One of the perks of studying abroad is the opportunity to travel not just within your host country, but to other nearby countries as well. With cheap Ryan Air flights, fantastic student discounts on museum entries, and online accommodation sites like AirBnB, travel for students while abroad is a doable option on weekends. Apart from my week in the UK, I spent my first three months enjoying my time in Paris and travelling locally in France. In the past few weeks however, I decided it was time to branch out and start to travel more. I decided to take on a few weekend trips.
About a month ago, one of my really close friends from Notre Dame who is studying abroad in Toledo, Spain came to visit in Paris. She couldn’t stop raving about how wonderful her trip to Amsterdam had been. That night, I booked my trip for a weekend in Amsterdam. Unfortunately, due to our class schedules, we would only have 24 hours to spend in Amsterdam. Two weeks later, a friend and I boarded the overnight Paris to Amsterdam. We dove right in, visiting The Anne Frank Huis as soon as it opened (check out my blog for Notre Dame Campus Ministry to hear the details of what was one of the most moving experiences of my life). We spent the afternoon in the Van Gogh Museum, learning about the life story of one of my favorite artists. Our evening was spent walking along the canals and sampling some Dutch specialties- stroopwafel and apple pie. The next morning, we were back on the bus heading back to Paris. It was a short trip, but jammed with history, art, and beauty. Amsterdam’s canals and row houses were like nothing we had seen before. I would love to go back one day and explore the city for a little longer, but we definitely made the most out of our 24 hours.
Unlike the spur of the moment trip we took to Amsterdam, Rome had been in the works for quite a while. This trip was offered as a pilgrimage by Notre Dame Campus Ministry. Campus Ministry offers pilgrimages each semester during breaks (next Fall they are going to Ireland, Poland, Montreal, and Mexico City), but this was a special Holy Week Pilgrimage offered just to students studying abroad (as well as some parents and alumni who tagged along). It was four full days packed with visiting churches, prayer, some of the most unique masses I’ve ever experienced, and lots of delicious food. The highlight of the trip was getting to go to Easter Sunday Mass at the Vatican with Pope Francis presiding over the Mass. It rained all morning, only stopping when Pope Francis came out for the consecration. Afterwards, he drove around the square to greet the congregation and gave his papal blessing. He also gave his address, Urbi et Orbi, which confronted human rights issues and violence abroad with a focus on a request for peace and dialogue. It was very cool to be there for such an important moment. The day ended with a huge Easter celebration at Notre Dame’s Rome Global Gateway. It was a perfect way to catch up with Notre Dame friends who I hadn’t seen in months and learn more about their experiences abroad.
A few months back, I found out that my favorite musician Josh Rouse would be performing on tour in Barcelona, Spain. I had never seen him perform in person before, as he moved to Spain a decade ago and hadn’t toured nearby in the states recently. I had always dreamed of visiting Barcelona; and my mom, who also is a fan of Josh Rouse, was going to be in town. So, I managed to convince her to come with me. Barcelona was a sunshiny paradise. We started our two-day trip by heading right for the beach. After living in and visiting big cities for the past few weeks, the sunshine and the Mediterranean Sea was so welcomed. We spent the afternoon exploring Park Guell and taking in the beauty of the city from the hill top. We ate dinner along La Ramblas to end our perfect first day. The next day, we started by visiting the Picasso Museum, which was really wonderful. Then, we spent the afternoon taking in the modernismo architecture of Gaudi by visiting Casa Balto, La Pedrera, and the Sangrada Famillia. It was all so beautiful and haunting, like nothing I’d never seen before. We finished our trip with the concert we’d been waiting for! It was a tiny venue, and we were the only Americans there. We even got to meet Josh Rouse after the concert! Definitely a memorable moment.
My weekend trips have been some of my favorite opportunities to get a taste of other countries and cultures while being in Europe. Luckily, it’s not yet the end of my travels. I’ll be going to Germany, Austria, and Greece on my spring break this week. Then, I’ll be travelling to Norway and the south of France during May. As for the summer, keep reading this blog - I’ll be off to Dublin where I’ll be interning through the Irish Internship Program. I can’t wait to see what each new city brings!