded me of being in New York but with more history in the gist of every corner. Exploring all the tourist and local spots, I was amazed by just how much each step brought me into a world so much bigger than myself. I could go on forever about how beautiful London is inside and out, but between royalty and Minding the Gap, London is it’s own world that everyone needs to experience themselves in order to truly understand the heart of the city. 

Amsterdam, Netherlands

While I was only in Amsterdam for one night, I had the opportunity to explore every aspect the city has to offer. From canal tours, the Heineken Experience, various museums, the IAmsterdam landmark and Stroopwafels, I took in all Amsterdam had to offer. Being lucky with the weather and only experiencing slight overcast, it made walking through the city the most convenient, but definitely increased the risk of being run over by bikes. The canal tour highlighted the beauty it offered but also focused on the environmental advancements of the city; there were innovative boathouses tracing the canals and stories of the importance of bikes in Amsterdam. Did you know there are more bikes than people—1.3 bikes per person in Amsterdam?

Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen is definitely making its mark as one of my favorite places in the world. While I wasn’t dressed for the snow or the eight miles of walking I did everyday, the views and environment made up for every challenge. Combining the radiant colors of the Nyhavn Harbor, the view from the observatory Round Tower, the fresh air in the Botanical Gardens, the cultural history learned from the Art and National Museums, Copenhagen offered everything and anything the mind can possibly imagine. Aside from that, there was a warming welcome from everyone on the streets I passed that I hadn’t experienced anywhere else. Especially being American who is new to the Danish language and the Kroner system, I have such an appreciation for everyone who was patient with my group of American travelers. 

Belfast, United Kingdom/ Northern Ireland

As part of an Arcadia excursion, I attended a trip to Belfast. Belfast historically was apart of Ireland but split from the Republic. We had the opportunity to tour The Giants Causeway, the result of a volcanic eruption with a geographical and mythological explanation. The sky lit up with blazing rainbows and stones teasing the crashing water. We also got the opportunity to see the place where and how the Titanic was built. The Titanic brought a passion amongst the community in Belfast working together to build such a powerful ship, and reading the history of the construction and destruction was a moving experience. A place that screams political turmoil, history and desire for peace discovering the streets of Belfast is something that enriched my soul with appreciation of history. 

Being that I never left the States before this trip, traveling is an exploration that I am just starting to tap into. I have nothing to lose and a world to see, but almost marking my halfway point of the semester, I am so grateful to have the chance to make the most of my time in Ireland and across the sea. I am excited to see what exciting challenges the next few weeks bring my way.