By Madison Tucky (Visiting Student, Study Abroad Blogger)
One of the best things about being from the US and studying abroad in Europe is how easy it is to get to other European countries. Dublin is a great location, and while I’ve spent plenty of time exploring Ireland, I’ve also taken several trips to other countries and have become quite the expert in international travel.
I never realized how much research you can do before going to other countries. While it’s fun to not have a fully laid out plan, it does make things much easier if you’ve looked ahead at getting to and from the airport and getting to where you’re staying and any major attractions that you want to see while in your foreign city. I don’t like to plan out every minute of every trip I go on, but I like to have a loose list of things to do and have looked up transportation beforehand. This is especially helpful in cities that don’t speak English, which can be a little harder to navigate if you haven’t done any research ahead of time.
Getting to and from the Dublin airport from Trinity is pretty easy. There’s a bus called the Aircoach that picks up really close to campus and goes directly to the airport. (It says that it has wifi, but that’s sometimes available and sometimes not, depending on the shuttle.) It runs really frequently all throughout the day, great for catching those early morning cheap flights. I’ve booked a lot of flights through Ryanair since they tend to be the cheapest, but it is worth it to look at other flights and take into account the fact that Ryanair often flies into an airport that’s not directly inside the city. Most of the time it’s still cheap enough to take Ryanair and pay for the extra leg of transportation to get you into the city that you’re visiting, but sometimes it takes a lot of time to travel, so if you’d rather pay more for convenience, that’s something to keep in mind.
The Dublin airport is pretty convenient and I’ve never had too much of an issue getting through security. I know in America you can fly without taking liquids outside of your bag, but in Europe make sure you put any travel sized liquid in a clear plastic bag that you remove from your belongings before going through security. Some of my makeup was in my makeup bag, not the plastic bag, and it got flagged, so I just had to take it out and put it in the bag to go through the scanner again which wasn’t a big deal, but ladies, be warned. Liquid lipstick will set off the scanners. Also, if you are flying Ryanair out of Dublin, they always tend to be in the furthest terminal, so I’d recommend getting there with enough time to completely cross the airport.
As far as places to go, my favorite trip so far was actually to Edinburgh in Scotland. I’d never been before, and while we had a break from school I decided to take a brief tour around the UK. I only had 24 hours in Edinburgh and didn’t really know exactly what I was getting into, except a lot of Harry Potter stuff. It turned out that I loved the city and wished that I had more time to spend there. It was very, VERY hilly, but walking around was a fun workout. I climbed a very touristy hill called Arthur’s seat and found a wonderful view of the city from there. I went on a little walking tour with my hostel that pointed out some Harry Potter sights and ended up eating at Elephant Cafe, the cafe where JK Rowling wrote the first book. The food wasn’t anything special, but as a huge nerd I totally loved the atmosphere. I happened to stumble into a little place called Mary’s Milk Bar and had the best hot chocolate that I’ve had in Europe so far. Later I found out that they had a viral Buzzfeed article written about them because of their specialty hot chocolates, and they definitely deserved all of the praise they got from that article. It’s a really tiny shop, but the view of Edinburgh castle from there is great and it’s an adorable little place to sit for a few minutes and enjoy some delicious hot chocolate, or ice cream if it’s warm enough.
Traveling around has been one of the best parts of my study abroad experience, and I would definitely recommend getting out and going to as many places as you can. I’ve done some of the major cities, London, Paris, and the like, which I’m definitely happy to have visited, but I also really have fallen in love with some smaller European cities. I’d recommend seeing some small local places and doing enough research to know what major things there are, but definitely give yourself room to just wander the city and find some hidden gems. There are a lot of them out there, and so much of Europe left for me to explore.