Things No One Tells You About Studying Abroad in the UK

Ok, so I’ll admit that most study abroad blogs (mine included) focus on the beautiful, crazy, amazing adventures and glorify studying abroad. Yes, I have loved my time abroad, but there are a few things that most people gloss over when writing their blogs. So here is a list of things no one tells you about studying abroad in the UK:

  • There is a lot of planning involved- you don’t just magically go places on weekends, it is up to you to sort out all the details about transportation, lodging, food and so on- Google docs and skyscanner will become your best friends!
  • You actually have to study- yes as silly as that sounds, you will always be a student first and a world traveler second.
  • You will need to seriously budget your money- know your preferred method of payment and check with your bank about foreign transactions fees, these can really add up
  • You will miss things at home- just because you aren’t there doesn’t mean that your friends and family pause their lives. You will miss family holidays and school events and that can make you very homesick
  • Senior Housing- you will have to sign leases while abroad and it can get very complicated
  • Coordinating with friends in different countries is hard, but make time to do it
  • It is ok to be homesick and it is also ok to not want to go home
  • It can get really cold here really fast- remember a warm coat or two
  • Don’t expect to become an expert in four months- take your time being a tourist and don’t be ashamed of it
  • Planning on celebrating Thanksgiving with some good old pumpkin pie? think again, it is extremely difficult to find canned pumpkin in the UK
  • You will never get used to how early the sun sets in the winter
  • Cross the street will always be a dangerous adventure- they drive on the other side of the road remember
  • Even if the UK seems similar to the US culture wise, the UK school system is much different!

Well those where just a few little tips that I think are helpful for anyone planning on studying abroad in the UK. But don’t let this scare you, I have had a fantastic time in Edinburgh so far and wouldn’t change it for the world!

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Weekend Trip: Dublin

This weekend concludes my weekend trips for the semester, but have no fear, I have a few week-long trips coming up at the end of December before my exams start.

Oh, also, my phone is officially broken, so shout out to my questionable ipad pics!

Friday

We arrived in Dublin early Friday morning. After a somewhat confusing bus ride from the airport to our accommodations (shout out to Cat for being the best unofficial airb&b hostess ever!) we dropped off our heavy backpacks and hit the city!

Despite the freezing cold weather we developed a great strategy of wandering around the streets and popping into any nearby store when we couldn’t stand the cold. We walked all around Dublin on Friday, here are a few highlights:

Trinity College

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Trinity College was beautiful! Although I only got a chance to briefly walk through the campus, I can imagine it would be amazing to study at!

Temple Bar

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The temple bar area of Dublin was a bit touristy, but equally interesting. Walking around the area I could hear live Irish music and see a bunch of cool shops. Although I did not actually go into the Temple Bar (I went there at 2:00 in the afternoon) the outside was iconic enough.

Grafton Street

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Grafton Street was in full Christmas swing! I loved walking through all the lights and seeing the street performers.

Ha’penny Bridge

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This little bridge was stunning (and very popular). In fact, it was so busy, I found it really difficult to get a good picture on it, lol, we will just have to pretend the people in the background aren’t there.

Saturday

After some well deserved rest, we spend the entire day on Saturday at the Guinness Factory.

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When I say we spent all day there, I mean it. With over 5 floors and endless history Guinness was truly inspiring. I had no idea how important Guinness is in Ireland and loved learning about how it has expanded over to to be a global brand. We even got to watch traditional Irish dancing on one of the floors in Guinness. My favorite part, not including the gift shop of course, was the top floor. You get an incredible view of all of Dublin through the glass walls of the top floor bar.

We had a 6:30 AM flight Sunday morning back to Edinburgh, and I am still quite groggy from the lack of sleep, but it was worth it!

Stay tuned for some of my next blog posts about more adventures!

Day Trip 3: Cambridge

On Sunday I took a day trip to Cambridge before I had to head back to Edinburgh that night.It was nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of London city life. On the hour long train ride from King’s Cross to Cambridge station I had time to reflect on my weekend and take a much needed nap.

Before I talk about my train journey, let’s talk about world famous King’s Cross station.  Yes I saw platform 9 3/4 and all the magic is has to offer. There is even a Harry Potter gift shop next to the platform with a wand shop resembling Olivanders. I had a blast being transported into the magical world of Harry Potter even if just for a few minutes before hoping on my train.

So back to the Train:

There is something so peaceful about traveling through the English countryside on a train. I even was inspired to read a few more chapters of Jane Austin’s Sense and Sensibility before I dozed off to sleep. After more than two months abroad, having taken subways, buses, train, planes and even a few boats, traveling by train is by far my favorite!

Enough about locomotives, when I arrived in Cambridge it was unfortunately raining heavily. Now I am no stranger to the rain, but this rain was something else. I even had to abandon my umbrella efforts at some points during the day due to the combination of freezing rain and gusting winds. But despite the ‘typical’ English weather, I persevered and started off the day explore the most beautiful University on earth!

 

With no map and no clear plan for the day, I call this section “Tori’s All-Access Guide to Cambridge” also known as the “walk through the open door and see what is on the other side” exploring method. I was very successful with this plan of attack, because most the the doors and archways I randomly walked through lead to spectacular courtyards and buildings.

Sorry Georgetown, step aside, because Cambridge, even in the rain, was breathtaking. The winding streets with little shops in combination with the regal buildings and fall foliage was amazing.Cambridge University is made up of 31 colleges dispersed all over the little town each with a self-contained courtyard and garden area.

After a beautiful walk across an old bridge above the River Cam, I strolled through a little park area. I couldn’t help but get inspired in Cambridge, I mean how could you not in such a beautiful place! I imagined all the brilliant people who studied here and all the geniuses to come.

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I absolutely loved my visit to Cambridge, and who knows when I will be back, there is always grad school right?

 

 

 

 

London Calling

This weekend I traveled to London!

London is a BIG city, in fact it is the biggest city in all of Europe. After 2 1/2 days I walked a total of 35 miles all over London. My feet are killing me, but I had a blast this weekend!

I got to London on a rainy Friday afternoon so I took the time to do some indoor sightseeing.

Friday

The British Museum

This was by far the coolest museum I have ever been to! It was a dry space away from the english rain and so much more! I could have spent hours there if I had the time.

The British Library

This is not your typical library. It houses more than 150 million books as well as many original manuscripts  such as Jane Austin’s Persuasion and Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.

Saturday

Saturday proved to be a beautifully sunny day! Yes, I even put my sunglasses to good use walking around the city. And boy did I walk, wanting to be outside as much as possible I opted to walk everywhere on Saturday rather than use the underground metro. In total I walked 14 miles!

The Many Colleges of London

London is full of Universities! University College of London,The London School Of Economics and King’s College to name a few!

The Royal Exchange

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Being the economics major that I am, I had to visit the Royal Exchange. I am sure that some day I will understand what really goes on behind those doors, but until then I think I should take a few more classes to clear up my confusion 🙂

St. James’s Palace

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This red brick palace was more modest than Buckingham, but just as interesting. And I captured the famous London black taxi in my photo!

Covent Garden Market

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This market was full of handmade crafts and delicious foods! Like many parts of London it was decorated in true Christmas fashion.

Somerset Palace

I walked through the Somerset Palace courtyard while Christmas preparations were underway. They were in the process of hanging ornaments on the massive tree and construction an iceskating rink!

Guildhall Yard

 

Home to a church, an art gallery, and many, many Union Jacks! I loved walking around Guildhall Yard and taking in the true culture of London!

Big Ben

If you didn’t take a picture with Big Ben or a red phone booth did you even go to London? Well I took many pictures with both! Rain, shine, night, day, Big Ben was just as beautiful as ever!

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey, home to almost every royal wedding ever was huge! I had no idea how large it was and seeing it in person was an experience like non other.

Buckingham Palace

Touring my future home was great! But seriously this palace was grander than I ever imagined! Fun fact- the union jack flag (pictured above) only flies when the Queen is NOT at home!

The Tower Bridge

Walking across this bridge was very windy, but beautiful! I couldn’t resist taking a selfie with the bridge!

The Tower of London

 

The tower of London, more like the fortress of London! I had a blast walking around these ancient buildings!

St. Paul’s Cathedral

Although I did not pay the entrance fee, the outside of St. Paul’s Cathedral was amazing!

Guy Fawkes Fireworks

Remember, remember, the 5th of November! Saturday night I watched the Guy Fawkes firework display from a park near my hostel. It felt just like the 4th of July, except much, much, colder!

Sunday

Sunday was jam-packed with a few last London activities before I traveled by train to Cambridge for the day and then all the way back to Edinburgh!

Harrods

Although I got there before the store was actually open, I was blown away with Harrods! It’s Christmas decorations and window displays were so fun and festive!

The Victoria and Albert Museum

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This museum, in honor of my namesake, Queen Victoria, was stunning, from the outside at least. I did not get the chance to actually go inside, but if I had more time I would!

Hide Park

I can think of no better way to spend a sunny Sunday morning in London than walking from Hide Park. I walked along the edge of the pond and watched the swans and ducks soak up the sun.

Wellington Arch 

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I came across this arch as I was strolling through the park and thought of Paris!

The London Eye

The London eye was my favorite part of my weekend trip! After walking around a majority of the city for the past 3 days it was amazing to see all of London from above. I went in the morning right as it was opening so I barley had to wait in a line and the sun was shinning down on the city.

So that was my whirlwind of a London weekend trip! Stay tuned for my next day trip post about my trip to Cambridge!