Self Care While Studying Abroad

Study abroad is an exciting, enthralling and EXHAUSTING experience.

The adrenaline from the first few weeks will leave you ready for anything – catching a flight at 3am and then a full day of sight seeing and then plans to mingle with local nightlife.

Pushing your self physically, mentally and emotionally are common during travel. You’ll surprise yourself every time you manage to pull off a seemingly impossible task of making a train or finding your hostel at 1am and not knowing the language.

To be able to do all things – you have to RECHARGE.

Take time to rest and relax.

Although, I might think I’m a world traveler – ready for anything – I still appreciate a lazy day of lounging and watching Netflix. Let your mind and body rest by reserving weekends or days specifically for recharging. You might feel like you’re losing precious time lounging in a foreign country but maintaining your health will only increase your experience!

 

 

 

   If Netflix and Napping isn’t your idea of relaxing. Get outside and enjoy some beautiful weather! I took advantage of a rare sunny day in Belfast. Taking the time to enjoy where you are rather than rushing away every weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

PHYSICAL HEALTH:

Traveling long distances on cramped buses, planes and trains with a 60L backpack on only a couple hours is back breaking work.

During your recharge period find a local yoga studio. Remember! Ask for a student discount especially if you’re in a college area! 

Yoga practices translate over to dealing with stressful travel situations. Always calmly asses your situation. There is no problem that doesn’t have a solution. Missed your train? No problem, you’ll catch the next one. Feeling disconnected from your experience? Take a minute to ground yourself and look at your surroundings with new eyes. Experience your travels as an adventure not a checklist.

To remind myself of these ideas, I checked out ‘Flow Studio Belfast’ to loosen up tight muscles and relax my mind  after a couple weekends of travel.

 

 

 

 

I had a great session and recommend doing yoga two days before a long journey and two days after you get back! You’ll be flexible for the crammed buses and be able to loosen up once you get back after a good night’s sleep!

 

Weekend Warrior: Paris

During your time studying abroad, it’s important to take full advantage of your proximity to all that Europe has to offer.

My first weekend trip was to Paris, France. My boyfriend and I are both studying in different parts of Europe. Myself in Belfast and Zach in Turin, Italy. We decided it would be lovely to meet up in Paris “The City of Love” for Valentine’s Day weekend.

(Disclaimer: NEVER bringing a rolling carry on with me ever again. Hand luggage + cobble stones = BAD)

We got to Paris late Friday night to O’Rly Airport just outside of Paris at midnight. It was intimidating getting to a new city so late at night with no idea how to get to our hostel. We decided better safe than sorry and hopped in a taxi.

We stayed in the 18th Arrisodnment in ‘Le Montclair Hostel’ it was quaint and cozy with helpful staff and a great breakfast.

Taking advantage of just one full day of sight seeing we got up at 7:00am for the complimentary breakfast provided by ‘Le Montclair’. 

Classic Parisian style breakfast consisting of amazing baguettes, honey, butter, coffee, and OJ.

BlondeBrokeBackpacker tip: Bring zip lock bags with you to wrap up food with you for a quick snack while you’re out and about! You’ll feel extra Parisian eating a baguette while taking in the sights.

Getting up early and beating the crowds is key while in Paris with only one day for everything! Paris is the most visited city in the world so every day of the week millions of people are oohing and awwing at the Eiffel Tower.

We arrived by 8 am to minimal crowds and an opportunity to take in the spectacular structure.

BlondeBrokeBackpacker Tip: Most attractions in Paris are FREE or DISCOUNTED with a student ID. Make sure to have an ISIC (international student ID card) or your European university-issued ID. Which makes seeing museums, monuments and attractions so much sweeter. 

Exterior of Notre Dame, Interior of the main Cathedral

Paris is an extremely navigatable city. Plug your destination into Google Maps and you can be there in under 15 minutes.

Notre Dame was amazing! The structure and atmosphere were awe-inspiring. Entrance is FREE but a small donation is suggested. Truly a beautiful site.

Seen outside Notre Dame. A gentleman feeding pigeons.

BlondeBrokeBackpacker: Remember! SELF CARE while traveling! You will be walking roughly 12 miles a day while in Paris seeing all the attractions. You need to keep yourself fueled and comfortable! 

When you start to feel ‘hangry’ (hungry and angry) stop and think when is the last time I ate? Take the opportunity to stop at a ‘petite cafe’ for some coffee and French onion soup!

After a quick lunch break we were ready to take on the Louvre!

BlondeBrokeBackpacker: Le Louvre is FREE with a European student ID! 

 

 Full of onion soup we were ready to take on our next site.

The Louvre is packed with every style of art you can imagine! It was such a thrill to see in ‘La Jaconde’ or the Mona Lisa in real life!

By the time we finished with the Louvre it was only 2pm. So we after resting our legs and relaxing on a comfortable couch in the Impressionism wing we decided we could do one more attraction.

We quickly googled “top things to do in Paris” and decided to head over to the Catacombs.

BlondeBrokeBackpacker: Keep things flexible! Leave a couple things unplanned and always go with the flow and you’ll never be disappointed. 

We took the metro to the Catacombs and after waiting in a freezing 2-hour line we walked an incredible site.

“Moving bones from the cemeteries five stories underground into Paris’ former quarries. Cemeteries began to be emptied in 1786, beginning with Les Innocents. It took the city 12 years to move all the bones—from bodies numbering between 6 and 7 million—into the catacombs. Some of the oldest date back as far as the Merovingian era, more than 1,200 years ago.”

(http://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/paris-catacombs-180950160)

The vault is deeper than the metro and is so deep it exposes tectonic plates. 30 steps to go down and 83 steps back up to street level will bring you to the crypt.

BlondeBrokeBackpacker: The Catacombs are not free but with a student ID you can get in for 13 euros and it is SO worth it.

Until next weekend! Get your boarding passes ready!

-Blonde Broke Backpacker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Affordable stylin’ // studyin’ abroad

As I packed my suitcase for Belfast, I made sure to leave half of it empty to make ready for the plethora of new clothes, I was going to buy while abroad.

Belfast’s location and cultural diversity has allowed the city’s fashionistas to pick from the best of Irish, English and European fashion.

 

New clothes, new trends, new style.

The best part of studying in a different culture is that you’re surrounded by the youth of the country and their specific style. I spent the first couple of days surrounded by rolled hem vintage jeans, expertly layered sweaters,  exgravant coats and billowing scarves paired with perfectly distressed Doc Martens or chic sneakers.

I immediately wanted to replicate this simple, cool girl – edgy but practical look.

Victoria Square

Victoria Square is a shoppers heaven.

Victoria Square is an inside – outside shopping center with plenty of budget friendly and high end stores. (http://placebook.bdp.com/2000s/victoria-square-belfast)

(GGG Tip) The best day to shop is Thursday in Belfast! The stores are open late and you can wear your new outfit out to the pubs right after! 

The universal sign for sale is always big red letters and they bring joy to my heart when I see the words “SALE, SALE, SALE”, no matter what language

Budget friendly trendy shops like Primark, H&M, Next and New Look – are all located in the square. You’ll be walking out with money still in your pocket and new clothes in your reusable bag! Belfast is eco-friendly and it’ll cost you 5p (per one time use plastic bag) at all businesses in Belfast. 

Invest in some cute canvas bags and throw them in your purse to avoid the charge!

Vintage and Charity Shops 

I am a huge believer in new-to-you clothes! Vintage and gently used clothing are the perfect solution to shop-a-holics on a budget. You have a whole new pool of clothes since you’re in a different country with all new and different trend patterns –

Belfast has a massive amount of Vintage and Charity Shops to choose from

My personal favorites are the Octopus Garden on Wellington St. in Belfast City Centre and Yellow Submarine on Botanic Ave.

The Octopus Garden is a maze of vintage clothing, books, furniture and more! (above)

The Yellow Submarine is located near Queen’s Univeristy. – Slighter smaller but jam packed with unique pieces you’ll find no where else. (above)

I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect pair of ‘mom jeans’ for years but it wasn’t until I picked up these vintage Wranglers for £10.00 at the Yellow Submarine that I fell in love;  and then a few days later – after popping in again –  a floral embroided  jean jacket for only £5.00! The boots are from my favorite U.K store, New Look for only £13.00

(GGG tip) College towns, no matter where in the world are likely to honor student discounts – I flash my Queen’s ID and normally receive 20% off at most restaurants, pubs and stores!

 

Charity Shops

Belfast has a great network of ‘Charity Shops’ similar to the Salvation Army and Goodwill in the states. Charity shops in Belfast are second hand stores that sell donated items from clothes, shoes, appliances, furniture etc.

The Charity Shops and thrift shops in general;  are great if you’re only going to be in a location temporarily! Plus you can just donate it back when you’re done with your trip!

(GGG tip) I bought all my kitchen utensils at Charity shops. If you’ll only be in the area for a few months; it’s best to  buy  your  necessities cheap;  £1 cups, 50p spoons and even luggage if you need more space on the way home! 

Belfast Charity Shops are great as each specific shop donates their earnings to a specific charity or cause. 

Charity shop in Belfast that donates all profits to Cancer Research in the U.K (above)

(‘OxFam’ charity shop located on Botanic Ave)

Get outta here with that outerwear! 

Belfast fashion is heavily focused on outerwear as the weather is so temperamental. I was mesmerized by the variety of stylish coats and jackets everyone was wearing that I started the hunt for the perfect coat!

I wanted something fun and feel in love with a bubblegum pink coat for only £5.00 at a local Charity shop.

(Above, my new charity shop coat £5.00, layered with the warmest scarf,  I’ve ever owned, New Look £12.00 and my favorite pastel blue – puff ball hat £4.00)

SHOP LOCAL

Shopping local gives you a chance to see the pure and personal style of where you’re studying. St. George’s Market open every Friday – Sunday  is stocked with artisanal and local merchants.

Handmade wool scarf from a local designer, £15

Vintage Italian leather bag, £12

Get the best souvenirs from local artists!

 

Stay tuned fellow travelers!  Keep wandering!

-Gallagher Goes Global

 

 

Giant’s Causeway

Dia Dhuit! (Hello in Irish)

I’m just beginning my 3rd week in beautiful Belfast, Northern Ireland.

I’m fully immersed in my classes and just signed up for a 10 week intensive to learn Gaelic/Irish. Is main lion adh! (Wish me luck!)

Queen’s international student programming is great – every weekend there is an outing or journey to a place in Northern Ireland, Belfast or the Republic of Ireland!

I jumped at the first opportunity to go with the school on a full day’s journey to the ‘Giant’s Causeway’ in County Antrim. I wanted to get a glimpse of the country side and see one of Ireland’s most famous geographic wonders.

It’s very ‘McCool’ at the Causeway

My favorite Irish legend growing up was that of Finn MacCool and the Giant’s Causeway.

This trip goes perfectly with my Celtic Mythology course as it dissects the beliefs and legends of ancient Ireland.

Soaking in that perfect sunlight at the Giant’s Causeway (above)

Legend Has It…

The legend goes ” Finn MacCool built the Causeway due to an ongoing argument with a Scottish giant named Benandonner who could not swim. In an argument one day, while they were shouting at each other over the Sea of Moyle, Finn took a clump of earth and flung it at his enemy. The land fell in the sea and became the Isle of Man, while the huge hole left in Ireland became Lough Neagh, the largest lake in the British Isles.As the arguments continued, Finn decided to build the Causeway in order to make it easy for Benandonner to come and fight him. After so much hard work, Finn was exhausted and he fell asleep. While Finn slept, Oonagh,  Finn’s wife heard the sound of thunderous footsteps, she knew it was Brenandonner come to fight Finn. Oonagh took one look at the gigantic visitor on her doorstep and realised this was a battle Finn could never win. She threw a blanket over her sleeping husband and stuck a bonnet on his head. There was no possible way Finn could defeat Benandonner for he was too small.

Where’s Finn?” roared Benandonner. “Shusha, shusha”, whispered OOnagh – “You’ll wake the wee one!” Benandonner looked at the snoring Finn. His jaw dropped 10 feet. If the child was that hefty, what size would the father be? Benandonner wasn’t sticking around to find out. He ran like the wind, destroying part of the Causeway in his wake so Finn could not pursue him.”

(http://www.irishcultureandcustoms.com)

 

The legend is an explanation for the fascinating natural formations of hexagonal stone produced from a volcanic eruption millions of years ago.

First glimpse of the Giant’s Causeway after taking the approx. 15 minute scenic route to the Causeway. (above)

The causeway is nestled below massive mountains and shoulders rough waves that lap the sides of the ‘giant’ formations!  When the sun hits the rocks just right it’s absolutely beautiful!

The scenery is breathtaking with crystal blue skies, monstrous monstrous  and the absolutely awe-inspiring natural fortress.  You can’t help but smile when surrounded by all of this beauty!

Rough waves slapping the shore. (above)

The young and old, come to see the natural wonder of the Giant’s Causeway. (above) The historical site is preserved by ‘The National Trust’ and they offer informative and immersive tours for all ages! For more info visit: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/giants-causeway

. There’s nothing like ocean air to refresh the mind and cleanse the soul!

Stay tuned fellow travelers for next weekends tour of the sets and locations of HBO hit show and bestselling book GAME OF THRONES.

– Gallagher Goes Global

 


					

Carry – Onward.. with only the essentials

If I had it my way, I would bring everything and more, but with a 50 lb checked weight limit and 20 lb carry on limit – times can get tough when you need to choose between your favorite pair of boots when you’re just reaching the 49 lb mark.

Remember, unless you’re going somewhere with known limited access to inexpensive and easily accessible clothing – everyone shops all over the world! So, you will have the ability to purchase new clothes or things you’ve forgotten once you’ve arrived.

Less is more 

I believe in minimalism when it comes to on-board items. The less items you need to worry about, the less items you have the chance of forgetting at a terminal while you’re rushing to catch your connecting flight.

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Hydration and relaxation are vital on long journeys! 

A Nalgene water bottle is perfect to clip onto a carry on so you always have easy access to water throughout your flight.

Drinking caffeinated or sugary drinks on flights can make you jittery or anxious when your main goal is to try and be rested before getting off the plane and beginning your journey!

Tourist tip:  If you’re a sucker for souvenirs like me, instead of that heavy snow globe from Sweden, opt for a colorful sticker that you can slap onto your water bottle! A big water bottle is perfect for collecting stickers of countries you’ve been. Slapping on a sticker gives you a sense of accomplishment and you’ll have it for years to come, even after your trip, with memories from each place!

Looking fresh even after a red eye: 

The key to looking great after a long flight is keeping your skin moisturized and dabbing on a little concealer right before landing!

Go makeup free when boarding the plane and while you’re sitting there on your long flight take the time to stretch your legs and head to the bathroom for a little touch up.

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Screen time vs. Page time 

During my regular life I rarely have time to read anything besides a text book or a text message.

Take this time to read a book you’ve been meaning to pick up!

As I am going to the land of Game of Thrones, I decided it would be a good opportunity to start reading the first installment of the series!

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Until next time fellow travelers!

-Meaghan

 

 

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Belfast or Bust!

Hiya! (as they say in Belfast)

Here’s a ‘wee’ snapshot of my first week in Belfast, Northern Ireland studying at Queen’s University!

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After a long day of shopping and sightseeing it’s necessary to stop for some lamb stew and a pint of Magner’s at the historic Crown Pub in Belfast Centre! (above)

CURRY AND CRAIC

After a whirlwind first week of jet lag, pub crawls, curry and lots of craic – I have time to reflect on the first leg of my journey.

I arrived in Belfast on January 24th at ‘George Best’ Belfast Airport, which I later discovered is named after Belfast’s treasured soccer player, George Best –

A small gaggle of tired but excited college students formed around the baggage claim and we soon all figured out we’d be studying together at Queen’s. We toddled with our gear to the arrival gate of the small airport. We were warmly greeted by an energetic and organized team of Queen’s international support staff who ushered us to a bright pink Belfast city bus.

Belfast’s reputation of generous hospitality became evident as soon as the bus driver found out that we were international students and guests of Belfast. He decided to turn our quick drop off into a mini bus tour. He pointed out all the best pubs, markets and historical sights before dropping us off at our check-in point.

I had flashbacks of being a Freshman again at UMass Lowell checking into Fox Hall – meeting all new faces, trying to remember where everything is and being hyper aware of how small the key to my room is.

I checked in and received the key to my room – again Belfast hospitality reigns supreme as  I was offered tea and biscuits as I waited for my shuttle to take me and my luggage to my new home. I was doubtful if I needed to buy a bed pack from the university but – as my eyes began to grow heavy from 12 hours of traveling,  I decided the latter and purchased a £35  bed pack which consisted of a duvet, duvet cover, pillow and bottom sheet.

(The U. K doesn’t believe in top sheets)

Queen’s is a sprawling campus that envelops a majority of the city. The dorms range from the city centre to tucked away in residential areas. I was assigned in a majority international dorm called “Grant House”. I was surprised to not have a roommate and that it is uncommon for students in Europe to share a room. At first, I was lonely as I’ve grown accustomed to coming home to friendly faces and talking about my day with my roommates.

Grant House was very quite, as I was one of the first students to arrive. I had unpacked all my belongings, hung up photos of my family and explored the rest of the dorm. I had an onslaught of paperwork and event leaflets and in my true extrovert fashion found that there was a dinner for international students at 6pm. I decided to close my eyes for a little and then head out for some exploring of the city.

Before the international dinner I decided to see some of the sights.

This was my first look at the famous ‘Lanyon’ building which is the heart of Queen’s University.

16298938_10202997939704839_354859703383998151_n(above)

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A brief excursion to the historic Belfast City Hall! (above)

I arrived at the international dinner where I met people from all over Europe and even found a few Americans! I tried curry for the first time which was delicious and tried to remember about 150 names even though I failed miserably even with name tags.

After being full of curry and good conversation  – a group of us decided to check out the University pub at the student union called the “Speakeasy” that was known for cheap drinks and good ‘craic’.

‘Craic’ is a gaelic word for good fun, good conversation or good times

Before we knew it,  it was already 2am and it was time to head home before a long day of orientation the next day.

The next two days of orientation were tiring but informative and definitely gave me flashbacks of being a Freshman again – going over everything from fire safety to how to access your student email.

SHOPPING

Although, I was throughly exhausted by the end of everyday, in true Meaghan fashion – I made time for shopping.

Belfast has a huge city centre called “Victoria Square” which has a plethora of stores from the cheap and trendy clothing store ‘Primark’ to upscale ‘Marks and Spencers’

I stocked up on the essentials like soap, an umbrella, pens and other forgotten items at  ‘Pound World’ which is comparable to the Dollar Tree.

I love the Belfast style which is trendy, practical but fashion forward. I immediately fell into the trend of 1990’s inspired grunge look of doc martens, chunky boots, rolled jeans and casual layering of light sweaters.

I made an effort to see the famous ‘Saint Georges Market’ which has a melange of fresh produce, authentic street food, live music and artisanal crafts and goods.  Saint Georges Market has been voted the best market in the U.K and one of the longest running markets in Western Europe.                                                 16387222_10202997908544060_5446135081107450686_n16298850_10202997908704064_6840348920805412635_n

The ‘studying’ in Study-Abroad 

After a couple days of shopping, sightseeing and socializing – reality hit of actual course work while I’m in Northern Ireland.

I am taking 3 ‘modules’ while at Queen’s –

  • Irish Politics and Society in the 20th Century
  • Celtic Mythology
  • Creative Writing

Courses at Queen’s are very interesting but personally challenging as they sway away from cumulative grading and focus on one score based on a singular encapsulating essay at the end of the term.  To offset the intensive material they have compulsory meetings called ‘tutorials’ were you meet with a Ph.D. student and have smaller more focused group discussions on the course topics.

I am excited but nervous at the quality of my work compared to a regular Queen’s student but looking forward to the challenge!

Until next time fellow travelers!

Look out for updates of my trip on

Instagram: meaghangallagher

Facebook: Meaghan Gallagher

Sláinte! (Good Health, Cheers in Gaelic)

-Meaghan

Welcome!

Follow this Spring 2017’s Office of Study Abroad & International Experiences Global Correspondent, Meaghan Gallagher, on her studies in Belfast! Meaghan is a UMass Lowell Political Science major studying this spring on a UMass Lowell exchange program at Queen’s University, Belfast.

Meaghan Gallagher-Stack holding a video camera.Meaghan Gallagher-Stack sitting down and smiling.