10 of my favorite study abroad photos and the story behind them
This post was prompted by a number of things including a recent feeling of nostalgia, my quickly developing Paint.net skills, and my recent interest in Pinterest. While most of these photos were chosen because they’re tied to an important memory, some were chosen simply because they came out really well (if I do say so myself). Regardless of why they were chosen, here are 10 of my favorite study abroad photos.
The Old Course At St. Andrews Fife, Scotland
Some people may not believe it, some people probably don’t consider to be very logical, but the Old Course was the largest factor in my decision to study abroad at the University of St. Andrews. A family friend who had studied abroad at St. Andrews a few years before told me that a student membership to the St. Andrews Links (7 courses including the Old Course) was the equivalent of $300.
Having been an avid golfer for most of my life, and having no clue what I wanted to do in the future, going to Scotland for the chance to play the Old Course, the mecca of golf, made the most sense. I made sure there were classes I could take towards my major, packed up my clubs, and had one of the best years of my life.
The Scottish Highlands Isle Of Skye, Scotland
Our tour of the Highlands was a complete blast, and a great way to start off my year studying abroad in Scotland. We swam in Loch Ness, stopped at the ruins of a medieval cathedral, tasted whiskey at a distillery, went toe-to-toe with highland cattle, walked Braveheart era battlefields, and rocked out to to “5,000 Miles” by the Proclaimers on the bus ride home. To top it off our tour guide was the absolute man, spending the whole weekend clad in kilt and providing the Scottish hot tub (bottle of whiskey) after our dip in the freezing waters of Loch Ness.
Scotland was one of the most all-around beautiful places I have seen in my life (puts Beijing to shame), and there’s little doubt in my mind that I’ll be retiring there someday.
Chinese Folk Art Stall Xi’an, China
Our final CET organized trip was a weekend spent in Xi’an, China. Like I wrote in my original post about that trip, I naively associated any place in Western China with the desert, comparatively spicy food, Islam, and rock cut cave dwellings. While Xi’an didn’t totally mirror the vision I had in my head, it was still very unique with it’s 3,000 year history having been heavily influenced (among other things) by both Islam and Buddhism. It was also a nice break from the chaos and pollution that is Beijing.
The weekend was based around a scavenger hunt, with objectives leading to different historical spots in Xi’an. One of my favorites was finding the artwork of a man named Ding Laoshi in the busy alleyways between Huimin Street and the Great Mosque. I ended up buying a painting (a man wrangling fighting bulls), and it still sits on a shelf in my bedroom.
The Beach In Barcelona, Spain
Our trip to Barcelona and Rome during reading week was the first trip I took outside of Scotland, the first time I stepped foot onto mainland Europe, and in reality was my first experience actually traveling. We weren’t exactly prepared for big city travel (e.g. walked half a day to the Sagrada Familia because we hadn’t thought about using the metro), which is why it’s one place I genuinely want to go back to and take advantage of the opportunities we may have missed.
Barcelona does have one up on many of the other cities and countries that I visited, as it was the first of my “Aha Moments“.
Crowds Protesting Around The Colosseum Rome, Italy
I had a pretty good idea in my head about what I wanted/expected to do in Rome – seeing the sites, eating good food and sipping fine wine, and of course, impressing some Italian girls with my mastery of their language (I took Latin in high school…close enough). What my friends and I didn’t expect was to follow a day-long, city wide protest.
While walking around aimlessly on our last morning, we unknowingly found ourselves in the middle of a massive protest – riot police, flares, smoke bombs, etc. We originally thought it had to do with immigration, then were told it was about an Italian soccer league regulation, but I’d be lying if I said I was 100% sure I knew why this mob of people decided to get rowdy around one of the oldest and finest examples of ancient Roman architecture in existence.
Overlooking The City Of Prague, Czech Republic
My friends and I had a lot of interesting travels during our time studying abroad, but our trip to Prague is definitely towards the top of the list. We got dropped off in the middle of a highway at mid-night, ran through a locked subway station that was also known to be a hub for illegal human trafficking, and discovered our love for a little beverage called Becherovka (a traditional health/digestive aid by day, a 76 proof bottle of liquid cinnamon goodness by night).
There are many pictures that better represent the city (the Old Town, Astrological Clock, the Charles Bridge, Prague Castle), but I chose this one of the view overlooking the city of Prague for the simple reason that it came out better than any other picture I took while I was there.
The Guinness Storehouse Dublin, Ireland
Dublin, Ireland was one of the other cities where I had a pretty unusual experience, and this time I was traveling solo. To be honest I was a bit disappointed in Dublin, partly because at the time it reminded me of every other major European city I had seen, and partly because I was sharing a room at the Kinley House Dublin hostel with 5 French guys who decided to start wrestling each other while naked at 2 AM. Looking back on it now, I realize I judged Dublin a bit too hard and I actually had a great time riding the double decker green tour bus around during the day, eating my dinners at a local bar called Darkey Kelly’s in the evening, and being treated to free Jameson and Guinness by a woman and her daughter at night.
The highlight of the weekend was of course my trip to the Guinness Storehouse, where I was able to pour and sip a pint while staring out over the whole of city of Dublin in the 360 degree glass Gravity Bar.
The Tower Bridge London, England
London was a city that I made it to twice during my time abroad, and each time was meaningful in it’s own way. My first trip to London was spent with two friends from high school, one who was studying abroad in Amsterdam, and one who was actually studying abroad in London. It may not seem all that significant, but if you had asked any of the 3 of us when we were back in high school what we would be doing in college, I seriously doubt any of us would’ve said meeting up in London while studying abroad.
My second trip to London was spent with my family when they came over to visit towards the end of my second semester. It was great for one, because my family paid for me to do everything that I was too poor to do my first time around (e.g. ride the London Eye, or walk atop the Tower Bridge), but more importantly, I was happy to finally be able to enjoy my travels with the people that mean the most to me.
Paraphernalia Souvenir Shop Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam was more or less a giant blur from the time we booked our tickets until the time we landed back in St. Andrews. People had told me that Amsterdam could easily be done in a day or two, so one Thursday during our second semester my friends and I decided to head to Amsterdam that same weekend.
We left St. Andrews at about 4:00 AM on Saturday morning, landed in Amsterdam at 11:00, made our way to our 18-man room in a hostel in the middle of nowhere, then spent the next 20 hours or so exploring everything that the city of Amsterdam had to offer. While there were some aspects of Amsterdam that I wasn’t crazy about (dirty canals, decrepit bikes and house boats), the city was pretty unique, had some great food and beer, and the people, souvenir stores, and sex shops were all very colorful.
Dragon Well Village Tea Fields Hangzhou, China
My most recent travels took me and two of my best friends to Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Suzhou in Southern China. We went last June at the end of the second semester at Beida, and I almost didn’t go because at that point I was extremely tired and extremely poor. But my friends convinced me, and I’m glad they did, seeing as the only real traveling I had done around China previously was my trip with CET to Xi’an.
It rained most of the time we were in Shanghai and Hangzhou, but we made the most of it, and in an effort to look at the glass half full one of my friends pointed out that the fog and rain actually created a great backdrop in the photos of the tea fields in Hangzhou.
As I mentioned, I’m hopping on the Pinterest band wagon so feel free to hit the “Pin it” button at the beginning of the post, head on over to Pinterest and follow a board or two of mine, and check out this article to learn how you can use Pinterest to prepare for study abroad!