I just finished weeks 6 in London and time is flying by. Even though I miss U of T so much, studying abroad for one semester is too short. After making my “Action Plan” (read my last article: http://blogs.studentlife.utoronto.ca/lifeatuoft/2016/10/17/whats-on-my-study-abroad-to-do-list/) I made two unforgettable weekend trips to Wales and Dublin.
Horseback Riding in Wales and the Wye Valley:
Two weekends ago, I went on an international student trip with another study abroad student in my halls on an organized group student tour to Wales. Since it was a Horseback riding trip, we connected over our love for animals and nature and made new friends in our group. Another benefit in choosing an organized tour was that we didn’t have to stress over planning the itinerary or transportation.
It was part of my exchange “To Do” List to go on a Nature adventure and escape the city. Wales is the greenest and most picturesque that landscape that I have ever seen in my life. On our first day, we had a packed itinerary of sightseeing landscapes and quaint towns in Wales. We visited the town of Cheapstow, saw Cheapstow castle, and walked around the river-side town. Our second stop, we saw the Tintern abbey whose mideval ruins against the vivid green backdrop was breath-takingly beautiful. To end the day, we visited the town of Hay on Wye which is famous for its literary festival and independent book shops.
We stayed overnight in the Brecon Beacons National Park at the Baskerville Hall, which its namesake inspired the Sherlock Homes tale, The Hounds of Baskerville. The best part of the weekend was bonding with the girls on the trip and all watching the episode of the BBC series, Sherlock, which recreated the story of The Hounds of Baskerville.
Our second day was magical. We spent 4 hours on horseback riding through the beautiful landscape of Brecon Beacons national park. It was so relaxing to be surrounded by animals and nature and slowing down after spending a month in the busy city of London.
Exploring Dublin and Seeing my Good Old Mates:
Last weekend, I took a short RyanAir flight over to Dublin with two of my friends to visit one of our friends who lives in Dublin for her birthday party. We all met last year when the three of them were on exchange to U of T, and out of coincidence, I would be studying abroad in London the following term. Last weekend made me realize the coolest part about exchange programs — that we could make friends from across the world, stay connected, and reunite in another country, let alone another continent.
On Friday night, we celebrated our friend Ruth’s birthday with a house party, in Irish style with heaps of potato “crisps” (in Ireland and the UK, what we think are chips are actually crisps and what we call fries are chips).
On Saturday, we had an Irish breakfast and Ruth gave us a tour of the city. Staying with friends, especially a local, in another country is a really unique experience, where I got to meet so many new friends and explore Dublin the way a local would. Although we still saw some of the touristy parts of Dublin (by our choice), Ruth explained to us a lot of the stories behind Ireland’s independence and history.
For now, good-luck with your midterms U of T, I miss you guys!