Greetings from Belfast, Northern Ireland.
In March, I found out that I was selected to study abroad for a semester in Northern Ireland. Because of my Irish family heritage, my love for history, and my desire to travel overseas, I have been looking forward to September for many months. On Tuesday, Sept. 17, I left from Portland and began my long journey to Northern Ireland, which was almost 20 hours. I arrived in Belfast late in the evening of Sept. 18. As I am writing this, I have only had two full days in the city and am already loving it. There are small aspects that remind me of home, like the canopy of trees when entering campus, and the IKEA just across from the airport when I landed. But I have also found many differences, like the toilets, which are weird. There are actually many “how to flush toilets in Ireland” articles out there, which I learned my first night here. The city is very much a college town, with pubs and eateries lining each and every street; and the people are some of the friendliest I have ever met.
On my first day here, I toured the campus and got all my paperwork and technicalities worked out. After that, the other girl from the United States contacted me about going out and doing something for the day. We walked down to the City Centre where we visited City Hall, which turned out to be about 1.5 miles from our housing accommodation. We have had lots of walking to do so far. City Hall is so beautiful here and hosts many city events, such as the Culture Fest that we attended on Friday, Sept. 20. Next, we explored one of the many Game of Thrones stained glass murals next to City Hall. Belfast is famous for its scenes in the HBO show, Game of Thrones, and to honor that, Belfast put up five stained glass murals throughout the city with famous scenes from the books and television series. Towards the end of the day, we went into a bar called Pug Uglys for our very first Guinness. I am not usually a beer person, but I decided to try it since I am in Ireland, after all.
On my second day, I attempted to navigate the bus system with the other American student. We wanted to go to the Titanic Museum which was all the way at the other end of the city, so we thought the bus would be a better option than walking. Needless to say, it took us a few extra hours to figure it out, but we feel sort of confident now. Eventually, we made it to the Titanic Quarter where they have the Titanic Museum, the cranes and shipyard that built the Titanic, Olympic, and Britannic, and another Game of Thrones stained glass mural. The museum was super interesting and they had a student discount that was a good chunk of money off from the regular price. Next, we headed to the Waterfront to see the famous Big Fish—a statue that is exactly what it sounds like. After the waterfront, we went to the Taste Festival that was part of the Culture Festival activities happening for the weekend. The Taste Festival was completely free and offered many different food and drink options to test out with no obligation to buy.